When I planned our day trip to Nantucket with kids, I worried a full day might be too much.
After all, stuck on an island all day with a baby and a 3 year old? This could either go wonderfully right, or horribly wrong.
I usually have an exit plan in case a bad day happens. I’m prepared to cut my losses, so to speak. But if a bad day happens on the island? Well, safe to say we weren’t going anywhere!
But as it turns out, 6 hours was nowhere near enough! I was pleasantly surprised by just how much there was for families to do on Nantucket, even if it just meant strolling the adorable streets, hydrangeas flowing over the white picket fences, or picnicking alongside a kid-friendly beach.
Nantucket far exceeded my expectations, and now that I know just how kid-friendly it is, we’ll be making a return for sure!
If you’re like us and only have one day to spend on Nantucket with kids, this, I believe, is the very best way to spend it.
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Nantucket with Kids: Getting There
Early on a Friday morning, we hopped aboard the Nantucket Ferry with Freedom Cruise Line at Harwich Port. For families departing from mid-Cape, this will be the best place to start your journey.
The booking process is quite easy: book your tickets online, then visit the ticket office at 702 Route 28 the morning of your trip to exchange them for your ferry boarding passes. The ferry takes off from across the street in Saquatucket Harbor, and it’s encouraged to book in advance, especially during the busiest mid-summer season.
If you’re coming from a west Cape city, you can also catch a high speed ferry at Hyannis Port. Or, if you’re traveling to Nantucket for a longer trip, considering flying direct from Boston or New York City to Nantucket Airport (ACK).
For a day trip, the ferry isn’t cheap. At the time of our journey, we paid $76 for adults, $51 for children aged 2-11, and $9 for children under 2 (get current ferry pricing here). Though it is spendy, we couldn’t resist the chance to visit Nantucket, even if just for a short trip.
It’s about a 50 minute journey from Harwich Port to Nantucket town. Evelyn and I both have a tendency to get seasick, and with the water being a little choppy I decided to try some Sea-Bands to help with the motion sickness. The jury is still out as to how much they work, but nobody puked so so far it’s a win!
Once you hop off the boat, the whole island is your oyster!
So what is there to do on Nantucket Island with kids?
Shop Main Street Nantucket
Arriving in Nantucket, the ferry dropped us off right in the center of town at Straight Wharf.
I usually can’t pass up some window shopping in an adorable little town, and Nantucket was no exception. Along Main Street and the wharf you’ll find loads of clothing boutiques, children’s stores, home decor and gift shops, all selling their best ‘ACK’ gear.
As you walk the Nantucket Historic District, you’ll find the largest collection of pre-Civil War era architecture in the United States! It’s no wonder this island is so picture-perfect. For a morning pick me up while you shop, stop by Handlebar Cafe for an espresso.
Stroll Historic Nantucket Town
Carrying on from Main Street, take a walk south to check out more of Nantucket’s historic homes and mansions. If you’re in Nantucket for more than a day, you can visit many of these historic locations with an all access pass from the Nantucket Historical Association (which also includes entry at the Whaling Museum).
But even if you don’t have a lot of time, a simple stroll through the area is just as nice. The Thomas-Macy House, Hadwen House, and Quaker Meeting House are all just a few blocks off of Main Street, and strolling Orange, Fair and Pine Streets make for lovely walks through more adorable homes, from huge mansions to tiny cottages.
If you make it far enough south, stop by the Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum and learn more about this unique trade born as away to keep the crew aboard lightships busy during the daytime.
Lunch To Go from Provisions
Back at Straight Wharf, it was time for some lunch, so we headed to local favorite Provisions for some grab-and-go sandwiches and salads. You can eat inside, but we had our sights set on a picnic lunch at the beach!
Provisions is know for their ‘Turkey Terrific‘: a Thanksgiving-inspired sandwich layered with turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce! I highly recommend it. 😉 As with a few other stores on the island, Provisions is cash-only, so be sure to bring some extra spending cash along with you.
With food in hand (and some wine-in-a-can from Murray’s Beverage), we headed up Water Street towards Children’s Beach.
Picnic at Children’s Beach
Tucked away behind the wharves, yet a stone’s throw away from Main Street, Children’s Beach is a must for anyone visiting Nantucket with kids.
