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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Nantucket Island Day Trip

If you are coming to Cape Cod, we hope you will stay at our bed and breakfast located in the oldest and perhaps the most historic of the Cape’s villages. If you will be visiting the Cape for several days, you should take a day-trip to the “Little Gray Lady”, the island of Nantucket. This small island out in the Atlantic Ocean is truly another world.

Nantucket is located 25 miles off the coast of Cape Cod. The island is about 50 square miles in size with a year-round population of just over 10,000 people. In recognition of the island’s 150 years as the center of the world’s whaling industry, the U.S. Department of the Interior has designated Nantucket Town as a National Historic Landmark.

Getting There
Straight Wharf
Transportation to Nantucket Island is available via air or water from Hyannis. To get to the island by ferry, you will need to book passage aboard either the Steamship Authority or Hi-line Cruises. Both depart from Hyannis and both have traditional ferries and fast ferries. The traditional ferries take approximately one hour and fifty-five minutes to make the trip and the fast ferries only about fifty-five minutes. The difference in the two is mainly the cost of tickets, but each has a different departure schedule. The important thing to remember is to check out their information online and make reservations.

If you are thinking about taking an automobile to Nantucket Island, you may want to reconsider. The island is small with only one main village and there are many transportation options available once you arrive. The only ferries transporting automobiles are the traditional ones that take two hours and it is quite expensive. Be sure to check for space availability and fares on the websites for each company.

Both Nantucket Airlines and Island Air provide air transportation from Barnstable County Airport in Hyannis. See their websites for fares and schedules.

Getting Around
When you step off the ferry and onto Straight Wharf, you are on island time and in what the locals call Nantucket Town. If you are visiting Nantucket for the first time, you may want to take an organized tour of the island when you arrive. There are a number of options available via wheels, heels, and peddles. Most require advanced arrangements during the summer months. This will give you an opportunity to learn about the island and see some places that you probably will never see on your own. Most folks don't know that Nantucket has two cranberry bogs, Milestone Road and Windswept, both working bogs. The tours show you the bogs, The Old Mill, Sconset Village, Sankaty Head Lighthouse, Nantucket  moors, and Low Beach.

If you would like to tour the island by bicycle, you can rent wheels and get a wonderful map of the bike paths at Young’s Bicycle Shop on Broad Street. Nantucket Bike Tours offers a number of guided biking tours and will even customize one for you.

Not a cyclist? Not to worry. There are several automobile rental companies on Nantucket where you will find convertibles, Jeep Wranglers, and other fun cars that you can rent for the day at pretty reasonable rates. We have had guests who have done this and had a really great day touring the entire island.

There is seasonal public transportation on the island in the form of The Wave bus, which has routes from Madaket to Sconset, Surfside to Jetties beaches, to Nantucket Airport, downtown Nantucket, and to the Mid Island area. Check the schedules and dates of service online and when you see the bus, wave it down and it will stop.

Getting Charmed
Known as a whaling port during the 17th century, little has changed architecturally since. The cobblestone streets are still lined with old-fashioned lamps and quaint seaside cottages. The island is a national historic district and is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Just ask anyone who has ever visited there.

Nantucket Village is filled with restaurants that would satisfy the most ardent of foodies, world-class boutiques, art galleries, and museums. The island has beautiful beaches and wild moors, gray shingled house with white trim, cobblestone streets, and in the summer months, rose-covered white picket fences and blue hydrangeas everywhere you look. From the moment you arrive, you will be in love with the island way of life.

If you would like to take a walking tour of Nantucket Town, you can pick up a self-guided tour map at the local Chamber of Commerce and be on your way. You will be guided to historic houses along Lower Main Street, Upper Main Street, Milk Street, Bloom Street, Howard Street, to the Old Goal on Vestal Street, Quaker Meeting House on Fair Street, and the Fire Hose-Cart House on Gardner Street. During the summer months, a climb up the 94 steps to the top of the First Congregational Church bell tower is a must. The birds-eye view will take your breath away. Make sure you have on comfortable walking shoes as the cobblestone streets can be difficult to navigate in those stilettos you love so much because they make you legs look amazing.

Guided tours are available to the Old Mill, the oldest windmill in America and one of Nantucket’s historic icons, and to the Oldest House, that was built in 1686. Guided tours are available through the Nantucket Historical Association at the Whaling Museum at 13 Broad Street.

