Welcome to downtown Nantucket, with its cobbled streets, clapboard houses and air of unruffled calm. The harbour and wharves are a few blocks away, and dune-sheltered Steps beach is a ten-minute stroll.
Domestic flights land at Nantucket Memorial Airport (ACK), three miles away. For international travellers, there’s generally a New York or Boston stopover, though there are seasonal services to other cities (including Washington, Chicago and Philadelphia). It’s just over ten minutes’ drive from the airport to the hotel.
Speed past Cape Cod’s summer gridlock aboard the weekends-only CapeFlyer. It’s a seasonal service from Boston to Hyannis, with shuttle transfers down to the docks for ferries to Nantucket.
If you really need to drive, there’s a car ferry from Hyannis – but prices are steep, and once you’re on Nantucket, parking spots are few and far between. Bicycles (electric or otherwise) are better suited to island life, and readily rented in town. For quick hops, the new Sandy Pedals bike share scheme has a fleet of cherry-red electric bikes and 60 pick-up points.
The standard ferry from Hyannis, on Cape Cod, takes two hours and a quarter, compared to an hour aboard the high-speed services. In summer, Seastruck runs a once-weekly service to Nantucket from New York, calling at Martha’s Vineyard, which takes just over six hours.
Worth getting out of bed for
The island’s history is a colourful one, dotted with whiskery sea-captains in search of ‘greasy luck’, and willing to risk their necks on a Nantucket sleigh ride (a boat pulled along at breakneck speed by a harpooned whale). Whale-hunting was a bloodthirsty business, but brought the island untold wealth – a tale told with considerable panache at the Whaling Museum, surveyed by the bleached bones of a 46-foot sperm whale. Get your bearings from the museum’s rooftop deck before hitting downtown’s cobbled streets, lined with old-fashioned storefronts and hip new arrivals, like surf shop Stoke ACK and the locally-minded Green Market.
By the harbour, stroll the 18th-century Old North Wharf, with its old warehouses, boat-builders’ workshops and shingled fishermen’s shacks (which, tiny as they are, can change hands for millions of dollars). Real-estate dreams thwarted, pedal to Brant Point for an obligatory shot of the lighthouse, then onwards to Steps Beach. Steep wooden stairs descend the grassy dunes to a powder-fine stretch of sand, with cloud-scudded views across Nantucket Sound. Further afield, you’ll find the placid waters of Miacomet Pond and the surf breaks at Cisco Beach, or – for high-summer solitude – the beautifully remote Ladies Beach. Come sunset, head west to Madaket, with a stop-off at Millie’s for tacos and margaritas.
On the eastern side of the island, Siasconset (AKA 'Sconset) is implausibly pretty; a former fishing village, with grey-shingled cottages half-hidden under climbing roses. At the end of Front Street, a narrow path is the start of the ’Sconset Bluff Walk, which casually cuts by – or directly through – the gardens of millionaires’ mansions, and culminates (via Baxter Road) at the jauntily-striped Sankaty Head lighthouse.
When it comes to lobster roll, New Englanders are connoisseurs – and Bartlett’s Farm’s rendition, piled high on toasted brioche, is up there with the best. (While you’re there, raid the farm shop for beach plum jam; made from dune-foraged fruit, it’s the ultimate island souvenir.) Later in the day, stroll along the pier to the terrace at Cru, squeezed between yacht moorings, for superlative sunsets, French rosé and strictly local oysters. For dinner, claim a table at the tiny Òran Mór for fennel orecchiette, with baked-to-order madeleines for afters, or book well ahead at the Nautilus for terrific, Thai-inspired blue crab fried-rice.
For a sneaky second breakfast, Born & Bread: Mercantile and Bakery is two minutes’ stroll from the hotel. If the blueberry and lemon thyme scones have already sold out, go for a house-sourdough toastie, with apple-smoked bacon, egg and Vermont cheddar. For the island’s best ice-cream, join the expectant queue outside the Juice Bar, whose scoops are served in a hand-rolled waffle cone that’s worth every extra cent.