If you’re planning a trip this beautiful Cape Cod island and are wondering how many days you need on Nantucket, then you’re in the right place! I’ve been to Nantucket so many times that I’ve lost count, and have done everything from day trips, to weekend getaways to longer stays, and in this post, I’m sharing all my suggested itineraries for any length trip, as well as the best things to do on Nantucket.
How Many Days Do You Need On Nantucket?
To really get a feel for the island and experience everything it has to offer, I think 4 days is the ideal amount of time on Nantucket. Of course, longer is even better, and you can also easily do fewer days. But having done a lot of different trips to Nantucket myself, I’ve found that 4 days is a great sweet spot.
4 days on Nantucket will allow you time to explore the beaches, visit a few different areas of the island, try out some of the amazing restaurants, allow for some down time to relax, and also maybe even head out to Great Point (more on that below!). 4 days on Nantucket will also allow you a buffer day in case of rain, which can happen in New England summers.
One thing to consider when thinking about how many days you need on Nantucket is that in peak season, and sometimes even in shoulder season, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any hotels that will offer a 1-night stay. For this reason, if you want to stay overnight on the island, it’s best to plan for at least 2 nights. In true off-season (mid-October-early April), you’ll likely be able to find places that will offer a 1-night stay.
Is 1 Day On Nantucket Enough?
Nantucket also makes for a wonderful day trip, and is very easy to do from Cape Cod! If you’re looking to take a day trip to Nantucket, I’ve got you covered. Click the link below for my detailed post on everything you need to know to take a Nantucket day trip, including information on ferries and the best things to do on the island specifically for day trippers.
Weekend (3 Day) Nantucket Itinerary
A weekend getaway on Nantucket is always a good idea! For this itinerary, you’ll be arriving on a Friday, and departing on Sunday, and spending two nights on the island.
Day 1 (Arrival): Arrive on the island late-afternoon (or earlier if you took the whole day off work!), and check into your hotel. Head downtown to walk through the streets and visit the shops, and then grab dinner (Galley Beach would be a great first night dinner option).
Day 2: Bike, moped or take The Wave shuttle to ‘Sconset. See the lighthouse and do the Bluff Walk, and grab lunch/sandwiches at Claudette’s. If you’re up for it, take your sandwiches to ‘Sconset Beach and go for a swim in the afternoon (be sure to pack your swimsuit and towels if you want to do this). Plan to visit Madaket Beach for sunset, and grab dinner at Millie’s (right by the beach) before or after sunset, depending on what time it is that day.
Day 3 (Departure Day): Visit Brant Point Lighthouse in the morning, and have breakfast at Lemon Press before your ferry. If you’re taking a later ferry out, you can have your hotel store your bags, and spend the afternoon at Cisco Brewers, take a sailboat tour, or just relax and wander around downtown.
4 Day Nantucket Itinerary
As I mentioned before, 4 days is a great sweet spot when deciding how many days you need on Nantucket. Here’s a suggested breakdown of how to spend your time for this itinerary, which will include a 3-night stay on the island.
Day 1 (Arrival): Arrive on the ferry mid-afternoon, and check into your hotel. Explore downtown, and plan a nice dinner out.
Day 2: Head to ‘Sconset and follow the same plans in the itinerary above. Going to Madaket for sunset won’t be necessary this day, as you have some extra time, but you can definitely do that if you want!
Day 3: Rent a Jeep for the day, and head to Great Point. See more on this later in the post. In the evening, you could either use your Jeep rental to head to Madaket for sunset if you didn’t do that the night before, or grab dinner somewhere downtown. You could also consider a sunset sailing tour this night, with dinner afterwards.
Day 4 (Departure Day): Follow the same plans in the above itinerary (Brand Point Lighthouse, Lemon Press for breakfast/brunch, and then options for the rest of the day if you’re taking a later ferry).
1 Week On Nantucket Itinerary
With 1 full week on Nantucket, you can do quite a bit, and have lots of time for lazy afternoons on the beach, too. Here’s a breakdown of some suggestions on how to spend your days during a week-long stay, which includes 7 nights on the island.
Day 1 (Arrival): Follow the same plans as the previous two itineraries (arrive mid-afternoon, and explore downtown with a nice dinner out).
