Out on the open water just thirty miles south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts lies Nantucket, an island with exquisite New England charm and architecture that makes the island appear to be stuck in the olden days of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when Nantucket was a vital whaling site where fortunes were made and trade flourished.
Now, visitors can take a ferry from the town of Hyannis or Harwich Port to Nantucket Island to experience Cape Cod’s ocean-borne neighbor and the many sites of interest there. If you wondering what to do on Nantucket for one day, read on to learn more about what you can do and see in Nantucket while on your trip in Cape Cod!
What Makes Nantucket a “Must-See” Attraction?
Besides being incorporated into decidedly adult-humored limerick jokes for years and years, this gorgeous New England locale has some of the nicest homes in America, even beating out the Hamptons in housing prices. It also has cooler summers and warmer winters than the mainland due to its oceanic climate, which is rare on the East Coast.
Children’s Beach is a great place to soak up the sun and the surf. The Nantucket Whaling Museum gives visitors insight into the importance of the whaling industry in Nantucket’s history, as well as exhibits on the whales themselves. Brant Point Light, Great Point Light, and Sankaty Head Light, are lighthouses with fantastic views that are open to the public. Of these lighthouses, Brant Point Light is still in operation.
The island is also home to a number of local artisans that make their wares by hand, as well as high-end boutiques selling women’s clothing and other souvenir items unique to Nantucket. For a mini-excursion within your day trip to Nantucket, check out the nearby islands of Tuckernuck and Muskeget.
The Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge is a gorgeous place to observe wildlife and other natural sights. You can also play golf at the Sankaty Head Golf Club, which is the easternmost golf course in all of Massachusetts. Cap off the night with stargazing at Loines Observatory.
Enjoy an Architectural Walking Tour
Nantucket has more than 800 remarkably preserved houses and buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries; it’s considered the largest such inventory in the country. Many can be viewed on leisurely walking tours around town, either on your own or as part of tours led by staff of the Nantucket Historical Association. Many fine examples of Greek revival, federal, or saltbox structures are on a grid that includes Main, Orange, Fair, and Pine streets. The NHA tours leave from the Whaling Museum at 11:15 a.m. for an hour’s exploration of downtown buildings and at 2:15 p.m. to see historic homes on an 80-minute tour.
Go to the Beach
Nantucket is famous for its miles of pristine shoreline open to the public. If you only have time for one, and especially if you are with children, Miacomet Beach is recommended. At the end of Miacomet Road, off Surfside Road, this beach with waves and great swimming also abuts a freshwater pond over the dunes that is popular for children. There is a visiting concession truck, but no restrooms. Miacomet Beach is easily reached by bicycle, approximately one mile from town, then about a quarter-mile to the end of Miacomet Road.
Travel the Bike Paths
Nantucket’s system of bicycle paths is extensive and will take you to nearly every outlying area of the island. One creates a loop about 20 miles long from the Milestone Rotary to Siasconset, where you can take a refreshing break, then continues past Sankaty Head Lighthouse and back to the central rotary via scenic Polpis Road. Others lead you on pretty rides directly to beaches, including Surfside, Cisco, Madaket, or to the calm harbor side beach called Dionis. Nantucket is relatively flat, so you will roll along fairly effortlessly wherever you choose to go.
Take a walk on conservation land: Nantucket takes pride in its vast expanses of land forever protected by conservation agencies, all open to the public. One spot easy to reach is the Sanford Farm, Ram Pasture, and The Woods property owned by the Nantucket Conservation Foundation. By bike, it is about two miles out on the Madaket Road bike path from the corner of Quaker Lane and Upper Main Street. This property contains 780 acres of grasslands, thickets and woodlands and is habitat for many animals and unique plants. It includes six miles of walking trails with interpretive signs along the way.
Some trails go along Hummock Pond and lead to the ocean. Various round-trip loops range from under two miles and take 45 minutes to the longest of six miles if you have more time. All trails have breathtaking and often panoramic views.
New England Vacation Rentals – Your Cape Cod Vacation Experts
Begin your Cape Cod adventure with the help and advice of our dedicated team of reservation specialist! We are more than happy to offer suggestions for your Nantucket day trip itinerary in Nantucket and the Cape Cod area when you book your stay in one of the breathtakingly beautiful vacation homes or cottages available through New England Vacation Rentals today!