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Village LIFE: The Pearls of Nantucket

Old South Wharf

The soul of Nantucket is one of fortitude and ingenuity. Landing on a shore over thirty miles from the mainland, its first settlers built booming industries from the ground up. Throughout its centuries of triumphs, Nantucket has become a luxurious, coastal haven. Strolling its sweeping beaches, traversing its winding bike paths, and witnessing the remnants of a bustling whaling industry, one can relax on this island rich with history, culture, and activity.

Journeying to the island can be accomplished by sea or air. The Steamship Authority and Hy-Line Cruises both offer year-round ferries from Hyannis to Nantucket, with the fast ferries arriving in about an hour. The Freedom Cruise Line, a seasonal fast ferry with easy parking, runs from Harwich Port. For transportation via air, Nantucket Memorial Airport offers flights from Boston, Hyannis and other nearby hubs.

Arriving on island, Steamship Wharf, home to the Steamship Authority, has all of the logistical amenities needed for an island adventure. Bike rental shops make it easy to find a fun mode of transportation. Also along the wharf are convenient spots for a quick bite to eat or an ice cream cone. Stop by Steamboat Pizza for a slice  to fuel you after the ferry ride, or for a refreshing treat, check out the famous Juice Bar to enjoy a homemade ice cream cone. 

The Hy-Line and Freedom Ferry dock at Straight Wharf, buzzing with the local shops and restaurants that make Nantucket so alluring. Upon exiting the ferry in the warmer months, The Gazebo serves up cocktails, including the ever-popular mudslide, to throngs of revelers enjoying the outdoor setting. Strolling along the waterfront will bring you to an enclave of sea shanties that house small boutiques like The Skinny Dip. This neighborhood welcomes treasure hunters searching for the perfect memento of their island sojourn. 

Heading up to Main Street on the cobblestone streets summons an awareness of the union of past and present. With each step on these stones, visitors breathe in salt air and adventure, hearkening back to centuries when whalers led horse-drawn wagons on this same thoroughfare. From a whaling community turned tourist getaway to an artist colony transformed into a luxury destination, Nantucket has a rich story to tell. 

The ever recognizable Brant Point Lighthouse

Ten investors joined forces to purchase the island in the 1640s, inviting various tradesmen to join and call Nantucket home. Many of these family names are still prominent today, like Macy, Coffin, Starbuck, and Folger. The name Nantucket was dubbed years later, believed to mean “faraway island” in Wampanoag. 

The spirit of this land and its inhabitants has been molded by distinct periods, first thriving in the 1820s as the busiest whaling port in the world. That perilous industry brought wealth to the island, visible today in the distinguished captains’ mansions on Main Street. Later, the decline of whaling brought a new industry to town, tourism. Charming summer cottages and hotels immediately prompted actors and other creative types to take the leap for an island vacation. 

The 1920s marked the roaring years of Nantucket as an art colony, transitioning from a fishermen’s island to a creative getaway. Whaling shacks repurposed into work spaces for incoming artists brought an imaginative flair to the island. In recent years, Nantucket has become a luxury destination for thousands of visitors annually. 

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