Best Time to Visit Nantucket MA | By Season & Crowds

Best time to visit Nantucket MA can be anytime of the year, however, if you are planning to visit Nantucket and want to make the most of it, the Nantucket weather and crowds can make or break or trip.

Nantucket coast beautiful water lighthouse and golf course views during late summer early fall autumn - Best Time To Visit Nantucket MA

Nantucket coast beautiful water lighthouse and golf course views during late summer early fall autumn

But first, where is Nantucket and what is Nantucket famous for?!

Just 30 miles off the Cape Cod coast lies the small island of Nantucket. Developed in the 1700s the island was once a very successful whaling station. Nantucket is blessed with lovely seascapes, a laidback holiday atmosphere, and 600 houses that pre-date the Civil War. That’s the highest concentration of such old homes anywhere in the US. In fact, the entire island is a designated historic district and has been since 1966.

Nantucket hosts tens of thousands of tourists during the holiday season, so residents know how to entertain. There are plenty of boutiques and fine dining restaurants along with pubs, cafes, and a brewery.

Best Time to Visit Nantucket

Where is Nantucket - An aerial view of Cisco Beach, Nantucket Massachusetts

An aerial view of Cisco Beach, Nantucket Massachusetts

Nantucket is a favorite summer holiday destination. Over the summer season numbers on the island swell from 11,000 to more than 60,000 occupants. June, July, and August are the busiest months, ensuring packed beaches, full restaurants, and inflated prices. Both accommodation and transport will cost you more over the peak season.

It is cheaper to visit Nantucket on either side of the summer rush. If you plan your holiday to Nantucket Island, Nantucket Massachusetts in late spring or early fall you will benefit from lower prices. Yet, the weather is still reasonably warm. Even so, make sure to pack some warm clothing. Nantucket can get rather cold at night even in the summer months.

Apart from the lower prices and easier access to the restaurants and beaches, there are two very good reasons to visit Nantucket in October. The Cranberry Festival and the Nantucket Restaurant Week both take place in early October. Let’s get to know a bit about these festivals:

Nantucket Restaurant Week

This is a tradition in Nantucket that runs in the first week of June and October. It’s a celebration of good food, wine, and hospitality. During Nantucket Restaurant Week, some of the best restaurants (nearly 30 of them) put together 5-course menus which you can enjoy for between $25 and $50.

Cranberry Festival

 

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Every year in early October the Cranberry Festival takes place on Nantucket. Berries have been grown in the 285-acre bog on the island since 1857. Every year at harvest time the island comes alive with music and fun including hayrides and a show of an antique sorter in operation.

During the season, local businesses also make some tasty treats like tarts and chocolates from the newly harvested berries. Don’t miss out. Make sure to try some out.


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Best Places to Stay in Nantucket

You can choose from a wide range of accommodations during your stay in Nantucket. Accommodation runs the gamut from new hotels and resorts to mansions that date back to the whaling era. Many of the hotels offer stunning waterfront views and most are close to town. Here are a few of them.

The Nantucket Hotel and Resort

Though established in 1891, the Nantucket Hotel and Resort still has all the modern amenities, you’d expect. It’s pricy but you can choose from one to four-bedroomed suites and cottages, some with views of the ocean. The hotel has two swimming pools, an indoor and outdoor terrace, and an on-site restaurant serving three meals a day.

The White Elephant

If you’re accustomed to luxury and don’t mind paying for it, you’ll find what you’re looking for at the White Elephant. This waterfront hotel is just a short walk from downtown. Enjoy five-star dining at the waterfront restaurant or sip cocktails from the balcony overlooking the harbor.


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The Cottages at Nantucket Boat Basin

Reasonably priced, the Cottages at Nantucket Boat Basin are right down on the waterfront. They are ideal for family stays as they have a fully equipped kitchen as well as a lounge and balconies overlooking the waterfront. Located just a block away from Nantucket town, the cottages also offer a bicycle and shuttle service.

