You could wing it, have nary a plan, and still have a fine time on Nantucket. Hop off the ferry; roam the town; pop into a restaurant or two. We’ve done it that way. But a serendipitous getaway won’t get you the best of what the “Grey Lady” — named best island in the world last year by National Geographic — has to offer. For that, you need to narrow in on a plan: Looking for romance? Love history? Crave adventure? Here are three ways to do Nantucket.
If you can’t find romance on Nantucket, you’re probably with the wrong person. Seaside sunsets, candlelight dinners, back-in-time charm, and miles of secluded beaches are the perfect makings for a dreamy, starry-eyed escape.
Stay: The Wauwinet (120 Wauwinet Road, 508-228-0145, 800-424-8718, www.wauwinet.com, $675-$800), an intimate, 38-room property at the northeast tip of the island, is located about 9 miles out of town. The longstanding resort — celebrating 25 years this season — has received lots of awards; still, you’ll feel as if you’ve stumbled upon your own secret hideaway. The service is gracious, the pace relaxed, and the setting, footsteps from Nantucket Bay on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, is unsurpassed on the island. Watch sunsets over the bay from the cozy outdoor terrace or beachside lounge chairs, stroll the private beaches, and splurge on a couples’ massage at Wauwinet’s Spa by the Sea.
Dine: Live harp music and flickering candles help set the mood at cozy Company of the Cauldron (5 India St., 508-228-4016, www.companyofthecauldron.com, three- or four-course prix fixe $70). The tiny restaurant has only two seatings a night and a single three-course menu (no choices) that changes daily. Expect contemporary twists to classic dishes like slow-roasted heart of ribeye with parmigiano potato torta and pan-seared local fluke with peekeytoe crab and fava bean salad. The elegant Topper’s restaurant (at the Wauwinet, entrees $29-$50) wins hearts with its seaside setting, impressive wine list, and consistently fine cuisine. Try the signature lobster and crab cakes, roasted duck breast, or the tender short ribs.
Do: Tool around the island on a double-seater scooter from Nantucket Bike Shop (Steamship Wharf & Straight Wharf, 508-228-1999, www.nantucketbikeshop.com), visiting lighthouses and secluded beaches.
Tip: Madaket Beach is a sweeping swath of sand and the best place on the island to view the sunset. Or pick up wine and gourmet snacks at Epernay (1 North Beach St., 508-228-2755, www.epernaywines.com) to take with you on a four-wheel-drive ride (Nantucket Island Rent-A-Car, 14 Airport Road, 508-228-9989, www.nantucketislandrentacar.com) through miles of dunes at Great Beach. Steal a kiss at the top of the First Congregational Church bell tower (62 Centre St., 508-228-0950, www.nantucketfcc.org), as you enjoy the sweeping views of the island and sound. Reserve an evening for a sunset cruise aboard the Endeavor (Slip 1015, Straight Wharf, 508-228-5585, www.endeavorsailing.com), a beautiful, wood-trimmed Friendship Sloop sailboat.
FOR OUTDOOR ADVENTURERS
The glacier-formed island, some 26 miles out to sea, packs a lot of adventure in its 14-mile-long, 3.5-mile-wide band of sand, forest, rolling moorlands, marshes, and dunes. There are more than 80 miles of beaches, and 45 percent of the island remains naturally preserved and protected.
Stay: Get away from the hustle of downtown by staying at the Summer House Cottages (17 Ocean Ave, Siasconset, 508-257-4577, www.summerhouse.com, cottages and suites $275-$695) in quiet ’Sconset. The simple shingled cottages, surrounded by gardens on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic, are bright and airy, some with marble baths, kitchenettes, patios, decks, and ocean views. An outdoor heated pool and the splurge-worthy Summer House Restaurant add to the appeal of this serene property.
Dine: Load up on energy-packing carbs at friendly, family-owned Fusaro’s (17 Old South Road, 508-228-4100, www.fusarosrestaurant.com, entrees $13.95-$20.95). The pastas, soups, and sauces are all house-made with fresh, local ingredients. Try the popular house specialties like the Sicilian scampi, Tuscan roast chicken, and the classic marinara with fresh tomatoes and herbs. It doesn’t get much fresher or more local than the farm-made food at Bartlett’s Farm (33 Bartlett’s Farm Road, 508-228-9403, www.bartlettsfarm.com, sandwiches $7-$10), the oldest and largest family-owned farm on the island. Pick up salads and sandwiches to go before you hit the trail. You’ll also find fresh-made sandwiches on homemade breads, and some of the best cookies on the island at Something Natural (50 Cliff Road, 508-228-0504, www.somethingnatural.com, $3.95-$9.95).Continued...