Only a two-hour ferry ride from the Cape Cod coast of Massachusetts, Nantucket is an upscale island filled with quaint inns, charming boutiques and beautiful landscapes. Known as the “Grey Lady” for the color of its grey-shingled houses, Nantucket was the whaling capital of the world from the mid-18th century to the early 19th century. A day trip to Nantucket can provide a delightful introduction to the island’s charms. On a Nantucket day trip, explore the historic downtown, bike around the island, eat great food, sample local brews and hang at the beach. You’ll love it and want to come back for more!
Day Trips To Nantucket
Nantucket is located 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod. Although there are many ways to get there, the best way to get to Nantucket for a day trip depends on your tolerance for early morning starts. If you leave early in the morning, you can have nearly a full day on Nantucket. You will obviously have more options during the summer months.
For example, the Steamship Authority runs traditional ferries from Woods Hole to Nantucket allow you to bring a car (or a bike) but they take 2 hours 15 minutes each way. On the summer schedule, if you leave Woods Hole on the first ferry and return on the last ferry, you will get about 11 hours to spend on Nantucket itself.
The Steamship Authority also runs a high speed ferry from Hyannis which takes an hour. They offer Nantucket Day Trip round-trip rate offers for travel from Monday through Thursday travel.
Alternatively, the Hy-Line high speed ferry from Hyannis to Nantucket is passengers only (and bikes!) but takes only one hour each way. There are several ferries per day. You can maximise your time on Nantucket Island by taking a brutally early morning ferry and returning on a night ferry which will give you about 15 hours on the island.
Taking a little over an hour, the Hy-Line Inter-Island ferry is an easy way to day trip from Martha’s Vineyard to Nantucket. You can take the morning ferry over and an evening ferry back giving you about 7 hours to explore Nantucket.
Another option from Cape Cod is the Freedom Cruise Line Nantucket Ferry from Harwich Port. It takes about an hour and a half each way. If you take a Nantucket day trip on this ferry, you will have about 6 hours to spend on Nantucket Island.
What to Do on a Day Trip to Nantucket
Exploring Nantucket is relatively easy by bike because the island is only 14 miles long and about 4 miles wide. There are is also a seasonal shuttle bus service called The Wave which is pretty good that runs throughout this small island.
Explore Nantucket Town
Downtown Nantucket is a historic neighborhood with plenty of cute cobblestone streets and lovely buildings. There is an abundance of cafes and boutique stores in Nantucket Town where you can spend hours shopping and indulging in some of the most delicious treats from around the island. Start with Main Street and then fan out to explore the side streets that run off it.
Coming into Nantucket Harbor, you’ll pass Brant Point Lighthouse, one of the three historic lighthouses on Nantucket.
Make time to visit museums to learn about the fascinating history of the island. The Nantucket Whaling Museum offers a look into the whaling industry that formed the foundation of the community and much of New England. There are also more than 20 art galleries and studios around town for art lovers to explore.
All of the historic Nantucket downtown is on the National Register of Historic Places (as well as the Sankaty Lighthouse, Brant Point Lighthouse and Jethro Coffin House). Everywhere you look there is a historic house that is prettier than the one next to it.
The Jethro Coffin House is the oldest house on Nantucket, built in 1686 (not to be confused with the Jared Coffin House which is a beautiful Nantucket hotel!).
Rent a Bike
If you didn’t bring your bike, there are numerous bike shops across the island offering daily rentals, giving you the chance to see most of the island in a sustainable and cost-effective way.
Walk straight down the road from where you disembark from the Steamship Authority ferries, and you will find Cook’s Cycle Shop, the most famous of the bike rentals.
There are eight suggested bike paths but unlimited possibilities of places to see. Several of the bike paths also have free audio tours that you can listen to as you pedal along the scenic roads.
One of the most beautiful places to visit is of course the beach. There are more than 20 beaches all varying in size and accessibility, but each one guarantees a beautiful coastline and clean water.
Head To The Beach
Nantucket has a whole host of beautiful beaches. Children’s Beach is a small beach that is close to historic Nantucket Town. There is a park, and a playground and the waters are calm. Children will enjoy the boats and ferries coming in and out of Nantucket Harbor.
The easiest beaches to reach on a Nantucket day trip are those that are an easy cycle ride or a brief bus ride away. You can take a Wave shuttle bus to Surfside Beach, Jetties Beach as well as Madaket Beach and Sconset Beach.
Visit Sconset Town and Beach
Sconset, on the east of the island, was once a fishing village but has retained all its charm and character along with the addition of a few new developments. It is around eight miles from the center of Nantucket Town and can be reached by car, shuttle, bus, or bike.
A visit to Sconset offers a unique experience on your day trip to Nantucket as the town is much more laid back and off the grid than the downtown area. Here you will also find Sconset beach, a rough and undisturbed stretch of coast.
If you come to Nantucket for a round of golf, this is where you will find the island’s only public golf course, Miacomet Golf Course.
It’s pretty straightforward to take the bike path for the 7 mile trip from Nantucket to Sconset. The ride will take about an hour.
Eat and Drink
There are plenty of great places to eat and drink on Nantucket. Here are a few of our favourite casual places for a quick bite. If you are short on time, you may not want to spend your day trip to Nantucket at a long meal.
- Stop by Provisions, the sister establishment to one of the island’s best restaurants, Straight Wharf, for coffee and sandwiches.
- Born & Bread: Mercantile & Bakery has a line that goes around the block every morning for a reason. They have amazing breakfast and lunch options.
- Heading to Madaket Beach? Check out local fave Millies for sandwiches, tacos and salads.
- Heading to Surfside Beach? Make sure to try the burgers at The Shack, the Surfside Beach restaurant.
- Claudette’s Sandwich Shop has great casual food if you are near that area.
No day trip to Nantucket is complete without a proper taste of local brews. Cisco Brewery is also situated in Sconset. Cisco Brewers offers several of their own craft beers as well as wine from Nantucket Winery and spirits from Triple 8 distillery.
Take the Sconset Bluff Walk
One of the most beautiful places to walk on Nantucket is Sconset Bluff or the Cliff Walk. Along the bluff, the small rose-covered fishing cottages decorate the scenery towards the Sankaty Head Lighthouse.
Both sides of the walkway are equally breathtaking, the Atlantic Ocean washes onto the bluff on the one side, and lavish summer homes line the coast on the other. The walk starts at the end of Front Street but isn’t very clearly marked.
There is also limited cellphone service, all part of the rustic charm.
Have an Ice Cream at The Juice Bar
Anyone who has ever embarked on day trips to Nantucket can tell you, a visit to The Juice Bar is a must-do. From April to October they serve delectable homemade ice cream, the perfect accompaniment to a summer’s day on the island.
Also, on the plus side, they are right near Cook’s Cycle Shop and you can indulge yourself after you drop off your bike.
The shop has been operational since the 70s and the smell of their fresh waffle cones lure you in all the way from down the street. They make more than 40 flavors of ice cream, from classics to downright sinful. Think butter pecan, cherry chocolate chunk, chocolate peanut butter cookie dough, and brownie a-la-mode. You can top all of this with Reese’s Pieces, Nerds, whipped cream, or homemade hot fudge.
For those looking for something a little less decadent they also offer sorbet, yogurt, and low-fat ice cream options. They still offer a variety of juices and smoothies if you are being healthy.
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