76 Main

 

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You don’t get closer to the action than 76 Main. This is the only boutique hotel right on Main Street. This hotel was once the home of a sea captain. It serves complimentary breakfast daily and offers refreshments and snacks at the on-site café. Cocktails are served around fire pits in the comfortable courtyard each evening.

How to Get to Nantucket?

Nantucket island from ferry coming in to island from ocean looking at the beach - Nantucket Massachusetts

Nantucket island from ferry coming in to island from ocean looking at the beach

Since Nantucket is an island, you can only reach it by plane or ferry. The island has its own airport on the south of the island. It is served by several commercial airlines, so you can shop around. There are also charter flight companies that do the route.

Several ferries leave for the island from various destinations. These include Hyannis, New York City, Harwich Port, and New Bedford.


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Getting Around Nantucket

Nantucket MA Many hotels (such the White Elephant Inn) lend bikes to their guests, enabling them to discover the island at their own pace.

Many hotels (such the White Elephant Inn) lend bikes to their guests, enabling them to discover the island at their own pace.

Nantucket is not a very big island, so you don’t need a car to get around. A bicycle will get you from one side of the island to the next and it’s possibly the best form of transport. You can rent one on the island. Alternatively, you can bring your bike across on the ferry for $7.

Nantucket has miles of bicycle paths, so it’s easy to understand why so many tourists choose this mode of transport. Alternatively, you can use the public transport buses that run around the island. They run to 9 pm during the week and 7 pm on weekends.

If you’d prefer to use a car, you can bring your own across on a car ferry. It takes about two and a half hours to make the trip and it’s an expensive option. So, it’s probably better to leave your car and hire one on the island.

Things To Do in Nantucket

Tourists visit Nantucket to enjoy the laidback island atmosphere. This is a wonderful place to relax and spend time on the beaches.

The town of Nantucket is picturesque and reminiscent of earlier, gentler times. Just walking along the cobbled streets is a revelation as the buildings, though very old, have been maintained and renovated to reflect the prosperity of the town during the years when it led the world’s whaling industry.

Visit the Whaling Museum

 

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Nantucket was once one of the most prosperous whaling stations on earth. People made a fortune from the industry until the last whaling ship sailed out in 1869.

The whaling museum memorializes the industry. It’s housed in an 1847 building that once served as a whale candle fat factory. Exhibitions include tools of the trade and the enormous skeletal remains of a whale that dangles from the ceiling. Take the time to check the harbor from the roof of the building. The views are spectacular.


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Go Shopping

The Town of Nantucket is home to an eclectic range of shops including high end galleries, clothes shops, souvenir stores, a bookshop and a liquor store.

The Town of Nantucket is home to an eclectic range of shops including high end galleries, clothes shops, souvenir stores, a bookshop and a liquor store.

National chains may not operate in Nantucket. This makes shopping a special experience. Here boutiques and antique shops joggle for space with ice cream parlors and cafes. There are also art galleries and museums in downtown Nantucket.

Stroll Along the Bluff Walk

Sankaty Lighthouse on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts - Things to do in Nantucket

Sankaty Lighthouse on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts

Made from seashells the bluff walk wanders around the village and amongst the charming homes. Shingled rooves and flowered gardens make for a walk into bygone times. The path will lead you to the Sankaty Lighthouse, also a well worth attraction. Consider stopping off at Sconset Beach along the way. It’s known for its great surfing.

Maria Mitchell Association

The Maria Mitchell Association is the science center of Nantucket. It houses two observatories and an aquarium. The kids will love the aquarium. It contains collections of many of the local marine life.

The creatures are rotated and returned to their natural habitat ensuring that there is always something new to see. You’ll find sharks and other large fish in the outdoor tanks. While smaller creatures occupy the indoor tanks

Book a Cruise Around the Harbor

Cruise ship vacation woman watching sunset boat deck on summer travel. Silhouette of tourist relaxing on outdoor balcony of boat ferry.

