The cobblestoned streets of Nantucket Town (Nantucket is the name of the island, the county, and the main town) look like the prototype for Ye Olde Villages everywhere. In the eastern town of Sconset, the post office serves as a central meeting spot, as it has for the past 106 years. And all across the island, the biggest badge of local pride is a worn-out Jeep, with years’ worth of beach permits—the more, the better.
Given Nantucket’s respect for tradition, it’s hardly a surprise that even the latest developments are focused on preservation. Wendy Schmidt, wife of Google CEO Eric Schmidt, recently swooped in to save Mitchell’s Book Corner (54 Main St., Nantucket Town; 508/228-1080), a 40-year-old store on Main Street that was in danger of closing. And Nantucket social fixture Linda Loring turned over 270 acres of her property—the largest remaining privately owned, unprotected tract—to the Nantucket Land Council; they’re now part of more than 13,000 acres (40 percent of the island) designated as conserved land, most of which is open to the public.
But even the classics welcome an update. “There’s been an infusion of new ownership and energy,” observes Amanda Lydon, co-chef of the recently reopened Straight Wharf Restaurant (6 Harbor Square; Nantucket Town; 508/228-4499; dinner for two $75), Nantucket’s answer to Chez Panisse. She and her partner, chef Gabriel Frasca, prepare playful takes on summer staples, such as a “deconstructed clam bake.” And island stalwart The Wauwinet (120 Wauwinet Rd.; 800/426-8718; wauwinet.com; doubles from $380)—famous for its breakfasts of lemon-ricotta pancakes or eggs with smoked salmon and caviar—has added the airy Spa by the Sea. The treatment rooms announce their names—Sea, Sun, Sand, and Sky—with shell-covered plaques on the doors, and mid- massage, you can see (and hear) the Atlantic lapping at the nearby shore.