Nantucket Travel Guide: Stay, See, Eat, Do
If these bright Nantucket flowers won’t start your day off on the right foot, I don’t know what will! I’m so excited to share my 40th birthday Nantucket adventure with you. Nantucket was magical and I’m counting the days until I can go back. Enjoy our Nantucket Travel Guide
I’ll preface this post by saying I had no expectations for Nantucket before we arrived. Of course I’ve seen the pretty flower pictures all over Instagram but I’ve never been anywhere in New England. We really didn’t know what to expect but I’m here to tell you that Nantucket is magic. If you can go in expecting the inflated prices and can overlook the old money that is very apparent, I have no doubt you will fall in love too.
I thought I might be annoyed that the water would be uncomfortably cold and we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the ocean. Lots of people were swimming, we didn’t swim, it didn’t matter. What was amazingly comfortable was the weather. It was such a welcomed break from NC in July and combined with the beautiful scenery everywhere we were in heaven!
Make sure you dress in layers too! We learned pretty quickly that it was warm in the day but turned pretty chilly in the evening which is why I’m rocking a sweatshirt over my linen sundress! :) #dayonemistakes
This will hopefully be a pretty comprehensive guide of how we did Nantucket on the cheap…if that’s even possible.
In order to save major bucks we piece-milled our flights by using budget airlines and Uber-ing to a smaller airport. Neither of us care too much about clothes so we packed light and only checked one bag. You can also take the Nantucket fast ferry over from Hyannis, MA if you don’t like the puddle jumper plane! :)
We found the cheapest, tiniest Airbnb that had a small kitchen and we rarely ate full meals. We are self-proclaimed foodies so trying out different restaurants was a must. Our strategy was to simply taste test by ordering appetizers here and there and kept our fridge stocked with some basic necessities for in between our mini meals.
Also, we did not rent a car. Our only mode of transportation was via bike and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. We were tempted to rent a Jeep because you can drive them on some of the beaches, but it’s super expensive and we decided our money was best spent in other ways.
WHERE TO STAY
We are not fancy people by any means and we can usually survive just about anywhere. When we’re traveling we like to go-go-go so the accommodations are usually not our top priority for spending. We searched long and hard on Airbnb for an affordable place and our only requirement (other than general cleanliness) was that it was within walking distance to town. We lucked out with this garage apartment and are hoping to book it again for next year!
WHERE TO EAT
Our first stop after dropping our bags was CRU on Straight Wharf! We wanted to see the water right away and CRU sits at the end of the retail section of the docks overlooking a harbor full of beautiful boats. The entire menu looked fantastic but our snack here was the calamari and drinks.
Surprise! The Juice Bar does not serve juice, however, it does serve some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had! We discovered it on day 2 and I think we went twice a day for the rest of the trip. Ginger Snap was my absolute favorite.
The Pearl was our splurge meal and it was worth every penny! It’s seafood with an Asian flare and the dishes were really unique. The drinks and dessert were on point too.
Wicked Island Bakery was our daily carb-loaded breakfast spot and it’s a random little café in the basement of a mid-island building not far from our apartment. The food was fantastic but what was even better was that you really feel like a local here. We were told to get there before workers started their day so we rode our bikes early most mornings.
We had a great evening at Millie’s on Madaket Beach. Apparantly Madaket is the best spot for watching the sunset on Nantucket so we arrived early for a delicious pre-sunset dinner. We sat at the bar and talked with the staff and other locals, then walked a few yards down to the beach for the sunset show with a can of rosé in hand.
Another great dining experience was at The Sandbar at Jetties Beach! The food here was pretty good although it wasn’t the star of the show. The live music and open-air dining is where it’s at! There were tables and chairs sitting right in the sand for eating and hanging out. We listened to the band while we ate, moved to the Adirondacks in the sand after dinner then took a walk on the beach as the sun went down. Not really much more you could ask for here.
It is clear that Nantucketers love their sandwich shops for ocean-side picnics and our favorite was Claudette’s Sandwiches in Sconset. Grabbing sandwiches and a 4-pack of rosé in our cooler backpack for picnics on the beach was our daily routine.
We visited The Club Car for a brunch cocktail but it has a great menu and the interior design is impeccable. And hence the name, the bar is the actual railroad car!
The Nantucket Lobster Trap is a bit touristy but we were pleasantly surprised. We found the food to be pretty good and the Lobster Roll prices were a lot more reasonable. It’s slightly off the main drag so it was easy to get into and we had a good time mingling with other travelers at the bar.
