Nantucket Travel Guide
Nantucket is an idyllic island paradise—except instead of tropical paradise vibes, you'll find Vineyard Vine-clad gentlemen and mansions with gray, natural wood shutters. Nantucket is the epitome of summer New England life, though, unfortunately, it means much of the island shuts down in the colder months. Boasting the highest concentration of pre-Civil War homes in the country and 82 miles of pristine coastline, Nantucket is a postcard come to life.
From charming Nantucket hotels to five-star restaurants to the prized Nantucket beaches, this town comes alive in the warmer months. It's a destination that thrives on outdoor dining (think: lobster rolls on the water), boutique shopping, and picturesque walks through town. And certainly there is no shortage of things to do in Nantucket, whether you're partial to walking the beach at sunset, biking to pick up your latte in the morning, or ordering up a dozen oysters with a bottle of good Champagne.
Eastern Standard Time. (Daylight Savings Time is observed seasonally)
Best Time to Go
Summer is the high season in Nantucket, and from Memorial Day to Labor Day, you'll find the best weather, with temperatures around 76° in July and August. Nonetheless, we'd argue that the months of May and September, before Memorial Day and after Labor Day, are the best months to go, because you'll avoid the crowds that flock from Boston in the summer.
Nantucket Daffodil Festival (April), Nantucket Wine Festival (May), and Nantucket Book Festival (June) all draw sizable crowds and are wonderful times to visit.
Things to Know
The entire island of Nantucket is only 14 miles long by 3.5 miles wide. It's 30 miles from Cape Cod and accessible by ferry and plane.
The most popular neighborhoods to spend time in for tourists are Nantucket's centrally located Historic Downtown and Siasconset (which most refer to as "Sconset") on the east side of the island.
Nantucket Historical Association manages the Whaling Museum and eight additional historic sites around the island, including Hadwen House and Greater Light. The organization, focused on preserving Nantucket's historic beauty, was founded in 1854 and sees approximately 95,000 visitors each year.
Exploring the island by bike is very popular—there are three primary bike trails on the island, each well-maintained: one in Madaket, one in Surfside, and one in Sconset.
Nantucket is known for its seafood, especially their fried clams (whole-belly fried clams are a classic New England treat), oysters, and lobster.
How to Get Around
Buses: The WAVE, an entity of Nantucket Regional Transit Authority, is the bus system on the island. There are a myriad of bus routes and stations throughout the island, and all buses are wheelchair accessible and outfitted with bike racks. There are $2 bus loops (Mid-Island Loop, Miacomet Loop, and Jetties Beach) and $3 loops (Madaket Route, Sconset Routes, Airport Route, and Surfside Beach). You can pay with cash using the fare box. Travelers over the age of 65 ride for half price, and children under six ride for free.
Taxis: You can easily find a taxi at Nantucket Memorial Airport, Straight Wharf, and Steamboat Wharf. There is also a taxi stand at Lower Main Street/South Water Street and another at Main Street/Washington Street. Find a full list of cab companies (with contact information) here.
Car service: You can easily find rideshare services like Uber and Lyft on Nantucket.
Ferry: The ferry to Nantucket leaves from Hyannis on Cape Cod. The Steamship Authority runs a two-and-a-half-hour ferry to Nantucket (which can accommodate cars), and an express one-hour ferry (which does not allow cars).
Things to Do
Neighborhoods to Know
Downtown: Downtown Nantucket, also referred to as Town or Brand Point, is centrally located near Children's Beach on the northern side of the island next to the Nantucket cliffs. Here, you'll find classic grey wood-shingled homes, many of which have been converted into boutiques on Main Street. You'll also find a high concentration of restaurants, ice cream and coffee shops, and souvenir stores.
Madaket: The western edge of Nantucket is known as Madaket. Six miles from town, Madaket is known for seemingly never-ending beaches and appeals to families keen on some tide pool exploration at Smith Point. You'll catch the best sunsets of your trip in Madaket.
Sconset: On the opposite side of the island from Madaket is Sconset. Sconset, which is actually shortened from its full name Siasconset, is the neighborhood on the east side of Nantucket. Sconset is lined with restaurants and shops, and the winding streets are as idyllic as they come.
Cisco: On the southern side of the island, Cisco is a surfing neighborhood dominated by locals and home to one of the best beaches on Nantucket: Cisco Beach. You'll also find Cisco Brewers and Bartlett's Farm here and a relatively new bike path to explore.
Surfside/Tom Nevers: On the southern side of the island, Surfside is nestled between Sconset and Cisco. The area is home to lifeguarded beaches (perfect for families) and the inviting Surfside bike path.
There's a reason the summer is high-season in Nantucket. It reports the warmest temperatures by far, with highs climbing into the high 70s. It's worth noting, however, that Nantucket will never be a balmy summer destination. The northeastern island is breezy year-round, and those winds can pick up in the winter and spring. November is the wettest month, and February is the driest month.
The following are average Fahrenheit lows and highs by month.
January 25 - 39
February 26 - 39
March 31 - 44
April 38 - 51
May 46 - 60
June 55 - 69
July 62 - 75
August 63 - 76
September 56 - 70
October 47 - 61
November 39 - 53
December 30 - 44