Whether arriving by sea or sky to the tiny land mass of Nantucket, a first glimpse of the island’s sweeping beaches is enough to signal that you’re approaching something special. Though its cedar-shingled, weather-beaten cottages and quaint allure may recall Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket (an island, county and town all in one) reveals a charming character that’s steeped in tradition and all its own. Declared a historic district in 1966, Nantucket hearkens back to a quieter era; stoplights, neon signs and chain stores are noticeably absent among its cobblestone streets.
In summer months, the population swells from 10,000 to 55,000 as sea- and scene-loving tourists who vacation on the island descend for the season. For all its beauty in the glittering sun, Nantucket is just as exquisite in the winter months, particularly during the island’s Nantucket Noel festival that takes place from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Hundreds of Christmas trees line the streets while residents bedeck homes and businesses—and even the iconic Brant Point Lighthouse—with holiday decor.
But no matter which season you visit, Nantucket’s palpable magic is only enhanced by a stay at one of its many luxe lodging options. In the very center of town, the stately Jared Coffin House—the first mansion ever built on the island, dating to 1845—offers graceful accommodations and easy access to the diverse shopping and dining scene. In a prime spot along Nantucket Harbor, just steps from downtown, sits the White Elephant. This landmark has evolved from seaside cottages to a sophisticated hotel with an impressive repertoire of rooms, suites, garden cottages and an in-town loft. It’s also home to the island’s premier steak-and-seafood restaurant, Brant Point Grill. The White Elephant Village, a stone’s throw from its sister hotel, boasts spacious residence suites and earns bonus points as one of the few hotels on Nantucket that’s equipped with a heated outdoor pool, complete with private cabanas and an ice-cream cart.
If embarking on a sailboat or yacht isn’t in your cards, opt for a shingled cottage perched right above the harbor wharves with water swishing below. The Cottages & Lofts at the Boat Basin offer pet-friendly accommodations in a setting reminiscent of a seaside fishing village. But if you’re looking for complete quietude, look no further than island stalwart The Wauwinet. Ideally located on the northeast corner of Nantucket, the historic hotel’s unparalleled vistas are best enjoyed on one if its signature wicker lawn chaises with a glass of bubbly in hand. If you manage to pull yourself away from the stunning landscape views, be sure to take advantage of the hotel’s lobster excursions, surfcasting lessons and scenic off-road drives. nantucketislandresorts.com
-Take a step back in time at the Nantucket Whaling Museum that pays homage to the island’s once-prominent whaling industry, immortalized in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.
-Enjoy a scenic patio lunch at The Wauwinet’s Topper’s restaurant; a Nantucket mule and legendary lobster roll are not to be missed.
-Explore the island’s rugged moors and remote beaches via bicycle. Map out your journey online at wheelsheelsandpedals.com, which provides info on more than 29 miles of idyllic cycling paths.