Treasure Island

Nantucket's charms lure visitors to return again and again. Find out where to go and what to visit.

PHOTOGRAPH courtesy of Nantucket Island Resorts

A recent visit to Nantucket turned into a trip down memory lane.
I hadn’t been to the island since the 1960s, when for a couple of years, my father, Guthrie Cameron, was part of the Nantucket renaissance led by Mary Ann and Walter Beinecke. Mary Ann recruited him to work with her and master weaver Andy Oates at Nantucket Looms. Nantucket was still a small village when we lived on Liberty Street just around the corner from the late Erica Wilson (America’s “first lady of stitchery”) and her husband, Vladimir Kagan.

On this trip, I stopped by Nantucket Looms in search of Andy Oates, whom I was assured had great stories about the old days. The shop is filled with exquisite hand-loomed throws and scarves, local artisan jewelry, and countless goodies for the home. Upstairs, among the old hand looms, I spoke with owner (since 1993) Liz Winship, who had a vague memory of my dad and told me that Oates had retired to Florida. (Sadly, he died before I got a chance to catch up with him.)

At Erica Wilson’s boutique next door, run by daughter Vanessa Diserio, stylish shoppers perused jewelry by local designer Heidi Weddendorf, high-end fashion, swimwear and, of course, needlework kits. Wilson’s beautiful framed crewel embroideries reminded me of my mother, who had all of us—even my brothers—embroidering at a very young age. Wilson’s son, Ilya Kagan, has an art studio upstairs and is often seen around the island painting en plein air.

No trip to Nantucket is complete without visiting at least one of the island’s lighthouses: Sankaty Head Light in Siasconset (an old artists’ colony); Great Point Light, which requires a beach driving permit and has restrictions due to nesting of the piping plover; and the lighthouse at Brant Point, easy walking distance from the White Elephant Hotel, where I was comfortably ensconced in a suite with a fireplace and a view of the harbor. At this time of year, the “can’t-miss” event is the daffodil festival, where some 3 million blooms put on a show through mid-May. Festival weekend (April 26–28) includes a vintage car parade and a full slate of activities. Another spring attraction is the Nantucket Wine Festival (May 15–19), a celebration of world-class food and wine, now in its seventeenth year.

Getting there is easy, whether you opt for the ferry or take Jet Blue’s direct flight from JFK. And accommodations run the gamut from the elegant and intimate Wauwinet on the northeast corner and the iconic White Elephant Hotel or the chic in-town White Elephant Village to the newly refurbished Jared Coffin House. And for those who want to literally stay on the water, the Cottages & Lofts at the Boat Basin (and pet-friendly Woof Cottages) are on the docks among the yachts and boats. Nantucket is a destination that has something to suit everyone, whether you are visiting old memories or making new ones.

Catriona’s Top picks

Brunch at Brant Point Grill or Topper’s
Unbeatable for quality and variety. For summertime lunch or dinner, head to Topper’s via its complimentary water taxi, the Wauwinet Lady.

Nantucket Whaling Museum
A must-see for all ages that’s dedicated to the history of whaling. Learn about the ill-fated Essex whaleship, the model for Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.

Sweet Inspirations on Centre Street
Here, you will find the most delicious chocolate-covered cranberries.

Vis-à-Vis on Main Street
There’s never enough time to go through all of the fun fashions, jewelry and more at this unique boutique.