Are you ready for a piece of paradise on a little island off the coast of Massachusetts? Then head out to Nantucket! This idyllic summer destination is where beach lovers and foodies come to relax, unwind, and explore. Wander the charming, cobblestone town, pop in and out of shops and watch sunsets on some of the most beautiful sandy beaches along the East Coast.
Just 16 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Nantucket is a great escape ready to be explored by you and your family. Eat at world class restaurants, surf great waves, have ice cream every day and live like a local on the serene island of Nantucket. What’s stopping you?
Grab your beach bag and get on that ferry, here are 19+ things to do in Nantucket, Massachusetts that we know will help you fall in love with this amazing New England town.
COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN NANTUCKET
Best Budget Option. Seven Sea Street Inn is quaint and a 3-minute walk to the beach. During peak-season you’re not going to find much of anything in Nantucket at rock-bottom prices. They do serve breakfast, and offer amenities like beach chairs and towels. Couples especially like this one.
Best for Families. Located in Nantucket, within a 6-minute walk of Children’s Beach and half a mile of Francis Street Beach, The Bungalow provides accommodations with a garden and free WiFi throughout the property. Featuring family rooms, this property also provides guests with a grill. Each room includes a balcony.
Best Luxury Option. White Elephant Hotel is a two-minute walk to the beach. The hotel has an on-site spa and rooms with scenic waterfront views. Boutique shops and art galleries are a 10 minute walk. Rates vary wildly, so be sure to check out non-peak season pricing.
RENT BIKES AND EXPLORE THE ISLAND
Looking to get around the island quickly and have fun doing so? Then I highly suggest biking. Zip from beach to beach, cruise down the cobblestone streets, and stop off at Cisco Brewery when you discover Nantucket Island. It’s time to ditch the car and trade it in for a bike!
From daily to weekly rentals, the choice is yours for biking on Nantucket. See beautiful homes, stop off for lunches and discover hidden gems with friends and family. Bike all day and hit up all the best spots on the island with this cool, leisurely activity!
Read More: Your Ideal 3-Day Nantucket Itinerary For A Weekend Getaway
VISIT THE WHALING MUSEUM
The small but informative Whaling Museum gives a glimpse into Nantucket’s past, but also goes into great detail about whaling practices and life on this island. Catch an amazing video, see impressive articles and look up to the ceiling to witness a massive 46-foot Sperm Whale Skeleton.
This museum is minutes from the main pier and located in the middle of Downtown Nantucket. See artifacts and understand the history of Nantucket from the people who influenced this island. Learn about the sinking of the whale ship, Essex, which served as inspiration for Moby Dick. At the end of your visit, head on up to the balcony to see a great view of the harbor and town, it truly is beautiful.
Tip: After visiting the Whaling Museum, I highly suggest seeing if you can book an excursion and go whale watching. It’s an unbelievable experience.
EXPLORE THE LIGHTHOUSES
BRANT POINT LIGHTHOUSE
Looking for a bit of history? Then a quick walk to Brant Point Light is a great choice!
Just a 10-minute walk from downtown, sits not only a charming lighthouse, but the second oldest lighthouse in the United States. Watch as boats come into the harbor, and look out on the beautiful blue water, with this delightful lighthouse as your backdrop!
This lighthouse will be the first thing you see when entering Nantucket Island, and will be your final farewell to the island too. Watch as it lights Nantucket Harbor at night and guides boats in and out safely. Get up close or view from afar, the choice is up to you!
GREAT POINT LIGHTHOUSE
Head on over to the Coskata Coatue Wildlife Refuge and see a magnificent white brick lighthouse. Great Point Lighthouse is one of the most remote and scenic lighthouses to come across on Nantucket, and it’s well worth the visit.
At the refuge, explore 16 miles of trails during a tour of the dunes and forests here. To have the full experience, rent a jeep for the day, let down your tires and cruise off road to see the lighthouse. This will be a beach day you’ll never forget. See wildlife, drive on sand, and see one of the most picturesque areas on the East Coast. This peaceful yet thrilling excursion will excite all, especially children!
SANKATY HEAD LIGHTHOUSE
Walk the grounds, appreciate the view, and take the time to explore Sankaty Head Lighthouse. Today, the lighthouse is managed by the US Coast Guard and is still active, so tours can be limited. This Nantucket icon must be on your lighthouse list to visit with friends and family.
Over the years, erosion and strong weather patterns have changed the shape of the beach and the bluffs, and this meant that the lighthouse had to be moved. Today the lighthouse sits 267 feet away from the bluff and is still functioning.
