Seven things you need to know about Nantucket before visiting

Nantucket is a tiny island, 30 miles off Cape Cod, and is a top vacation destination and a unique spot to add to your travel bucket list.

The “Little Grey Lady of the Sea” is only 14 miles long and barely 3 to 5 miles wide, and it is a town, a county, and an island – all in one.

This New England coastal town is known for its perfectly preserved pre-Civil War historic infrastructure and buildings, its 82 miles of endless beaches, the lighthouses and the rose-covered gray shingle-style cottages, and its rich whaling history.

But if you want to be better prepared for your upcoming trip, here are seven tips that may help you understand and enjoy Nantucket even more.

1) The type of accommodation to go for

The island’s authorities and conservation organizations have imposed stringent preservation and development policies. As a result, over 50% of it is all-natural, protected, and without any buildings.

This makes finding a property to buy there very difficult. And even when there are some listed, the prices are outrageous. Just this summer, an estate was sold for $33 million. Currently, a record-high sum of over $2.09 million is being asked for a tiny one-bed and one-bath Nantucket cottage of 360 sq.

But luckily, you can enjoy staying in one of these beautiful houses, mansions, and others even without paying millions. In fact, there is a wide variety of short-rental options which you can pick from.

From tiny beach cottages to majestic waterfront mansions, there is a rental residence for every taste and need there.

Of course, there are high-end hotels as well. But if you want to get a real feel of what it is like to live in a vacation home on this idyllic island, then finding a suitable rental dwelling is better.

2) The best time to visit

Summer is the high season in Nantucket when the population quintuples from the usual 10,000 to 50,000 or more.

So, during the peak months of August and September, the small island, its beaches, restaurants, boutiques, and other venues can be pretty crowded and busy.

If you want to avoid all of this hustle and bustle and to have better chances of finding a free table in the eateries of your choice, as well as enjoying your vacation sans the noise and crowds, we recommend you plan your trip for the fall.

During the first half of October, most of the vacationers have already gone home. But the weather is still lovely, and the stores and restaurants are still open.

The fall is the perfect time to enjoy the local traditional family scalloping, sailing, surfing, sightseeing, riding bikes, and participating in the annual Cranberry Festival and the Nantucket Bay Scalloping Season.

3) Why you might meet a celebrity 

Nantucket is a second home location and a preferred vacation and party spot for many celebrities, politicians, athletes, business tycoons, influencers, and other rich and famous people.

In the past, the island was home to Fred Rogers, Meghan Trainor, and others.

Since 1975, President Biden and the First Lady have been celebrating Thanksgiving in Nantucket, this year included. 

Other famous frequent guests include Bill Gates, Tommy Hilfiger, John Kerry, Bill Belichick, Woody Allen, Ben Stiller, Drew Barrymore, James Franco, Amy Poehler, Kourtney Kardashian, and more.

Some famous locals created some of the best-known US brands, including Folgers Coffee, Coleman’s grills, Macy’s Department Stores, and others.

So, do not be surprised if you bump into some famous faces in Nantucket.

4) Don’t expect it to be a budget destination

The island has been referred to as “billionaire’s isle” for a reason. Not only are the properties there costly, but life and vacationing in Nantucket can also be quite expensive.

So, although it is not necessary to be a millionaire to spend a vacation there, you should be prepared that it is definitely not a budget destination.

The average amount that vacationers paid per day this year was about $182 per person.

But there are some ways to cut the costs during your visit there.

If you go during the shoulder months, or the fall or spring, you will be able to find more affordable rental accommodations, plane or ferry tickets, and better deals in restaurants and stores.

Also, you can prepare breakfast, snacks, and meals in your rental house. Or choose more casual and affordable eateries in Nantucket rather than eating in the high-end fine-dining establishments which are so popular there.

5) Take notice of the tight-knit local community. 

One thing that makes this New England island so unique and loved is its friendly and tight-knit community.

The permanent residents of this small island are so few that most of them know each other. The locals are dedicated to preserving their history, nature, traditions, and the unique nautical vibes of Nantucket. At the same time, they know that tourism is essential for the economy of the island.

So, make sure to stop and chat with the locals and wave back if a driver stops and lets you cross the road.

6) Explore the Nantucket Harbor

Located on the coast of the Nantucket Sound on the island’s north shore, the harbor is in the heart of the historic downtown. It is a place where you can stroll through the Boat Basin and the marinas and see some stunning mega yachts, as well as sailboats.

There are some incredible waterfront lofts with decks on their docks which you can rent for your stay in Nantucket.

Plus, the area is home to some of the most exclusive restaurants, boutiques, and museums.

You can admire the gorgeous panoramic view of the entire harbor and the area from the viewing deck on the roof of the famous Whaling Museum.

7) Why it has “The Little Grey Lady of the Sea” nickname

Nantucket has some unpredictable weather, including unexpected deep fog. This has caused more than 750 shipwrecks around its shores through the centuries.

So, even though some people think that the iconic weathered gray shakes and shingle sidings on all cottages on the island are the reason for this nickname, the real reason is the deep and sudden fog that can fall at any time.

This is why you should pack a raincoat and umbrella before heading to Nantucket.