Day trip to Nantucket! This article includes how to get to Nantucket as well as top attractions on the island.
**A big thank you to the Nantucket Island Chamber for arranging our free entrance into the Nantucket Shipwreck and Life Saving Museum, the Whaling Museum, and the Hadwen House in exchange for this review. As always, all opinions are our own.**
Day Trip To Nantucket
We were so happy to finally take a day trip to Nantucket during our last visit to Cape Cod. We’d heard great things about it and it looked so picturesque in all of the photos we’d seen. Now, you might be wondering if one day in Nantucket is enough. The answer is yes, if you get there early and keep an eye on the clock. Of course, you could easily spend more than one day there. However, one day is the perfect amount of time to get a taste of this historic island and see its main attractions.
How To Get To Nantucket: Taking The Ferry To Nantucket
If you’re wondering how to get to Nantucket, it’s pretty easy. You can take a ferry to Nantucket from Hyannis with Hy-Line Cruises. Make your reservations online ahead of time and plan to arrive about 45 minutes before departure. This will give you time for parking and ticketing. There is parking at the ferry terminal and the price per day can range from $10 to $28, depending on the time of year. You can also park off-site and walk, but make sure to park in legal spots.
Round trip tickets are $81 for adults and $52 for children ages 5 to 12. Our ferry was the Grey Lady IV, a high-speed catamaran. The ferry to Nantucket takes about an hour. We chose to sit on the top level and had some great views. Should you feel peckish or thirsty, they do sell snacks and drinks onboard.
Things To Do In Nantucket
Once you arrive, getting around Nantucket is pretty easy. We walked to every attraction except for the Nantucket Shipwreck and Life Saving Museum. Of course, if you wanted to visit some of the other towns on the island then you’d need a car or taxi. But for the most part, we were able to get around easily and see most of the attractions on our list of things to do in Nantucket. We visited some really interesting museums and saw just how charming life on Nantucket can be.
Nantucket Shipwreck and Life Saving Museum
In the 19th Century, there were over 750 shipwrecks off the coast of Nantucket. The Nantucket Shipwreck and Life Saving Museum details the history and preserves the memory of the volunteer and professional lifesavers of the island. In the museum you’ll see lifesaving equipment, boats, personal items, and more.
Some of the artifacts we saw were really extraordinary and there were quite a few interactive pieces that we enjoyed. We always like when museums have interactive things that keep visitors engaged. Make sure to also spend some time outside on the grounds of the museum. It’s very pretty and you have some nice views of the water.
The museum is outside of the downtown area. You can catch the Shipwreck Shuttle from the Visitors Services office in town at 25 Federal Street. It leaves on the half-hour, starting at 9:30 AM. It returns from the Museum on the hour (last ride at 5:00 PM).
During your day trip to Nantucket, you should definitely visit the Whaling Museum. Did you know that from the mid-1700s to the late 1830s, Nantucket was considered the whaling capital of the world? At the Whaling Museum, you’ll learn all about the whaling industry and how it affected the island.
There are nine galleries and over a thousand works of art and artifacts. There’s also a 46-foot sperm whale skeleton. Make sure to head up to the rooftop deck; it offers stunning views of Nantucket harbor.
The Hadwen House is also a great place to visit during your day trip to Nantucket. The house itself is beautiful. It was built in 1846 by whaling merchant and silver retailer William Hadwen. Its Greek revival architecture symbolized the wealth and prosperity of Hadwen and other leading citizens.
Nowadays, the house is home to various exhibitions. The most popular is the exhibit showcasing over 100 Nantucket lightship baskets. Lightship baskets were first made on whaling ships in the early 1800s by crewmembers trying to pass the time. They were made to carry and store things, but eventually were used as purses.
The baskets we saw were really impressive. They came in different shapes and sizes, but all were pretty elaborate. We even spoke to a woman who was making a basket and she let us weave a few pieces of wood. It was a really cool experience.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Fred Rogers, of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, had a summer home in Nantucket and would attend church at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Today, the church commemorates everyone’s favorite neighbor. They placed a small plaque towards the back left of the church next to the pew where he liked to sit. It says, “Gentle, Kind, True.” We grew up watching Mister Rogers, so it was really special to see this little tribute to him.
Brant Point Lighthouse
One of the top things to do in Nantucket is to visit the Brant Point Lighthouse. It is the second oldest light station in the country! It’s a short walk from town, and although the lighthouse isn’t open to the public, the grounds are. You can get some get photos of the lighthouse and the harbor. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 and is considered one of the best lighthouses on the east coast.
Nantucket Downtown Historic District
Downtown Nantucket is so charming. Walking around you’ll see cobblestoned streets and historic homes. There are also many shops, cafes, and restaurants. You almost feel like you’ve gone back in time.
Straight Wharf Docks
Another area to explore during your day trip to Nantucket is the Straight Wharf Docks. Pedestrians are allowed to walk on the docks and see the many boats and yachts docked there from around the world. You can sit on a bench and watch the boats come in and out of the harbor. It’s a good way to wind down at the end of the day.
Additional Things To Do In Nantucket
If you decide to extend your stay on Nantucket, or if you decide to skip some of the attractions mentioned above, here are some additional places you can visit. We personally didn’t get to go ourselves, but we would have liked to.
- Museum of African American History – Learn about the thriving 19th-century Black community on Nantucket. There are two historic sites, the African Meeting House and the Florence Higginbotham House.
- Historic Mitchell House – Home of Maria Mitchell, America’s first female astronomer. The house is now a museum and has many artifacts from the Mitchells’ daily life in the 19th century, including her Dolland telescope.
- Cisco Brewers – If you have a car, drive our to Cisco Brewers. They have a few locations throughout New England, but the brewery was founded on Nantucket.
Final Thoughts On Our Day Trip To Nantucket
We really enjoyed our day trip to Nantucket! The history of the island is fascinating and it’s also just so pretty. We loved how walkable it is and experiencing the laid back vibe. We really recommend visiting and hope you get to enjoy everything this little island has to offer.
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