22 Best Things to Do in Nantucket, MA

Nantucket, MA skyline
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Nantucket, Massachusetts, is famously known for its beautiful beaches, sea surfing, and postcard-worthy views.

There are a lot of places with historical value, too.

On top of that, there's much to do and explore in Nantucket: basket crafting, museums, aquariums, hiking trails, historical libraries, ancient lighthouses, mouth-watering local specialties, and hidden gems.

You can even rent a bike, tour this tiny island, and get to know everything it has to offer.

If you find yourself traveling here, check out this list of the best things to do in Nantucket, Massachusetts:

Visit the Nantucket Whaling Museum

46-foot long sperm whale skeleton in Whaling Museum
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Featuring more than a thousand works of art, crafts, and collectibles in nine premium galleries, the museum educates visitors about the island's history spanning four centuries.

Exterior of Nantucket Whaling Museum
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The museum's notable attractions include a humongous Fresnel lens, a 46-foot long sperm whale skeleton, and a renovated candle factory from 1847.

Ship display in Nantucket Whaling Museum
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There is also a rooftop deck with a unique perspective of Nantucket Harbor.

Plan the trip in advance to take in all the place's attractions.

Exhibit inside Nantucket Whaling Museum
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See the Lighthouse at Brant Point

Brant point LIghthouse in Nantucket
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Brant Point Light was established in 1756.

The current tower at the point was first lit in 1901.

It is known for being the 10th light on this point.

Some burnt down, were destroyed by the wind, and got discarded for their inferior light.

The lighthouse was renovated and perfected many times.

Closer view of Brant Point lighthouse
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Suffice to say, there is a long history connecting the lighthouse to the town.

It's a place to sightsee and get to know the history behind Brant Point Light.

The lighthouse is a short walk—or a shorter bicycle ride—away from Nantucket Harbor.

Walk around the area, or perhaps take a ferry and enjoy the beautiful vantage point from the sea.

A trail leading to Brant Point lighthouse entrance
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Snap Photos for Your Insta Feed at Nantucket's Beaches

Sunny day at Madaket Beach
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First of all, do not forget to bring your camera with you.

Head to Jetties Beach, a large beach with Instagram-worthy sights.

There is a restaurant in the area, too.

Sunset at Cisco beach
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You can also surf the waves at Sconset Beach, which is mainly known for its vast and sandy expanse.

It is a trendy place for surfing.

A man surfing on Cisco beach
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Enjoy recreational activities at Cisco Beach; similar to Sconset Beach, it's a good alternative for surfers as well.

End your day at Madaket Beach, best known for its remarkable sunset views.

Walk along the sandy strip and relax with your friends and family.

Fence along Madaket beach
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Stroll along the 'Sconset Bluff Walk

Siasconset's trail
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If you are staying in town for some time, make 'Sconset Bluff Walk your regular place for a morning or evening walk.

The walking trail is located in Siasconset's old historic site.

With stunning views of the sea and heathlands, it's an excellent place to watch the sunset.

Watch the Sunset at the Sankaty Head Light

View of the Sankaty head light
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Looking for the best sunset-watching spot in town?

Sankaty Head Light is a site of incredible scenic beauty and historical significance.

It was built in 1850 to ensure that ships didn't get wrecked by the dangerous shoals.

View of the Sankaty Head Light
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It was automated in 1965 and is working even now.

To save it from soil erosion by the shore, it was bought and moved from its place a bit inland in 2007.

Now, it's a prominent tourist spot because of its picturesque view of the sunset and its surrounding areas.

Entrance door of Sankaty Head Light
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Learn the History at the Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum

Numerous ships have passed by Nantucket since the lighthouse stations were built in the area.

Many ships were wrecked, and a lot of times, locals risked everything to save others on those ships.

This museum was built to preserve the memory of the brave locals who saved the lives of those in shipwrecks.

It also showcases artifacts and memorabilia from the shipwrecks around the local sea.

There are also models of ships that were identified to have been wrecked in the area.

Flip Through Books at the Nantucket Atheneum

Exterior of Nantucket Atheneum Library
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Nantucket used to have two different libraries before the 1820s, and they were later consolidated into one—the Nantucket Athenium—in 1834.

It is said that there was a fire in 1846 that burned it to the ground, destroying all but 150 books.

Later, the famous library of today was constructed at the exact spot.

Top part of Nantucket Atheneum
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The library offers books of almost all genres, from entertainment to purely academic purposes.

The library hosts many events throughout the year, from fun kids' activities to tai chi, cultural programs, and the yearly dance fest.

If you are lucky enough to visit the island during one of these events, be sure to check it out.

Enjoy Art at Dreamland Film and Performing Arts Center

Do you enjoy watching dramas, ballets, and other artistic performances?

Dreamland Film and Performing Arts Center is the island's hub for entertainment activities, including movies, plays, dances, and even operas.

It's the place to be for tourists and locals with curious and creative minds.

