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What To Do On A Day Trip To Nantucket


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Kristi Arrieta



Located off the coast of Massachusetts, Nantucket is a charming island that offers a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With its cobblestone streets, historic architecture, and stunning coastal landscapes, Nantucket is a popular destination for day trips. Whether you’re a history buff, a beach lover, or a foodie, this island has something to offer everyone.


To make the most of your day trip to Nantucket, it’s helpful to plan your itinerary in advance. This article will guide you through some of the must-visit places and activities on the island. From exploring downtown and visiting the Whaling Museum to enjoying the pristine beaches and discovering the iconic lighthouses, there’s no shortage of things to do and see on Nantucket.


Getting to Nantucket is an adventure in itself. You can take a ferry from Hyannis or a short flight from Boston. Whichever mode of transportation you choose, be sure to check the schedules and book in advance, especially during the peak summer months. Once you arrive on the island, you’ll be greeted by the laid-back island atmosphere and the warm hospitality of the locals.


As you explore downtown Nantucket, you’ll be transported back in time. The cobblestone streets, lined with quaint shops and charming restaurants, create a picturesque setting. Take a leisurely stroll and immerse yourself in the island’s rich history and vibrant culture. Don’t forget to visit the Whaling Museum, which offers fascinating insights into Nantucket’s whaling heritage.


No visit to Nantucket is complete without experiencing its beautiful beaches. Whether you prefer the calm waters of Jetties Beach or the secluded beauty of Madaket Beach, there’s a stretch of sand to suit every taste. With its pristine shores and breathtaking ocean views, Nantucket’s beaches are a perfect spot to relax and unwind.


Getting to Nantucket

Getting to Nantucket is part of the adventure. The island is accessible by ferry or plane, offering different options to suit your preferences and schedule.


If you prefer a scenic journey, taking a ferry from Hyannis is a popular choice. The ferry ride takes approximately two hours, giving you ample time to enjoy the picturesque views of the ocean. It’s advisable to book your ferry tickets in advance, especially during peak tourist season, as they can fill up quickly.


For those who prefer a quicker and more convenient option, there are multiple daily flights from Boston to Nantucket. The flight takes about 45 minutes, allowing you to maximize your time on the island. Keep in mind that flight availability and schedules may vary, so it’s advisable to check with the airline and book your tickets in advance.


Once you arrive on Nantucket, you’ll immediately feel the island’s charm and welcoming atmosphere. The ferry terminal and airport are conveniently located near downtown, making it easy to start exploring.


If you’re visiting Nantucket for a day trip, it’s important to plan your transportation on the island. Renting a bike is a popular choice, as the island is relatively small and bike-friendly. There are several bike rental shops in downtown Nantucket where you can easily pick up a bike for the day. Biking around the island allows you to take in the scenic views, visit different attractions, and enjoy the fresh ocean breeze.


Alternatively, you can also explore Nantucket by foot. The downtown area is compact and walkable, with sidewalks that lead you from one charming street to another. This allows you to immerse yourself in the island’s unique architecture, shops, and restaurants at a leisurely pace.


Whichever mode of transportation you choose, be sure to check the schedules, make any necessary reservations, and plan your day ahead of time to make the most of your visit to Nantucket.


Exploring Downtown

When you step into downtown Nantucket, you’ll be transported to a world of quaint charm and historic beauty. The cobblestone streets, lined with historic buildings and charming shops, create a picturesque setting that is perfect for leisurely exploration.


One of the best ways to start your downtown adventure is by visiting Main Street. The heart of Nantucket, Main Street is home to a variety of boutiques, galleries, and restaurants. Take your time to browse through the unique shops, where you’ll find everything from local artwork and handmade crafts to fashionable clothing and accessories.


Wander down the side streets to discover hidden gems and tucked-away shops. Many of these establishments showcase the work of local artisans and offer one-of-a-kind treasures that make for perfect souvenirs.


