A small island about 30 miles south of Cape Code, Massachusetts, Nantucket is one of the best environmental and architectural examples of an early 19th-century New England seaport town in the United States. The National Historic Landmark District was once the most prominent whaling port in the world with a harbor that buzzed with ships, cooperages, chandleries and crowded wharves. The whale oil that came off ships traveled along cobblestone roads to candle factories and refineries. Many of the mansions that captains and ship owners built remain intact today, along with 800 structures that date back to 1850 and earlier. As you travel through the Nantucket Sound, skip the ferry and fly your private jet directly to the Nantucket Memorial Airport to start your fantastic New England getaway in style.
Touring Nantucket’s Shores
With 82 miles of pristine shores, there is a beach on the island for every taste—from calm, toe-dipping waters to those with surfer-class waves. Exercise your legs after your flight by renting a bicycle in town and taking a quick ride to Steps Beach, between Jetties and Dionis beaches, to experience one of the best stretches of sand on the island. From here, you can watch boats entering and leaving the harbor. Nearby Jetties Beach is also within biking distance and is popular for its calm surf and lively scene. When the weather is warm, you’ll find people swimming, exploring the waters in kayaks, and catching the wind on sailboards. The best view of the boats is from the slippery jetty. Children’s Beach is another family favorite because of its calm waters in a sheltered cove, playgrounds, picnic tables, and views of the harbor. If you’re a sucker for sunsets, Miacomet Beach and Madaket Beach will not disappoint.
Surfside Beach is a favorite among athletic adults, young people, and families for its moderate waves, walking paths and amenities. Accessible by shuttle or the three-mile Surfside Bike Path, the beach is perfect for kite flying and surfing. In the evening, anglers enjoy surfcasting with rods that are as long as 9 feet from the shoreline to catch species such as bluefish, striped bass, false albacore, bonito, herring, and mackerel. If you’d rather fish like a pro, book a trip with Capt. Tom’s Charters.
If your goal in life is to surf on as many beaches around the world as possible, make time to visit Cisco Beach and Siasconset Beach. Cisco Beach is one of the more remote shores on the island. Because it does not offer the amenities found on other beaches, such as restrooms and lifeguards, it is less crowded. When you’re ready to take a break, head to the nearby Cisco Brewers, the only brewery on the island. At Siasconset Beach, harbor seals are regular visitors and the Cliff Walk, or Bluff Walk, offers a fantastic view of cliffs, waves, dunes, and beautiful homes. Because of the strong currents and rip tides, you should be a strong swimmer before venturing into the waters.
A clever way to explore the island is a lighthouse tour in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Nantucket features three historic lighthouses. Built in 1901, the Brant Point Light Station is 26-foot-tall structure near Children’s Beach that offers great views of town and harbor. You’ll find Great Point Light, or Nantucket Light, on a thin spit on the island’s northeast tip, near the Nantucket National Wildlife Refuge. First built in 1784, the lighthouse remains operational and uses solar panels to power the lamp. Sankaty Head Light was built in 1850 on the island’s easternmost shore and remains operational. It was the first lighthouse in the country to use a Fresnel lens, which was thinner than traditional lenses and divided into concentric annular sections, becoming one of New England’s most powerful navigational aids.