Last Updated on: 16th March 2023, 01:55 pm
Are you going on a long-awaited day trip to Nantucket, MA? Or perhaps you’ll get to spend 24 hours on Nantucket – even better!
Here’s how to make the most out of one day in Nantucket. While your time in Nantucket is brief, you can still get the most out of your Nantucket itinerary and get to see (and eat) your way around the island, lovingly called the Little Grey Lady on the Sea.
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Where to Stay in Nantucket
The New England island of Nantucket used to be a global whaling industry hub, but today it is a leading upscale vacation destination.
As such, it offers an abundance of hotels, most of which are located in the historic Downtown, and a few spread throughout the picturesque neighborhoods such as Madaket, Sconset, Tom Nevers, and Monomoy.
As can be expected, most of the hotels and inns on the so-called “billionaire’s island” are very luxurious and adult-only.
Of course, you can find a more affordable and family-friendly option for your stay, especially if you book well ahead of time or choose to go to Nantucket before or after the peak of the summer season.
But, for a much more authentic experience, it is highly recommended that you stay in one of the many superb short-term rental accommodations available in all Nantucket neighborhoods.
You can experience the charm and feeling of residing in one of the historic houses built centuries ago Downtown.
Or rent a grand waterfront mansion with a pool, a quaint shingle-style cottage, a tiny beach house, or whatever residence suits your needs, lifestyle, and budget.
In the majority of cases, renting a house or other lodging is much more affordable than staying at a luxurious hotel on the island. This is especially true if you are traveling with your family, sharing the costs with friends, or planning on staying longer.
If you are lucky, you can find a reasonably priced, nice place to stay for your Nantucket vacation with a pool, with included beach gear, bikes, kayaks, and other goodies to make your stay even more pleasurable.
According to the leading online booking and travel sites, the average hotel price is $379 per couple per night in a hotel. The accommodation price for one is about $189.
During the shoulder seasons and the winter, you can find hotels priced as low as $179 per night or less.
Of course, if you prefer spending your vacation in a top luxury hotel, you should be prepared to pay heftier prices of up to $2790 dollars per night and more.
As for the rentals, the prices vary from as low as less than $100 per night to thousands of dollars, depending on the house, size, the season, and the included amenities.
Plan Your Visit to Nantucket
Here are important tips to prepare for your trip to Nantucket, Massachusetts
How to get to Nantucket?
Since Nantucket is an island located 30 miles south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the only way to get there is by sea or air.
The most popular and affordable way to reach the island is via ferry from the mainland.
You can choose between a traditional or high-speed passenger-only ferry. The ferries travel from port Hyannis, New Bedford, Harwich Port, NYC, or Martha’s Vineyard on a regular schedule.
The average roundtrip ticket for the ferry costs about $40-$90 per adult. The traditional ferry is the slowest but cheapest alternative.
It is also the only way to bring your car with you. But bringing your vehicle to Nantucket is complicated and expensive ($330-$600 and more) and is generally disapproved of by the locals.
But don’t worry, the island is perfect for riding bikes and walking, and you can also take the bus, a cab, or Uber, or rent a car when you get there.
What is the budget for one day in Nantucket?
Known as the playground for the wealthiest and most famous people, Nantucket is definitely not a budget vacation location.
While you don’t need to be a billionaire to spend a day in Nantucket, you should be prepared for some hefty prices, especially if you have reserved a table at one of the high-end fine-dining restaurants or want to go on a shopping spree at the exclusive boutiques and galleries there.
But luckily, there are many much more affordable and casual eateries you can choose from, as well as small and more approachable shops, markets, and other venues.
On average, travelers last year spent about $280 per person for one day on the island.
An average meal in a mid-range restaurant in Nantucket costs about $26 per person, so you can expect to pay about $65 per day for meals.
There are cheaper options such as farm and fish markets and food trucks where you can enjoy eating delicious fresh seafood meals and snacks at very reasonable prices.
The average hotel price is about $189 per night, and the money which the average visitor spends on entertainment, museum tickets, tours, and attractions is about $27 per day.
Keep in mind that the daily budget in Nantucket can vary significantly if you choose to go there off-season in the spring or fall or if you prefer to go during the peak of the summer season in July and August!
The good news for travelers is that thanks to the local conservation foundations, organizations, and authorities, the access and use of all beaches in Nantucket is completely free.
Your One-Day-in-Nantucket Itinerary
The ideal day trip to the island of Nantucket is either in the spring or fall because you will be able to enjoy your stay there without the crowds and get a more authentic feeling of what life on Nantucket is like for the locals.
Plus, getting there and staying on the island is much cheaper during the shoulder months.
Remember that many restaurants and stores close for the winter and are open from mid-May to early October.
If you arrive by ferry, you can immediately head off for a walk Downtown. Enjoy a leisurely stroll and take some stunning pictures of the historic mansions and buildings on the cobblestone-paved Main Street.
The entire island of Nantucket is declared a National Historic Landmark, and it is the county and area with the most restored and preserved pre-civil war buildings in the USA.
One of the top-rated sites to see is nearby and is the famous Whaling Museum.
There you can see a real sperm whale skeleton and thousands of exhibits from the times when the captains and their crews from Nantucket were the leaders in the world’s whaling industry and became the inspiration for movies and novels such as Moby-Dick.