We found the large lawn to be the perfect setting for our mid-day picnic, wedged between a fun playground and small beach area with sheltered harbor and gentle waves. Also along the park, The Hungry Minnow snack shack and clean restrooms round out everything you’d need for an afternoon of fun.
Journey to Brant Point Light
While you’re at Children’s Beach, make the quick 15 minute walk to Brant Point Light, Nantucket’s most famous lighthouse.
Along the way, you’ll journey past by Brant Point Grill, a fancy place to grab lunch or enjoy a harbor sunset view with dinner inside the White Elephant Hotel. You’ll also pass plenty of fabulous homes before reaching Brant Point. This is not a beach for swimming, so walk the waters edge and collect a few perfect shells before heading back to town.
History Lesson at the Whaling Museum
We decided to end our Nantucket day trip with a history lesson at the Whaling Museum. The entry price is a bit steep, especially for such a short day trip, but if you enjoy learning about history you’ll find it interesting and filled with unique artifacts from Nantucket’s former whaling days.
For the kids, be sure to visit the Discovery Room for hand-on activities and crafts (you can check their website for any special Family Programs they might have going on).
And don’t forget to visit the roof deck for some marvelous views over Nantucket town!
Ice Cream at The Juice Bar
Ice cream is the best way to end any day exploring with kids, so be sure to stop by The Juice Bar for a legendary Nantucket treat.
Don’t be confused by the name, the Juice Bar serves over 50 flavors of homemade ice cream in freshly made waffle cones (there’s smoothies and juices too). It’s so good, Nantucketers and visitors alike line up around the block for it.
Unfortunately, we missed the cash-only memo, and had to leave without indulging in it ourselves! Don’t make our same mistake: bring cash and save plenty of time for a scoop!
Spending the Weekend on Nantucket?
We hardly scratched the surface of all there is to do on Nantucket! While a day trip with kids is great for those on a tight schedule, a long weekend would be ideal to really enjoy all the island has to offer!
We’ll most certainly be making a return trip to Nantucket in the future. And when we do, these activities will top our list:
Nantucket Jeep Rentals | Satisfying Matt’s obsession with Jeeps (no, he’s never owned one!), as well as a fun way to get around the island the local way, we’ll most definitely be renting a Jeep! Affordable Rentals offers Jeep, along with many other types of rentals, right in the center of town.
Bartlett’s Farm | Head out of Nantucket town and experience life on the farm at Bartlett’s. Visit the market, cut flowers from the garden, or take part in one of the many farm tours offered throughout the season.
Cisco Brewers | Who says you can’t take the kids to a brewery? Stop by this Nantucket favorite for beer, live music, food trucks and more.
Jetties Beach | A bike ride away from Nantucket town, Jetties Beach is another popular spot for families. With a casual restaurant (Sandbar) and public facilities, it’s a good place to relax for the afternoon. Stay into the evening to experience the beautiful sunset!
‘Sconset Bluff Walk | You’re sure to spend plenty of time in Nantucket town, but for a different side of the island, head over to ‘Sconset. The 1.5 mile scenic bluff walk starts at 21 Front Street and leads you along oceanfront backyards and amazing ocean views, ending at Sankaty Head Light.
Where to Stay on Nantucket with Kids
Hotels on Nantucket aren’t cheap, so for the full experience, be prepared to splurge. A few favorites for luxury accommodations that also fit the family-friendly bill include:
White Elephant Hotel ($$$$) | Situated next to Children’s beach, this luxury property is just steps from Brant Point and features an on-site restaurant, Brant Point Grill.
Compare prices at: Booking.com | Hotels.com
Harborview Nantucket ($$$$) | For the ultimate retreat, Harborview Nantucket’s cottages gives families all the extra space they need while being located ideally in the center of Nantucket town.
Compare prices at: Booking.com | Hotels.com
PS: While you’re there, take advantage of NannyTucket‘s local babysitting services and enjoy a night out on the island, sans kids!
For a more affordable option, you can find lots of private cottages on Airbnb at reasonable prices. Use this referral link to get $40 in free credit when you book your first stay!
Have you been to Nantucket? Tell me all your favorite places!