After a couple sticky and steamy weeks of summer in New York City, I was dreaming of escaping to the beach. This year, not just any sandy shoreline would do—I was longing for cool ocean breezes, starry nights that required a light sweater, and temperatures equally perfect for a day of sunbathing or an afternoon of bicycling. And so, I packed my bags for Nantucket.
Stepping off the plane, a cool breeze welcomed me to this island, 30 miles south of Cape Cod. Its location out in the Atlantic guarantees that touch-cooler temperature I craved. A short drive later I was checked in to my rose-covered cottage and sitting by the pool with a seafood platter on the way. This historic whaling settlement—with its cobblestone streets, sandy beaches, and upscale cuisine—has all the makings of a quintessential summer escape.
How to Get There
One of Nantucket’s greatest strengths (its isolated location) is also a challenge. While driving and ferries are a possibility, spend more time in Nantucket and less time traveling by booking a flight on Cape Air. This independent airline operates 8-seat planes with service between Westchester and Nantucket (among other routes). A scenic 1-hour flight and exhilarating landing will bring you to Nantucket without the hassle of traffic or ferry schedules.
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Where to Stay
Nantucket is full of charming, historic inns with character. If you want a polished property, make a reservation at the Summer House, a boutique collection of bungalows and inns. I opted for the Summer House cottages, located in the former artist’s colony of ‘Sconset overlooking the beach. These breezy, romantic bungalows with pitched roofs are the picture of summer, with Adirondack chairs splayed out on the lawn, pathways of crushed clamshells, and unfussy, elegant décor.
Where to Eat In the Sun
Cross the street from the Summer House and you will descend a flight of stairs past a vibrant herb garden, to the hotel’s pool club and Beachside Bistro. This is an ideal spot for a leisurely lunch. A few tables are located down on the edge of the beach, offering the chance to kick off your shoes in the sand while tucking into a lobster cobb salad or seafood platter with clams, oysters, shrimp, and lobster. House specialty cocktails or craft beer brewed on the island are refreshing accompaniments.
Where to Eat After Sunset
Part of Nantucket’s appeal is its upscale dining scene. Beyond fresh seafood perfectly prepared, you will find unusual dishes worthy of any cosmopolitan restaurant. If you can break yourself away from the lovely Summer House Restaurant for an evening (I adored its live piano music and front porch seating), check out the widely lauded American Seasons restaurant, a 25-year old island staple in Nantucket town with a candlelit dining room and creative food from Chef Michael LaScola.
Where to Play
Nantucket has an extensive web of bike trails, providing a peaceful way to see the island’s natural beauty. Many trails are away from any motorized traffic, offering glimpses of Nantucket that can’t be seen from a car. The island is mostly flat, making for easy cycling. A basic map is all you will need to tackle Nantucket by bike, setting out to see attractions such as the Brant Point Lighthouse or beaches such as Surfside Beach.
Where to Imbibe
An evening in Nantucket should begin in the wharf with a cold glass of wine or a cocktail as the sun sets and boats return from excursions at sea. A popular spot on the wharf is called Cru, a stylish waterfront watering hole and oyster bar. Big French doors open up onto the docks, allowing fresh salty air to fill the breezy space. There are also some comfortable lounge chairs outside—but these fill fast.
Insider Tip: From the Summer House in ‘Sconset, there is affordable transportation into Nantucket town. A small traffic circle located less than a 5-minute walk from the hotel is the pick-up spot for a bus called The Wave, operating direct service into Nantucket town for an affordable $2. Ask at the front desk for the shuttle schedule.
Freelance writer Jessica Colley covers cuisine, culture, the arts, and experiential travel. She is currently based in New York City and called Dublin, Ireland home for several years. You can follow her on Twitter @jessicacolley or check out her "Writer in the Kitchen" series on her blog.
Photo credit: Nantucket courtesy of Giovanni Gagliardi/Dreamstime.com; Summer House and Beachside Bistro photos courtesy of Summer House; Brant Point Lighthouse courtesy of Marianne Campolongo/Dreamstime.com; Cru courtesy of Cru Nantucket