HIT THE BEACH
Close to town, perfect for kids, and nice cold water — what more could you want? Grab you floaties, fill up your cooler and get ready for some fun in the sun at Jetties Beach. With calm waters and crystal clean sand, it’s time to enjoy a well-deserved break and spend some time relaxing.
On your way to the beach, I highly suggest picking up some sandwiches from a local eatery to make your day even better. Walk the beach, enjoy the scenery, and dip your toes in the lovely water at this fun and exciting beach.
Tip: This beach can get busy, so get there earlier to pick out the best spot!
Looking for a little adventure and a gorgeous sunset at the same time? Then jump on over to the western part of the island and visit Madaket Beach. With rougher waters and much more swell, Madaket Beach is great for people looking to swim and be surrounded by a wild beach.
The sand is soft, and the beach is ready to be explored. With few lifeguards and big surf, choose where you set up accordingly, especially if you have children. With no restaurants in proximity, I highly suggest bringing a picnic so you can stay all day and enjoy what Nantucket life is all about.
Sit back and watch children play in a safe and fun designated area at Children’s Beach and Playground. With calm waters, a quaint atmosphere, and a playground on site, this family-friendly beach is the perfect excursion. Walk up and down the beach, collecting shells and looking at boats in the distance.
This is ideal for young children who want to have a paddle and explore a secure beach, while parents relax watching them. This is close to town and perfect for families who want to get outside, enjoy the beautiful weather, and be a local for a day!
Take on a local favorite and head onto the south shore for a classic New England beach. Surfside is a picturesque beach with unspoiled dunes and a big swell, making it a delight for all beach lovers. Play games, jump in the waves, and feel the cool breeze in your hair.
Pack your beach bag and bike over to Surfside to experience a fantastic beach, with wide open space and beautiful views. Try surfing or grab a boogie board, and start a new activity on your visit to this iconic Atlantic beach on Nantucket Island.
Tip: This is one of my favorite beaches to walk because it is completely untouched when you get past the crowds.
Cisco Beach is a beach on the south shore that’s super popular with surfers. With wide white beach and a heavy surf, it’s no wonder this a popular spot in the summer months.
There’s a well-paved bike path that leads to the dirt parking lot that serves Cisco Beach, making it a great beach stop during your bike excursion. This beach is popular for surfing, swimming, and fishing — although it’s not as popular with families due to the strong surf.
There are no restrooms here, but there are seasonal lifeguards on duty.
STROLL THE NANTUCKET ATHENEUM GARDENS
Grab a coffee and go for a lovely stroll through the Atheneum Gardens in Downtown Nantucket. This gorgeous, little hidden garden is the perfect escape from the bustling streets. The Atheneum is the island’s public library, and offers its visitors plenty of choice for education and fun.
Stop off at the library and view the beautiful building from the outside, while discovering an oasis fit for all ages. Find solitude and embrace the salty air in the Atheneum Gardens while taking in lush flora and gorgeous colors.
TASTE THE LOCAL SPIRITS AT CISCO BREWERS
Get down with the locals and experience island living at Cisco Brewers! Listen to live music, have a nice cold drink, and embrace Cisco for its cool and hip vibe. Visit the only brewery on the island for a classic New England beer, or branch out and get something from their Triple Eight Distillery or Nantucket Vineyard.
From cocktails, wine to beer, everyone will leave happy and be coming back for more. Enjoy the open-air beer garden and grab a little something from the food trucks to bring back and enjoy with friends and families. This might be the perfect time to try some local oysters and seafood!
Enjoy Cisco year-round, and feel free to bring dogs and children, as this is a family-friendly destination. Located on Bartlett Farm Road, this is an iconic activity to do on the island!
EXPLORE THE OLD GAOL
Ever wondered what an old jail looks like? Well at the Old Gaol in Nantucket you can! Opened in 1806, this amazing wooden architectural building housed many criminals over the years before its closure in 1933. With iron bolts and rods lining the windows, see life behind bars on Nantucket.
Take a guided tour and learn the enriching history of the Nantucket jail and gripping stories of the inmates. From the inmate’s traditional lobster meals, to touring the longstanding building, this will be an experience like no other.
SAUNTER SCONSET BLUFF WALK
Go for a wander and find peace among the wild things at Saunter Sconset Bluff Walk. Look out on the endless ocean and peek out over the bluff to see tranquil beaches, boasting character and endless beauty.
Look to the other side of the walk and gaze at beautiful homes with stunning gardens and lush flora. Take a break from everyday busy life and stare into beauty of all kinds. This long, yet serene walk is just what you need to end your holiday on a positive note.
Tip: With unstable footing, this might be a bit difficult to walk with young children.