Day 2: Beach day. Stop at either Fresh or Something Natural to get sandwiches and snacks for the afternoon, and spend your day at the beach. In the evening, relax with a nice dinner downtown.
Day 3: Rent a Jeep and head out to Great Point (see more on this later in the post). In the evening, use your Jeep rental to head to Madaket Beach for sunset, and grab dinner at Millie’s.
Day 4: Beach day. Pick a different beach to explore! In the evening, grab dinner downtown, or take the Wauwinet Lady boat to Topper’s Restaurant (more on that later in the post!).
Day 5: Spend some more time downtown, and visit Brant Point Lighthouse, walk to Steps Beach, and walk around the historic center. Visit the shops, and grab a casual lunch downtown. In the evening, take a sunset sailing tour, and grab dinner after (or before, depending on the time of year and when sunset is scheduled to be).
Day 6: If you haven’t already, take the Wauwinet Lady boat to Topper’s Restaurant for lunch. In the evening, visit a beach for sunset, and consider keeping it casual with takeout and a bottle of wine for a beach picnic.
Day 7: Explore ‘Sconset. Follow suggestions from the above itineraries for an afternoon in ‘Sconset. Grab dinner in the evening.
Day 8 (Departure Day): Follow the suggestions from the above itineraries for your last day on the island before catching your ferry back.
Best Things To Do On Nantucket
Here’s a list and breakdown of all the very best things to do on Nantucket. If you’re still unsure how many days you need on Nantucket, seeing all the amazing things to do may help you decide what’s best for you.
1. Stroll Through Downtown
Nantucket’s downtown is home to the majority of its shops and restaurants, and plenty of waterfront areas to explore. Within walking distance of downtown, you’ll find Brant Point Lighthouse, Steps Beach, the Historic Center and Jetties Beach.
The most popular, and easiest, thing to do on Nantucket is strolling through the downtown area. When you arrive on the ferry, you’ll get off at the wharf, which is located in downtown, so you’ll immediately get a taste for it when you arrive.
2. Explore ‘Sconset & The Bluff Walk
Exploring Siasconset, or just ‘Sconset, as the locals call it, is a really fun thing to do regardless of how many days you have on Nantucket, even if you’re just there for the day. In ‘Sconset, you’ll find rose-covered cottages, Sankaty Lighthouse, a great little sandwich shop, ‘Sconset Beach and one of my favorite things to do on the island, which is the Bluff Walk.
The Bluff Walk will take you about a mile along the coastline of the bluffs, and through the back yards of some of the waterfront mansions (don’t worry, it’s a public trail), and you’ll get some incredible views during the entire walk.
3. See The Sunset At Madaket Beach
Madaket Beach offers my favorite sunset view on the island, so while you’re planning how many days you need on Nantucket, I always suggest adding in an evening to watch the sun go down on this beach.
Not only is the sunset amazing, but the beach itself is gorgeous. If you have some extra time, or end up spending the day here, be sure to take a nice, long walk in either direction on the shoreline. If you head right, you’ll run into a beautiful beach shack that makes for some great photos.
4. Grab A Waffle Cone At The Juice Bar
Hands down, my favorite waffle cone I’ve ever had has been here at The Juice Bar. Their ice cream and waffle cones are all homemade, and even if there’s a line around the corner, it’ll be worth the wait.
Some of the best flavors here are Crantucket (dark chocolate covered cranberries in vanilla ice cream), Brownie A La Mode (homemade fudge and blondie brownies in vanilla ice cream) and Strawberry Dark Chocolate Chip (dark chocolate chunks in strawberry ice cream).
5. Get Some Drinks At Cisco Brewers
Cisco Brewers is a lot of fun to visit, and even if you’re not into beer, they also have a winery and distillery on the same grounds. You’ll likely find food trucks here, too, so this is a great spot to come for a few hours in the afternoon and taste some of the local beer, wine and spirits (and have a delicious lunch!).
One of my favorite drinks here is their canned Nantucket Blue cocktail, which is so refreshing on a hot summer day.
There is plenty of outdoor, picnic-style seating here, but in the peak summer months, it can get pretty crowded, and you may have to wait for a table. If you’re able to, I suggest visiting on a weekday if you’re looking to avoid the crowds.
