24 Hours on Nantucket? What to Do While You’re on the Island!

A Cape Cod vacation would be incomplete without an excursion to the islands. Nantucket in particular is known for its rich cultural and historical heritage, combined with some excellent food and drink options. With a ferry ticket in hand, all you really need to enjoy yourself on the island is some pocket cash and a sense of direction.
But the following itinerary will make it easier to maximize your time if you only have a day to work with.

7:30 to 9:15 a.m. – Bon Voyage!

It’s important to get up early to catch the hour-long 8:15 high-speed ferry at the Steamship Authority’s Hyannis dock. They have earlier ferries, but this timeframe strikes the perfect balance between being well-rested for your adventure and arriving with enough time to have one in the first place. You’ll be tired enough after walking around the island all day, so there’s no reason to be up at the crack of dawn! Be sure to get to the station (69 South St, Hyannis) at least 45 minutes ahead of sailing time.


9:15 to 10:15 a.m. – Getting Your Bearings
Once the scenic ferry ride has come to an end, get off the boat and walk around. A stop inside the Chamber of Commerce (0 Main Street – yes, a real address!) will afford you the chance to grab a map and ask for personalized activity advice. But simply walking straight up Main Street or Broad Street will give you an idea of the variety of shopping opportunities available. Take it all in before you commit to any activities.



10:15 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. – A Whale of a Time
There’s no better way to set the scene for your trip than to visit the Nantucket Whaling Museum (13 Broad Street). The exhibit provides some intriguing historical context, diving deep into the island’s famous former whaling industry and how the economy changed drastically once it dried up. You’ll encounter an enormous preserved skeleton of a Sperm Whale which washed ashore, hundreds of whaling spears and sailing artifacts, and a gorgeous overlook of downtown from the 3rd-story open-air walkway. Be sure to catch one of the daily interactive presentations.


12:00 to 1:00 p.m. – Lunch Hour
It’s every eater for themselves at this point! There are so many lunch options in the vicinity of downtown, but a few stand out as excellent for a quick refuel. If you’re already in the heart of downtown, try Lemon Press (29 Centre Street). It has a crowd-pleasing list of sandwiches, waffles, baked goods and beverages on the menu, many of which you’d be hard-pressed (get it?) to find anywhere else on the island, or even on the Cape. Another delightful option, The Green (5 W Creek Road), has some of the best smoothies around, and some fantastic Tex-Mex-inspired lunch fare.


1:00 to 4:30 p.m. – Between a Brewery, Bike Tour or Cooking Class
As for what to do with your afternoon on Nantucket, there are a few options. But what most folks recommend is a trip to Cisco Brewery (5 Bartlett Farm Road). The property actually contains three companies under one name: Nantucket Vineyards (a winery), Cisco Brewers (the beer) and Triple Eight Distillery (spirits). The grounds are not in the middle of downtown, but getting there is easy with the free shuttle that stops at 21 Federal Street every 20 minutes or so. Once you’re there, enjoy Cisco’s laid back, party atmosphere, complete with food trucks, picnic tables, and yes, plenty of alcohol to try. For $20, you can take a tour of the grounds, which includes complimentary samples of a smattering of beer, wine and spirits (not to mention a nifty sample glass that you can keep!).

If you’re more in the mood for some scenic exercise, try a bike tour from the aptly-named Nantucket Bike Tours (31 Washington Street). Your tour guide will bring you on one of four tours which explore a different aspect of the island. One of the tours even goes to the Brewery, so why not have exercise AND a craft cocktail for the price of one activity?

Something you may not have pictured yourself doing on Nantucket: cooking. Don’t run away just yet! The Nantucket Culinary Center’s (22 Federal Street) daily rotating lineup of classes is a fun way to learn about the island’s long-held traditions in fishing, farming, baking and brewing. They also offer an array of tasting events and topical lectures; everything from superfood classes to a chocolatier’s dream course.

4:30 to 5:40 – A Quick Bite
Even if you opted for the culinary course, you’re like to be pretty hungry by this point in the day. But it’s still early, and your boat leaves at 6:15. So consider some lighter fare, swiftly served during the final hour of your island stay. Try Nautilus (12 Cambridge Street), a seafood-focused take on a variety of Asian cuisines.
If you’re visiting during the weekend, the Centre Street Bistro (29 Centre Street) is open for dinner. They serve a fusion of Italian, Thai and American classics, with a different risotto each day.
Of course, you can always just have ice cream for dinner. But you’ll likely have to wait in line, because EVERYBODY goes to The Juice Bar (12 Broad Street). It’s widely regarded as the best ice cream in town, featuring standard flavors and a host of dazzling ones (the electric-blue “Cookie Monster” is not to be missed).
Have a bit more time? Taking a later ferry? Check out our list of the hottest restaurants on the island.


5:40 to 7:15 – So Long, Farewell…
Time to go already? But look at all you have accomplished! Don’t forget, the island is only ever a quick ferry ride away. If you’re taking the 6:15 Steamship Authority ferry, be sure to arrive by at least 5:45 or sooner – and have a safe ride back to the mainland!

Looking to Check Out Some of Nantucket’s Hottest Restaurants?

We recently published a piece on some of Nantucket’s Hottest Restaurants. Take a look at a few of them by clicking the discover more button below.


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