LEARN ABOUT THE PAST AT THE NANTUCKET SHIPWRECK AND LIFESAVING MUSEUM
The Nantucket Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum is an engaging and vivid museum that gives you a glimpse into the heroism, history, and life of men who saved lives off the coast of Nantucket. Throughout the 19th century, many ships passed by Nantucket and through its treacherous waters, causing many tragedies.
The Nantucket Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum preserves the memory of islanders who risked their lives to save others from the shipwrecks. Learn about lightships, see original artifacts, and discover shipwrecks in this brilliant museum.
Tip: Take the free shuttle from town.
STARGAZE AT LOINES OBSERVATORY
Who’s going to wish on a shooting star? Unravel the truth of the night sky with the help of astronomers at Loines Observatory. With two impressive, antique telescopes, it’s time to learn and seek something new!
Loines offers open nights where you can stargaze and tour with astronomers on the Nantucket sky. Find stars, locate planets, and discover galaxy’s outside among nature and the evening sky. This is an unbelievable experience and is great for children to witness firsthand!
ENJOY GREATER LIGHT
Step into an artistic oasis, and learn about the two sisters who called this eclectic house and awe-inspiring garden their home. Gertrude and Hannah were two Quaker sisters who turned an old, dilapidated barn into Greater Light Beauty.
From diverse furniture, stained glass windows to its architectural wonder, this sanctuary’s whimsical atmosphere make it a great activity for all ages. With lush gardens that fit within Nantucket’s brightly colored ecosystem, this is a joy to stroll through and understand the life of the two sisters.
STEP BACK IN TIME AT THE JETHRO COFFIN HOUSE
Step into the past and see the oldest house on Nantucket. The Jethro Coffin House was originally a wedding gift and the biggest house on Nantucket at the time. The house is now a part of the Nantucket Historical Association, and can be toured and seen for all its traditional history.
The original site and classic building adds to the integrity of the property, and its gorgeous kitchen garden is a replica of what was once there. Learn about life and see the progression through time in this remarkable property!
TOUCH A CRAB AT THE NANTUCKET AQUARIUM
On the shoreline of the Nantucket Harbor sits a fun little aquarium, where local species can be seen.
Learn about the marine environment of Nantucket and the different ecosystems that these species call home at the Nantucket Aquarium. Take the children, and spend the afternoon looking into the tanks of little creatures.
Head on over to the touch tank and hold crabs, snails and much more exciting marine life. Looking to see something a little bigger? Go to the outdoor circle tanks to see baby sharks, fish, and my personal favorite — horseshoe crabs. Explore the ocean from the comforts of the Nantucket shoreline!
FIND THE PERFECT SOUVENIR AT THE ARTISTS’ ASSOCIATION OF NANTUCKET
This small but delightful museum and shop is here to foster the arts community of Nantucket and support local artists. Arts and culture are at the core of this island, and the Artists’ Association of Nantucket does its job to encourage and promote through their purposeful platform.
Support locals and purchase a custom curated piece of work to remember your holiday in Nantucket. With a gallery downtown that hosts specialized events, and the arts center hosting workshops and classes, the opportunity to appreciate art is up to you. It’s time to take a piece of Nantucket home with you!
SEE THE SIGHTS WITH SHEARWATER EXCURSIONS
See the island from a different view with Shearwater Excursions! Get out on the Nantucket sound and view the island from the high seas. From start to finish, this truly is a great family-friendly activity, and it’s a great way to see the sunset.
Looking to see perfectly groomed homes and stunning boats in the harbor? Think about going for a Harbor Tour and Ice Cream Cruise. This one-hour trip lets you see great real estate on and offshore, and even provides you with delicious ice cream. Fingers crossed, you’ll see a seal too!
Look at oyster beds, go whale watching, and do much more while taking in breathtaking panoramic views. This once in a lifetime experience is waiting for you and your family to come aboard!
What is Nantucket best known for?
Nantucket is best known for its New England charm. It’s popular for its whaling, seafood, foggy weather, lighthouses, beaches, Main Street, fishing, and special events.
How many days do you need in Nantucket?
If you can swing it, four days is the ideal amount of time to spend in Nantucket. Four days will help you get a real feel for the island and what it’s all about. Of course, once you spend a few days, you’ll probably want to extend your trip!
When is the best time of year to visit Nantucket?
Summertime is the most popular time to visit Nantucket? In the summer, you’ll find warmer temps, plenty of activities, a bustling Main Street, and lots to do.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO MASSACHUSETTS
- YOUR MASSACHUSETTS VACATION
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- CAPE COD: 28 Things To Do In Cape Cod You Just Can’t Miss
- BOSTON: 40 Awesome Things To Do In Boston For A Good Time
WHERE TO STAY IN NANTUCKET
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