Nantucket See And Do
Nantucket has 10 public beaches, some reachable only by foot or bike. The most popular North Shore spots are Dionis and Jetties beaches. Dionis's mild surf and wide dunes make it ideal for families with older kidsit's a three-mile bike ride from town to get there. At Jetties Beach, you can learn to sail, windsurf, or kayak from the nonprofit Nantucket Community Sailingprivate, group, and women-only lessons are available (508-228-6600; www.nantucketsailing.com; closed Labor Day through early June) and chow down at a casual seafood restaurant. Surfers head for the wilder South Shore; among the best beaches are Surfside and the more remote, westerly Cisco. The latter has especially big waves and is home to the Nantucket Island Surf School, which provides boards and wet suits for its private and group lessons. You can call ahead if you want to (and reschedule if the waves aren't crashing), or just show up in your bathing suit and head for the van hung with wet suits. Boards and wet suits are also available for rent by the hour, half day, full day, or week. (508-560-1020; nantucketsurfing.com). For more information and a map of the island's beaches visit www.nantucketchamber.org/visitor/beach.html.
Low-lying and just 14 miles long and 3.5 miles wide, Nantucket is easily toured by bicycle. Of the island's seven clearly marked trails, the best is the 5.5-mile Madaket Bike Path, which heads west from the Nantucket Town rotary toward Madaket Beach, a prime place to watch the sunset. Eight-mile Polpis Bike Path heads east from the rotary toward the bluffs of Siasconset and Sankaty Head Light. Bicycle rentals are readily available in town and at the airport. Young's Bicycle Shop near the Steamship Authority ferry terminal has great free maps of the island's tangled streets and extensive bike routes (6 Broad St.; 508-228-1151; youngsbicycleshop.com). For more information, check out www.wheelsheelsandpedals.com.
Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge
195 Wauwinet Road
Nantucket , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 228 5646
One of the most rewarding adventures on Nantucket is a drive on the beach to the island's wild and woolly remote northeastern tip. You'll need a four-wheel-drive vehicle with reduced tire pressure (so you can maneuver on the sand), $125 for the entry fee (collected at the Wauwinet gatehouse), and a picnic lunch to enjoy beneath Great Point Light. The five-mile trip is pretty easy: Just follow the tire tracks. Stop along the way for a dip in the wavesthe only other person in sight might be a surf caster fishing for blues.
Moby Dick? True story. The Nantucket whaler Essex, the basis for Herman Melville's classic, was rammed by a whale off the coast of South America in 1820 and survivors resorted to cannibalism to stay alive. The personal journal of an Essex crewman is part of the collection of Nantucket's Whaling Museum. Housed partly in an 1847 spermaceti candle factory, the museum completed a $13 million restoration and expansion in 2005making it large enough for the curators to suspend a 46-foot sperm whale skeleton from the main gallery's ceiling. Also on display: a large collection of scrimshaw (etched and carved whale ivory) and whaling trade artifacts (13 Broad St.; 508-228-1736; nha.org; closed late Octobermid-April). For more Nantucket history, head to the small post-and-beam African American Meeting House. Dating from 1827, it's the nation's second-oldest surviving meetinghouse built by free blacks for their own use. It has been renovated and is open to the public (29 York St.; 508-228-9833; afroammuseum.org; closed SeptemberJune). Maria Mitchell, the country's first female astronomer and first female professor of astronomy was also the first American woman to discover a comet through a telescopeand she did it on the roof of Nantucket's Pacific National Bank building on October 1, 1847. The telescope she used is in her birthplace, a typical Quaker-style Nantucket home built in 1790 that's now known as the Maria Mitchell House and Museum of Astronomy. The Maria Mitchell Association also operates two observatories. Check mmo.org for the schedule of tours and nighttime viewings (1 Vestal St.; 508-228-9198; closed mid-Octoberearly June).
Slip 1015, Straight Wharf
Nantucket , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 228 5585
Captain Jim Genthner sails Nantucket Sound several times each day on his 31-foot Friendship sloop Endeavor. The tours leave from Straight Wharf and take in sights like the Brant Point Lighthouse, Nantucket Harbor, and the mansions along the coast. If you're a sailor, you can help hoist the sails; if not, just enjoy the ride while Genthner regales you with tales of the island's maritime past. A one-hour morning sail costs $15 per person; it's $35 for a romantic 90-minute sunset sail.
Open May through October
The waters around Nantucket teem with bluefish, striped bass, tuna, fluke, black sea bassand a few lurking sharks. Surf casters can fly-fish directly off the beach (many head out to Great Point). The guides at Rusty Fly Fishing Charters in Madaket know where the fish are biting (Jackson Point Pier, Madaket; 508-982-5398; www.rustyfly.com; closed mid-Oct.mid-May). Deep-sea fishermen can catch one of several charters at Straight Wharf in town, including the Herbert T at Slip 14 (508-228-6655; www.fishnantucket.net; closed mid-OctoberMemorial Day) and Just Do It Too at Slip 13 (508-228-7448). Recreational shellfish permits are $100 for nonresidents and are issued by the Nantucket Marine and Coastal Resources Department (34 Washington St.; 508-228-7261; nantucket-ma.gov/pages/nantucketmA_marine). Quahogs and mussels are fair game all year; if you're visiting in the off-season you can also go scalloping (October 1 March 31) or clamming (September 15June 15).