You have plenty of boats to choose from in Nantucket. These include tugboats, schooners, and larger boats that take tourists out to watch marine mammals at play. Some of the boats will serve cocktails and snacks and you can choose to go out and admire the sunset from the water.

If you’re keen on fishing, hire a charter and fish for marlin, tuna, and other game fish.

Visit the Lighthouses and a Shipwreck Museum

Brant Point Light Lighthouse on the Tip of Sand Bar on Nantucket Island

Brant Point Light Lighthouse on the Tip of Sand Bar on Nantucket Island

There are three lighthouses on Nantucket. Each is quite different and worth a visit.

The beautiful Brant Point Lighthouse has been guiding ferries onto Nantucket Island since it was built in 1746. It’s at the entrance to the harbor on the south side of Nantucket and is one of the most photographed sites on the island.

Sankaty headlight has saved ships from going aground since 1850. Today it is a popular tourist attraction because it offers spectacular views of the surrounding landscapes.

If you’re interested in the shipwreck history of the island, you’ll find stories of wrecks and those that survived them at the Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum. The museum also has a collection of models depicting ships lost at sea.


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Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge

A female Osprey feeding her nestlings.

A female Osprey feeding her nestlings.

Open year-round, the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge offers protection to hundreds of rare sea birds, including osprey. Stroll along 16 miles of walking trails and enjoy the birds and wildlife. This is also the site of another historic lighthouse.

Enter the refuge by boat or on foot free of charge. Vehicles that enter the area by sand will pay $65. A season ticket costs $140.

Explore the Brewery

 

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Pay a visit to the only outdoor commercial brewery in the United States. Cisco’s offers a range of beers from stout to pale ale. There is also a vineyard on the premises, and you can taste a range of wines both red and white. Next door, The Triple Eight Distillery makes vodka, whiskey, rum, and gin.

You can tour Cisco’s Brewery between 1 pm and 4 pm every day until the 10th of October. It will cost you $20 but the fee includes a souvenir glass, two tastes of wine, two beer tastes, and two spirits.

Spend Some Time on the Beach

Jetties Beach, Nantucket

Northern Jetties is a lovely sandy beach with gentle waves. In the summer months, it’s a busy beach with lots of seaside extras like food carts, games, and live music. Even in the off-season, you’ll find lots to do as there are restaurants and cafes along the shore. So, why not sit down and eat, drink, and watch the world pass by?

FAQs

When Does Nantucket Open for the Season?

There is just one hotel the Nantucket Hotel and Resorts that is open year-round on the island. The others will close for at least a part of the winter when temperatures drop, and the weather is pretty miserable. Tourists visit Nantucket from spring to fall. Though summer is by far the most popular season.

What is Peak Season for Nantucket?

Peak holiday season in Nantucket runs from June to August. July is the busiest month of the year. During this time, the population swells to more than 60,000 people.

How Many Days Do You Need in Nantucket?

Nantucket is relatively small, covering just under 48 square miles. Three or four days is enough time to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and see what the island has to offer.

Is Nantucket Worth Visiting?

Nantucket offers visitors, a pristine beach experience as well as acres of conservation areas. The island has the highest concentration of pre-1850 houses anywhere in the country and they’re in excellent condition.

The cobbled streets in downtown Nantucket are lined with Mom-and-Pop shops, museums, and art galleries. Who wouldn’t want to visit Nantucket?

Which is Better, Cape Cod or Nantucket?

If you prefer laidback island life operating at a slower pace, Nantucket is for you. If you prefer a faster-paced holiday packed with activities, you may prefer a holiday in Cape Cod. It really depends on what you want to do with your time.

The Best Time to Visit Nantucket

Nantucket Island Harbor - Best time to visit Nantucket

The best time to visit Nantucket Island, Nantucket, Massachusetts is in October. This is when the Nantucket weather is still good, and the crowds have left the shores of the island. No need to fight for space in your favorite restaurant and there’s even a festival or two along the way.

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