Things to do
Nantucket has a rich history: From its prominent role in the whaling industry, to the Great Fire of 1846 that destroyed 300 town buildings, to its status today as a beautiful vacation destination, the island has much to celebrate and preserve. The Nantucket Whaling Museum at the Nantucket Historical Society (www.nha.org, 508-228-1894) offers an extensive whaling exhibit and a 46-foot skeleton of a sperm whale that looms overhead.
The Mariah Mitchell Association (www.mmo.org, 508-228-2896), named in honor of the Nantucket astronomer who discovered a comet in 1847, runs two observatories, an aquarium and natural science museum, and preserves her birthplace.
At Bartlett’s Farm (www.bartlettsfarm.com, 508-228-9403), the Bartlett family has been working the same land since the 1800s. Today, in addition to finding fruits and vegetables here, you can attend a farm or chef talk, or enjoy a First Friday dinner: a four-course meal featuring farm-grown foods.
Nantucket’s southside beaches, with their strong rip currents and high surf, are popular with those who love to catch a wave. At Cisco Beach, surfers of all abilities can take lessons through Nantucket Surfari (www.nantucketsurfari.com, 508-228-1235). If surfboarding seems too complicated, body surfing is an easier alternative at this beach, which is four miles outside of town. Arrive early because parking is limited.
Nantucket is known for its world-class dining and there are many places where you can savor creative preparations served in seaside elegance. Oran Mor (www.oranmorbistro.com, 508-228-8655) features an eclectic menu that changes from season to season with sometimes unusual yet always ever-fresh ingredients. Don’t miss the butter-poached Nantucket Lobster appetizer and the Grilled Line Caught Striped Bass entree. The wine list here is also top shelf, and if you’re lucky and call ahead, perhaps you can dine in solitary splendor at a table on a private deck in the treetops.
American Seasons (www.americanseasons.com, 508-228-7111) offers different renditions of American favorites using local produce, as with the Oven Roasted Codfish, served with Nantucket mushrooms.
At the Brant Point Grill (www.whiteelephanthotel.com, 508-325-1320), the emphasis is on steak and seafood. Try the New England Clam Chowder starter, with crisp fried clams, smoked bacon and chives.
One of the best ways to get around the island is to hop aboard the Nantucket Regional Transit Authority (NRTA) shuttles during the summer season, which are a great choice for shopping, going to the beach, or cruising out to Sconset. Clean, spacious buses will ferry you all around the island for $1 to $2.Loops include Mid-Island, Miacomet, and Jetties Beach runs, and other routes will get you to Madaket, Sconset, the airport, and Surfside Beach. It’s not uncommon to find former stockbrokers driving the bus, offering the inside scoop on island happenings and history. On an island known for its high cost of living, the NRTA shuttles are a terrific plus. Another tip for traveling the island: If you plan to take a taxi out to the airport for an early morning flight, reserve it the night before. When it’s the height of the summer season, it can be as tough to get a cab as it is in downtown Manhattan!