Seaside Adventures: 10 Things to Do in Nantucket on Vacation

Do you want to make the most of your long-awaited trip to Nantucket? Well, the fact is that this small New England island located 30 miles south of mainland Massachusetts has it all – perfectly conserved nature, endless wide beaches with stunning views, the most significant number of preserved historic buildings than in any town in the USA, the most beautiful waterfront mansions, and some of the best seafood restaurants and most exclusive boutiques in the world.

There is an opportunity to enjoy any activity or site, regardless of your taste and preferences.

Still, if you have already booked one of the many available beautiful homes for your stay, and the ferry or plane tickets are in your pocket, you can add these ten famous sites to the list of things to see during your dream vacation to this idyllic island.

Things to Do in Nantucket, Massachusettes

1. Brant Point Lighthouse

Brant Point Lighthouse
Photo Credit: [@alwoodphoto/DepositPhotos]

This is the second oldest lighthouse still working in the USA and was initially built in 1746. Today’s lighthouse tower was constructed in 1901 when the ninth one on this point was destroyed.

Brant Point Lighthouse stands on the point of the Nantucket Harbor and guides the way of all arriving ferries, boats, luxurious yachts, and other vessels.

So you will most likely spot it before setting foot on the island.

The lighthouse is especially impressive at sunset. In the spring, the locals decorate Brant Point Light with a wreath of daffodils to celebrate the coming of spring and the annual Daffodil festival.

A festive wreath adorns it during the Christmas holidays, and on the 4th of July, the historic lighthouse proudly displays the American flag to all locals and visitors of the island.

Don’t forget to throw two coins in its direction when leaving the island if you want to return to magical Nantucket one day once again.

2. The Whaling Museum

The Whaling Museum Nantucket, MA
Photo Credit: [@jqnoc/DepositPhotos]

This museum has been ranked the top-rated site on Nantucket and is the place to go if you want to delve into the island’s remarkable history.

Although small and isolated from the mainland, Nantucket was once considered the world’s whaling capital.

The booming business and the export of whale oil used for street and home lights in America and Europe allowed the local residents to become some of the most affluent people in the country back in the mid-1970s and early 1800s.

Thanks to the successful whaling business, Nantucket is home to some of the most beautiful pre-civil war, federal, and Greek revival buildings, mansions, and infrastructures.

The true stories of the brave whaling captains who traveled the world searching for precious whale oil inspired the writing of the great American masterpiece – “Moby Dick, or the Whale” by Herman Melville.

At the Whaling Museum, you can see a real giant sperm whale skeleton, the first lighthouse Fresnel lens in the country, and hundreds of artifacts, artwork, and other exhibits from the glorious whaling years.

The museum is located in what used to be a whale candle factory and has a fantastic viewing deck on the roof, where you can take some stunning photos of the harbor, Downtown, and the Nantucket Sound.

3. ‘Sconset Bluff Walk

Sconset Sundial House Nantucket, MA
Photo Credit: [@superbo/DepositPhotos]

Unlike in most other elite New England coastal resorts, you can get a chance to see some of the most expensive properties on the island from right outside their white picket fences.

This can happen if you explore the picturesque Sconset Bluff Walk.

It is located in the east coast village of Siasconset, and thanks to the efforts of a local resident and land owner from the 19th century, it has remained open to the public and all visitors of the island to this day.

The walkway is only a mile long but offers some of the most mesmerizing ocean views from the top of the tall bluffs and also glimpses of the famous shingle-style cottages, all covered with crawling roses and surrounded by blooming hydrangeas which have become iconic of the island.

The walking path passes by some of the most beautiful of these summer residences and their pristinely maintained backyards and gardens and reaches the top of the cliffs.

You can take a turn and head off to the Siasconset beach below the walk and then visit the nearby Sankaty Head Light.

4. Sankaty Head Lighthouse

Sankay-Head-Lighthouse Nantucket, MA
Photo Credit: [@doncon402/DepositPhotos]

This postcard-like striped red and white lighthouse is located on the eastern coast of Nantucket and, in the spring, is surrounded by a magnificent field of yellow daffodils.

This lighthouse has guided the ships and boats since 1850.

Fifteen years ago, the entire lighthouse was moved back into the shore by 400 feet to protect it from the erosion of the cliffs.

It is one of the top choices for wedding photos and a great place to enjoy a picnic on the nearby Siasconset Beach.

5. Steps Beach

While Steps Beach itself is a wide and beautiful beach, what makes it so unique is the view from the top of the long set of wooden steps that lead to it.

