Nantucket: Introduction: Just Back From: Summer Classic
Before the start of the voyage in Moby Dick, the narrator Ishmael says that his “mind was made up to sail in no other than a Nantucket craft, because there was a fine, boisterous something about everything connected with that famous old island, which amazingly pleased me.” I, too, left Nantucket on my most recent visit with a new appreciation for the island’s “fine, boisterous something” as well as a lasting impression of a place whose seasonality demands constant revitalization. Newcomers this year include the debut of the Inn at White Elephant Village, slated to open July 15, as well as a host of exciting restaurants and boutiques.
The community of Nantucket is incredibly welcoming to newcomers. Visitors who come for a single weekend or weeks at a time receive the same level of hospitality and familiarity as locals. The island’s best hotels, all part of Nantucket Island Resorts, each cater to a specific guest. The White Elephant is certainly the most luxurious. Best for families who want a waterfront resort just minutes from town, the grand dame offers guests a choice between the luxe ambiance of the main building or the more rustic, value-oriented experience of the one, two-, and three- bedroom garden cottages that were the property’s original structures.
Around the corner are The Residences at the newly created White Elephant Village, which appeals to families with small children because of its modern apartment-like suites that come complete with a kitchenette, washer/dryer and share an outdoor heated pool. The latest addition is the Inn at White Elephant Village, opening this month, which offers access to the Residence’s pool and the feel of a boutique hotel with only twenty rooms and suites.
The White Elephant’s sister property, the romantic Wauwinet, feels more secluded (it’s about a twenty-minute drive from town), sitting between a bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Serene and quiet, this is the property for couples taking a weekend getaway.
Those looking for a bed and breakfast option in the center of town without the hubbub of the wharf choose the Jared Coffin House (29 Broad Street; 508-228-2400; www.jaredcoffinhouse.com), a mansion formerly belonging to one of Nantucket’s founding families. One block from Main Street, the Jared Coffin House is well-suited for those who appreciate the elegant, old-fashioned feel of a 19th-century town house. However to those used to modern luxury, the hotel can seem dated.
Nantucket, which was recently named National Geographic’s “best island in the world”, has notably avoided being overrun by chain stores and multi-level condos, and its charming, grey-shingled beauty is especially vibrant in the late afternoon when the sun turns the panoramas golden. But the place also contains a ruggedness, especially when the wind whips up the shore and rain darkens the sky. On my trip, I stood next to an isolated lighthouse and watched the battering surf, feeling much like one of the 18th-century’s whaling wives whose husbands would leave for up to five years at a time. This left the women in charge of Nantucket whose main street was dubbed “Petticoat Lane.” It’s a theme that remains today, with women running many of the shops and galleries in town.
Despite sometimes wild weather, Nantucket offers many spectacularly sunny days ideal for bike trips around the island. On one such day, I decided to bike to Siasconset, the historical town on the southeastern-most shore about ten miles from town. I felt insignificant as I stood on the beach, gazing out at the seemingly endless blues of the sea. Nantucket presents visitors with these simple moments when time slows down: a beach, an ice cream cone, a loved one by your side. And, at only forty minutes on Jet Blue from New York City, it’s also an incredibly accessible escape, which is itself a modern-day luxury.
Highlights from my trip include:
TOP PICKS FOR LUNCH: stop in for a goat cheese tart or smoked-salmon taco at the cozy Centre Street Bistro (29 Centre Street; 508-228-8470; www.nantucketbistro.com); or a quick sandwich at Provisions while strolling along the wharf. Locals are raving about the newly-opened Met on Main, (38 Main Street; 508-325-5111; www.metonmain.com) for its wide choice of dishes and outdoor seating.
TOP PICKS FOR DINNER: the new waterfront nautical-themed restaurant Cru offers delicious seafood dishes. Topper’s at Wauwinet will pick guests up by boat from the White Elephant dock and serve cocktails on board. The tiny LoLa 41° is a beloved classic.
GREAT SHOPPING: Along with old favorite boutiques Gypsy and Zero Main, head to Mitchell’s Book Corner (54 Main Street; 508-228-1080; www.mitchellsbookcorner.com) for a mix of local flavor and national bestsellers and Milly and Grace for adorable clothes, accessories, and housewares. And don’t forget to purchase an iconic “gurgling cod” pitchers at Shreve, Crump & Low (0 Main Street; 508-228-6246; www.shrevecrumpandlow.com).
SIGHTS NOT TO BE MISSED: Drive on four-wheelers through the dunes out to the lighthouse at Great Point in the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge past Wauwinet for a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean. Make a day trip of it and visit all three lighthouses on the island – Brandt Point Lighthouse and Sankaty Lighthouse by Siasconset.
BEST BEACHES: Families should head to Jetties or Dionis beach for flat, warm water on the bay side. Madaket and 40th Pole on the western end of the island allow cars, and Nobadeer and Surfside on the southern shore are where the younger crowds gather.
BEST DAY TRIPS: Bike the ten miles out to Siasconset over Polpis Road for lunch at Claudette’s (10 Main Street, Siasconset; 508-257-6622)and wander around the historic town. Those more active can bike ride home along Milestone road, or you can catch the “Wave” bus back to town. If you’d rather stay closer to town, head out for lunch at Bartlett Farms and an afternoon enjoying live music and a tour of Cisco Brewery.
Read a review of the new Inn at White Elephant Village.— Lizzie McGirr 07/02/2012