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Monday, July 25, 2016

Summer Vacation: The Magical Island That Is Nantucket

You can catch up with Part 1 (Boston) and Part 2 (Cape Cod), if you'd like.

To me, Nantucket is this magical island where only perfect things dwell and everyone is happy. It's like going back in time with the cobblestone streets and old, beautiful buildings. When our ferry docks and I see the gray and white houses and boardwalks, my heart fills with happiness and I'm this smiling idiot the whole time we're on the island.

Our first Nantucket sighting as we pull into the harbor on the ferry, and my heart starts to flutter.
This year was our third day trip there, and I keep saying that I want to spend at least two to three days next time (maybe off season) to really see the island and take it all in. You can do a lot in a day since it's a small enough island, but at the same time, you do only have a day when visiting from the mainland, so it's hard to see it all. Today, I'm going to talk about my favorite things to do while on Nantucket and our travel tips for getting there. I'm by no means a Nantucket oracle (three day trips does not an expert make). But this may help first-time visitors plan out their trips.

When we departed this year, it was super foggy.
But when we arrived, the sunshine was ready to greet us.

How To Get There
We've taken two different ferries to Nantucket: High Speed Freedom Cruises out of Harwich Port, and Traditional Steamship Authority Cruises out of Hyannis. You can also take a high speed ferry out of Hyannis, we just haven't done that one before. I personally prefer Freedom Cruises out of Harwich Port for three reasons. One, we usually stay closer to Harwich Port anyway, so it's a very short drive to the dock. Hyannis is about a half hour drive from where we usually stay. Two, it's slightly cheaper than Hyannis, only by about $3 or so, but still. Three, parking in Hyannis for the ferries is a little chaotic. Some of the lots require reservations (which they don't tell you when you book your ticket, and we never thought about having to make a parking reservation). So we had to pay about $15 for the day to park, plus worrying about either a reservation, or finding a lot that had available space. Parking for day trips at the Harwich Port ferry is free and super easy since it's a smaller marina. The Harwich Port ferry is a slightly longer trip overall (an extra 10 minutes or so), but it's worth it for us. I think a lot of it depends on where you're staying. If you can spring for the fast ferry prices (which are significantly more than the traditional ferry), and you're staying closer to Harwich Port, do that one. If you need to save a little extra cash, the traditional ferry out of Hyannis is still a good option.

I can't get enough of these cobblestone streets!

I'm Here! What To Do?
Nantucket has so much to offer, yet is super relaxed at the same time, so how you spend your day is entirely up to you. We've done more casual just strolling around Nantucket's town center all day, and also taken a more active approach to seeing the island, so here are my tips:

Once you get off the ferry, you're right in town center. Most ferries let you off right around the same area, and there's a public restroom to your left once you de-board, if you need it (I usually do, I have the bladder of a 90-year-old). From there, you can just start to explore town center in all its glory. You're already on the cobblestone streets, surrounded by great boutiques. It's pretty easy to figure out where to go if you're exploring town center - it's all right there.

The great thing about town center is that there's so much to look at, and you can shop for days. Shopping will be its own topic below, but seriously, you can walk around town center and look at the hydrangea-lined store fronts and beautiful historical buildings all day.

Town Center as you get off the ferry.






If you want to do a little sightseeing, Brant Point Lighthouse is beautiful, and very walkable from where the ferry drops you off. You'll probably want to pull up a map on your phone, or grab a map from a tourist stop in town, to find it. But it's a pretty easy walk and as long as you turn right after exiting the ferry, and follow the ocean, you'll find it. Once you're there, you'll be in the sand, so take off your shoes, walk around, and watch the boats go by while admiring Brant Point Lighthouse.

Brant Point Lighthouse.
From our first Nantucket trip in 2014.


When you arrive to and depart from the island, Brant Point greets you and bids you farewell.

You can also walk to the Old Mill of Nantucket, which dates back to the 1700's. It's just under a mile if you walk to it from town.