The beach is between the more popular northern beaches, Dionis and Jetties. Due to its more challenging accessibility, Steps Beach is much more tranquil and less crowded than its famous neighbors.

The view from the top of the steps is enthralling and is considered one of the top Instagrammable spots on Nantucket.

You can enjoy the panoramic view of the turquoise waters of the Nantucket Sound and the lush green flora and even get a glimpse of the Great Point Lighthouse from the top of the steps.

6. Bartlett’s Farm

This farm has been growing the best local veggies, fruits, and plants since the 1840s when William Bartlett first established it. Today, the seventh generation of the same Bartlett family is still running the successful business and greeting locals and guests worldwide.

You can tour the farm and buy organically grown vegetables and fruits from the Market on the premises. There is also a Garden Center where beautiful potted and cut flowers and plants can be found.

Bartlett Farm also has a Farm Kitchen where you can enjoy a delicious homemade meal or snack or take some food home with you on the go.

The farm is rustic and beautiful, so it is one of the top choices for people looking for the best wedding venues in Nantucket.

7. Cisco Beach

Cisco Beach is located on the southern shore of Nantucket and is one of the trendiest surfing spots and gathering places for watersports lovers and youngsters on the island.

It is home to the Nantucket Surf School, where you can rent all the gear you need to enjoy your favorite water sport, sign up for group or private lessons, and learn how to surf from the best experts in Nantucket.

The beach is long and wide, with soft white sand, tall dunes, a sandbar, and often quite heavy surf. This makes it perfect for surfers and advanced swimmers.

But the beach is also a beautiful spot to enjoy a romantic or fun picnic with your partner or friends. In the peak of the summer, you can buy some of the best and freshest seafood and other snacks and delicacies from the nearby food trucks.

Cisco Beach is also one of the best spots for viewing those famous Nantucket sunsets.

8. Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge

Not only does Nantucket have the largest concentration of historic buildings in the USA, but it also prides itself on all of its beaches being free to access, and fifty percent of its territory is protected.

The Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge is one of the biggest and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful wildlife reserves on the island.

It is located on two peninsulas on the north shore of Nantucket and has one of the most impressive barrier beaches, the biggest red cedar wood, and a wide array of wild birds and animals.

The 395-acre refuge is also home to the northernmost Great Point Lighthouse. You can reach the Coskata-Coatue Refuge by hiking, biking, kayaking, walking, or with a 4WD vehicle with a beach driving permit.

9. Nantucket Shipwreck and Life Saving Museum

Nantucket is nicknamed “The Little Grey Lady of the Sea” because of the sudden heavy fog which can occur at any time. In the last 300 years, there have been more than 750 shipwrecks on the coasts and near the island, which caused mariners also to name it “the graveyard of the Atlantic” back in the years.

This Museum is located in Folgers Marsh, which is just 3.5 miles out of Town.

The Shipwreck and Life Saving Museum have thousands of exhibits from the shipwrecks through the years and, more importantly, pays tribute to the heroic efforts of the local people, who often risked their lives to help the crews and vessels in distress.

It was founded and is run by the Egan Maritime Institute and is one of the most unique sites you can see in Nantucket.

10. Nantucket Atheneum

The Atheneum is the island’s only public library with a rich history. It is set in one of the Town’s grandest Greek revival-style buildings.

The Atheneum was built in 1834 by two wealthiest locals, David Joy and Charles Coffin, who amassed great riches from the whaling ship and whale candle-making businesses in the 18th century.

The first librarian to work at the Nantucket Atheneum was the famous local scientist Maria Mitchell, the first woman at the US Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Professor of Astronomy at Vassar College.

The library was rebuilt in 1847 after the great fire from the previous year destroyed it. Today, the Atheneum resembles a museum or art gallery more than a public library. Its interior is exquisite and contains some magnificent paintings, sculptures, and works of art.

The library has thousands of books, a new specialized children’s wing, and a tranquil garden for relaxation from the hustle and bustle. It hosts various cultural, literature, other events, shows, classes, and workshops for people and children of all ages throughout the year.

This article originally appeared on Wander With Alex. Photo Credit: [@alwoodphoto/DepositPhotos]


Seaside Adventures: 10 Things to Do in Nantucket on Vacation
Christine Cooper

Christine Cooper is a food lover who loves exploring different places with her dog. She is keen on sharing interesting facts and places with others and inspiring them to be more active and curious.