6. Visit The Lighthouses
Nantucket is home to 3 lighthouses, and all of them are beautiful and so much fun to visit. Brant Point Lighthouse is the closest to downtown, and the easiest to access, so even as you plan how many days you need on Nantucket, this one can be seen even with just one day on the island.
Be sure to click the link below in the Great Point section to read my guide all about how to visit the Nantucket lighthouses.
7. Rent A Jeep & Head To Great Point
Visiting Great Point is one of my all-time favorite things to do on Nantucket, and is truly an amazing experience. This lighthouse is located in the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Reserve, and requires you to either hike along the beach, or drive a Jeep with an over-sand permit to visit, and it’s worth every second of effort.
Once there, you’ll be able to drive along the shore, see the lighthouse spot seals and other wildlife, and enjoy the serene atmosphere.
As you plan how many days you need on Nantucket, this is one thing I would highly encourage you to factor into your plans if you have 3 days or more on the island.
8. Take A Boat Ride To Lunch Or Dinner
A really fun and unique dining experience on the island is at Topper’s Restaurant, which is located at the Wauwinet Hotel. Since the hotel’s location is a bit more remote, they offer rides on the Wauwinet Lady boat, which brings you from downtown, to the restaurant.
After your boat ride, you’re able to enjoy your lunch or dinner on their waterfront deck before taking the boat back downtown.
The Wauwinet Lady boat rides depart from the White Elephant Hotel, located at 50 Easton Street.
9. Enjoy The Views At Steps Beach
The view from the top of Steps Beach looks like an actual post card, and I love to see it every time I visit. The entrance to this beach is about a 1-mile walk from downtown, with some of the walk being uphill. But you’ll pass by some beautiful houses and streets along the way making it more than worth it.
In the itineraries above, any time I mention time to explore downtown, I factor in time to walk to Steps Beach as well, since it’s an easy walk from downtown.
If you want to go down to the beach, it’s quite a few stairs, so just remember that you’ll have to go back up once you’re done.
10. Sail Around The Harbor
Endeavor Sailing offers both public and private charters to take you around the harbor on a beautiful vessel built by the captain himself. With charters leaving at different times of the day, including sunset, this will definitely be a highlight of your trip to Nantucket.
11. Explore The Stunning Beaches
Nantucket is home to some of the most stunning beaches in all of New England. I’ve already touched on Madaket Beach as a great place for a sunset, but it’s also an awesome beach for during the day as well. When thinking about how many days you need on Nantucket, I can’t recommend factoring in time at a beach enough.
Beaches along the south shore will have bigger waves for surfing and boogie boarding, and in my opinion, these are the prettiest beaches on the island. Some of the best in this area would be Madaket, Surfside and Cisco beaches. But any beach along the south shore will be gorgeous.
For more calm waters better suited for children, you’ll want to stick to the north shore beaches, and some great ones are Steps, Jetties and Children’s beaches.
12. Dine On The Beach At Galley Beach Restaurant
Galley Beach Restaurant is one of the more popular places to dine on the island because of its prime location right on the beach. Located next to Steps Beach, some tables at this restaurant sit directly on the sand, and you’ll also have the option of a more traditional dining room setting. With amazing cocktails and a seafood-focused menu, try to time your meal with sunset for an extra special experience.
13. Tour An Oyster Farm
Shearwater Excursions offers tours to Nantucket’s oyster farms, where you can learn about the important role oysters play in the island’s ecosystem, and watch the farmers harvest from the waters. You’ll even be able to taste some of the oysters! Each tour is limited to 11 people total, which makes this a more authentic and intimate experience.
Rainy Day Things To Do On Nantucket
Rain happens in New England summers, so it’s always good to remember that it’s a possibility during your stay. When planning how many days you need on Nantucket, it’s a good idea to factor in a rain day if you’re worried about not having enough time outside to enjoy all the outdoor activities. You could also get lucky and got expereince a drop of rain, but you never know.
The good news is, there are some great things to do on the island when it rains, and you could even just walk around downtown and visit the shops, too.
