While there are certainly plenty of things to do on Cape Cod, it’s worth taking a Nantucket day trip during your Cape getaway. With three historic lighthouses, several museums, and beautiful scenes all around, you’ll see why the island is such a charming destination as soon as you arrive.
Since there’s so much to do on Nantucket, it would be difficult to explore everything in a single day. It helps to know which places are the best to see so that you can make the most of your time.
Our guide provides a load of tips to help you with planning a Nantucket day trip from Cape Cod’s Candleberry Inn in Brewster. And if you want more Cape Cod travel tips, check out our free Vacation Guide.
Have a Gourmet Breakfast at Candleberry Inn
Before you head toward Nantucket, you’ll need a hearty breakfast for the long day ahead. Candleberry Inn prepares a fresh breakfast every morning.
Breakfast starts with fresh fruit, which innkeeper Angelo personally picks and prepares. The main course alternates every day between savory and sweet hot dishes, and our Italian heritage inspires many of the recipes. If you have any dietary restrictions, we’re happy to make adjustments with advance notice.
Plus, you can choose from a variety of drinks — coffee, tea, espresso, and juice. We can even prepare a tasty Cape Cod specialty — the Brewster Sunrise.
Catch a Ferry to Nantucket From Hyannis
Nantucket Island is located about 30 miles south of Cape Cod, so the only ways to get there are by ferry and plane. Nantucket Airlines has been providing daily, year-round flights from Hyannis and Nantucket for a long time.
If you’re looking for a more traditional travel option, there are three passenger ferry options to choose from. The Steamship Authority and Hy-Line Cruises operate one-hour, high-speed ferry services from Hyannis to Straight Wharf. The Steamship Authority also offers leisure ferry services to the island.
The third option is Freedom Cruise Line, which operates from Harwich Port to Straight Wharf in Nantucket Harbor. These passenger services take less than 80 minutes.
Note: If you want to take your vehicle to Nantucket, the Steamship Authority ferry from Hyannis is your only option.
Plan How You’ll Get Around the Island
You can explore Nantucket on foot or by car or bike. In our opinion, biking around the towns of the island is a great way to discover everything that it offers. There are three rental shops just off Broad Street — Nantucket Bike Shop, Young’s Bicycle Shop, and Wheels of Delight.
Biking allows you to make your way around the towns of Nantucket at your own pace while taking in the sights. It’s also cheaper than ferrying your car to the island. If you’re worried about getting too tired along the way, electric bikes are available.
There are also several tour operators available near the ferry arrival docks. These include both large and smaller buses with or without tour guides, as well as private and shared car tours. Taxi and driver services are also available to get to and from the Nantucket towns.
The Nantucket Regional Transit Authority offers public transport around the island as well.
Visit Some of the Best Places on Your Nantucket Day Trip
While everything on Nantucket is worth seeing, you’ll want to plan your trip wisely. So, here are a few fantastic spots that you shouldn’t miss.
As soon as you arrive at Straight Wharf, you can walk right off the ferry and down Main Street. Along the way, you’ll pass breathtaking stately mansions, iconic cottages, and some exclusive boutiques, galleries, and other stores. It’s a wonderful introduction to Nantucket.
Brant Point Light
Not far from the wharf, Brant Point Light is the second-oldest functioning lighthouse in the country. The original tower was built in 1746 as a navigation aid for whaling vessels entering the inner harbor. The current cylindrical, wooden lighthouse was built in 1901 and is 26 feet tall.
Nantucket was known as the whaling capital of the world for more than a century, and the Nantucket Whaling Museum features interesting pictures and artifacts about this history, including a 46-foot sperm whale skeleton.
While you’re here, climb up the stairs to the Tucker’s Roofwalk — the largest rooftop space in downtown Nantucket. From here, you get a gorgeous view of the historic district.
First Congregational Church Tower
Another good place to get a view of Nantucket is the tower at the First Congregational Church. The church has had an important role in the community for 300 years. The architecture is quite beautiful as well.
The two domes at the Loines Observatory were built in 1968 and 2006. They also feature an antique 8-inch Alvan Clark telescope and a 24-inch research telescope. The observatory offers public astronomical programs and Open Nights for stargazing.
Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum
Committed to honoring the maritime rescuers and shipwrecks of Nantucket, the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum rests next to Folger’s Marsh — one of the most scenic spots for picnicking and bird-watching. While the museum is open seasonally, the grounds are open all year.
Lost Farm Wildlife Sanctuary
If you want to escape the crowds in downtown Nantucket, you could venture off to the Lost Farm Wildlife Sanctuary. This 75-acre preserve is the largest pitch pine forest on the island.
There are 5 miles of trails too, which are lined with beautiful wildflowers — including Pink Lady’s Slipper — during the summer. The sanctuary is full of wildlife and songbirds as well.
Before you leave, you should grab some souvenirs to commemorate your Nantucket day trip. Murray’s Toggery Shop sells the official Nantucket red pants and apparel. At the Sunken Ship, you’ll find a huge selection of island apparel and gifts. You can also arrange scuba diving charters here.
Originally named Le Cherche Midi when it opened in 1990, Toujours Midi Nantucket offers a unique and carefully curated collection of dishware, flatware, glassware, linens, and other items for your home. There are fun and elegant gifts too.
Explore More of Nantucket
If this isn’t your first Nantucket day trip, there are some other parts of the island that are worth seeing. Here’s a look at what you can expect in Siasconset Village and at a few of the beaches.
On the eastern side of Nantucket, Siasconset is a small quaint fishing village that remains nearly unchanged since the early 18th century. There are several things to keep you busy here, including walking along Siasconset Beach.
The village is home to picturesque cottages and the Sconset Bluff Walk, a public footpath that runs along the eastern shore bluffs of the island with amazing views of the water. Also, Sankaty Head Golf Club is nearby, and Sankaty Head Light, which was built in 1850, overlooks the golf course.
White Sandy Beaches
Since Nantucket is an island, there are numerous beaches along its shores. Children’s Beach is close to town, easy to access, and suitable for swimming because of the calm surf. Plus, it has a grassy lawn and playground.
Step’s Beach and Dionis Beach are on the north shore and are ideal for taking a walk and hunting for shells. Step’s Beach is one of the most iconic, particularly the steps that lead down to the sand.
On the south shore, Surfside Beach tends to be cooler and to have stronger currents, shifting sands, and heavy surf. So, just be careful if you decide to take a dip.
Eat at Tasty Nantucket Restaurants
During your day trip to Nantucket, you’ll see a lot of delicious places to grab a snack, lunch, and dinner — as long as you have time to dine before your ferry returns to Cape Cod. Here are a few top-notch restaurants to check out on the island.
Straight Wharf Restaurant
When you want a taste of the sea with a view, stop at Straight Wharf Restaurant. Since it’s right off the namesake wharf, it’s the perfect spot to get dinner before returning to the Cape. Although, the restaurant has a lunch menu too.
Specializing in contemporary New England and international dishes, Breeze Restaurant is located in the Nantucket Hotel. The upscale menu features lobster tacos and clam chowder — possibly the most famous and best dish on the island.
The Nautilus is a rustic, modern eatery featuring New England, Asian, and other international street food. Also, the food pairs perfectly with the inventive, culinary-inspired cocktails, a list of more than 500 bottles of wine and sake, and an extensive selection of craft beer and spirits.
Oran Mor Bistro
For some of the finest seasonal dishes on Nantucket, eat at Oran Mor Bistro. The meals are served on the second floor of a historic home. The gourmet delicacies pair well with the menu of select wines and handcrafted cocktails.
If you decide to visit Siasconset Village while you’re on the island, Sconset Cafe is a quaint spot for an early dinner. The menu features classic fine dining dishes like crab cakes, lasagna, and mussels. And, you don’t want to miss indulging in the cafe’s specialty baked goods — cupcakes, biscuits, and other fresh desserts.
The Chanticleer Restaurant & Gardens
Also in Siasconset, The Chanticleer Restaurant & Gardens is one of the best and most romantic restaurants on Nantucket. The kitchen prepares every land and sea dish using the organic berries, flowers, herbs, and seasonal vegetables from its own lush gardens. And, you can pair some of the finest wines in the world with your meal.
Rest at Candleberry Inn After Your Nantucket Day Trip
After returning to Brewster from your Nantucket day trip, you’ll be happy to get a good night of sleep in your room at Candleberry Inn. You can even arrange to have an in-room massage the following day, which will be especially revitalizing after biking around the island.