Yes, Nantucket is an island that is 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, MA, but you can still go on a day trip there and have the time of your life.
The historic and charming island can be reached by a traditional Steamship Authority ferry from Hyannis, Cape Cod so that you can take your car with you. But if you want to save time, you can make the trip across Nantucket Sound faster and reach the island in just an hour from the same place but with a Hy-Line high-speed passenger-only ferry.
How to get to Nantucket
To take a day trip to Nantucket, you can drive to Hyannis or get there by bus. The trip’s length depends on where you are driving from.
Since it used to be the whaling capital of the world and hundreds of ships accosted here, it has all of that history imprinted everywhere. You will see it while walking the charming cobblestone streets with gas lamps and flowers. Or when looking at the historic New England houses and the stores and eateries which carry the traditions of the heroic captains from the 18th century.
If you decide to ride the ferry, you will land at the Steamboat or the Straight Wharf, which is in the heart of the town of Nantucket. The wharves are lined with high-end shops, luxurious yachts, and fishing shacks.
Nearby you can walk to the Whaling Museum which is housed in a renovated candle factory from the 1800s. There is a 46-foot skeleton of a giant sperm whale hanging from the ceiling, as well as other exhibits and artefacts of the great whaling history of the islanders.
After you have seen the museum, you can walk just a few blocks down to Main Street, where there are some great and exclusive galleries and shops.
There are some one-of-a-kind items that you can find only in Nantucket. These include the traditionally handcrafted lightship baskets and the trademarked Nantucket Reds pants at Murray’s Toggery Shop.
The shopping can continue along the waterfront, where each of the old houses and cottages has been turned into quaint shops, cafes, restaurants, jewellers, craft workshops, and others.
The architecture in the town has been maintained for centuries, and there are still strict codes for building and renovating in Nantucket. This is why this is considered one of the most beautiful 18th and 19th-century villages in the USA.
Along with the smaller cottages with grey weathered shingles and pink roses, you can walk by the impressive and stately Federal, Georgian and Greek Revival mansions of the wealthy sea captions from the whaling years.
If you want, you can take a guided tour of the historical downtown area to find out more curiosities and details about the different homes and whaling times. Some homes there are even open to the public for a certain fee.
Where to drink and dine in Nantucket
Eating and drinking in Nantucket are what has made this New England Island a favourite spot for foodies as well. You can choose from all kinds of restaurants and all cuisines, suitable for all tastes and budgets.
After lunch or a snack, you can go to explore one or more of the beaches on the island. Nantucket has over 80 miles of beaches, which are considered among the most beautiful in the world. You can get a stunning view of the endless ocean from each one.
You can reach the beaches via the regular shuttle bus services. A daily pass is $7. Or you can walk or ride a rented bike to the beach of your choice.
Siasconset is one of the most popular destinations. It is pronounced and called Sconset and is a picture-perfect little town on the eastern shore of Nantucket. You can see those iconic grey weathered shingle-style houses and cottages with trellises filled with pink roses there. You can also enjoy the many restaurants, shops, the beach, and the ocean view.
You can also go to view Sankaty Light which is one of the three lighthouses on the island built back in 1850.
Of course, the local shuttle can take you to nearly any of the over 25 Nantucket beaches, including Surfside or Jetties Beach.
You can also ride a bike along the picturesque Madaket Route to get to Madaket Beach or the Miacomet Route, which will take you to Surfside Beach.
Before heading off to get on the ferry, make sure to go to see Brant Point Light, which is a short walking distance from the wharf. It is the second oldest lighthouse in the USA. If you are lucky, you will be able to admire the view as the sun sets as you cruise back to Hyannis.