Once the whaling capital of the world, Nantucket Island in Massachusetts is now a magnet for those seeking an escape to a vacation filled with natural beauty, scenic walks, pristine beaches, and a generous dose of history.
Nantucket can be reached by ferry from Woods Hole and Hyannis on Cape Cod or by a short plane ride from Boston and other New England airports. If you ferry leave your car on the mainland because you won't need it here.
Isolated and left alone for generations after the New England whaling industry collapsed and a great fire ravaged the town itself, it provided the perfect preservation environment for the island. Today it offers visitors interested in New England's architectural history, the largest collection of original pre-Civil War buildings in the country.
The island hub is Nantucket Town with its cobble streets, historic buildings, museums, restaurants, lodging, and picturesque harbor. You'll find mostly everything you need to enjoy this charming island in close proximity to the town harbor wharfs.
Nantucket Island is best experienced on foot or bike. The island is only 14 by 3.5 miles but has ten stunning beaches, seven bike paths, three historic lighthouses, a wildlife refuge, four superb golf courses, and miles of gentle hiking. But no theme parks, shopping malls, or large noisy crowds - you left those on the mainland.
Don't worry if you're not into long walks or spending hours in the saddle - you can still spread out your towel and visit the outlying beaches and other attractions. Buses and tours leave from Nantucket town on a daily basis, and you can even take a cruise out to Muskeget and Tuckernet Islands to see seals and birds, and experience a beach adventure.
Nantucket town is a little old fashioned and conservative in its tastes so while the atmosphere is warm and friendly make sure you pack suitable attire to visit restaurants and shops.
The Island's weather is temperate with ocean breezes providing free air-conditioning in the summer, and the Gulf Stream keeping winters mild and the ocean waters tolerable in beach season. Pack a sweater for the evenings in summer as like most New England coastal areas it can cool quickly.
Don't let the idyllic setting or relaxed island atmosphere fool you into thinking it doesn't cater for the sophisticated visitor as well as families with small children. A vast array of lodging and dining experiences await any traveler.
For a small island there are a lot of Bed and Breakfast places and these tend to be better deals than many of the hotels, expect to pay in the $150 - $250 per night range. The Anchor Inn, Centerboard Guest House, and Brant Point Inn continue to receive rave reviews each season. At the extreme expensive resort end - The Wauwinet will cost you over $700 per night but it's in a class of its own.
Dinning out should be an experience and fun, but many times it's a game of chance. So I tend to rely on the locals for the latest quality index rather than an out-of-date guide book. Having said that two ever popular places worth checking out are The Pearl for dinner and Black-Eyed Susan's for breakfast.
For families take a peek at Brotherhood of Thieves for dinner, and Something Natural to pick up a sandwich on your way to the beach.
Many visitors favorite time on the island is spring and fall, when everything is mostly open but you have much to yourself and the price is right.
If you're looking for a relaxing New England vacation surrounded by ocean, white sand in your shoes, great food, and a place close but far away, then make your reservations and pack your bags for Nantucket Island.