Try Out the Best Places to Eat in Nantucket

Straight Wharf restaurants
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If you want to enjoy your food at the best places Nantucket has to offer, then check out the following places.

Taste the seasonal food at American Seasonal—the chef's phenomenal work has been praised in the New York Times and Travel & Leisure.

It's Nantucket's premier dining place, famous for its seasonal American menu.

Check out Straight Wharf, where they serve fresh seafood and local produce.

Indoor and outdoor dining options are available.

Dive into French cuisine at Le Languedoc Inn & Bistro.

This restaurant has a variety of French foods on the menu for you to choose from, allowing you to fully enjoy the fine dining experience.

Eat healthy food at Something Natural.

If eating healthy is your preference, this is the best stop for you.

Have the most natural, fresh, and filling sandwiches and bakery products.

Don't forget to try out their famous cookies, too.

Hang out for a drink and a bite at Millie's, a regional hangout spot with a laid-back vibe.

Catering Mexican, American, and seafood, Millie's is a popular place to drink and eat out with your gang.

Be a Wine-Tester at Cisco Brewers

Are you a wine connoisseur, perhaps?

Or are you perhaps interested in witnessing a brewery business behind the scenes?

Cisco Brewers offer guided tours for tourists to watch behind the curtains of the local brewery industry.

Have fun watching the magic that goes into making the finest of wines.

Taste-test a few samples of different local spirits, beers, and wines.

Go Stargazing at the Loines Observatory

Exterior of Liones Observatory
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Visiting the town with your friends and family?

Then how about spending an evening listening to the lecture of an astronomy instructor, guiding you through the various constellations while you watch the wonders of the universe at the Loines Observatory?

If you are a family with kids, this might be perhaps the best option for you, even more so than the libraries and other museums.

Introduce your little ones to science with a flair.

Experience the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge

Great Point Lighthouse on Coskata- Coatue Wildlife
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For tourists that always make sure to head to the nearest wildlife reserve or national park while traveling, the Coskata-Coatue wildlife refuge is a must-visit.

The 16 miles of trails spanning the area of the refuge lead you to encounters with various coastal animals, including seals and shorebirds.

A person going inside Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge's lighthouse
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What's better than a seashore dotted with local wildlife, a beautiful sunset, and an old historic lighthouse to complete the scenic view?

Take some time to truly enjoy the area with your friends and family or perhaps go alone, for you will not lack things to do in a tourist spot as popular as this.

Enjoy Live Theater at Theatre Workshop of Nantucket

Plays, dramas, theatrical performances—does that sound good to you?

Theatre Workshop of Nantucket is dedicated to performing various art forms and celebrating the local traditions.

The workshop has been conducting live theaters since 1956, on an average of six musicals and performances per year.

Whether you are a dedicated theater lover or just someone looking for a place to have a good time, Theatre Workshop of Nantucket will not disappoint.

Meet the Sea Creatures at the Maria Mitchell Association Aquarium

Entrance door of Maria Mitchell Aquarium
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Unlike other aquariums, the Maria Mitchell Association Aquarium prides itself on collecting, displaying, and later returning the local sea creatures around Nantucket back to their natural environment.

Since the creatures on display are kept on rotation, the displays are constantly changing according to the season.

While the outdoor tank displays large fishes like sharks, the indoor one is reserved for smaller specimens.

Learn the Story of the First English Settlers at the Jethro Coffin House

Exterior view of the Jethro Coffin House
Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It's unclear exactly when the Jethro Coffin House was constructed, though it is said to have been a wedding present for Jethro and Mary Coffin in 1686, when Mary was 16 and Jethro was 23.

The Oldest House may have been known best for Mary and Jethro Coffin, but the Paddack family called it home for four generations.

All of them were mariners during the 18th century as Nantucket transitioned from an agricultural to a maritime community.

Wooden interior of Jethro Coffin House
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Because of its historical value, the Secretary of Interior granted the Jethro Coffin House National Historic Landmark status in 1968.

Unfortunately, it was struck by lightning, which caused heavy damage to the house from its chimney and roof to its electrical wiring.

Despite this drastic incident, volunteers worked tirelessly for over two years (and about $1 million) to restore it to its original state so that the historical significance would not be forgotten.

The stalwart old building from the early English settlement in Nantucket was made sturdier since its restoration that it remains standing tall on Sunset Hill, bringing to life the story of the settlers who came to America four centuries ago.

Get to Know a Wealthy Whaler at the Hadwen House

Beautiful white building of Hadwen House
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The Hadwen House is a fascinating monument of Georgian-style architecture and a rare example of a Victorian whaler's home that has been relatively preserved, as it appeared during his lifetime.

William Hadwen used to live in this house that has now become a historical landmark, featuring a backyard garden and rooms with whaling objects on display.

A statue of an artist at Hadwen House

The Hadwen House also shelters traditional Nantucket baskets that are accessible to those who appreciate fine workmanship with a historical perspective worth taking into account.

