The enchanting island of Nantucket, located 30 miles south of Cape Cod and about the same distance away from Martha's Vineyard, is among the country's top desired summer vacation and tourist destinations.
Even though it is a small island, Nantucket has so many sites to see, places to visit, and things to experience that it is a good idea to carefully plan your itinerary for your one-week dream vacation there to make the most of your stay. One of the best and most authentic ways to experience the charm of this picturesque New England island is to stay at one of the many short-term rental homes.
Nearly two-thirds of all of the enchanting cottages, mansions, restored homes, and beach houses in Nantucket are available for short-term rent. So you can choose the best accommodations to fit your budget, preferences, and plans.
Once you have settled down, you can start your Nantucket adventure. Make sure to add these ten must-see spots to your travel plan.
1. The Whaling museum
Nantucket became world famous during the mid-1700s and up to the late 1830s when it was recognized as the whaling capital of the world. The local whaling ships traveled the world to bring back treasured whale oil, which was exported to the biggest cities in the USA and Europe and used as fuel for lighting streets and homes.
The incredible stories of the heroic journeys of the whaling captains and ships like the Essex whaler inspired the writing of “In the Heart of the Sea” by Nathaniel Philbrick and Herman Melville's “Moby-Dick.” Although whaling has long been abandoned, it has significantly impacted the architecture, lifestyle, and mentality of Nantucket and its people.
The Whaling Museum is the perfect place to learn more about this incredible history and understand why Nantucket is such a unique place. It is located in the historic Downtown and is set in a restored whale oil candle factory. There are thousands of exhibits and artifacts from the whaling years, including a real sperm whale skeleton and the first lighthouse Fresnel lens in the US.
2. The Loines Observatory
There is nothing like sitting back and admiring the mesmerizing view of the bright stars and constellations in the clear night sky of Nantucket.
On Open Nights held at the island's Loines Observatory, you can observe the night sky, the stars, moon, planets, and galaxies, and if you are lucky, watch a stunning meteor shower, a comet, an eclipse, or the international space station gliding through the night sky from the antique telescope or from the new state-of-the-art telescope on the premises of the observatory.
3. Main Street
Taking a walk on Main Street will make you feel like you magically traveled back to the times when the locals became some of the most affluent people in the USA thanks to the successful whaling business.
The cobblestone street, with gas-lighted lanterns, crosses through Downtown and is home to some of the most spectacular historic mansions and buildings in the country. You can see some prime examples of the American mid-Victorian, Federal, and Greek revival architectural style buildings on this unique street.
Main Street has some of the most exclusive boutiques and stores on the island, including Murray's Toggery Shop, where you can buy a pair of the iconic Nantucket Reds pants to fit into the local coastal preppy dressing style.
4. Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge
Nantucket's authorities, conservation organizations, and residents take pride in their endless efforts to preserve the local flora and fauna. As a result, nearly half of the land of this island is protected, natural, and undeveloped.
The Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest and most impressive of the island's wildlife sanctuaries. The refuge is located on the two northernmost peninsulas of Nantucket, which divide the Nantucket Sound from the open Atlantic Ocean. The refuge is 395 acres in size and has some of the most stunning barrier beaches, red cedar woods, wild animals, and birds. You can get there with a beach driving permit or hike to the refuge for an incredible adventure.
Don't forget to go to the northernmost point, where you can see the brightest of all three historic lighthouses of Nantucket – the Great Point Lighthouse.
5. Brant Point Lighthouse
Brant Point Lighthouse is the first building that will greet you if you arrive in Nantucket by ferry. The second oldest working lighthouse in the USA is an essential symbol of the island and one of the best photo-op spots on Nantucket. It is especially attractive in the spring when the locals adorn it with a giant daffodil wreath for the famous Daffodil festival.
Around Christmas, the historic lighthouse is decorated with a beautiful festive wreath. And on the 4th of July, it proudly displays the oversized American flag to all arriving and leaving the island. The legend has it that if you throw two pennies as you pass by the Brant Point light, this will ensure that you return to Nantucket once again.
6. ‘Sconset Bluff Walk
This walkway is a mere one mile long, has little or no markings, and is over 130 years old. Yet, it is widely recognized as one of the most picturesque and romantic walking paths in the country. It is also the only and best way to get as close as possible to the iconic rose-covered shingle-style cottages of the postcard-like village of Siasconset.
The walking path passes by some of the most exclusive homes and their perfectly trimmed blooming gardens. It also offers a stunning view of the ocean from the high buffs of the island's east coast. You can turn towards the nearby Siasconset Beach and walk to the famous red and white Sankaty Head lighthouse to take some incredible vacation photos or enjoy a relaxing picnic.
7. The Juice Bar
Visiting a juice bar may not sound like something to put on the top of your bucket list, but The Juice Bar in Nantucket is a place where you can try some of the best homemade waffle cones and ice cream flavors in the world.
The small local store offers over 40 different ice cream flavors, as well as sorbets, frozen yogurts, juices, lemonades, and smoothies suitable for every taste and age. Don't be surprised if there is a long line at the Juice Bar because it is a top-preferred ice cream, juice, and bakery shop for both locals and tourists.
8. Miacomet Beach
The south coast Miacomet Beach is a wide, clean, and less crowded alternative to its more famous neighbors – Cisco and Surfside. It provides a quieter experience and offers access to the open Atlantic Ocean waters, as well as to the calmer, shallower, and warmer Miacomet freshwater pond.
Keep in mind that there are no lifeguards or food trucks, or other amenities on the beach, so make sure to pack some snacks and water before heading to Miacomet.
9. Cisco Brewers
Cisco Brewers is a favorite gathering spot for local residents and vacationers. The venue combines the local brewery, distillery, and winery and has a spacious garden with many tables, bars, and seating options. In the summer, there is live music every day, and there are several of the best food trucks on the premises where you can eat casual snacks and gourmet seafood delicacies.
You can sign up for a tasting tour of the brewery, winery, and distillery or sit back and relax and drink some of the best craft cocktails, local craft beers, wines, and other beverages of your choice.
10. Bartlett's Farm
This is the oldest family-run farm in Nantucket and the largest one on the island. Bartlett's Farm produces the best local vegetables, fruits, plants, and flowers. You can take a tour of the historic farm, buy fresh produce from the Market on the premises, and pick up some aromatic and beautiful cut flowers or potted plants from the Garden Center.
There is a Farm Kitchen where you can buy delicious homemade food, snacks, sandwiches, desserts, and drinks for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and order catering for a special event.