As you explore downtown, take in the stunning historic architecture. The charming gray-shingled buildings with colorful trim are a hallmark of Nantucket’s unique style. The Whaling Museum, located on Broad Street, is a must-visit attraction for history enthusiasts. Learn about Nantucket’s rich whaling history through fascinating exhibits and artifacts that bring the past to life.


While exploring, be sure to stop for a meal at one of the many local restaurants. Nantucket is renowned for its fresh seafood, so indulge in a delicious lobster roll or sample some local oysters. Whether you prefer fine dining or a casual seafood shack, you’ll find a variety of options to satisfy your taste buds.


As you meander through downtown, you’ll also come across charming churches, art galleries, and historical landmarks. Take a moment to admire the beautiful architecture of the First Congregational Church or visit the Nantucket Atheneum, the island’s public library housed in a stunning Greek Revival building.


Don’t forget to also explore the waterfront area, where you can take in the stunning views of the harbor. You can watch the boats sailing in and out, visit the various docks, or even take a leisurely stroll along the wharf.


Whether you’re shopping for unique souvenirs, admiring historic architecture, or simply enjoying the relaxed island atmosphere, exploring downtown Nantucket is a delightful experience that shouldn’t be missed.


Visiting the Whaling Museum

A visit to the Whaling Museum in Nantucket is a chance to delve into the island’s rich maritime history and explore the fascinating world of whaling. Located on Broad Street in downtown Nantucket, the museum offers a captivating experience that is both educational and engaging.


The Whaling Museum is housed in a historic 1847 candle factory building, adding to its charm and authenticity. As you step inside, you’ll be transported back in time to an era when Nantucket was a prominent whaling hub.


The museum’s exhibits provide a comprehensive look into the history of whaling, showcasing the island’s contribution to the industry and its impact on Nantucket’s development. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about the daring whalers who set sail from Nantucket and the challenges they faced on their voyages.


One of the highlights of the museum is the fully-restored 46-foot sperm whale skeleton, which is suspended from the ceiling. This impressive display allows you to truly appreciate the massive size of these majestic creatures and gain a deeper understanding of the dangers and risks faced by whalers.


The museum also features a variety of artifacts and exhibits that explore different aspects of whaling. From intricately carved scrimshaw pieces to antique whaling tools and navigational instruments, you’ll get an up-close look at the tools and equipment used by whalers.


Interactive exhibits and multimedia displays offer a hands-on learning experience. You can step into a recreated whaling ship, listen to firsthand accounts of whaling expeditions, and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of life at sea.


In addition to its main exhibits, the Whaling Museum also hosts temporary exhibits and special events throughout the year. From lectures and workshops to art exhibitions and cultural celebrations, there’s always something new and exciting happening at the museum.


Before you leave, make sure to visit the museum’s gift shop, which offers a range of unique maritime-themed items, books, and souvenirs. This is the perfect place to find a memento to remember your visit to the Whaling Museum and Nantucket.


A trip to the Whaling Museum in Nantucket is not only informative but also provides a deeper appreciation for the island’s history and its connection to the sea. It’s a must-visit attraction for history enthusiasts and anyone who wants to gain insight into Nantucket’s fascinating past.


Enjoying the Beaches

No trip to Nantucket is complete without spending some time at the island’s breathtaking beaches. With its pristine shores, crystal-clear waters, and expansive coastline, Nantucket offers a variety of beaches to suit every preference.


Jetties Beach is a popular choice for families and those seeking a lively beach atmosphere. Located on the northern coast of the island, Jetties Beach offers calm waters and a range of amenities, including lifeguards, restrooms, and snack bars. It’s the perfect spot to relax on the sandy shores, take a dip in the refreshing water, or engage in activities like volleyball and paddleboarding.


For a more tranquil beach experience, head to Madaket Beach on the western end of the island. This secluded beach is known for its stunning sunsets and pristine natural beauty. Walk along the sandy dunes, feel the ocean breeze on your face, and enjoy the peacefulness of this hidden gem. It’s important to note that Madaket Beach has limited facilities, so come prepared with snacks and beverages.


