We love this beautiful island best in fall, when the light turns golden and the cranberry bogs crimson; the surf runs wild, but the vibe is mellow. It’s the perfect time to watch pods of returning seals sunning themselves on rocks, to ride a bike along autumn-tinged marshlands, and return to warm drinks by a fire. You can actually get a table at most of Nantucket’s best restaurants; lodging prices drop; and the island hosts a variety of fall events, including Restaurant Week (Sept. 26- Oct. 2), and the Cranberry Festival (Oct. 6), Arts Festival (Sept. 28-Oct. 7), and Harvest Festival (Oct. 14).
The elegant and romantic Union Street Inn (7 Union St., 888-517-0707, www.unioninn.com, $209-$539)
gets all the amenities right: luxury linens, plush robes, flat-screen TVs, designer furniture. The 12-room inn, housed in an impeccably restored 1770s whaling captain’s home, is steps from historic Main Street. The lovely gardens at Fair Street Inn (27 Fair St., 508-257-4577, www.thesummer house.com/fairstreet, $125- $395) are a great place to enjoy a glass of wine, or read the morning newspaper. Within easy walking distance to downtown, the inn has 14 rooms and suites, with rustic-elegant country decor, and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.
Nantucket in fall is all about carpe-ing your diem before winter. While on the go, build your own breakfast or lunch burrito at The Green (5 West Creek Road, 508-228-1100, www.the greennantucket.com, $5.95- $10.95), known for its fresh, organic, and healthy fare. Come dinnertime, though, take advantage of the fact that snagging a reservation at a top restaurant becomes a snap. On chilly nights, head to cozy Figs (29 Fair St., 508-228-7800, www.the summerhouse.com, entrees $19- $39), where you can dine in one of the oldest houses on the island, with exposed beams, brick fireplaces, and soft lighting. Start with the Tuscan white bean soup or asparagus frites, followed by entrees
such as lobster and shrimp linguine in a sun-dried tomato-basil sauce, the signature Tuscan Bolognese, or the melt-in-your-mouth braised short rib set atop creamy mushroom risotto. At the longstanding hot spot American Seasons (80 Centre St., 508-228-7111, www.americanseasons.com, entrees $26.50-$38.50), award-winning chef Michael LaScola lends his innovative flourish to locally sourced ingredients, creating dishes such as whipped bone marrow appetizer, served with slow-roasted beef cheeks and red onion marmalade, the popular suckling pig, and the tobacco-rubbed duck. Don’t pass up a side serving of velvety buttermilk grits. Surrender control at casual Company of the Cauldron (5 India St., 508-228-4016, www.companyofthecauldron .com, three-course meal $67- $87), where the menu is preset and changes every night. Food is straightforward and delicious and might include rib-eye steak, brioche crusted halibut, or grilled lobster for an entree. For a beachy, romantic setting, complete with white tablecloths, candles, and piano music, head to The Summer House (17 Ocean St., 508-257-9976, www.thesummerhouse.com, entrees $23-$43) in Siasconset. The rich lobster bisque is a great starter on crisp fall evenings, and you can’t go wrong with the lobster pomodoro or the New York strip steak served with wild mushroom bread pudding.
DURING THE DAY
Rent bikes at Young’s (6 Broad St., 508-228-1151, www. youngsbicycleshop.com, $25/day) and pedal out to Jetties or Surfside beach for an early morning stroll. Later, ride out to Siasconset to view the historic summer cottages, or to the picturesque Brant Point Lighthouse (2 Easton St., 508-228-7244). If you haven’t visited the Whaling Museum (13 Broad St., 508-228-1894, www.nha.org, adults $17, children ages 6-17 $8), you must. Located in a restored 1847 candle factory, the museum showcases Nantucket’s glory days of whaling with exhibits, programs, and an impressive scrimshaw collection. For a look inside three of Nantucket’s historic homes, join the Historic House Walking Tour (departs from the Whaling Museum, 508-228-1894, www.nha.org, $10, ages 6-17 $4). Take a walk down Main Street with the Nantucket Preservation Trust on the guided Architectural Tour (55 Main St., 508-228-1387, www.nantucket preservation.org, $10), where you will hear stories about Nantucket’s settlers, and get a look at the island’s classic architecture. Now that the summer hordes are gone, you’ll be able to browse Nantucket’s plethora of designer stores, boutiques, and gift shops at your leisure. Check out family-owned Murray’s Toggery Shop (62 Main St., 800-368-2134, www.nantucketreds .com) for Nantucket faded-red casual wear. Also for found-only-in-Nantucket purchases, visit Nantucket Looms (51 Main St., 508-228-1908, www.nantucket looms.com), with a gorgeous selection of hand-woven, natural-fiber scarves, sweaters, and throws. In these times, it’s often tough to find a cool, independent bookstore. Nantucket has two: Mitchell’s Book Corner (54 Main St., 508-228-1080, mitch ellsbookcorner.com) and Nantucket Bookworks (25 Broad St., 508-228-4000, nantucketbook works.com).
Catch a film or a live performance at the recently reopened Dreamland (17 South Water St., 508-332-4822, www.nantucket dreamland.org), one of the oldest theaters in the nation. You can also see top-notch community theater performances — at reasonable prices — at the Theatre Workshop of Nantucket (2 Centre St., 508-228-4305, www .theatreworkshop.com). The Rose and Crown (23 South Water St., 508-228-2595, www.the roseandcrown.com) has DJs, live entertainment, and karaoke nights, and attracts a lively group of Patriots fans at game time.