14. Tour The Whaling Museum
The Nantucket Whaling Museum is a great place to visit regardless of the weather, but especially wonderful on a rainy day. Since the island is deeply rooted in the whaling industry, there’s so much history and stories to be shared, and the museum does an amazing job showcasing it all.
Inside the museum, you’ll also find a 46-foot long sperm whale skeleton, which is worth the price of admission alone. And at the top of the museum, you’ll have access to a rooftop area that offers amazing views of downtown.
15. Take In A Movie At Dreamland Theater
Located in Nantucket’s downtown, this theater shows new release movies, the occasional classic, and even hosts the Nantucket Film Festival each June. As of 2022, Dreamland is now only selling tickets online, and they can’t be purchased at the box office, so be sure to purchase ahead of time.
16. Explore The Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum
Overlooking a serene marsh, this Nantucket hidden gem is a great place to escape to on a rainy afternoon. Nantucket has experienced over 700 shipwrecks in its history, and this museum does a great job telling the stories of these wrecks, and showcasing artifacts from this time in maritimes history.
The museum also offers a free shuttle from downtown to the museum that departs on the half hour. The pick-up location is at 25 Federal Street, and is available from May 30-October 10.
17. Have A Spa Day At The White Elephant
For the ultimate rainy day experience, book a spa day! The best spa on the island is located at the Harborside White Elephant Hotel, and offers everything from facials to massages. You’ll also be able to relax in their Serenity Room before and after your treatment.
18. Do A Wine Tasting At Epernay
Epernay Wine Shop is located right in downtown, and owned by a certified and advanced sommelier. Tastings are often hosted at the shop (check their website and social media for their tasting calendar).
On a rainy afternoon, it’s a great idea to stop in for an expertly-suggested bottle to take back to your hotel room while you listen to the rain fall – and they even have an amazing selection of cheeses you can bring back with you for your own personal wine and cheese hour.
Do You Need A Car On Nantucket?
Nantucket is very easy to navigate without a car. If you stay close to downtown, most everything will be walkable, or you’ll have easy access to everything else on the island by using Uber, or the public transit system called The Wave.
If it’s in your budget, I do recommend renting a car or moped for a day to really get out and explore the island, specially if you’re there for more than 2 days. You can still see the island without a car, but the ease of having a car will allow you a lot more flexibility to be on your own schedule.
Tip: If you decide to rent a car or moped for a day, be sure to plan your excursions outside of downtown. Parking downtown will be stressful and time-consuming, and you don’t need a car downtown anyway. So once you pick-up your car or moped, be sure to hit the road right away and start exploring other parts of the island.
Is Nantucket Or Cape Cod Better?
One is not better than the other, and they just offer slightly different experiences. For a week-long vacation, it’s a great idea to either take a day trip to Nantucket while staying on the Cape, or stay a few nights in each location.
Mainland Cape Cod is bigger and has a lot more to do. Nantucket is a smaller island, and while it has a lot to do considering its size, you’ll be a bit more limited.
I personally think Nantucket is the more charming destination between the two, but only by a very small margin. There’s just something about arriving on Nantucket and stepping off the ferry at the wharf that feels like you’ve been transported back in time. I typically go to Nantucket every year for a day trip at minimum when visiting the Cape for this reason.
Between Cape Cod and Nantucket, I’m hard-pressed to choose one over the other, and deeply love them both.
Is Nantucket Expensive To Visit?
Sadly, yes. And staying overnight on the island might be prohibitive for a lot of people, especially in the summer season. Even ferry tickets for a day trip can add up if you have a large family. Once you add up ferry tickets and your hotel stay, the sticker shock can be intense!
The average hotel price on Nantucket in the summer season will often start at around $400 per night, and go up to $1,000 or more per night, averaging about $500-$600 per night. You can obviously save some money by visiting in the shoulder and off seasons.
If you plan to stay on the island for a night or longer, I highly recommend taking the slow/traditional ferry via Steamship Authority, which takes twice as long, but will save you about $35 per ferry ticket. I don’t usually recommend the slow ferry for day trippers, but for overnight guests, this is a great way to help you stay on budget.
Why Is Nantucket Called The Grey Lady?
