36 HOURS IN NANTUCKET, MASS.
A weekend in Nantucket, Massachusetts
Nantucket is a tiny 45 square miles island located 30 miles south from Cape Cod. Less well known than its famous neighbour, Martha’s Vineyard, this national historical site has a popu-lation of 10,000 that swells to five times that number in the summer. Beautiful beaches, very good infrastructure, delicious local products, and a past steeped in history. Nantucket is a sur-prising and charming place to visit!
In “Moby-Dick,” Herman Melville famously called “lonely” Nantucket an “elbow of sand” that was “all beach, without a background.” The description is more appealing today. The 14-mile-long island, once a refuge for persecuted Quakers, is now a summer refuge for the global elite. But don’t worry, the one-percenters haven’t completely taken over. Thirty miles southeast of Hyannis on Cape Cod, Nantucket is a bastion of conservation, with almost 45 percent of the land in trusts, and over 800 pre-Civil War-era buildings still standing in Nantucket town. There are virtually no fenced-off beaches; most of the 82 miles of glorious coastline are open to the public.
2. Nantucket hasn’t turned into a fossilized monument of its whaling past. Instead, it has evolved into a sophisticated getaway, with dining and shopping options that will impress even the most jaded urbanites. Its serene moors and dunes belie a fatal transience — beaches are quickly eroding, accelerated by climate change, and the island itself is projected to disappear beneath the waves in several hundred years. So enjoy Nantucket’s natural wonders while you still can, striking the right balance of timeless island pleasures and new creature comforts.
1. GO NATIVE, 2 P.M.
3. Get to the beach as quickly as possible. En route, stop at the beloved local sandwich institution Something Natural on the outskirts of town, and pick up one of the piledhigh sandwiches such as an avocado, Cheddar and chutney ($7.25 for a monster-size half). Then walk 10 minutes east to Steps Beach, which sits on the calm harbor side of the island. Soak in the panoramic view from the top of the steps before descending onto the soft white sand.
2. RETAIL RELIEF, 4:30 P.M.
4. Shopping on the island has evolved past “Nantucket reds” and paisley prints. Start at the men’s store Henley & Sloane on Federal Street, which sells English dress shirts in a variety of appealing patterns, along with its must-have trademark striped socks ($25 a pair). The Skinny Dip, on the Old South Wharf, sells a mix of men’s and women’s clothes from independent contemporary brands. The swimwear brand Letarte on South Water Street sells boho chic bathing suits and cover-ups for women and girls.
3. ACK ASIAN, 8 P.M.
5. One of the most inventive restaurants to open in the last few years is The Nautilus,
which serves Asian fusion food with a nod to the island. Some of the standout dishes are small plates: Manny’s scallion pancakes ($9), two Hawaiian tuna poke ($24), Day Boat Scallop sashimi ($16), and the crispy marinated calamari ($15). For two, with drinks, expect to pay around $120.
4. SWEET TREAT, 9:30 P.M.
6. There’s a reason there is almost always a line at the Juice Bar, the homemade ice cream and smoothie joint in the center of town. It’s addictive. There are no bad choices here, but make sure to get a hand-rolled waffle cup and fill it with any combination of chocolate Oreo, butter pecan, coffee and cookies & cream (two scoops, $7.25). Insider tip: The blackberry ice cream makes for an exceptional milkshake ($8.75).
SATURDAY 5. BY LAND OR BY SEA, 8:30 A.M.
7. Grab an egg, turkey bacon and cheese sandwich on a homemade biscuit ($5) from the Petticoat Row Bakery. Then select a land or sea adventure to Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, a sprawling, remote stretch of dunes and beach accessible by deflated-tire four-byfour or boat. The overland option, run by the Trustees of Reservations, an organization dedicated to preserving land in Massachusetts, is a three-hour over-sand tour. It leaves daily from town, and takes you through some of the 1,200 acres of protected barrier beach habitat. Call ahead for reservations. Or head out by boat on a seal-watching tour to Great Point, the northeastern tip of the island.
6. BIKE AND BEACH, 12:30 P.M.
8. Rent bikes at Young’s Bicycle Shop ($35 for 24 hours) and start making your way, via the Cliff Road bike path, to Madaket Beach, a wave-lover’s paradise. (From town, this is a 6.2-mile hilly bike ride that can be strenuous depending on the wind.) Along the way stop at Tupancy Links, a golf course-turned-preserve that is popular with dog owners, and walk the one-mile loop; don’t miss the path to the cliff’s edge for a view of the harbor. Another detour is the bike path spur to Dionis, a placid beach that’s great for children. Or continue on the main path, which will take you past stretches of moors, wetlands and pine groves, toward Madaket Beach. For the cycling-averse, there’s a public shuttle bus (the WAVE; $2/ride) running between town and Madaket.
7. MEXICAN MILLIE’S, 2:30 P.M.
9. Now that you’ve worked up an appetite biking, swimming and walking, reward >>>
yourself with lunch at Millie’s, a casual but top-notch Mexican-inspired seafood place, a two-minute walk from Madaket Beach. An ideal selection: Eel Point tacos (seared tuna with wasabi crème fraîche; $23) and a Gibbs Pond salad (lobster salad, corn, mixed greens, tomatoes and fingerling potatoes; $26).
8. BEERS AND BANDS, 4 P.M.
10. Either bike or take a taxi to Cisco Brewers (7.3 miles biking on the main roads and bike paths from Millie’s), which, along with making their own beer, wine and liquor, turns into a party every weekend. Two bands play on Saturdays and Sundays. The brewery is a paean to summer, where islanders and visitors bring their dogs and kids while sipping beer and wine in this picturesque setting. Bonus: There’s a free shuttle from the visitors’ center in town to the brewery and back.
9. ALFRESCO ITALIAN, 8 P.M.
11. Ventuno serves fresh, sophisticated Italian fare. Try to reserve a table on the outdoor patio, one of the most appealing on Nantucket. Start with a pepe picante, a cocktail made with tequila and three kinds of hot pepper. Move on to appetizers of chickpea fries. Try the tagliolini verdi with fresh garbanzo beans, spring vegetables, pancetta and cured egg yolk and the spaghetti alle vongole. Share an entree of the local catch of the day, and finish with the bomboloncini, bittersweet chocolate doughnuts.
10. TIME TRAVEL, 10 A.M.
12. Grab coffee and a bite at the Nantucket Culinary Center and head to the Whaling Museum, renovated in 2005. It’s a must-see destination on the island’s role as the global capital of whaling, circa 1800-1850.
11. BRUNCH BY BOAT, 11 A.M.
13. Topper’s, the restaurant at the Wauwinet, a Relais & Châteaux property, is best reached by boat. If you book brunch at the hotel, the stunning hourlong boat ride through the harbor — with views of the waterfront manses — is free. The menu veers toward very pricey, but steer toward the classics: house smoked organic salmon, the lobster roll and lobster and crab cakes. Lounge in a plush green lawn chair before heading back on the boat for one last look at this wondrous spit of land.
Take a walk on the East Side.
The Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum.