What to Do on Nantucket

Nantucket is known as an exclusive vacation destination, and it’s easy to just sink into a beach chair and relax. But there are plenty of other activities to keep both adults and children busy, from biking and hiking to exploring lighthouses and wandering through the charming town.

Nantucket, MA 02554, USA
Nearly half of Nantucket is open space and conservation land. Much of the island remains undiscovered unless you brave the isolated beaches and go off-roading. If deflating your tires and conquering sand trails sounds intimidating, instead explore the 16 miles of trails in the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge with a Conservation Foundation tour. Admire the dunes, coastal forests, and tidal ponds in one of the most isolated parts of the island. At the very tip of the elbow, you’ll be rewarded with Great Point Lighthouse (a.k.a. Nantucket Lighthouse) and views of seals frolicking in the waves. Families with picnics and fishermen looking for bluefish will line part of the beach, but this remote area feels private and removed from the hustle of the summer season elsewhere on the island.
10 Broad St, Nantucket, MA 02554, USA
There are over 35 miles of bike paths that connect all areas of Nantucket, and cycling is a fantastic way to explore and get up close to the island’s natural beauty. A loop from Nantucket town to ‘Sconset is an 18-mile round-trip. The routes are color coded with stickers and easy to follow, though still make sure to pick up a map. In addition to the paved routes, exploring off-road on Nantucket Conservation Foundation land can be especially rewarding (just make sure you have thick enough tires). The Wave bus service is equipped with bike racks, so it’s easy to access any of the paths you want to ride. All of the ferry arrival areas have bicycle rental spots close by and you can even get bikes delivered to your front door.
Easton St, Nantucket, MA 02554, USA
Brant Point Lighthouse is the second-oldest in the United States and is included in the National Register of Historic Places. Still in operation, the 26-foot tower sits close to the water’s edge on a spit of land forming the entrance to Nantucket’s boat harbor. About a 15-minute walk from the center of town, this busy spot is a fun place to watch the ferries and yachts come and go. While the lighthouse itself is closed to the public, the grounds are open and are popular for fishing on the point. Dip your toes into the water and have a picnic. The elevated wooden walkway leading to the lighthouse is a favorite photography spot for visitors and wedding parties. If it’s a race weekend, find out the departure times and grab a seat to watch the elegant boats sail through to their starting point. Nearby Brant Point Grill in the White Elephant Hotel is the place to get a lobster roll and bloody Mary before heading back to town. (Nantucket has two other, equally Instagram-worthy, lighthouses: Great Point marks the end of the elbowed tip and requires an off-road vehicle or a boat to get there; Sankaty, built in 1850 and relocated in 2007 to prevent it falling off the eroding cliff, warned sailors and fisherman of the treacherous shoals off the coast.)
12 W Miacomet Rd, Nantucket, MA 02554, USA
While there are several private golf clubs where you have to play “who-do-you-know” to get on the course, the award-winning Miacomet Golf Club is open to the public. Operating throughout the year, this challenging 18-hole course offers first come, first served tee times four days in advance, which book quickly in-season. There is also a popular club house serving good food and drink.
118 Cliff Rd, Nantucket, MA 02554, USA
Although Nantucket might be better known for its bike paths, there are several great hiking/running trails in the Sanford Farm & Ram Pasture conservation area. Used for grazing sheep and cows in the 17th and 18th centuries, this spot now offers spectacular vistas for bikers, runners, and dog walkers. The six-mile Ocean Walk trail begins in the mid-island grassy area. Along the way, there is a small forest and magnificent views of Hummock Pond and the ocean. Overhead, nesting ospreys take flight and catch the breeze above the 780 acres of forest and grassland. The end of the path brings you to the south side of Nantucket and onto a beach where you’ll see the waves of Cisco (to the left) and Madaket (to the right) glisten in the distance. Plan to take a dip and refresh before heading back to the trailhead.
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