Don’t forget to visit the museum’s rooftop for a mesmerizing bird’s eye view of the Harbor, Downtown, Brant Point Light, the mega yachts, and the Nantucket Sound.
You can pop into one of the charming shops and galleries to buy some handcrafted nautical-inspired souvenirs and gifts.
If you want to dress in the local preppy New England coastal style, you should visit the historic Murray’s Toggery Store and buy a pair of Nantucket Reds pants too.
Whatever you do, don’t miss out on eating some of the best-known local lobster rolls, clams, scallops, fresh oysters, or other freshly caught seafood delicacies.
If you prefer to get an even better view of the island, you can go on one of the many sailing tours offered at the Nantucket Harbor.
Depending on your plans, you can rent a bike for a day to get to other iconic destinations. After all, the island is only about 14 miles long and 3 to 5 miles wide, so you can easily reach just about any point by bike or on foot.
Once you are done with the stroll, you can head off to one of the many beautiful beaches to enjoy some lounging, swimming, or a picnic. You can choose from over 25 beaches, some closer to town and others more remote and tranquil.
Is one day in Nantucket enough?
While a day in Nantucket can be an unforgettable experience, if you have the time and means, staying for the night at one of the local hotels or short-term rental Nantucket accommodations is highly recommended.
This will give you the time to enjoy the sunset and a late dinner on the island, and then leave time for more adventures and sightseeing on the next day too.
Is a one-day trip to Nantucket worth it?
Visiting Nantucket, even for a day, is absolutely worth it! The island has some unique historic houses and buildings and the most beautiful and protected natural resources, including 80 miles of beaches and many wildlife refuges and sanctuaries.
Spending two days in Nantucket
Suppose you decide to spend a weekend or any other two days on the island of Nantucket. In that case, you can continue exploring the historical views, hit the beaches, relax and mingle with the locals at Cisco Brewers, or enjoy the sights, vibes, and sounds of the island.
Here are some ideas for the popular day trips to consider for your second day in Nantucket.
Explore the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge
This protected natural refuge is situated on the two peninsulas on the north coast of Nantucket and is home to a gorgeous barrier beach, the historic Great Point Light, and some exceptional coastal forests, plants, shorebirds, and animals, and of course, unbeatable Atlantic Ocean views.
Getting to the refuge is an adventure because a soft sand road or trail is the only way to reach it. You can drive there if you have a suitable vehicle and a beach driving permit, or you can hike or ride a bike to get to Coskata-Coatue.
Spend the day in Siasconset
This village in eastern Nantucket is one of the most recognizable places on the island. Chances are you have seen photos of the gorgeous gray cedar shake cottages, which are covered by pink or red roses right up to the roofs.
The best way to see those famous historic cottages and their manicured blooming gardens is by walking the 10-mile Sconset Bluff Walk. It will take you by the most Insta-worthy private houses and lead you to the bluffs, Siasconset Beach, and the red and white striped Sankaty Head Lighthouse.
Go on a sailing tour
One of the best ways to explore the beauty of the island and the ocean is to take a sailing tour. There are various tours, excursions, and cruises you can take from the Harbor. Some of them are short harbor tours and offer fun quirks such as ice cream treats, fresh oysters or cocktails, and more.
There are longer excursions and cruises you can join if you feel like sailing through the open ocean, enjoying some sports fishing, or going on a whale spotting adventure.
Enjoy surfing and watersports
The island of Nantucket is one of the best places to learn how to surf because the summer conditions there are perfect for newbies as well as for experienced surfers.
There are two excellent surf schools located on the southern beaches of Nobadeer and Cisco Beach, where you can sign up for some private or group lessons or rent wetsuits and gear and enjoy some surfing or other watersports without an instructor.
Some of the other watersports you can participate in during your vacation in Nantucket include stand-up paddle boarding, boogie boarding, wakeboarding, kiteboarding, kayaking, or on and off-shore fishing.
The 4 essentials to pack for your trip to Nantucket
Here is what you should bring to Nantucket, even if you are going there only for a day:
This is especially important if you go to Nantucket during the hottest and sunniest months – July and August.
Bring some sunblock, sunglasses, a sun hat, and light clothes made of cooling materials so that you are comfortable and safe even if you spend the entire day in the sun.
Clothes for unexpected rain and weather changes
The island is known as the Little Grey lady of the Sea because of the heavy fog, which often covers it suddenly and without warning.
The weather on the island can change significantly, and the temperatures can drop, especially after the sun sets. Plus, some moderate rain is not unusual there, even in the summer.
So, bring a raincoat, a warmer fleece or cashmere sweater, a travel umbrella, or suitable shoes for your ferry ride and for your day in Nantucket.
Although many of the most famous influencers and celebrities choose Nantucket as a vacation or party spot, and you feel like you should be dressed to the occasion, leaving those stilettos behind is recommended.
Bring some fashionable but comfortable flats or walking shoes instead. The reasons are the cobblestone streets and that most people choose to get around by cycling or walking.
Every single step you make on the island of Nantucket is Insta-worthy, so make sure to bring that camera with you or make space in your cloud or memory card for many incredible photos.
Whether you are a history buff, a nature lover, a beach or watersports appreciator, a foodie, or a romantic, there are thousands of spots and sites perfect for taking the best vacation photos in Nantucket.