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The Best of Nantucket

need a house gift?

The best presents—Simon Pearce martini glasses, perhaps?—come from Bramhall & Dunn (16 Federal St.; 508/228-4688). For the truffles that spell trouble for anyone who says, "Hey, I'm on vacation, I'm going to eat what I want," there's Sweet Inspirations of Nantucket (26 Centre St.; 508/228-5814). Everyone stops at Nantucket Looms (16 Main St.; 508/228-1908) eventually, if not to buy handmade sweaters, then to read the sign with distances from Nantucket to various points around the world.

on the farm

Where to go if you've got a hankering for fresh produce and feel like venturing beyond the wagons parked on Main Street every morning?Some may tell you that the popular stand at Bartlett's Ocean View Farm (33 Bartlett Farm Rd.; 508/228-9403) is the only place to go. They aren't wrong: it's purely a matter of opinion. For a more intimate vegetable experience, try the stand at Moor's End Farm (40 Polpis Rd.; 508/228-2674).

in the end, it's all about the beach

There are plenty of reasons to visit Nantucket, but surrounding all of them is a sandy boundary between sea and land. Unlike some other parts of Massachusetts that shall go unnamed, virtually all the beaches on Nantucket are open and easily accessible to the public.

baywatch at your service

Heading west around the island from town, these are the principal lifeguarded beaches:

Children's Beach: As it sounds. No waves, little current (it's on the sheltered waters of Nantucket Harbor), plenty of hot dogs, playground equipment, rest rooms with diaper-changing stations, and T-shirt tie-dying programs on Fridays after noon.

Jetties Beach: The median age rises to somewhere around nine on Jetties, which is the best beach within walking distance of town.

Dionis Beach: Backed by dunes and out of town, this beach is prettier than either of the above, but it's still on the Sound.

Madaket Beach: The south shore beaches are for those who like big surf and a quick drop-off—in other words, the real ocean. Go at sunset.

Cisco Beach: More of the above, only without the view of the unfortunate waterfront architecture of Madaket.

Surfside Beach: Popular with families. On Fridays and Sundays the nearby airport can be busier than Boston's Logan.

Siasconset Beach: Beautiful, but scary when the surf's up.

where the locals go

Seasoned islanders have favorite spots that are far from the clustered towels near the lifeguard stations. They use names that often refer to nothing more official than a nearby landmark. The purists still get there on bikes, along not-well-marked roads, or in their trusty (and tastefully rusty) Jeep Wagoneers and Chevy Suburbans. But beware: Nantucket is one of those places where people buy a beach access sticker and try out the four-wheel drive on the sand. The resulting scene at Great Point, Smith's Point, and Eel Point is a cross between a tailgate party and a used-car lot.

Nobadeer and Madekecham Beaches: Both lie to the east of Surfside; the former is popular among the young, single, body-surfing set.

Quidnet Beach: Despite the trophy house looming over its barrier beach, the view from Quidnet over Sesachacha Pond toward Sankaty Head is awe-inspiring. No place to park; ride your bike.

Pocomo Beach: A somewhat stony beach for children and shell-seekers.

Coatue Beach: Rent a sea kayak; pack a lunch, plenty of water, and sunscreen; and plan to spend an entire day exploring the crescents and points.

insider's guide to things insiders don't need

Bike Rentals Pick one up at Young's Bicycle Shop, on Steamboat Wharf, because they've been there forever.

Boat Rentals Get one for an afternoon or a week at Force Five Watersports (508/228-0700) or Nantucket Harbor Sail (508/228-0424).

Real Estate You can rent a house for anywhere from $1,500 a week (you'd better request Polaroids) to $15,000. Virtually every Nantucket real estate agent is listed through the Chamber of Commerce (508/228-1700), but the one to call first is Michael Angelastro (508/228-5307).

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