If you’re up for an adventure, visit Cisco Beach, located on the southern shore of the island. This expansive beach is renowned for its impressive waves, making it a popular spot for surfers. Even if you’re not a surfer, watching the surfers catch waves can be a thrilling sight. Cisco Beach is also home to the famous Cisco Brewers, where you can enjoy a cold beer or a tasty lunch after a day at the beach.


Surfside Beach is another favorite among locals and tourists alike. This beach boasts a long stretch of sandy shoreline and offers a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing. The beach is easily accessible from downtown Nantucket and is equipped with parking, restrooms, and lifeguards.


No matter which beach you choose to visit, be sure to pack sunscreen, towels, and plenty of water. Remember to follow beach safety guidelines and pay attention to any posted signs or instructions from lifeguards.


Whether you’re seeking active water sports, a peaceful retreat, or simply a chance to soak up the sun, Nantucket’s beaches offer the perfect setting to relax and enjoy the island’s natural beauty. Spend a day at one of these stunning beaches and let the rejuvenating vibes of the ocean wash over you.


Taking a Bike Ride

One of the best ways to explore the beauty of Nantucket is by taking a leisurely bike ride around the island. With its well-maintained bike paths and scenic routes, Nantucket offers the perfect cycling experience for riders of all levels.


Before beginning your bike adventure, you can rent a bike from one of the many rental shops in downtown Nantucket. They offer a variety of bike styles, including cruisers, hybrids, and even electric bikes, allowing you to choose the best option for your comfort and preferences.


Once you’re suited up and ready to go, the island’s extensive network of bike paths awaits you. The most popular route is the “Polpis Loop,” a 9-mile loop that takes you through picturesque landscapes and offers stunning views of Nantucket Sound. Along the way, you can stop at Sconset Village, a charming seaside town known for its rose-covered cottages and quintessential New England charm.


For those looking for a longer ride, the “Madaket Loop” is a fantastic choice. This 14-mile loop takes you to the western end of the island, where you can enjoy the beautiful views of Madaket Beach and witness a breathtaking sunset. The journey will take you through scenic landscapes, including pristine marshes and rolling sand dunes.


If you’re up for a challenge, you can embark on the “Siasconset Loop,” a 17-mile loop that takes you to the eastern side of the island. This route will lead you through the charming village of Siasconset, where you can explore the narrow streets lined with historic cottages and visit the iconic Sankaty Head Lighthouse.


As you pedal your way around the island, you’ll have the opportunity to take in the natural beauty of Nantucket, breathe in the fresh sea air, and spot wildlife along the way. Keep an eye out for the island’s vibrant birdlife, including ospreys and herons.


Don’t forget to pack some snacks and water for the ride. You can make a pit stop at one of the beachside picnic areas or enjoy a picnic lunch in the shade of a picturesque spot.


Cycling around Nantucket allows you to experience the island at your own pace, taking in the sights, sounds, and scents of the beautiful surroundings. It provides a unique opportunity to connect with nature and immerse yourself in the island’s laid-back atmosphere.


Remember to wear a helmet, follow all traffic rules, and be respectful of pedestrians and other cyclists. Nantucket’s bike paths are shared with pedestrians, so be mindful of their presence and ring your bell or call out when passing.


So grab a bike, hop on the saddle, and embark on a memorable adventure as you explore the stunning landscapes of Nantucket on two wheels. It’s a truly unforgettable experience that allows you to see the island in a whole new way.


Discovering the Lighthouses

Nantucket is known for its iconic lighthouses, and no visit to the island is complete without exploring these historic landmarks. Each lighthouse offers its own unique charm and provides a glimpse into the island’s maritime past.


