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Nantucket, Massachusetts


 By Malina Brown

When Herman Melville immortalized the island of Nantucket in “Moby Dick,” the island was the grubby home to whalers and ship captains. Over a century later, the saltiest of the sea farers have long-since moved on, but the gray shingled fishermen cottages remain, their roofs covered in roses and front yards bursting with pale blue hydrangeas, making Nantucket a bastion of old world New England charm.

True, weekenders do swarm the cobble-stoned streets during summer months; and true, SUVs, not buggies, now line the town’s old horse hitching posts. But first-time visitors to Nantucket will actually be surprised at extent of the island’s underexposure. On Nantucket, a time-tested dedication to architectural uniformity, and an equally fervent eschewal of anything commercial, combine to distinguish the island from neighboring overdeveloped vacation spots on the eastern seaboard.

Visitors have their pick of quaint island traditions like Daffodil Weekend, Christmas Stroll, and a very serious annual sandcastle-building contest. East Hampton, this ain’t.

Island living has its advantages, namely its choice of beaches. Nantucket has beaches with rough waves for surfers, calmer currents for children, beaches where fishermen happily swing their poles, nude beaches, near empty beaches, and most importantly, no private beaches.

Bike paths encircle the 11 mile-long island, allowing cyclists, runners, and skaters to tour without fear. Tennis players will find plenty of courts and appreciate the well tanned, well-toned island regulars parading around in their tennis whites. The island’s four golf courses are celebrated for their rolling seaside landscapes, reminiscent of the links of Scotland.

hoppers may burst with excitement once they realize the picture-perfect shingled buildings on Main Street actually house one shop after another, filled with crafts, clothes, jewelry and home furnishings, as well as the requisite tourist t-shirts and souvenirs.

Nantucket's restaurants can satisfy even the most fanatical foodies, with a variety of noted culinary jewels. Those on a tighter budget can still eat well at the fried-seafood hubs that dot the island or at a strip of pizza and hamburger joints on Easy Street, which are the meeting place of choice for those under the age of 20. And it's practically criminal to leave without sampling the Juice Bar, an ice cream institution with the best hand-rolled cones known to man. As for nighttime pleasure hunting, several of the island’s music venues attract rollicking live acts, and dozens of bars keep the halter-top and Dockers crowd happy 'till closing time -- 2 am.

Sheer camp effect alone makes Nantucket movie-viewing a hoot. The Dreamland theater has seemingly reverse-stadium-seating, and the teenagers who run the Sconset casino movie nights rarely make it through a showing without a major fowl-up.

Whether you’re taking a quick peek at the canvas of a local artist on the beach, winding up the island’s historic lighthouses or stargazing at the remarkably haze-free sky, Nantucket remains a getaway of infectious charm.

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