Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
Twenty-six miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts lays the tiny island of Nantucket. Just 3.5 miles by 14 miles in size, the crescent-shaped island offers over 100 miles of pristine sandy beaches. The name Nantucket is said to be derived from the Algonquin Indian name for “Far Away Land” as this island is on the outskirts of Narragansett Bay, which the next stop being England.
Originally a booming whaling port, Nantucket Town has been named a National Historic District and with little changed architecturally changed since the 19th century, as seaside cottages, large Sea Captain homes, and old-fashioned lamps still line its streets. Whaling was a major industry on this island and financially left an enormous stamp, as both Sea Captains and sailors flocked to this island for the highly dangerous but financially lucrative, (for the lucky), hunt for whales. At the end of the 19th century an increase in size of the whaling ships marked the end of Nantucket as a whaling and financial center, as the larger ships could no longer access the harbor. The industry soon moved to the bigger harbor of nearby New Bedford. With the loss of the whaling business, Nantucket slumped into sleepy island life; building stopped, and the island was left, locked in time, reflective of the heyday of the 19th century.
In the harbor, where the great whaling ships once set out on their hazardous journeys to return years later – if at all – pleasure boats now fill the waters, and one of the finest docking facilities in the world.
All There is To See and Enjoy in Nantucket, Massachusetts
Nantucket Town: This is the original whaling town with little changed. Wander the historic cobble stoned streets of downtown, peeking into secret gardens and down the alleyways of yesteryear, where chic shops and boutiques hob nob side by side with excellent restaurants, and cafes. In the 1880’s, even though a tiny island, a railroad was built, in answer to the newly developing tourist industry. While short lived, vestiges of the railway live on in the one lone railway car abandoned near the main harbor that 40 years ago was converted into an island landmark, bar, and eatery, The Club Car. The streets of town are lined with the homes of the whaling wealthy from the 19th century. Look up along the roofs for the iconic widow’s walks, a high perch from which to search for the return of whaling ships into the harbor. The town ringing the harbor is still laid out as it was when whaling ruled this island, with the same cobblestone streets and brick sidewalks, trod on by centuries of sailors.
The Whaling Museum: is downtown and well worth visiting, with excellent displays including the everyday life of a whaling man. Take time to visit this museum with many interactive displays.
Beaches: Enjoy the wide sandy beaches, as beautiful as any in the world. Swim in the still, sparkling waters of Nantucket Sound to the north, or brave the mighty Atlantic along the island’s south shore. Let the pounding surf, and clean, salty air restore you.
Inland: on this idyllic “elbow of sand,” the wild moors open to the endless sky, as nearly 40 percent of Nantucket is protected conservation land. Several areas and habitats have natural groups of plants and animals that are now rare to this region and even the world. Go biking or hiking and enjoy this naturally beautiful and protected land where the springtime blossom of daffodils and forsythia give way to summer’s lush flowerings of roses and hydrangeas.
Take in the boutique shops, and explore the art galleries and museums. Celebrate the island’s cultural offerings including theatrical performances, music, art, film, and literature. Sign up for a guided tour of the island or pick up a picnic lunch, rent a bike, and set off to discover Nantucket for yourself.