Nantucket is a fashionable vacation and shopping destination.
But it is also a top spot for history enthusiasts, nature lovers, anglers, foodies, surfers, and family vacations.
Located 30 miles south of Cape Cod, it is a small but stunning island with perfectly conserved beaches and natural resources. It is famous for its preserved historic colonial-style buildings and streets from the time the first settlers arrived from England.
Of course, the most stunning features of the island remain the endless sandy beaches, ocean views, and historic lighthouses.
Being a popular second-house destination, the residents reach up to 50,000 people in the summer. This is five times more than the full-time residents.
But while the properties in Nantucket are sold at impossibly high prices and are scarcely available for sale, there are many beautiful lodgings available for short-term and long-term rent, which you can choose from. You can feel more comfortable renting a house, especially when vacationing with kids.
Even if you don’t have the chance to go on a longer vacation, don’t worry because Nantucket is also great for a day trip or a weekend trip with the family. You can easily reach it via ferry or plane.
The high season in Nantucket is at the peak of the summer. So if you want to avoid the crowds and have a better choice for lodgings, travel, and for seats in restaurants, you may want to plan your trip for the shoulder seasons instead. These are March and April or September and October.
Since the island is only 14 miles long and less than 5 miles wide, you will need no more than 3-4 days to explore the most important historical and natural sites there. And in the meantime, you can see and enjoy many of the local attractions with the whole family.
Here are some fun things to do when on a vacation or a shorter trip to Nantucket.
Explore its Endless Beaches
Thanks to the local conservation policy, all 82 miles of impeccable beaches and shorelines in Nantucket are free to visit and enjoy by all.
These gorgeous beaches offer infinite views of the ocean and are the perfect places to relax, enjoy water sports, have a romantic picnic, or play games with your children.
Some of the best beaches to visit when you are in Nantucket with kids include Children’s beach and Jetties beach. They are child-friendly and are on the northern coast bordering Nantucket Sound, which is warmer and calmer than the open ocean.
Surfside Beach is a famous beach for youngsters and surfers. You can enjoy soaking in the sun and sipping a cocktail while the children learn how to surf or enjoy some bodyboarding.
Madaket Beach is on the westernmost part of the island, and while it is more remote, it is an absolutely stunning place to be, especially at sunset.
Since there are so many beaches on all coasts of the island, we are pretty sure that there is the perfect beach for any preference in Nantucket.
Go See the Oldest Working Windmill in the US
The Old Mill is the oldest surviving and functioning windmill in the entire country, so it is definitely a one-of-a-kind site to see in the USA.
Originally built back in 1746 by Nathan Wilbur and then restored in 1828 by Jared Gardner, the Old Mill has been owned by the Nantucket Historical Association for over 120 years.
You can take a guided tour around the mill. If you are in luck and there is wind, you can actually see how the wind turns the gear and shaft, which turn the grounding stone to make cornmeal from corn.
It is among the top spots in Nantucket to take the kids to learn more about the history of our country.
Pet Some Crabs and Clams at the Maria Mitchell Aquarium
The Nantucket aquarium, named after the famous local astronomer, naturalist, librarian, and educator Maria Mitchell, is the place to go if you and the children want to get close to the local sea life.
There are tours you can take throughout the different tanks and see all the different fish and turtles, and other sea creatures living there. There are several aquarium rooms, each with over 50 species of living animals in tanks. You can see different stunning fish, lobsters, jellyfish, tropical fish, critters, and local species. There is also an outdoor tank with horseshoe crabs and sharks. Best of all, you can get to hold and pet some live shrimps, crabs, snails, and clams in the museum’s touch tank.
Stroll Through the Historic Downtown
Nantucket Downtown is a place where you will feel like you stepped back in time a couple of centuries ago. The historic colonial-style buildings which used to be owned by the affluent whaling captains and the cobblestone streets with gas lights and rose and hydrangea gardens are absolutely stunning.
Thanks to the efforts of the local authorities and preservation organizations, the buildings Downtown are restored and kept in their original appearance.
While walking through Downtown Nantucket, you can enjoy the scenic views of the ocean and visit the museums, art galleries, and shops in the area.
Some of the most exclusive boutiques, antique and art galleries, and the best restaurants are located on Main Street and near it in Downtown Nantucket.
You can also go to the wharf to gawk at the marina with all the superyachts and the beautiful panoramic ocean views.
See What Inspired the Writing of Moby-Dick at the Whaling Museum
Set in a restored candle factory in Downtown Nantucket, the Whaling Museum is the top-rated site to see when visiting the island.
The entire island, its architecture, culture, and lifestyle have been hugely impacted by the long years when whaling was the leading industry in Nantucket.
The Whaling Museum pays tribute to those glorious years. There is a gigantic sperm whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling and some original Fresnel lenses from a local lighthouse. The museum has hundreds of exhibits, artifacts, paintings, and historical items which tell the stories of the many whaling ships and those years.
You can see artifacts from the famous Essex whaling ship, which was sunk by a whale but its captain survived. It is the story that inspired the writer of “Moby-Dick” to write this classic novel.
At the end of your trip, head off to the rooftop deck, where you can enjoy a panoramic bird’s eye view of Downtown and the Nantucket Harbor.
Events in Nantucket Throughout the Year
Even if you go out of the high season, there are things to see and some unique events to attend on the island throughout the year. Some of them include the Independence Day celebrations and fireworks, the Christmas Stroll weekend, the Annual Cranberry Festival, and the Nantucket Daffodil Festival.