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Which Is Better For A Day Trip: Nantucket Or Martha’s Vineyard


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Glyn Freese



When it comes to planning a day trip from Massachusetts, two picturesque islands often top the list: Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Both islands offer unique charms and attractions that make them popular destinations for visitors looking for a quick getaway. Whether you’re seeking stunning beaches, quaint towns rich in history, or a vibrant culinary scene, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard have something to offer.


Located off the coast of Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are easily accessible by ferry or plane. These islands have a rich maritime heritage and boast stunning natural beauty, making them perfect for nature lovers and adventure seekers. With a range of activities, attractions, and dining options, choosing between Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard for a day trip can be a tough decision.


In this article, we will compare and contrast Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard in various aspects, such as location and accessibility, scenic beauty, activities and attractions, beaches, history and culture, transportation options, dining and food, shopping, and accommodation options. By examining these factors, you can make an informed decision and choose the island that best matches your preferences and interests.


So, whether you’re looking to witness stunning sunsets, explore charming cobblestone streets, indulge in fresh seafood, or simply relax on pristine beaches, let’s dive into the world of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard and discover which island is better suited for your day trip!


Location and Accessibility

Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are both located off the coast of Massachusetts, but they have slightly different geographical positions. Nantucket is situated about 30 miles south of Cape Cod, making it a more remote and secluded destination. On the other hand, Martha’s Vineyard is located just a few miles southwest of Cape Cod, making it a more accessible option.


When it comes to accessibility, Martha’s Vineyard has an advantage. The island is well-connected to the mainland, with multiple ferry options departing from various locations, such as Woods Hole, Hyannis, and Falmouth. These ferries offer both passenger and vehicle transportation, making it convenient for visitors to bring their cars or bikes to explore the island at their own pace.


Nantucket, on the other hand, is primarily accessed by ferry or plane. The ferry ride from Hyannis to Nantucket takes around two hours, with frequent departures during the summer season. Alternatively, visitors can opt to take a short flight from various regional airports or even charter a private plane for a more luxurious and time-efficient journey.


Both islands have airports, but Martha’s Vineyard has a larger and more active airport with regular commercial flights, making it a popular choice for those who prefer to travel by air. The airport in Nantucket is smaller and mainly serves private flights and seasonal flights from select destinations.


In terms of proximity to other attractions, Martha’s Vineyard has the advantage of being located close to Cape Cod, which offers additional recreational opportunities such as hiking, biking, and exploring the charming towns of Provincetown or Chatham. Nantucket, being farther from the mainland, offers a more isolated and immersive island experience.


Overall, while both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are accessible and offer their own unique charm, Martha’s Vineyard has a slight edge in terms of convenience and ease of access, especially for visitors who prefer bringing their vehicles or flying in.


Scenic Beauty

When it comes to scenic beauty, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer stunning landscapes and picturesque views that will leave visitors in awe. However, they do differ in terms of their natural attractions and geographical characteristics.


Nantucket, known as the “Grey Lady,” is famous for its pristine beaches, rolling sand dunes, and beautiful moors. The island boasts a unique blend of rugged coastline, meandering bike paths, and expansive nature reserves. One of the highlights of Nantucket is its charming lighthouses, such as the iconic Sankaty Head Lighthouse, which offer breathtaking views of the surrounding ocean.


Martha’s Vineyard, on the other hand, presents a diverse landscape with a mix of sandy shores, rolling hills, and picturesque farmland. The island is dotted with picturesque harbors such as Edgartown and Oak Bluffs, where colorful gingerbread cottages will transport you to a fairytale-like setting. The Gay Head Cliffs in Aquinnah, with their striking multicolored clay formations, are another must-see attraction on Martha’s Vineyard.


Both islands also offer a plethora of outdoor activities and recreational opportunities to explore their natural beauty. From biking along scenic trails to hiking through nature preserves and kayaking along peaceful coastal ponds, there is no shortage of options for outdoor enthusiasts on either island.


Furthermore, each island has its own unique flora and fauna. Nantucket is known for its wild cranberry bogs and beautiful fields of wildflowers that bloom in the summer months. Martha’s Vineyard, with its meadows and farmlands, provides a vibrant agricultural landscape and is home to diverse bird species, making it a birdwatcher’s paradise.


Ultimately, whether you prefer the stark beauty of Nantucket’s windswept beaches or the bucolic charm of Martha’s Vineyard’s rolling hills and picturesque towns, both islands offer stunning natural beauty that will leave you captivated.


