First Time In Nantucket: Top Places To See On The Island

Are you planning to finally cross off the idyllic island of Nantucket from your luxury travel bucket list?

This New England gem has become a leading destination and is often dubbed “the new Martha’s Vineyard.” But the small island, which is 30 miles south of Cape Cod, MA, is not reserved for the rich and famous only.

The property prices are rocket-high on this paradise-like island. But, you can rent one of the stunning local residences with unique architecture for your vacation there for a first-hand experience of the Nantucket vibe and lifestyle.

With its historic sites, endless sandy beaches, perfectly conserved natural resources, fresh seafood eateries, and top-of-the-line boutiques, Nantucket is the go-to place for history enthusiasts, foodies, romantic couples, and for people who want a dream vacation.

Despite the fact that the island is small, there are so many things to do and places to see there that first-time visitors often get overwhelmed.

Here are the top places to visit and the things to do on your first trip to the “Little Grey Lady of the Sea.”

Whaling Museum

Nantucket was once considered the whaling capital of the world. The whaling industry was crucial to the development of the island. And even though it has long been discontinued, it still plays an essential role in the lifestyle there. To find out more about the glorious whaling years, you should visit the famous Whaling Museum. It is the top-rated site to see, according to tourists and locals. The museum is situated in a beautiful restored old whale oil candle factory. It has hundreds of unique artifacts, paintings, and other exhibits on display.

You can see a 46-foot whale skeleton and an original Fresnel lens from one of the lighthouses. Or learn more about the whaling ship Essex and its captain, who inspired Herman Melville to write “Moby-Dick.”

When you are done, make sure to head off to the roof, where there is a viewing deck. From there, you can enjoy the mesmerizing panorama of the harbour, the ocean, and the island.

Cisco Beach

This is one of the most popular beaches in Nantucket, loved by surfers, watersport lovers, youngsters, and adventurers.

Cisco Beach is on the south shore of Nantucket, where there is a shallow sandbar and a rolling surf, and is home to the Nantucket Island School. You can join the group lessons, book a private one, or rent the gear and enjoy some surfing or boogie boarding yourself.

During the season, there are lifeguards on site. But since there are no restaurants or snack bars on the wide and beautiful beach, you may want to pack some snacks with you before hitting the beach. On the way back to town, you can enjoy a refreshing drink and live music at Cisco Brewers.

Nobadeer Beach

This is another famous beach on the south coast of Nantucket, which is suitable for surfers and for families with kids alike. The beach is near the island’s airport, so the young ones can enjoy watching the planes approaching or leaving Nantucket. The ACK Surf School is located on Nobadeer Beach, so you can rent some gear or enjoy some surfing lessons from the local experts. The beach is also preferred by beach sports lovers and for kite flying. There are food trucks and lifeguards all through the summer season on site.

Nantucket Shipwreck and Life Saving Museum

This small museum is a hidden gem on the island. There you can see some extraordinary exhibits from the more than 750 shipwrecks which occurred by Nantucket through the years.

The island was known as the “graveyard of the Atlantic” back in time because of the sudden heavy fog and the treacherous ocean waters.

In this museum, you will learn more about the ships and crews that lost their lives in shipwrecks. But you will also find out more about the heroic actions of the local rescuers who risked their own lives saving the ships in peril.

The Nantucket Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum is located in a beautiful area on Polpis Street. There you can enjoy a picnic and do some bird watching while the kids play on the playground.

Brant Point Lighthouse 

This is one of the three historic lighthouses of Nantucket and is the first building you will see when arriving via ferry.

Brant Point Light is at the harbour within walking distance from Downtown.

It was first built in 1746 and restored in 1901, but it is still functioning and showing the boats and other mariners the way to get to and leave Nantucket safely.

The lighthouse itself is a beautiful, Instagram-worthy site. Plus, it is located at a great place to watch the mega yachts and the fishing boats in the Nantucket harbour.

Main Street and the Shops

Being a popular vacation destination for the affluent, it comes as no surprise that there are some top-of-the-line boutiques in Nantucket. Many of them are located on the historic Main Street.

The cobblestone street is also the home of some of the most beautiful mansions and buildings from the colonial years, some of which are built in the Greek revival style.

The street which passes through Downtown is also famous for its boutiques, stores, art galleries, and antique shops. Some of the most famous ones include Murray’s Toggery Shop, where you can buy original Nantucket Reds pants or other apparel, as well as boutiques like Erin Hillel, Stephanie’s Nantucket, Style Paris, Breezin’ Up, Southern Tide, and Vis-à-vis.

Don’t forget to visit Nantucket Looms, which is a combined studio for hand-woven textiles and a shop where you can buy some of the most luxurious fabrics, items, furniture, and jewellery.

Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge

If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Downtown and enjoy a walk or drive through the untouched nature of Nantucket, then the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge is the place to add to your itinerary.

There are 16 miles of walking trails and over sand vehicle routes that will take you through the maritime oak forests and the cedar woodland and savannah.

During your stay, you can spot wild birds and animals, such as seals, in their natural habitat.

The refuge is located on two peninsulas on the northwestern coast of the island, where you can enjoy relaxing on the beach. If you reach its very tip, you can admire the Great Point Lighthouse and the endless ocean view.