Moped or bicycle?
Our first two day trips to Nantucket, we explored everything by foot, so we really didn't get to see much beyond town center. Our first trip, we walked up and down Cliff Road to see some of the beautiful houses, but it's a bit of an incline, so it's not the most relaxing stroll. This year, we rented a moped for the day, and it was one of the best decisions of our vacation history.



Having the moped allowed us to see so much more if the island. We were able to ride up to Siasconset to explore the Bluff Walk and Sankaty Lighthouse. We could have explored more if we hadn't wanted to stop in town for some shopping and lunch before our ferry departed, so this is definitely the way to go to see as much as possible in a short amount of time if you're doing a day trip.






We did look into renting bicycles as well, which are obviously a little less expensive (the moped was $115 for the day, but included unlimited mileage and gas, plus two helmets, which were very, very clean). I know some people who have biked around Nantucket, and they love it. After mopeding around and seeing the bike trails, I'd recommend this option as well if you feel like a bit more of a workout. The bike paths from town center to 'Sconset were amazing and very easy to navigate. We were surprised by their accessibility, actually. It was a pretty straight shot alongside the main road, but very safe and protected. It's really personal preference on what you'd like to do, and how much time you have.

Exploring 'Sconset
Let me just say, I'm so happy we finally made the trek out to 'Sconset. It's a pretty small little town, but so beautiful and very Nantucket (there's no other way to describe it). We read online about a bluff walk that you can do there which overlooks the ocean while you also get to pretty much walk through the back yards of some multi-million dollar homes, so I was totally on board with this. It's a little hard to find, but I used this guide and had no issues finding our way. I was surprised at how literal the "you'll be walking through peoples' back yards" direction was, because you totally are. But it was so cool to see all these gorgeous, huge homes right on the ocean. Plus, you'll see stunning views of the ocean as you walk. It was worth doing. Once you're done, you're greeted by a sign that tells you it's the end of the Bluff Walk, and to exit to the street, and you just walk back to wherever it is that you started. The Bluff Walk is pretty narrow, so I think they do this to keep everyone walking in the same direction, but I could totally be making that up.

View from a bridge in 'Sconset.

We also rode up to Sankaty Lighthouse, since I have a thing for lighthouses. It totally felt like I was in Anne of Green Gables or something. Beautiful long blades of grass swaying with the wind, and the sun filled the entire area with perfect golden light. It was just spectacular. It helped that we had the best weather, so everyone's experience there may not be as magical, but ours totally was.

A house on the street leading up to Sankaty Lighthouse. They were all literally perfect. 


Sankaty Lighthouse.
Sankaty Lighthouse.


The 'Sconset town center is very, very small. There's pretty much a little market and a traffic rotary, and not much else - except for the beautiful homes and scenery (no big deal). The market made me laugh because they apparently sell fancy groceries, in case the regular groceries you bring aren't good enough for you.




Nantucket Shopping
I'm not going to lie to you, one of the main reasons I love coming to Nantucket is the shopping. Seriously, it's amazing. Yeah, they have some pretty touristy shops, but most of the stores are beautiful with unique things, and I could spend hours hitting up the boutiques. There are so many stores in town center, beginning right as you get off the ferry, further into town, and up and down the cobblestone streets. If shopping is something you're interested in, I would budget at least 2-3 hours to explore most of the stores.

One of my favorite stores is Blue Beetle. This year, I actually bought a gold Nantucket-shaped necklace (so, you know, I can declare my love for the island to everyone that sees it). I also got this beautiful turquoise ring there this year that makes my heart flutter. But they have beautiful everything there. The jewelry is what I go to look at, but they have other accessories and clothing items, too. 

There's a great store in town center called the Nantucket Perfume Company. I've talked about this place to a lot of people I know because it's just an amazing concept. For someone like me, who's incredibly sensitive to smells, most of all perfumes, it's the best place you'll ever find. This little storefront uses natural essential oils to duplicate popular perfumes. They only use the oils, however, whereas most perfumes on the market dilute their synthetic fragrances with alcohol, which diminishes the wear time on your skin. These perfumes, because they're oil based, last on your skin all day with the smallest little dab. I can still smell it after I shower - it's just amazing. I've gotten two Jo Malone fragrances that they've replicated here, and they don't give me the headaches that regular perfumes give me. They also have their own blends, and there's one called Nantucket Holiday that I love (but haven't gotten yet). It's totally worth checking out if you're visiting the island. 