One of the most famous lighthouses on Nantucket is the Brant Point Lighthouse. Located at the entrance of Nantucket Harbor, this picturesque lighthouse has been guiding ships into the harbor since 1746. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront to get a closer look at the lighthouse and enjoy panoramic views of the harbor and nearby islands.


Heading to the eastern side of the island, you’ll find the Sankaty Head Lighthouse in Siasconset. This striking red-and-white striped lighthouse stands atop a bluff and overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. Climb to the observation deck to take in the stunning coastal views or wander around the grounds to marvel at the pristine beauty of the area.


If you’re up for a bit of adventure, make your way to Great Point Lighthouse. Located at the northeastern tip of the island, Great Point Lighthouse is only accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicles or by walking along the beach. The journey is well worth it, as you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the ocean and the opportunity to explore the secluded beauty of Great Point.


As you visit these lighthouses, be sure to take a moment to appreciate their historical significance. These beacons of light have played a vital role in ensuring the safety of ships navigating the treacherous waters around Nantucket for centuries.


Before you visit any lighthouse, it’s important to check the visiting hours and access restrictions. Some lighthouses may have limited public access or require a guided tour, so it’s always best to plan ahead.


Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a photography lover, or simply seeking a scenic adventure, exploring the lighthouses of Nantucket is a must-do. These iconic structures not only offer stunning views and photo opportunities but also allow you to connect with the island’s rich maritime heritage.


So, grab your camera, embrace the salty sea breeze, and embark on a lighthouse-hopping adventure that will leave you with lasting memories of Nantucket’s scenic beauty and fascinating history.


Sampling Local Cuisine

One of the highlights of visiting Nantucket is the opportunity to indulge in the island’s delectable local cuisine. From fresh seafood to farm-to-table dishes, Nantucket offers a culinary experience that is sure to delight your taste buds.


When it comes to seafood, Nantucket is a treasure trove of culinary delights. Be sure to try the island’s famous lobster roll, a buttery toasted roll filled with succulent lobster meat. Whether you prefer it warm with melted butter or chilled with a light mayo dressing, this iconic dish is a must-try.


Oysters are another specialty of the island. Nantucket’s surrounding waters are home to some of the finest oyster beds, producing briny and flavorful bivalves. Visit a local oyster farm or seafood restaurant and savor these freshly shucked delicacies, paired with a crisp glass of white wine or a local craft beer.


If you’re looking for a unique dining experience, consider trying the island’s farm-to-table restaurants. Nantucket is home to several farms that cultivate fresh produce, and many restaurants source their ingredients locally. Indulge in dishes made with seasonal vegetables, artisanal cheeses, and locally-raised meats, all crafted with care and a commitment to sustainability.


For those with a sweet tooth, Nantucket offers a range of tempting treats. Try a slice of cranberry pie, made with the island’s beloved berries, or a scoop of homemade ice cream from one of the local creameries. Don’t forget to sample the island’s famous Nantucket chocolate-covered cranberries, a delicious combination of dark chocolate and tangy cranberries.


When it comes to beverages, Nantucket is also known for its local breweries and wineries. Take a tour of a brewery and enjoy a flight of craft beers, or visit a vineyard and savor a glass of wine made from grapes grown on the island. These beverages perfectly complement the island’s culinary delights and provide a taste of Nantucket’s unique flavors.


During your visit, be sure to explore the island’s farmer’s markets and specialty food stores. Here, you can discover local artisanal products, such as homemade jams, locally-roasted coffee, and handcrafted chocolates. These make for perfect gifts or souvenirs to take home and share the flavors of Nantucket with family and friends.


Whether you’re a seafood lover, a fan of farm-fresh cuisine, or simply someone who enjoys exploring new flavors, Nantucket’s culinary scene offers a wide array of options to satisfy every palate. So, indulge in the island’s delicious cuisine and let your taste buds embark on a delightful culinary adventure while experiencing all that Nantucket has to offer.


Shopping for Souvenirs

Shopping for souvenirs is an essential part of any visit to Nantucket. The island is brimming with unique shops and boutiques where you can find the perfect memento to remember your trip.


