Skip to Content

6 Things to Know Before Visiting Nantucket

When you hear Nantucket, you probably imagine some colonial-style buildings on cobblestone streets, exotic white-sanded beaches, and wealthy people spending their summers in their second homes and the high-end restaurants and boutiques on the island.

Have you already rented one of those stunning vacation rentals and booked your ferry or plane tickets for your vacation on this famous East Coast Island?

Here are some facts and things that you may not be familiar with and things you may want to know before heading off to Nantucket.

Glacier Water

The water running from the taps in Nantucket does not have any added chlorine or other chemicals and additives added artificially.

Unlike most municipal and city water systems, the water in Nantucket is not pretreated before it is provided for human consumption.

The reason is that the island was created as a result of old glaciers melting about 12,000-10,000 years ago. As such, it sits on its own source of clean and fresh glacier water.

The water is drawn from an aquifer below the island. As it reaches the surface, it passes through and is filtered by the clay and the sand. 

In other words, there is no need to worry about getting bottled or filtered water when in Nantucket.

Topless Beaches

Recently, Dorothy Stover, a local who is a 7th generation Nantucket resident, proposed an amendment to the “Gender Equality on Beaches” bylaw.

It suggests that any woman or man who chooses to go topless on the beach should be allowed to do so. This is for promoting equality between the genders on both the private and the public beaches on the island.

The amendment has not been voted and approved yet. But even if it passes on May 2nd at the Town Meeting, the chances are that it will not go into effect instantly. Instead, according to experts, it can be expected to go into effect after it is approved by the state attorney general, which can happen in September at the earliest.

Or it may not be approved by the state at all.

Still, it is good to know that if the amendment passes, everyone will be free to go topless on all beaches in Nantucket. This, according to Ms. Stover, will help make people more secure about their bodies and will promote equality between the sexes.

It is not a Budget Destination

While it is possible to go on a trip or vacation to Nantucket without breaking the bank, it is not realistic to think that this East Coast Island is a budget destination.

On the contrary, the accommodations, the restaurants, the stores, and the goods and services on the island are high-end.

Depending on how much you are prepared to pay, your trip to Nantucket can be very or moderately expensive.

On average, you can expect to pay about $182 USD per person per day in Nantucket.

But there are some ways to keep the vacation costs as manageable as possible, including:

Visit the island out of the high season. Instead of taking a summer vacation, you can choose to go during the shoulder season, which is from March to early May and from mid-September to October.

In the spring and fall, you will not only avoid the biggest crowds but will also find more affordable and more available lodgings, including short-term vacation rentals and hotel rooms.

You can also find more affordable prices for accommodations if you plan ahead and book the residential rental or the hotel room of your choice as early as possible. Of course, there is a possibility to get a great last-minute deal, but to stay on the safe side, it is better to plan ahead and make your reservations early.

The third thing to do before going on a trip is to do some research on the restaurants and the prices for the meals. Some of the restaurants in Nantucket are as exclusive and expensive as the Michelin star restaurants in Manhattan. Others are more affordable.

If you rent a rental that has a kitchen, then you can save money for breakfast and snacks by preparing them before heading off to the beach or another location in Nantucket.

The Historic Nantucket Harbor

If you haven’t added the Nantucket Boat basin to your vacation program, then do so. This place is in the historic area of the town of Nantucket and is where you can enjoy admiring some of the most beautiful yachts and sailboats in the world. Also, there are some charming lofts and cottages to stroll around and explore right by the waterfront in this area. If you are lucky enough, you may be able to find an available rental in this area. Some of these lofts have unique decks on the dock, as well as access to bikes and to the various beach shuttles.

There are also some top-of-the-line restaurants and amenities in the Nantucket harbor area, including the wharf with some of the best restaurants and leading galleries and stores on the island. 

Need of a Car

While most travel experts advise against taking your car to Nantucket because “it is so small that it can be explored by foot,” this is not always the case. While Nantucket is quite smaller than Martha’s Vineyard, it is still large enough to be dragging around your luggage, carrying your baby and baby gear, and having all of your stuff with you when exploring the island.

You can take your car with you via the traditional Steamship Authority car ferry from Hyannis, Cape Cod, but this will cost you at least $400 USD.

Instead, you can rent a car on the island. There are various rentals for cars, 4WDs, and bikes there.

If you are an adventure seeker, you can apply for a beach permit and rent a 4WD to enjoy some driving on the beaches where this is allowed in Nantucket.

Otherwise, you can take your bicycle with you for just $10 for the ferry or rent one on this bike-friendly island.

The Gray Lady of the Sea

Nantucket has been known as “The Gray Lady of the Sea” for centuries for a reason. The reason is not the gray weathered shingles of the iconic houses there, but rather the unexpected deep fogs that can fall at any time and cover the shores and the entire island.

The same goes for the weather. Being an island that is 30 miles from the mainland and into the Atlantic Ocean, you can expect some abrupt weather changes at any time of the day and in any season.

So, remember to pack an umbrella and raincoat alongside the beachwear, sunglasses, and sunblock.

Ruben Arribas is a Spanish traveler who has traveled more than 70+ countries around the world. Now based in the Philippines!