by Donna Cain
Guests frequently ask us which is the best island to see during their stay- Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket? While we love both islands we usually recommend Nantucket for guests that are staying 3-4 days on Cape Cod. The island is smaller, a little less commercial and you don’t have to plan your transportation when you reach Nantucket as the ferry drops you off right near the cobblestone village. You can rent a bike or moped and easily traverse the whole island or you may just decide to stay in the village and shop and dine in the many wonderful eateries and stores.
During the summer months there is a smaller ferry close by to the inn, The Freedom Cruise Line which is only a 15 minute drive, has free parking and about an hour ride over the Nantucket (30 miles out to sea).
We love to bring our own bikes, wear our suits under our clothes and pack a picnic lunch. The bike path on the island goes by several beautiful beaches. After a nice ride we go back into town have a nice dinner and hop on the ferry home.
In 1966 Nantucket was declared a national historic landmark as it has more than 800 building constructed before 1850.
Since it was center to a very successful whaling industry in the mid 1800’s the island has a wonderful whaling museum. It’s a must see during your trip to the island. The building was originally a candle factory and appropriately tells the story of candle making and whaling history. The whale skelton shown below can be see in the Gosnell Hall which also has a fully rigged whaling boat to help you envision what it was like in the 1800’s.
Photo by Krystyna-Hannum
Some of our favorite must sees are included below:
photo by James-Nohrnberg
1. First Congregational Church- The church is open for tours May-October. This church is known for it’s 120 foot steeple from which there are 350 degree panoramic views of the island and ocean. The climb to the top is 94 steps and on a clear day worth every step. The church was built with whaling money in 1834.
photo by Aimee-Jones
2. Brant Point Light House- This light house was built in 1746 and is the first one used on the island to guard the northern entrance. Originally is was very primitive using lanterns hung on ropes between two poles. The lighthouse is small in size but large in symbolism as local folklore says that if you throw two pennies overboard as you pass near the lighthouse ensures that you will have a safe return.
3. Fire Hose Cart House- This small 1886 neighborhood fire station is the only one of it’s kind remaining on the island. Many of it’s kind were built after the destructive Great Fire of 1846 which began in a hat factory and destroyed 1/3 of the town.
photo by Cyndi-Ganley
4. Old Mill- This windmill was thought to be made of salvage wood was built in 1746. The Dutch style windmill has canvas sails and a granite stone that still grinds corn in the summer. A reminder of when the island’s principal activity was farming.
5. Great Light House- This lighthouse is a 70-foot stone structure which guarded the northeast tip of Nantucket for 166 years, until a ferocious storm destroyed the structure in 1984. This new one was built to withstand 20 foot waves and 240 mile winds.
6. Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum- This building replicates the original 1874 Surfside Lifesaving Service station that survives today as the Nantucket Hostel. Instead of being at the water’s edge, it’s now perfectly situated on the side of a marsh. The museum is dedicated to humanity efforts against the treacherous seas which lead to over 700 shipwrecks surrounding the island .
7. Surfside Bike Path- This is a flat 2.5 bike path to the beach.
8. Polpis Road Path- This is a 16.5 mile ride and is especially beautiful in the spring when the daffodils are in bloom.
9. Sconset- This is a charming village on the eastern shore of Nantucket. The village is renowned for it’s rose covered houses, all close together.
10. Lightship Basket Mueseum-
These lovely baskets were created on ships when crew members had extra time while on long sea voyages. They were made to withstand the test of time. This little museum has recreated a workshop with simple tools that help guests see how these baskets were originally made.
photo by Leslie-Busino
11. Nantucket Noel- This old fashion festival begins the day after Thanksgiving with a tree lighting ceremony. After the lighting enjoy special concerts and holiday cheer.
12. Christmas Stroll- This tradition began in 1973 and taking place on the first Saturday of December. The stroll includes vintage costume carolers, and a festive decorated downtown.
Nantucket use to be called “that far away island” by native Indians. Nowadays we like to think of Nantucket as a close by neighbor that is a wonderful day trip for our guests staying at Brewster by the Sea on Cape Cod.