As you explore downtown, you’ll come across a variety of stores offering a wide range of Nantucket-inspired merchandise. From clothing and accessories to home decor and artwork, there’s something for everyone.


One popular souvenir is a piece of Nantucket jewelry. Many local jewelers create stunning pieces that incorporate elements of the island’s rich maritime heritage. Look for bracelets, necklaces, and earrings featuring nautical charms, shells, or motifs inspired by lighthouses and whales.


For those who appreciate art, consider purchasing a piece from a local artist. Nantucket has a thriving arts community, and you’ll find galleries showcasing a diverse range of artwork, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and photography. Owning a piece of Nantucket-inspired art is a wonderful way to bring the island’s beauty into your home.


Don’t forget to explore the island’s specialty shops. Nantucket is known for its locally-made products, such as handmade soaps, candles, and skincare products. These items often incorporate natural ingredients, including botanicals and herbs that are native to the island.


If you’re a book lover, Nantucket’s independent bookstores are worth a visit. You’ll find a selection of books that celebrate the island’s history, culture, and natural beauty. Pick up a novel set in Nantucket, discover a cookbook featuring local recipes, or learn about the island through historical and travel guides.


Nantucket is also home to a variety of antique shops, where you can find unique vintage items and collectibles. From antique furniture and home decor to maritime artifacts and vintage jewelry, these shops offer a touch of nostalgia and a chance to own a piece of history.


When shopping for souvenirs, keep an eye out for items that reflect the island’s iconic symbols, such as lighthouses, whales, and sailing ships. Look for branded merchandise featuring the Nantucket logo or the island’s name, as these items are a great way to show off your love for Nantucket back home.


Lastly, don’t forget to explore the island’s farmer’s markets and local food stores. Here, you can find unique food products, including artisanal jams, locally-roasted coffee, and Nantucket-made chocolates. These edible delights make for great gifts or a tasty treat for yourself.


No matter your taste or interest, shopping for souvenirs in Nantucket is an experience in itself. The island’s wide array of shops and boutiques offer something for everyone, allowing you to find the perfect keepsake that embodies the essence of Nantucket and brings back fond memories of your visit.



A day trip to Nantucket is a journey into a world of timeless beauty, rich history, and unforgettable experiences. From exploring the charming downtown streets to visiting the iconic lighthouses, there’s no shortage of things to see and do on this enchanting island.


Getting to Nantucket is part of the adventure, whether you choose to take a scenic ferry ride or a quick flight. Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by the island’s warm hospitality and captivating atmosphere.


Make sure to explore downtown Nantucket, where cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and charming shops await. Immerse yourself in the island’s vibrant culture and don’t miss a visit to the Whaling Museum to learn about Nantucket’s fascinating whaling heritage.


Of course, no trip to Nantucket is complete without enjoying the stunning beaches. Whether you prefer a lively atmosphere at Jetties Beach or a secluded retreat at Madaket Beach, the island’s shores offer beauty and relaxation.


Take a bike and embark on a scenic ride around the island, discovering breathtaking landscapes and charming villages along the way. Don’t forget to visit the iconic lighthouses, such as Brant Point and Sankaty Head, which symbolize the island’s rich maritime past.


Indulge in the island’s culinary delights, sampling fresh seafood, farm-to-table dishes, and local delicacies. Take home a piece of Nantucket with you by shopping for unique souvenirs, from jewelry and artwork to locally-made products and antique treasures.


As your day trip to Nantucket comes to an end, cherish the memories you’ve created and the experiences you’ve had. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply someone seeking a peaceful escape, Nantucket offers a magical retreat that leaves a lasting impression.


So, embrace the island’s charm, immerse yourself in its beauty, and let the allure of Nantucket captivate your heart. Plan your day trip, discover the hidden gems, and embark on an adventure that you’ll cherish for a lifetime.