Activities and Attractions

Both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer a wide range of activities and attractions to keep visitors entertained during their day trip. From historical sites to outdoor adventures and cultural experiences, there is something for everyone to enjoy.


For history buffs, Nantucket is a treasure trove of historical sites and museums. The Nantucket Whaling Museum provides a fascinating look into the island’s whaling past, showcasing artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of Nantucket’s maritime heritage. The cobblestone streets of downtown Nantucket are lined with meticulously preserved historic homes, offering a glimpse into the island’s prosperous past.


Martha’s Vineyard also boasts its fair share of historical attractions. The Martha’s Vineyard Museum in Vineyard Haven showcases the island’s rich history, while the beautifully restored gingerbread cottages in the Oak Bluffs Campground area are a testament to the island’s Victorian-era charm.


Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty of activities to indulge in on both islands. Nantucket offers miles of pristine beaches where you can sunbathe, swim, or simply stroll along the shoreline. The Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge is a must-visit for nature lovers, with its scenic trails and opportunities for birdwatching and seal-spotting.


Martha’s Vineyard, known for its outdoor beauty, offers numerous opportunities for hiking, biking, and exploring. The State Forest in West Tisbury is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with its extensive network of trails and scenic picnic areas. For a unique adventure, visitors can also explore the island’s many ponds and lakes, perfect for kayaking or paddleboarding.


In terms of cultural attractions, both islands offer a vibrant arts and cultural scene. Nantucket hosts the Nantucket Film Festival, which showcases independent films from around the world, while Martha’s Vineyard is known for its art galleries and the famous Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival.


Additionally, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard host a variety of festivals and events throughout the year, including food and wine festivals, garden tours, and music concerts, providing visitors with a chance to immerse themselves in the local culture.


Whether you prefer exploring historical sites, enjoying outdoor adventures, or engaging in cultural experiences, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer a plethora of activities and attractions to ensure an enriching and memorable day trip.



One of the main attractions of both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard is their stunning beaches. With miles of pristine shoreline, crystal-clear waters, and soft sand, these islands offer a beach lover’s paradise.


Nantucket is renowned for its picturesque beaches, each with its own unique charm. Surfside Beach, located on the south shore of the island, is a popular choice for families and surfers alike. With its wide sandy expanse and gentle waves, it provides the perfect spot for swimming, sunbathing, and building sandcastles. For a more secluded and tranquil beach experience, visitors can head to Madaket Beach, located on the western tip of the island. The beach offers breathtaking views of the sunset and is ideal for long walks along the shoreline.


Martha’s Vineyard is also home to beautiful beaches that cater to different preferences. South Beach, located in Edgartown, is known for its rolling dunes and stunning vistas. It’s a popular spot for swimming, surfing, and beachcombing. Joseph Sylvia State Beach, located between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, offers calm waters and sandy shores, making it a great choice for families with young children. On the other hand, Aquinnah Public Beach, also known as Moshup Beach, is famous for its mesmerizing clay cliffs and dramatic scenery.


Both islands provide opportunities for various beach activities such as beach volleyball, picnicking, and kiteboarding. Additionally, beachgoers can rent equipment like kayaks and paddleboards to explore the coastal waters and indulge in some water sports.


It’s worth noting that while both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard boast beautiful beaches, Nantucket’s beaches tend to be slightly less crowded due to its remote location and limited accessibility. Martha’s Vineyard, being more accessible, can attract larger crowds, especially during the peak summer season. However, both islands have plenty of beaches to choose from, ensuring that visitors can find a place to relax and soak up the sun.


Whether you prefer the tranquil shores of Madaket Beach or the vibrant atmosphere of South Beach, the beautiful beaches of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard provide a perfect setting for a rejuvenating day by the sea.


History and Culture

Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are steeped in rich history and vibrant culture, each offering a unique glimpse into their past and present.


Nantucket has a deep maritime heritage that dates back to its whaling days in the 18th and 19th centuries. The island’s cobbled streets and well-preserved historic homes reflect its prosperous whaling era, earning it the nickname “The Little Grey Lady of the Sea.” Visitors can explore the Nantucket Whaling Museum, which showcases artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of Nantucket’s maritime history. The island also has a strong connection to the arts, with numerous galleries and events that celebrate local artists and craftsmen.


Martha’s Vineyard, while also having a rich maritime history, is known for its diverse cultural scene and famous visitors. The island has been a favorite destination for artists, writers, and musicians, with notable visitors such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and other prominent figures. The Vineyard’s Camp Meeting Association in Oak Bluffs is home to charming gingerbread cottages that were originally built as religious retreats in the 19th century. Today, the cottages are an iconic symbol of the island’s cultural heritage.