The beautiful and traditional building offers an intimate look into the lives of wealthy whalers who eventually became candle makers.

The rooms and exhibits are tastefully designed, making it easier for visitors to connect with the actual whales who used to make up this family's business.

Take a Tour of the Island on Two Wheels with Nantucket Bike Tours

A bike with wooden baskets
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The best way to explore the rich history of Nantucket, Massachusetts, is by hopping on a bike—after all, biking alongside the cobblestone streets of this charming island and seeing the sights are what it's known for.

You'll get to enjoy the famous lighthouse views and downtown sights with your bike tour on this journey and learn along the way how those who once lived here made their homes.

Nantucket Bike Tours offers crowd-pleasing guided bike experiences that are great for people of all ages and biking abilities.

Bikes parked at a beach sand
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Because the tour starts right in the heart of town, visitors can walk there quickly and get fitted with a comfy bike and helmet.

A guided tour will then lead you through the wonders of town and make sure you see as many sights as possible fit into your schedule.

This classic bike riding company offers themed two-to-three-hour tours, such as their Sunset Tour, Town Adventure, Brewery Tour, and Spin to Scionset.

If those didn't cover what you're looking for, then you can ask for a custom tour around whatever you wish.

People riding their bikes
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Utilize all the Amenities at Cliff Lodge

Cliff Lodge, a historic whaling master's residence constructed in 1771, invites guests to experience Nantucket's unmatched beauty and allure.

In the heart of Nantucket's Historic District, the picturesque and charming Cliff Lodge is tucked away in the mountains above and between the town's cobbled streets and the island's most beautiful and well-liked beaches.

Free wi-fi, conditioning systems, morning breakfast buffets, en suite bathrooms, unique artwork created by regional artists, and more are available as amenities.

Additionally, visitors may stroll on the garden patio, take a harbor view roof walk, or go for a jog while heading to the port and downtown.

Returning guests have grown to think of the inn as a second home, appreciating the effortless luxury of offshore life and the unmatched welcome of their hostesses and personnel.

Delight in Various Activities Features in Nantucket Club

In the heart of Downtown Nantucket, The Nantucket Club presents social, athletic, and poolside entertainment.

Just a few feet from the center of town, The Nantucket Club has a heated pool open seasonally, fitness and yoga sessions, massages, a sauna, a free kids' club, and prize-winning fitness instructor Johnathan Rodriguez.

Enjoy a peaceful and relaxing massage, including hot stone treatment, deep tissue massage, and more.

There are membership options to accommodate your Nantucket visit, including annual, monthly, weeklong, and everyday memberships.

The Nantucket Club is accessible Monday through Friday from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm and on weekends, holidays, and other times on demand.

Ride the Endeavor and Experience an Adventurous Trip

The Endeavor, a yacht authorized by the United States Coast Guard, has been offering sailing charters in Nantucket for the longest time.

Captain Jim constructed Endeavor, and if you'd like, he will impart his expertise on traditional boat construction to you.

Meanwhile, Captain James Genthner, who holds a United States Coast Guard license, has more than 35 years of expertise sailing Nantucket's crystal-clear seas.

He can enlighten you about Nantucket's maritime past and the landmarks along the waterfront and provides exclusive charters and per-person boating expeditions across the island's waterways.

Excursions on the water are available from May through October.

All ages may assist the crew in setting sail or kick back and take in the voyage.

Pay a Visit to the Old Mill

Exterior of the Old Mill
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An ancient windmill, The Old Mill, can be found in Nantucket, Massachusetts.

It is the oldest operating mill in the country, having been constructed in 1746.

The Nantucket Historical Association is in charge of running it as a museum.

Of the four windmills that previously stood on the hilly terrain on the western edge of Nantucket Island, only The Old Mill remains.

Close view of the Old Mill
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Seasonal visitors may witness the gears within the Old Mill, which is 50 feet high, grind corn at a rate of around 5 bushels per hour.

It received the distinction of Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark in 1992.

Far view of the Old Mill
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Have a Bite to Eat at Ships Inn Restaurant

Freshly made, imaginative cuisine is served at Ships Inn Restaurant, together with pleasant, professional service.

The dining area and lounge are underground in a former whaling captain's residence constructed in 1831 and offer a modernized colonial ambiance.

It's an excellent place for an evening out or a romantic encounter among the restaurant's intimate nooks.

Whenever available, local ingredients are used in the freshly prepared American Brasserie-style cuisine, Chef Mark Gottwald's specialty.

They are serving dinner every Thursday through Sunday through the middle of October.

Final Thoughts

When the island of Nantucket is mentioned, it's not just all about dunes, lighthouses, and beaches.

When visiting this valuable accessory to Massachusetts, be sure to make time to see some of its charming shops, as well as learn more about the island's history in several historic homes around the island.

No matter what your pleasure is during a visit to this charming location, spending some time enjoying all that Nantucket has to offer will indeed determine it as one of your favorite destinations on the East Coast!

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