You’ll often hear Nantucket island referred to as the Grey Lady, and that’s because fog has a tendency to roll in quickly and heavily in the early mornings and evenings. That said, you shouldn’t expect each day to be foggy, especially in the summer. But it’s definitely more common than not, and is regarded as the foggiest destination in all of New England.
Why Is Nantucket Called ACK?
You’ll also see Nantucket referred to as ACK in a lot of the shops on the island, and it’s the airport code for Memorial Airport on Nantucket. These letters are often how people will refer to the island, and it’s become a term of endearment, in a sense, by locals and visitors.
Best Places To Stay On Nantucket
The Nantucket Hotel – This is my absolute favorite place to stay on the island. The location is amazing, and walkable to everything downtown, and in the summer, they offer free shuttles to some of the beaches. The Breeze restaurant on-site has incredible food, and the rooms are perfectly appointed and designed for a New England getaway. It’s even been named the best luxury hotel in the country by TripAdvisor.
Brass Lantern Inn – A fantastic option of you want to bring your pet along with you because they have pet-friendly rooms. Located in the center of downtown, the location is perfect for walking everywhere, and the hotel is decorated in a soft but modern New England coastal chic design. They also have a backyard patio where they invite you to enjoy a glass of wine, or even get your dinner to go to enjoy at the hotel.
Jarred Coffin House – When it comes to location, it’s hard to beat the Jared Coffin House because it’s right in the heart of Nantucket’s downtown. This is a great place to stay if you’re looking to spend some time in a historic building, be able to walk everywhere, and still have modern amenities. I also find the prices for this hotel to be relatively reasonable (by Nantucket standards!) for being in such a great location, as well as being a notable building.
Best Restaurants On Nantucket
There are so many great restaurants on Nantucket that it sometimes is overwhelming to pick where to eat. But here are a few of my favorite places (excluding any places I mentioned already as one of the best things to do on the island):
Something Natural is my go-to for beach picnics, or if I just want a quick sandwich. The portions are huge, so you may want to consider getting a half size. And definitely get a cookie!
Millie’s is an awesome Mexican-seafood restaurant right by Madaket Beach. The lobster quesadillas and cocktails here are awesome.
The Charlie Noble is great for when you want a variety of options, and the food is really delicious! They have everything from mac and cheese, to a raw bar, to chicken and waffles.
Pizzeria Gemelle has awesome and authentic Italian-style pizzas. A great option for a sunset beach picnic or a casual dinner.
Lemon Press is a great spot for breakfast, brunch or lunch. They make their own lemonades and usually have different flavors available, and their food is so good.
Nautilus is perfect for a nicer lunch or dinner out, and has amazing seafood-Asian menu offerings.
Straight Wharf is another awesome option for a fancier dinner out, and is right on the wharf with great water views. Their menu focuses on seasonal ingredients, and changes daily.
Sea Grille is a great restaurant when you want something a little nicer, but don’t want to go too fancy. I absolutely love it here. Their lobster bisque and free form ravioli are incredible.
What To Pack For A Trip To Nantucket
Most hotels and rentals will have everything you need for a day at the beach, so before you try to bring your beach chairs and umbrellas over on the ferry, check with your hotel or rental to see if they provide these things for you. Many will also have coolers for you to use for beach picnics, and will likely provide towels for the beach.
Here are some other things to consider packing, in addition to your clothes:
- Reusable water bottle
- Sun hat
- Dramamine for the ferry ride if you get seasick
- Beach bag
- A book to read at the beach (or better yet, buy one at Nantucket Bookworks after getting to the island!)
Packing tip: Skip the heels! The cobblestone streets on Nantucket are not conducive to heels. If you want to dress up one night, try to get away with espadrilles, wedges, or dressier flats. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way!
More posts you may enjoy:
- The Ultimate Nantucket Day Trip Guide
- Cape Cod vs. Nantucket: Which Is Best For You?
- Nantucket vs. Martha’s Vineyard For A Day Trip
That’s A Wrap On How Many Days You Need On Nantucket
If you’ve been torn on how many days you need on Nantucket, hopefully now you’re ready to decide what will be best for you! I truly believe that this is a great destination for any length of time, so regardless of how many days you decide on, it’ll be a spectacular trip.