Oath Pizza was the perfect place for a quick bite! Turns out this pizza joint is a chain but we found ourselves here a couple of times when we needed a quick snack and it was delicious! Being at the end of the wharf with only outdoor seating was a plus too!
The Downyflake is another great breakfast place for sandwiches on-the-go OR a sit down meal. We made a pit stop on our bikes on the way out to Sconset.
***A quick tip when it comes to restaurants, particularly fine dining, is to make reservations in advance. We knew this going in but chose not to make any reservations because we decided not to do much fine dining. We did stumbled upon The Pearl and they just happened to have a cancelation that day! Win! Next trip we will be making reservations in advance at Galley Beach for our splurge meal.
WHAT TO DO
There are so many amazing beaches on Nantucket Island so we mapped out which one we wanted to hit each day and planned our day accordingly. I think we biked over 16 miles one day!
Along the bike paths there were fun stops here and there to grab snacks or drinks. This was a little wine store we popped in for a few cans of rosé.
This was a cute little snack shop in a random location along a bike path.
There are truly no words in the English language to describe the shock and awe I felt when we arrived in Sconset. The flower covered houses were even more amazing in real life than I had ever seen or imagined.
I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking here but the bluff walk is a long trail that runs behind private homes overlooking the shoreline. You literally feel like you are wandering through people’s backyards but I promise it’s a public path.
Hands down one of the most fun days! Cisco is like an adult playground in the middle the island with live music, food trucks and a winery, distillery and brewery on site. I know, I know, why go to a brewery in Nantucket when there are hundreds of them here at home? Well, that’s where all the cool people went so we went too and had a blast! :)
Bartlett’s Farm is right down the road from Cisco and it’s a cool working farm that sells all kinds of amazing food, coffee, gifts and plants too!
I’m very sad to say that we did not fully tour the Whaling Museum but we heard amazing things about it. We were disappointed but we just ran out of time so it’s #1 on our to-do list for our next trip. We did take a fun historical walking Nantucket garden tour that we signed up for through the Whaling Museum.
There are so many great lighthouses on the island of Nantucket and our favorite was Sankaty Head Lighthouse, not far from Sconset. It was a nice leisurely bike ride and the lighthouse is on a cliff where you can see the ocean and the island all around you. You can also read about the island’s major erosion and restoration project that has been going on for quite some time.
Brant Point Lighthouse is a cute, squatty little lighthouse in the harbor close to town. It’s worth a stroll to walk off the food from dinner :)
We really wanted to see Great Point Lighthouse because this is where the seals congregate and you can see lots of wildlife but it takes a Jeep to get out there and it wasn’t open at the time. The island is full of protected land and environmental preserves so a much of it is untouched.
There are so many great shops to browse (and buy if that’s your thing)! It was fun to check out Vineyard Vines, Southern Tide and Murray’s Toggery Shop.
The Lion’s Paw was my favorite home décor shop by far!
Current Vintage was my favorite gift/wine/women’s clothing store. I love that the sign on the door says: Wine, Beer, Cheese, Dresses. Perfect.
Nantucket’s Sustainable Market
This was a great way to spend a leisurely Saturday morning!
More strolling along the wharf…
Surfside Beach was the first beach we visited and it was definitely one of our favorites. It was wide and long and you could walk forever and feel like you’re the only people on the beach. It also had a great little food stand at the top of the path. We ordered some food to go and ate on our blanket in front of the waves.
Sconset Beach felt like it was right out of a movie set. It had the giant lifeguard station, lots of people playing and you could even see a few seal heads pop out of the water if you watch closely. The lifeguards told us that the seals often come on the beach to sun themselves but we only got to see them swimming.
As mentioned above, Madaket Beach was the perfect sunset location. We didn’t explore much during the daytime but we sure did love it in the evening, especially with Millie’s being just steps away.
Jetties Beach was a winner because it’s just a short bike ride from town! If you walk out and to the right you see the long rock jetty and the harbor. If you take a left you can see endless beach, perfect for long walks and sunsets too. We also loved this spot because of The Sandbar restaurant and Galley Beach restaurant.
*Several other beaches we heard about but didn’t have time to explore were: Steps Beach, Nobadeer and Cisco Beach. One really cool thing about most of the beaches here is that there aren’t a lot of shells. Instead, they’re full of these beautiful, multi-colored little pebbles. Don’t worry, I brought a collection home with me!
So, I think this covers everything that we saw and did. You guys, if you’ve never been to Nantucket I can’t say it any other way….Go, go now (or maybe wait until after winter lol)!
Please leave a comment below if you have any questions. I’m sure there are some things I’ve missed but we found it very easy to navigate and enjoy!
Click HERE for more of our travel adventures!