ICE CREAM BEACHES BIKE RIDING FUDGE WHALING MUSEUM CAPTAIN HOUSES CHARMING STREETS FERRY BOATS THE OLD MILL MORE FUDGE DONUTS JETTIE’S BEACH SANKATY LIGHTHOUSE STRAIGHT WHARF LOBSTER ROLLS – FRISBEE AMERICANA SAILING PARKS
Soon after Yao Yao stepped off the ferry onto the wharf in Nantucket – within the first few minutes, in fact – her eyes lit up and she exclaimed, “I really like this place!” The reason was pretty clear, if you know anything about Yao Yao.
It was a stunning summer day and the harbor was filled with activity, typical coastal summer goings-on – kids (with parents in tow) shopping, eating, heading for the beach. We’d finally arrived, after a long day’s drive and ferry ride.
We had been to Nantucket before we had Yao Yao, and we had a great time, filled with activities we knew would translate easily with a kid. Jim and I ate seafood by to boatload, road bikes around the island (this was before an accident had made bike-riding difficult – until I finally rode again on Ile de Ré last year), visited Sankaty Lighthouse, lazed on the beach, and toured some of the old whaling captains’ houses. It’s atmospheric, yet tons of fun at the same time. We knew this was a place we would one day bring Yao Yao.
This trip to Nantucket was another of our last-minute jaunts. Yao Yao had been lobbying for places that were completely out of the question for seat-of-the-pants travel in the middle of summer vacation, and which we nixed out of hand: Washington, DC (too hot and crowded) and the Grand Canyon (too far and crowded), and Harbour Island in the Bahamas (too hot in summer, period). We wanted to take her someplace very traditional and quintessentially American, and thought, “Nantucket!” Of course, finding accommodations on Nantucket in midsummer can be challenging, too, but we luckily happened upon a cancellation, got ferry tickets ahead of time, and that was that. Yao Yao loves the Hamptons (which she considers to be an island, because it’s on Long Island), and Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island, so we figured Nantucket would also be a hit. Boy, was it.
We did the Walk of Shame from the ferry, rolling our suitcases down the wharf past couples sunning themselves in cafes and locals wending their way into and out of the chic shops that line the main drag. (“Shame,” because everyone knows you’re a tourist and not a summer resident.) We couldn’t wait to roll down the cobblestone streets to our hotel and get the fun started.
There’s something familiar about Nantucket, as it embodies the ideal of summer in New England. Windswept dunes, weathered homes, charming stores, and elegant seafood fare (as well as funky eateries). You can imagine the island as it was two centuries ago and you can assume not much will change in this one. (They have killer zoning laws – and that’s a good thing.)
Ah but for Yao Yao, it wasn’t the windswept beaches or chowder shacks that made Nantucket her #1 island.
It was the fudge – yep, the fudge. As we were wheeling down the wharf, our first official act was to stop for a sample at a local confectionery. She was in her element. (The element being chocolate, so’s you know.)
Well, she also loved the Nantucket Whaling Museum, newly refurbished and much more “connected” and interactive than the previous incarnation, but with many of the same artifacts that Jim loved from the last trip. And the seafood, especially the peel-and-eat shrimp and whole-belly fried clams you can find all over the island. And the outdoor living and easy navigation – she seemed to skip down the streets in Nantucket like she hadn’t a care in the world, with no other language to learn and virtually no security concerns, no malaria medicine to take nor cultural sensitivities to figure out. She could read every sign and understand every menu, and she was not an object of fascination. She was just another nine-year-old kid spending on summer vacation with mom and dad.
When asked about what made Nantucket so special and here is what Yao Yao’s said:
What to do
Whaling Museum – This museum boasts a 46 foot skeleton of a sperm whale, along with well-curated exhibits and an incredible history. Every kid will love this.
NHA Whaling Museum
Sankaty Lighthouse – It’s a great bike ride to the lighthouse and has a little bench for taking in the view.
The Old Mill – This is a great sight for kids. It’s touted as “America’s oldest working Windmill”
NHA Old Mill
Jetties Beach – Great family beach and some say the best on the island.
A great way to see the island of Nantucket is by bicycle. You can head off on your own or take a tour.
Nantucket Bike Tours
Where to Stay
There are lovely houses to rent, little inns and chic hotels. Saying there’s “something for every budget” might be stretching it a bit, but not everyplace will break the bank.
Wauwinet This is an authentic Nantucket style hotel – known for it’s quiet luxury and impeccable service.
The Brass Lantern This is a charming, well located B&B, that is pet friendly and won’t break the bank.
The Brass Lantern
Where to Eat
Black-Eyed Susan’s – A favorite with locals and visitors, so typically there’s a line out the door for breakfast. It’s worth the wait!
Downyflake Donuts – Pancakes and Donuts are classics here- really good comfort food.
Straight Wharf Fish Store – Great take out chowder, lobster rolls, swordfish sandwiches and much, much more. It’s actually a fish store and everything we tried was great.
The Jetties Beach Bar and Restaurant – Good raw bar on the beach
The Pearl – Excellent modern seafood without being precious-reservations are essential.
Cru – Wonderful mix of fare from pulled pork to tuna crudo.
Cru on Nantucket
American Seasons – Innovative, modern cusine.
80 Center Street, 508/228-7111
Sweet Inspirations of Nantucket – known for chocolate covered cranberries but Yao Yao would point you to the chocolate peanut butter cups and fudge!
Juice Bar: Don’t let the name fool you. It has fantastic homeade ice cream.
12 Broad Street, 508-228-5799;
Nantucket Pharmacy: More great ice cream and sodas
45 Main Street, 508-228-0180
Petticoat Row Bakery – Great cupcakes and pastries. Another Yao Yao favorite!
Petticoat Row Bakery