The Best Places to Visit in Nantucket

CTC&G's editorial director DJ Carey shares her island experience.

For 21 summers, Nantucket was my summer getaway. Once school started, we moved on but said we’d come back in the fall or spring. We never did.

Sure, I did the Stroll once, but the island had been a summer place for me. Until now. For years, friends have extoled the virtues of the off season. So I took the plunge and, boy, am I glad I did. We spent a terrific island weekend in late September that allowed us to enjoy the pleasures of the place without the obligation of spending the day at the beach (although we could have since the weather was so nice!).

Like all our trips, we arrived by ferry and, as usual, it provided the perfect disconnect from mainland living. We headed to the Residences at the White Elephant, where our one-bedroom suite’s luxuriously designed interior was spacious and welcoming. Add access to bikes (for a jaunt to Something Natural for lunch, of course) and a BMW X5 for island touring: a trip to ‘Sconset and out to Madaket (and a stop at Millie’s), and we were as happy as can be. Dinner on our first night on the porch at the Brant Point Grill was elegant and relaxing, thanks to the beautiful views of the harbor. We loved the White Elephant cocktail (tequila, pineapple, coconut, lime and chili pepper!) seafood ceviche, a roasted vegetable salad and a lobster mac and cheese that was off the charts!

Seafood Tower

Photograph courtesy of White Elephant Resorts

On Saturday, we started the day at the Whaling Museum, another attraction that we always saved for a rainy day. I could not believe what I have missed all these years. Like all things on Nantucket, it is world class. The quality of the artifacts and presentation were enhanced by the superior knowledge of Peggi Goodwin, our guide. The hardships and sacrifices that were made on these arduous trips seem unfathomable to me.

The centerpiece of the museum is the 46-foot skeleton of a male sperm whale that washed ashore in ‘Sconset in 1998. I can’t imagine hunting the world’s largest creatures in a 28-foot boat! (2020 marked the 200th anniversary of the sinking of the Essex, made famous in Nathaniel Philbrick’s book.) And from this dangerous industry, Nantucket became one of the most prosperous ports in America. Its wealth and charm live on today. We saw the proof of that good fortune on a downtown architectural walking tour run by the Nantucket Historical Association, and learned so much about the buildings we had scurried by in years past.

We spent the afternoon shopping. Top of my list was the newly opened shop of Westport-based Eleish Van Breems Home. I was immediately taken with the elegant beach vibe of the shop. Next on the list was a perennial favorite, the Erica Wilson shop, which continues to inspire with its beautiful needlework and fashion; and the shops on the wharf are unexpected and highlight many talented local artists.

Jared Coffin House Exterior

Photograph courtesy of White Elephant Resorts

We moved to the Jared Coffin House, for two nights and loved being in the heart of town. The mansion was built in 1845 by Jared Coffin—one of the most successful ship owners during the prime whaling years. Our junior suite looked out onto Center Street, which offered us a constant view of daily life on the island. To add to the experience, our room had a record player and a great selection of vinyl (Bob Marley, Sinatra) which made for a great prelude to our dinner at the Tap Room on the patio. Under twinkling lights, we enjoyed clam chowder (of course!), mussels, and steak frites.

Later we stopped at the Club Car, another longtime favorite. Sunday came too early. As the fast ferry rounded the lighthouse, we threw pennies off Brant Point as we have always done. Far beyond the horizon was the mainland, and reality. I was not in a hurry to return home. Because, once again, Nantucket had cast its spell on me.

The print version of this article appears with the headline: A New Look At An Old Favorite.
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