I wake up to the smell of fresh coffee brewing in the kitchen at the Sherburne Inn (10 Gay St.; 508/228-4425; www.sherburneinn.com). My room ($105) at the bed-and-breakfast is simple, breezy, and right in the center of town. Though it’s only April (I’ve timed my trip to take advantage of off-peak rates), the late-spring weather is already warm. So I settle into the inn’s porch and enjoy the complimentary spread of walnut breads and French roast.
Taxis on the island are expensive, but Young’s Bicycle Shop (6 Broad St.; 508/228-1151) will rent you a sporty Trek Hybrid ($30 per day), complete with Nantucket basket. At the store, a friendly local tells me that Great Point beach, near the Wauwinet inn, has miles of secluded shoreline and sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. I pocket a free island map at the counter and point my wheels east.
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It’s becoming clear why this beach is so secluded: it’s nine miles from downtown. I make it there, huffing and puffing, and find the dunes blissfully untouched. After dipping my toes in the surf and collecting a few seashells (nature’s freebies), I plunk down in the hull of a beached dory for a quick nap in the sun.
The $380-a-night rooms at the exclusive, white-fenced Wauwinet (120 Wauwinet Rd.; 800/426-8718) may not be in my budget, but cocktails at the alfresco bar (which welcomes non-guests) are certainly within my reach. I splurge on a mid-morning mimosa ($12) and inhale the salty sea breezes.
Back in town, I meet my friend Alexandra for brunch at Black-Eyed Susan’s (10 India St.; 508/325-0308), a tiny café known for comfort food with a twist (French toast dipped in Jack Daniel’s and topped with pecans). But it seems that everyone else is meeting a friend here, too: the line stretches for two blocks. ("Come before ten a.m.," the owner says with a shrug.) Instead of waiting, we walk a few blocks to the Even Keel Café (40 Main St.; 508/228-1979), where brunch ($9.50)—rum-battered French toast and a bottomless cup of hazelnut coffee—is just as delicious, and the lines (and prices) more reasonable.
Brunch was a steal—which gives me an excuse to do some shopping. I pop into the Francophile L’lle de France (8 India St.; 508/228-3686), where I eye the steel Cellar Rat candlesticks and a collection of handpainted fleur-de-lis place settings before moving on. At Gypsy (20 Federal St.; 508/228-4404), the Chloé lace blouses and Dsquared2 wool caps are tempting but not within the budget. (A girl can still look, right?) My luck improves at Eye of the Needle (14 Federal St.; 508/228-1923), where I pick up a jeweled Blue Angel T-shirt ($18) marked down from $75.
Sweets are my weakness, so I rationalize a single (okay, double) scoop of butter pecan ice cream ($3) at the nearby Juice Bar (12 Broad St.; 508/228-5799). My cone is so delicious, I begin to wonder if anyone actually orders juice here. I consider a jar of beach plum jam ($5.95), an island favorite, at Nantucket Gourmet (4 India St.; 508/228-4353) but decide to save my money for dinner.
It’s almost sunset, so a 90-minute sail ($35) around the harbor on the 14-seat Endeavor (508/228-5585), which is docked at Straight Wharf, is just the thing. Since it’s BYO for cocktails and food, I decide to cater my own dinner at sea with a split of Korbel champagne ($9.95) from Nantucket Wine & Spirits (31 Sparks Ave.; 508/228-1136) and a lobster roll ($16.75) from the gourmet deli Straight Wharf Fish Store (4 Harbor Square; 508/228-1095).
Maybe it’s the champagne, or maybe it’s the rocking boat—either way, I’m exhausted when I get back onto dry land. "Meet me for a drink," pleads Alexandra, who is on her way to the Nantucket Lobster Trap (23 Washington St.; 508/228-4200). "I’m buying," she says. Suddenly, I get a second wind, which is fortunate since finding the restaurant takes a little longer than expected. My map is missing (did it go overboard?), so I circle the town, lost.
Two blocks south of Main Street, I spot the red door of the Nantucket Lobster Trap. Relieved, I step inside to find Alexandra waiting. We order Elbow Benders, the house drink, made with fruit juices, rum, Cherry Heering, and a secret ingredient that gives it a delicious kick. When I add up my tally for the day, I discover that I have enough (well, almost enough) to buy us an order of Nantucket oysters ($14 for six)—served from the raw bar with nothing more than lemon as punctuation. Now I can call it a night.
Total Spent: $253.20
High season runs from June through September. For near-perfect weather and reduced prices, head to the island during the shoulder season in late April, May, or October.
A retro woven-rope bracelet ($4) at the Hub (31 Main St.; 508/325-0200).
Breaking the Budget
Dinner for two ($150) at the Pearl (12 Federal St.; 508/228-9701), chef Seth Raynor’s Asian-influenced seafood hot spot.
Buy a $1 ticket for the Nantucket Regional Transit Authority (508/228-7025; www.shuttlenantucket.com) shuttle bus, which loops the island with convenient drop-off and pickup points (including the beaches). Or spring for the one-day pass ($7).
Drop by the Wauwinet for a meal (dinner for two $170), and catch the free sunset cruise back to town aboard the hotel’s Wauwinet Lady.