Both islands boast a lively arts and entertainment scene. Nantucket hosts the Nantucket Film Festival, which showcases independent films from around the world, as well as an annual daffodil festival and wine festival. Martha’s Vineyard is famous for its vineyards and wineries, where visitors can enjoy wine tastings and tours. The island also hosts the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, attracting filmmakers and cinephiles from near and far.


Cultural events and festivals can be found on both islands throughout the year, offering a vibrant mix of music, art, food, and local traditions. These events provide visitors with an opportunity to immerse themselves in the unique history and culture of each island.


Whether it’s exploring the maritime heritage of Nantucket or experiencing the vibrant arts and cultural scene of Martha’s Vineyard, both islands offer a rich tapestry of history and culture just waiting to be discovered.


Transportation Options

Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer several transportation options to help visitors explore the islands and make the most of their day trip.


When it comes to getting around Nantucket, the most popular mode of transportation is biking. The island has an extensive network of bike paths that make it easy to navigate and explore. Visitors can rent bikes from various rental shops on the island and enjoy a leisurely ride along the coastal roads and scenic trails. Biking allows for a more intimate experience, allowing you to take in the island’s natural beauty at your own pace.


In addition to biking, Nantucket also offers shuttle buses that provide transportation between the downtown area and popular destinations around the island. These shuttles are a convenient option for those who prefer not to bike or have limited mobility.


Martha’s Vineyard offers similar transportation options, with biking being a popular choice for getting around the island. There are numerous bike rental shops in towns like Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, making it easy for visitors to rent bikes and explore the various attractions at their own leisure.


For those who prefer not to bike, Martha’s Vineyard has a reliable public bus system called the Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA). The VTA buses operate on fixed routes and provide transportation between the major towns and attractions on the island. This option is ideal for visitors who want to hop on and off at different locations without the hassle of driving or finding parking.


Both islands also have taxi and ride-sharing services available for convenient transportation. Taxis can be found at designated taxi stands, and ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft are available in certain areas.


It’s worth noting that each island has its own unique layout and attractions, and while biking or using public transportation can be a great way to get around, renting a car or bringing your own vehicle can provide more flexibility and convenience, especially if you want to explore the islands in a shorter timeframe.


Regardless of your preferred mode of transportation, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer options that cater to different travel preferences, ensuring that you can easily navigate and explore these beautiful islands during your day trip.


Dining and Food

When it comes to dining and food, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer a tantalizing array of culinary delights that showcase the rich flavors of the sea and the bounties of the land.


Nantucket is renowned for its fresh seafood, particularly its succulent lobster and locally caught fish. Visitors can indulge in a wide range of seafood dishes, from classic New England clam chowder to flavorful lobster rolls. The island’s vibrant dining scene also includes upscale restaurants that serve innovative dishes prepared with locally sourced ingredients. Nantucket is also home to several award-winning bakeries and ice cream parlors, offering delectable treats to satisfy any sweet tooth.


Martha’s Vineyard also presents a diverse culinary landscape, influenced by the island’s agricultural heritage. The island has a thriving farm-to-table movement, with numerous restaurants showcasing seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. Visitors can savor dishes made with fresh produce, locally raised meats, and artisanal cheeses. In addition to its farm-to-table offerings, Martha’s Vineyard offers a wide range of international cuisines, from Italian and Mediterranean to Thai and Mexican. The island is also home to several vineyards and wineries, where visitors can enjoy wine tastings and pairings.


Both islands have bustling farmers markets where visitors can find an array of fresh produce, baked goods, and local artisanal products. These markets are a great place to pick up picnic supplies or sample the flavors of the islands.


For those looking to immerse themselves in the culinary scene, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard both host food and wine festivals throughout the year, featuring renowned chefs, tastings, and demonstrations. These events offer a chance to savor the best of the islands’ culinary creations in one place.


Whether you prefer a casual seafood shack by the beach or an elegant dining experience in a historic setting, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer a wide range of dining options to satisfy every taste and craving.



Both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer unique and charming shopping experiences, with a variety of boutiques, galleries, and specialty shops that cater to different interests and tastes.


