By Cassie Shortsleeve
Thirty miles out to sea, Nantucket greets bike-toting passengers and urban dwellers seeking fresh air alike with all that a Massachusetts coastal summer promises: luxury, natural beauty, and old New England charm.
With windy bike paths and not a single traffic light, the island is meant to be explored via foot and bike (though the public bus system dubbed the Wave is convenient, too).
Stroll the cobbled streets of downtown before escaping toward the island’s edges for adventure. Here are the stops to make along the way.
An out-of-town breakfast
There are plenty of cafés and breakfast spots in town (Black-Eyed Susan’s for one), but Island Kitchen — a mid-island indoor-outdoor joint where you can enjoy panko-crusted eggs benedict sans some of the Main Street crowds — is just a quick bike ride away.
A sunset dinner
Time dinner (quesadillas stuffed with grilled shrimp and pineapple mango salsa with a margarita) right at Millie’s, a boisterous spot on the island’s west side, and you’ll have a front-row seat to the best sunset on the island. The Mexican restaurant is also open for lunch if it’s the waves (from Madaket Beach just two minutes away) you’re craving.
To see and be seen
Dress up for oysters at Cru, a seafood staple at the end of Straight Wharf that’s also known to have one of the best lobster rolls on the island.
Wait for the ice cream
The round-the-corner line at The Juice Bar for pistachio or cookie monster ice cream really is worth standing in. Cash only!
Nantucket is the reason New Englanders brag about their beaches. Crowds flock to Surfside (ocean waves and an upscale snack bar) and Nobadeer (where the college crowd goes to party), but Cisco Beach (where Hummock Pond Road deadends at the open Atlantic) and Ladies Beach (a quieter, but just as special spot down a long dirt path past Bartlett’s Farm) stun, too.
Gaze through high-tech research telescopes at the Maria Mitchell Association Loines Observatory and on a clear night, you might see Saturn’s glowing rings or, 25,000 light years away from earth, the Hercules star cluster. Public stargazing nights are held Monday and Wednesday nights throughout the summer.
Rent a bike
Wind your way through the miles of paved trails that snake across the island on a bike from Young’s Bicycle Shop.
Enjoy live music
No beach day is complete without a stop at Cisco Brewers, the island’s beloved spot for live music, local beer (try the Grey Lady Ale), and food truck eats.
Appreciate local culture
At the Whaling Museum, the island’s rich maritime past (including a 46-foot sperm whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling) is on display. Art galleries, such as Samuel Owen Gallery and Michael Gaillard Studio, are peppered throughout town, too.