One of my favorite Boston-based natural beauty boutiques, Follain, also has a store on Nantucket, so even though I hit it up in Boston, I still go to this one because I love it that much. 

There are so many other stores I love going into - you really just need to walk the streets and pop into each and every one to see them for yourself. A couple others I can think of off the top of my head are The Lion's Paw and Nantucket Looms (both housewares stores).

Restaurants
To be honest, I'm not much help in this department. Since we're only ever there for a day, and our ferry departs right around dinnertime, we only ever have lunch on Nantucket. The past two years, we ate at Something Natural, which is an amazing sandwich/bakery cafe. They have a lovely picnic table area outside to sit at, overlooking a very peaceful park area. The sandwiches are literally as big as your heard. No joke. I very highly recommend it here.

The picnic tables at Something Natural.
This year, we ate at a cafe closer to town center called Fresh. The sandwich we got was really good, but I didn't think it was quite as good as Something Natural. You can't go wrong with either, but Fresh doesn't have much going for it as far as scenery (you order inside at a very non-exciting counter, and there's no place to sit down), so I would recommend Something Natural if you're looking for a good sandwich because it's more of an experience, and I liked their food a little better.

The Tree Hugger sandwich from Fresh. We enjoyed it on a bench overlooking the harbor in town.
For ice cream, we always go to The Juice Bar. I've heard it's the best, so we always stick with it because it lives up to the high expectation. They make their own waffle cones, so I'd recommend getting one of those. This past year I got the Strawberry ice cream with chocolate sprinkles in a waffle cone, and it was amazing. 

And really, that's all I've got for food recommendations.



We've taken a day trip to Martha's Vineyard, too, and we loved it there as well. But, that island is so much bigger and it was harder to see in a day because we had a lot more traveling to do to get from town to town. So this year, for our anniversary in September, we booked three nights on Martha's Vineyard to really get a feel for it. I'm so excited - I've always wanted to visit Aquinnah to see the bluffs, and also experience the Cape during off season. I'm now officially counting down the days until the ocean and I meet again, and being able to really see the Vineyard. 

Because I love Nantucket so much, I really want to do the same kind of trip there, too. I'd love to stay somewhere on Nantucket for 2-3 nights to really get a feel for it and take in the whole island. It's on the bucket list!

4 comments:

  1. Sam, I love your posts and Vlogs about Nantucket. It is on my Bucket List of places to go! I added you to my Blog Roll. I just love to read about your adventures in travel and the work you have done on your farmhouse. You inspire me!!

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    1. Hi Arlene! Oh my gosh, you're so sweet - thank you! I'm so glad you enjoy :) So happy to have to stop by :)

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  2. Hi,Sam- I loved reading this Vlog !It was so helpful and fun to read ! I'm planning a trip to Cape Cod in September for my birthday and I'd love to make a day trip to Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard. It's so hard to decide which one I should visit because this will be my first time at either one, and they both look so beautiful ! Do you have a preference ? Thanks again for your vlogs and amazing travel videos -I love them so much and you and Josh are absolutely adorable ! Have a wonderful anniversary in Martha's Vineyard !

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    1. Hi there! How exciting! For a day trip I'd suggest Nantucket. I think it's easier to do for a day whereas MV is more spread out. When we went to MV for a day we had a blast but we find that we spent a lot of time getting from town to town to see everything. Whereas Nantucket, you can spend the day shopping town center, walk to the lighthouse, rent bikes if you wanted to get to Siasconset. Nantucket is a little more relaxed I feel like, whereas MV has more stuff to do, so it just depends on what you're looking for 😊 I'm so curious to see if I'll prefer MV over Nantucket after going this September for a few days!

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