Nantucket is renowned for its quaint shops and boutiques, particularly along its cobblestone streets in the downtown area. Visitors can wander through the charming streets and discover a treasure trove of local and independent shops. From art galleries featuring works by local artists to high-end fashion boutiques and antique shops, there is something for everyone. Nantucket is also known for its Nantucket Red clothing and accessories, which have become a signature style associated with the island.


Martha’s Vineyard also offers a delightful shopping experience. The island’s towns, including Edgartown and Vineyard Haven, are lined with an enticing mix of shops and boutiques. Visitors can explore local artisans’ work, including handcrafted jewelry, pottery, and artwork. The island’s vibrant arts scene is also reflected in the numerous galleries that showcase local artists’ talents. Additionally, Martha’s Vineyard has a diverse range of specialty stores offering unique items such as books, clothing, home goods, and local gourmet products.


Both islands have farmers markets, where visitors can browse through a selection of fresh produce, artisanal food products, and handmade crafts. These markets are a great place to find unique souvenirs and gifts to take back home.


Furthermore, visitors can find a variety of nautical-themed items, such as model boats, seashell crafts, and nautical-inspired home decor, to capture the essence of the islands’ maritime heritage.


It’s worth noting that both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard have a commitment to supporting local businesses and artisans, so shopping on these islands not only provides a chance to find unique and high-quality items but also contributes to the local economy and community.


Whether you’re looking for one-of-a-kind artwork, local crafts, or stylish fashion, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer a delightful shopping experience with something to suit every taste and preference.


Accommodation Options

When it comes to accommodation, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer a range of options that cater to different preferences, from luxury resorts to cozy bed and breakfasts.


Nantucket boasts a variety of high-end resorts and upscale hotels, offering luxurious amenities and top-notch service. These establishments often provide stunning ocean views, on-site dining options, and access to private beaches. Additionally, visitors can find charming inns and bed and breakfasts that provide a more intimate and cozy experience, often featuring historic architecture and personalized attention. Nantucket also has rental properties available for those looking for a more independent and private stay, ranging from quaint cottages to spacious beachfront homes.


Martha’s Vineyard offers a similar range of accommodations. The island has a collection of luxurious resorts and hotels that provide a blend of elegance and charm. Visitors can enjoy amenities such as spa services, gourmet dining, and private beach access. For a more quaint and intimate experience, guests can opt for one of the island’s bed and breakfasts or inns, many of which offer personalized service and cozy accommodations. Martha’s Vineyard also has vacation rental properties available, allowing visitors to find the perfect home away from home during their stay.


In addition to these traditional accommodation options, both islands offer camping and RV facilities for those who prefer a more outdoorsy experience. Visitors can find campgrounds with beautiful settings, often close to the beach or in scenic locations, where they can enjoy the natural beauty of the islands.


It’s advisable to book accommodations well in advance, particularly during the peak summer season when these islands attract a high number of visitors. Whether you’re seeking a luxurious beachfront resort or a cozy bed and breakfast, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard provide an array of accommodation options to ensure a comfortable and memorable stay.



Choosing between Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard for a day trip can be a delightful yet challenging decision. Both islands offer unique charms and attractions that make them popular destinations for visitors seeking a quick getaway.


Nantucket, with its remote and secluded location, provides a serene and picturesque escape. It boasts stunning beaches, charming cobblestone streets lined with historic homes, and a rich maritime heritage. The island offers a more intimate and laid-back atmosphere, perfect for those seeking a peaceful retreat.


Martha’s Vineyard, located just a few miles southwest of Cape Cod, is more accessible and offers a vibrant and diverse experience. The island showcases rolling hills, stunning beaches, and picturesque towns. It boasts a lively arts and cultural scene, renowned festivals, and a wide range of dining and shopping options.


Ultimately, the choice between Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard depends on your personal preferences and interests. If you’re looking for a secluded and pristine natural beauty, Nantucket may be the perfect choice. On the other hand, if you prefer a more accessible and diverse experience with a bustling cultural scene, Martha’s Vineyard might be the ideal destination for you.


Both islands provide a range of activities and attractions to keep visitors entertained, including historical sites, outdoor adventures, beautiful beaches, and a variety of dining and shopping experiences. Whether you’re a history buff, nature enthusiast, food lover, art aficionado, or simply seeking a relaxing beach day, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard have something to offer.


It’s important to plan ahead and consider factors such as location, accessibility, scenic beauty, activities, and accommodations when making your decision. Whichever island you choose, you’re sure to be captivated by the natural beauty, rich history, and unique culture that each island offers. So, pack your bags and embark on a memorable day trip to either Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard and create lasting memories on these charming New England islands.