12 Best Hotels in Nantucket, United States - Jan 2019
Your Travel Guide to Nantucket
Nantucket was a popular spot--in fact, the most popular spot--for the whaling industry in late 18th-early 19th centuries. (That accounts for Herman Melville making Nantucket the launching point of the whaling vessel, “The Pequod”, in his classic novel, Moby Dick!) But there were a combination of events that led to it being superseded by other locations--some due to natural conditions, some due to disasters such as fire, and some for economic reasons, such as the decline in demand for whaling, with whale oil being replaced with kerosene. The result was that the island was neglected for many decades. But, this also had a positive effect: many buildings in Nantucket still retain their 19th-century appearance.
Nowadays, Nantucket is a favorite destination in the summer months for vacationers. But, there’s still plenty to see, both in terms of history and nature, over the entire year.
What are the Must-Do-s and See-s in Nantucket?
Nantucket Historic District
The Nantucket Historic District comprises many sites from colonial or 19th-century America that have been preserved or restored, and are accessible to the public. We’ll just examine a few of them--but there are many more.
Brant Point Light Station
The Brant Point Lighthouse was first built in 1746, but it was destroyed by fire in 1758. The successors either suffered a similar fate, from fire or from storms. Over the years, there have been nine lighthouses here, the latest one being built in 1901. (You can see one of the previous lighthouses, at a distance of 600 feet to the west.) That’s the landmark that you can visit nowadays. It’s rather quaint, measuring only 26 feet tall (the shortest lighthouse in Massachusetts)--but it still gives a wonderful view of Nantucket Sound.
The Nantucket Whaling Museum has a number of exhibits that preserve various aspects of whaling. There is a 46-foot-long skeleton of a sperm whale suspended in the museum, to give you a sense of the size of the animal whose oil and ambergris was so highly prized. There are also exhibits of how the oil was processed and made into candles. You’ll not only learn about whaling--it preserves the history of Nantucket itself. On top of the building, there is Tucker’s Roofwalk, which gives a view of the island and the harbor. The Museum also hosts events about Nantucket historical figures, such as Maria Mitchell, a Nantucket native who became America’s first woman professor of astronomy. Greydon House and Nantucket Periwinkle are hotels in the area.
Hadwen House, Jethro Coffin House, Old Mill
The Hadwen House is a mansion that was built for the whaling merchant William Hadwen, in 1846. It is significant for being the only Nantucket mansion of its kind accessible to the public. It was refurbished in the 1990s to restore it to how it looked in Hadwen’s time, with some of the original furniture and cutlery on display.
The Jethro Coffin House is officially the oldest house in Nantucket, built in 1686 for Jethro Coffin and his wife Mary Gardner. There was a feud between the two families, which was resolved by them marrying: the Coffin family supplied the wood, while the Gardner family supplied the land! In 1927, efforts were made to restore and maintain the house in its original appearance, as well as restore the vegetable garden surrounding the house.
The Old Mill is the oldest functioning windmill in the United States, dating from 1746. It was sold to be used as scrap in 1828 to Jared Gardner, who instead restored the mill to being functional again. Once inside, you’ll actually witness how the mill operated, and how the sails were moved to best take advantage of the wind. It’s worth dropping by and getting a feel of how grain was prepared almost three centuries ago!
Much of Nantucket Island is nature reserves. There are beaches, such as Dionis Beach and Washing Pond Beach, forests, grasslands, salt marshes, and more. An example is the Masquetuck Reservation, which has many habitats in only 13.5 acres of space! The Nantucket Field Station is a 107-acre area that contains salt marsh, uplands, and waterfront. It is used by the University of Massachusetts to teach about wildlife and different habitats.
Nantucket’s surroundings have proved to be the inspiration for many artists and painters through the years. There is a large concentration of art galleries on Nantucket Island. Quidley & Company Fine Art Galleries, Pierce Galleries, and Cavalier Galleries, and the Artist’s Association of Nantucket are all highly recommended.
Getting To and Around Nantucket
Flights to Nantucket Memorial Airport
Nantucket has its own airport--the Nantucket Memorial Airport. Despite Nantucket being a big out-of-the-way, it receives a surprising number of flights. It receives flights from the major airlines Delta, United, Jet Blue, and American, with flights from Boston, New York, Newark, Washington, and Charlotte.
If you’re already in Massachusetts, there are smaller airlines, such as Cape Air and Rectrix Shuttle, that get you to Nantucket from Boston, Hyannis, New Bedford, and Martha’s Vineyard.
There are also a number of ferries that get you to Nantucket. There are ferries from Hyannis in Cape Cod to Nantucket, as well as from New Bedford, Massachusetts. There are also seasonal ferries from Highlands, New Jersey and from 35th Street, New York City to Nantucket during the summer months. The ride from New York is around 6 hours--so it’s a bit of a cruise!
As for getting out of the airport, you have the option of using a taxi service or renting a car, such as Hertz or Nantucket Island Rent-a-Car.
There also is a bus service, called “The Wave”--the Nantucket Regional Transit Authority. The bus lines themselves are quite scenic, giving you access to the outlying towns, such as Sconset in the east and Madaket in the west.