A must see while you are on the island is the Whaling Museum and it’s numerous galleries that showcase the history of Nantucket and its whaling past. The museum features a restored candle factory, artwork, artifacts, and a forty-six-foot sperm whale skeleton.

If art and antiques are where you interests lie, you will have a fine time checking out the local galleries and antique shops. Many creative people call this small island home. One of the most well-known of Nantucket’s products is the Nantucket Lightship Basket. Woven by Alan Reed and Nap Plank and signed and dated, these are some of the most coveted baskets in the world. Native artist and Scrimshander Lee Ann Papale does the scrimshaw for these works of art. Visit the shop at 11 First Way in the Mid-Island area to see their new and vintage baskets.

Nantucket Town is a Mecca for shopaholics. Most of the quaint boutiques are locally owned and are filled with items you surly won’t find in any mall. You are sure to find a unique treasure for yourself or a gift for someone special. A favorite place of mine is the Nantucket Cottage Hospital Thrift Shop. Located in a lovely old house at 17 India Street of which the entirety has been converted into a shop, this place is a little gem. You will find great style here that is amazingly affordable. They are only open from mid May through mid October. So plan you trip accordingly.

If you are visiting Nantucket anytime from June to October, stop by the Cisco Brewery at 5 Bartlett Farm Road for a tour. The cost is $20 per adult and covers the brewery, the distillery, and the winery and includes samples of their products. You even get to keep you tasting glass. During the afternoon and early evening hours there is live music. You can bike there or take the Regional Transit Authority buses Miacomet Loop. If you do take the bus, be prepared to walk about a third of a mile from the bus stop.

While you are out that way, be sure to visit Bartlett’s Farm. It is the island’s oldest and largest family owned farm and sells fresh fruits, vegetables, plants, and flowers. Bartlett’s Farm Kitchen has  farm-fresh ready to go foods. Be sure to check their website for the date of their next farm dinner. You may want to make a special trip to the island to attend. Reservations are necessary.

Getting Sun
Nantucket has pristine, beautiful beaches with designated entry points. Some you can get to by foot from town, others you may need wheels, or peddles. You can take the shuttle bus to, or within walking distance of, several beaches. Surf and rip currents can be dangerous and not all beaches have lifeguards or services of any kind. Madaket Beach is famous for its sunsets. Great Point has a lighthouse that is well worth seeing but you will need a beach permit and a four-wheel drive vehicle. Brant Point has a lighthouse that is familiar to everyone who has visited the island as it will be for you when you visit. You may want to pick up a picnic lunch to enjoy at the beach. Just remember not to leave any litter behind.

Getting Fed
In Nantucket Town there are wonderful bakeries, chocolate shops, gourmet specialty shops, and markets, all purveyors of the most delicious and the finest of products you will find anywhere. If you are a foodie, every conceivable kind of dining experience is available here from world-class fine dining to the casual and friendly. Galley Beach is one of the highest Zagat rated establishments on the East Coast and where the rich and famous enjoy the coastal cuisine. Figs at 29 Fair is perhaps Nantucket’s most historic restaurant featuring the bold and complex Mediterranean flavors of well-known chef Todd English. For great food and good value in a casual atmosphere, stop in at The Brotherhood of Thieves at 23 Broad Street. Here you will find good food, good drink, and good company. We like to sit at their 1840’s Whaling Bar. Black-Eyed Susan’s at 10 India Street and Queequeg’s at 6 Oak Street are both casual and fun. A great local favorite is the Even Keel, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We love having lunch on their outdoor patio. This is a great place to grab take-out if you are headed to the beach for a picnic.

Getting Home
Make sure you check the ferry schedules so that you don't miss the boat back to America!

There is something for everyone on this quaint and beautiful island off the coast of Cape Cod. The Gray Lady’s picturesque beauty is sure to steal your heart. If you are staying at our bed and breakfast and traveling to Nantucket on one of the early morning ferries, we are happy to make you a take-away breakfast to enjoy on the trip over. Just let us know the day before you plan to visit the island.

Note: Visitor information is available on the Nantucket Island website and from the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce.


Jan Preus, the Innkeeper, chef, and artist in residence at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

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