Before summer comes to an end, join me for a visit to the idyllic island of Nantucket. Less than thirty miles off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the picture perfect island, with lighthouses guarding its shores and beaches edged with sand dunes and sea oats, has an unmistakable New England charm that has attracted artists, writers and thousands of summer visitors for years.
After arriving on the island, either by plane or ferry, take a walking tour down the cobbled streets of downtown and you see evidence of its importance during the late 18th and early 19th century, when its whaling port made it one of the wealthiest communities in America. Brick mansions and grand homes clad in white clapboard, many with widow’s walks perched high on their rooftops, were built for the wealthy sea captains who prospered during the bygone era of whaling. Today, some of those historic buildings are lovely inns, B & B’s and popular restaurants.
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Downtown is filled with mixture of trendy high end boutiques, art galleries and antique shops that cater to the wealthy who have summer homes on the island and more affordable clothing, gift and souvenir shops that are popular with the summer crowds that visit the island. One store you shouldn’t miss is Murray’s Toggery Shop which locals think of as Nantucket’s department store but is especially known for selling “Nantucket red” trousers.
Walk over to wharfs and you will find more boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants as well as the ferry terminal. Docked at the wharfs, you see mega yachts of the rich and famous, sailing boats of all sizes, working fishing boats as well as boats for charter and rental. During the course of the summer, sailboat races with small day sailors such as the Rainbow Fleet or large multi masted America’s Cup boats are held in the nearby waters.
After enjoying all there is to see and do in the downtown area, be sure to take time to visit other parts of the island. Just three and a half miles from downtown, the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum honors the islanders who risked their own lives to save the victims from over 700 shipwrecks in the surrounding waters. The most memorable exhibit is about the tragedy and the rescue of victims from the Andrea Doria. In 1956, the Italian ocean liner, collided with the Swedish ocean liner, Stockholm and sank 45 miles south of Nantucket.
Siasconset or ‘Sconset” as the locals say, is an old fishing village where fisherman’s tiny houses have now been turned into charming little cottages. Stop at Claudette’s for an excellent sandwich then head over to the seaside edge of town for a stroll along the “Bluff Walk” to enjoy wonderful sea views and the impressive bluffs. The high bluffs are slowly being eroded away by fierce storms that ravage the shoreline at certain times of the year. Some of the cliff side homes have become so close to the edge that they will soon need to be moved or lost to the sea. This is also the area of the island where you can see the Sankaty Head Lighthouse which has been moved three times because of the shoreline erosion.
Besides the natural beauty of the island, one of the things I enjoy while visiting Nantucket, and I believe most people will, are the wonderful homes. It doesn’t matter whether they are a multi-million dollar new house or a small older cottage, all the island homes have an architectural style that is controlled by strict preservation codes. Covered in weathered gray cedar shingles, doors and windows trimmed in white, they are all special in their own way as far as I’m concerned.
With the moist, cool ocean air of summer, gardens tend to thrive on the island and add to the beauty of each home, no matter its size. While some of the large homes are hidden behind huge privet hedges for privacy, many of the cottages are surrounded by white wooden fences, which during summer, are covered with hundreds of pink rose blossoms and honeysuckle. It is nice to be able to walk by slowly and enjoy the sweet smells as you admire the profusion of perennial flowerbeds surrounding the homes.
After our move from New England last September, I didn’t think I would be returning this year but was delighted when good friends, who’ve had a home on Nantucket for years, invited us back for another visit. Being on the island once again was a special treat.
The rugged beauty of its cliffs constantly pounded by the cold waters of the Atlantic, charming gray shingled cottages with their lush flower gardens, the sweet smell of roses and honeysuckle, all memories that I won’t soon forget. I must thank our dear friends…a week full of laughter, cooking together and reminiscing about our friendships for oh so many years was absolutely wonderful.
If you get a chance to visit the delightful island of Nantucket, even if only for a couple of romantic days, I know you will love its wonderful New England charm. Tell me, have you ever been to the island and if so what made it special to you?