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Discover some of the most enjoyable things to do in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
Nantucket, MA, is a tiny island with a remarkable history and some of the best-preserved historic buildings, the most scenic beaches, the best seafood dishes, and the most beautiful nature in the country. Many of the thousands of visitors of the island choose to stay at local short-term rental residences instead of hotels. The main reason is to get that authentic experience of living like a local. But also the more affordable prices, the vast choice of different kinds of rental houses and accommodations in all neighborhoods of Nantucket, and the convenience and privacy they offer.
While it is a small island, Nantucket has plenty to do and see. Here are seven of the top things to do in Nantucket.
Things To Do In Nantucket
1. Watch The Yachts Come And Go At Brant Point Lighthouse
Brant Point Light is the second oldest working lighthouse in the USA. It is also the first building that greets all who arrive on the island at the Nantucket Harbor. The historic lighthouse was first built in 1746 and has been destroyed and rebuilt 10 times since then. Today’s tower is from 1901 and is often lovingly decorated by the locals with floral wreaths or Christmas wreaths and flags.
This lighthouse is easy to reach from Downtown and is a great spot to take some stunning photos and watch the mega yachts arriving at and leaving the harbor. The place is especially picturesque in the evening at sunset.
2. Enjoy Fresh Seafood
Nantucket is home to some fantastic seafood restaurants and other great eateries that have become a magnet for seafood lovers and foodies. Most local restaurants, snack shops, food trucks, markets, and other eateries offer freshly caught or harvested seafood from the same day and around the island. The island is known for its delicious local oysters, clams, scallops, Maine lobsters, and fish from the ocean.
You can choose between the many upscale fine dining establishments or more casual options to try the mouthwatering local seafood delicacies such as lobster rolls, clam bakes, raw oysters, and more. There are markets and stores where you can purchase freshly caught fish and seafood, so you can prepare it yourself or buy snacks on the go.
3. Unwind At Low Beach
There are over 25 beaches on the island, some of which are very popular and can become rather crowded and noisy at the peak of the summer season. If you want to spend a relaxing and quiet day at the beach, then you can go and unwind at Low Beach. It is a less-known beach on the east coast of Nantucket, located 7 miles away from the postcard-like village of Siasconset.
Low Beach is a hidden gem set in between Tome Nevers Pond and the village. Since it is on the shore of the open Atlantic, the water there can be quite fast-moving, deep, and cold, so make sure that you are vigilant if you go swimming at Low Beach. There are no lifeguards or nearby food trucks or other amenities, so remember to pack a cooler and picnic basket when you head to Low Beach.
Because of its remote location and reclusiveness, the beach is home to many different water and shore birds, and often you can spot seals and even whales from the shore. It is also a great place to enjoy sea treasure hunting and gather seashells and glass.
4. Take A Surfing Lesson At Nobadeer Beach
Nantucket attracts surfers of all skill levels every year. It is also a great spot to take your first surfing lessons because of the excellent conditions and experienced surf instructors. One of the top places to learn how to surf is at the ACK Surf School, located on the southern coast of Nobadeer Beach. You can sign up for private or group lessons or rent a board or other gear and a wetsuit at the school.
Young adventurers and water sports enthusiasts especially love this famous beach. Nobadeer is excellent for other water sports, such as surfcasting, SUP, and kite flying. Beach driving is allowed with a special permit during the early morning or late evening hours. The beach is wide and gorgeous, and apart from its amazing ocean view, you can watch the planes taking off or arriving at the nearby Memorial Airport.
5. Go Shopping In Nantucket Downtown
Nantucket is a popular vacation and party spot for the rich and famous, so it has some exclusive boutiques offering the latest fashion and most expensive jewelry, accessories, and décor items by leading designers and brands. They are mostly set on the cobblestoned Main Street and in other central downtown destinations.
One of the most famous shops is Murray’s Toggery Shop, the only place in the world where you can buy authentic Nantucket Reds pants and other apparel from this typically coastal preppy collection. But apart from these upscale boutiques, jewelry stores, and galleries, you can also find some charming and more modest souvenir shops and local craft galleries and workshops, where you can buy Nantucket nautical-inspired items to bring back home with you too.
You can buy locally handcrafted wood carvings of nautical symbols, whales, and other typical Nantucket décor items. There are also stores offering locally hand-woven fabrics, nautical-inspired jewelry, goods, and the famous Nantucket lightship baskets and scrimshaw items.
6. Get Mesmerized By The View At Sconset Bluff Walk
Siasconset, also called Sconset by the locals, is the only other official village on the island, apart from Town. It is home to some of the most affluent residents of Nantucket. Located on the east coast of Nantucket, this is the village where you can see those iconic weathered gray shingle-style cottages with roses crawling up to the roofs and some of the most beautiful gardens in the world.
The only way to see them up close is to walk the Sconset Bluff Walk. This 1-mile path passes by the postcard-like cottages and houses and also offers stunning views of the ocean from the cliffs and the landscapes of the area. So it is no surprise that it is considered one of the top Instagram-worthy spots on the island. The walkway can lead you to the top of the bluffs, or you can turn to the nearby Siasconset Beach and visit the red and white striped Sankaty Head lighthouse.
7. Visit The Whaling Museum And Other historic sites
For about 100 years, the small island of Nantucket was recognized as the whaling capital of the world. It was home to the most successful whaling captains, their crews, and ships, who traveled to faraway lands and brought back the precious whaling oil used for lighting the streets on the island, on the mainland, and in Europe.
So, whaling has played an enormous part in this island’s history, affluence, and lifestyle, which is still evident today. The Whaling Museum is the best place to learn more about the island’s unique history. It is located in the historic Downtown in the building of what used to be a factory for making candles out of whale oil.
One of the most impressive exhibits is the humongous sperm whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling in the museum. You can also see the first Fresnel lens in the USA, once used for the Sankaty Head Light lighthouse. There are hundreds of other incredible artifacts and artworks from those glorious years, including some from the Essex whaling ship, the story of which inspired Herman Melville to write “Moby-Dick.”
Apart from this museum, you can visit one of the many other historic sites on the island. Nantucket has more than 700 perfectly restored and preserved historic buildings. The island is home to the Old Mill, the oldest windmill still fully functioning in the USA. It is also home to three of the oldest lighthouses and an old jail. The historic Downtown, with its cobblestone streets, pre-civil war buildings, and gas lanterns, has a unique charm that will make you feel like you have traveled back in time to those grand whaling years.
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