Nantucket,  Roadtrip

The Nantucket Perfect List

This post is a combination of two things.

1. All of the photos are from last week’s vacation (instagrams are perfect for vacation photos, don’t you think?).

2. All of the text comprises my “perfect list” of the things I’d recommend to anyone, anytime, to always do. For the most part, the photos have nothing to do with the text. So sorry, but I think it’ll work.

Here’s the thing about Nantucket. It’s expensive and prohibitive. They charge you to park on the mainland side (cheapest parking is at the bus lot). They charge you to ferry over on the slowest boat possible, or they charge you to fly over on the shortest flight known to mankind. Food also must ferry over, so menu prices will make you wince. Many of the shops seem to be full of cashmere and ridiculous gold jewelry. The drabbest bed and breakfast could cost your whole vacation budget.

But here’s the other thing about Nantucket: the entire thing is encircled with beaches. Each one has a new view, or a new type of wave, or a new feeling of pure freedom to encounter. It’s 99% independent businesses owned by quirky humans, most of them there because they adore the place. The breeze seems to be always blowing. The architectural restrictions that mean every single house must have cedar shingles and white trim? It works so well that your eyes relax and notice all the wildflowers for once.

And it can be relished, truly loved, for not too much money.

Best case scenario: someone with a house invites you out. God bless em, this happens every once in awhile. But other best case scenario: stay at the cutest hostel in the world! Take the shuttle out, or bring your bike on the ferry and bike out. Take the bus down from Boston, bring your bike on the ferry, stay here, and save your pennies for the food!

alright, on to the perfect list:

Milky Coffee and the Breakfast Special at the Pharmacy You can do the brunch scene with it twenty minute waits, or you can do this. Particularly when hungover, I prefer this. Sit at the counter if you can, or just call your order to the girls behind the counter. The breakfast special is a genius combination of onion bagel, bacon, tomato, salt and pepper and cream cheese . It arrives in splendor on a paper plate. They mix your cream and sugar into your coffee, and it turns out dessert style.Lounging inside and outside the Library An oasis in the heat, the Nantucket Athenaeum is a beautiful free spot: cool inside and full of books! I love to sit for an hour with a few magazines to take a break from the bustle of town. Or bring your own book and sit in their shaded grassy yard.a walk to the Bake Shop for donuts Just outside town, the Bake Shop competes with Downy Flake for island’s best donut. I love this little bakery for its old school vibe. It’s absolutely full of options and I never know what to order, I just point at a bunch of things and make off with my paper sack of goodies.

Sandwiches in the yard at Something Natural There are 4+ great sandwiches shops on Nantucket but you’ll see stickers for Something Natural on almost every car. The beautiful ambling lawn out front, the addictively fresh Portuguese bread, and the scenic Cliffside Road address surely all contribute to this. Ideal for a quick bike ride outside of town, order one of their enormous sandwiches, pick up a Nantucket Nectar, and lounge in the shade.

Day Drinking at Cisco Brewery Truth is, everyone will tell you to go here. By 4pm this ramshackle lot can be incredibly crowded and you’ll see the line of parked cars as soon as you turn onto Bartlett Road. But around 2pm on a weekday there’s a good chance you can find a chair in the shade. Sometimes there’s a visiting raw bar selling plates of bluefish dip and crackers. Sometimes there’s a portable pizza oven. Sometimes there’s no food at all, just beer of all sorts, waiting for a tasting. Pennsylvania Dutch Cakes and Bacon at Black Eyed Susan’s If you can get there before eight, you’ll barely have to wait for table. If you don’t, don’t get scared by the crowd out front. Just put your name on the list and walk around town for 30 minutes. Every single thing on the menu is delicious, every seat in the house feels like the perfect spot, and the coffee is bottomless. I do not think it gets better than this.Pillaging island vintage at the Take-it or Leave-it Everyone is required to take their own trash to the dump and sort the recyclables carefully. Once there (and you can bike there!) you’ll see shack in the corner of the dump’s parking lot. Everyone has a story about their favorite free find here–beautiful editions of old books, the perfect sweater, that grill accessory you needed for the week, a beach toy for your baby, etc. We try to go at least a couple times a week when we’re on island. At the end of the week, we go through our stuff and donate to the pile!Hat-gawking at Peter Beaton This place is the classiest. She had striped shirts, signature custom sunglasses and amazing sun hats long before all these jokers showed up. Her window is full of ribbon options, the hats are all so enticing and the little sign guiding you to the shop might be the most charming one in town.Picking up wine from the Bookstore in Sconset If you bring your bikes (or rent them) the longest ride out of town is to Sconset, 8.2 miles. Sconset is perfect for pleasant wandering about, every street is lovely and most corners reveal a view. We love to pick out wine from the Bookstore, a wonderfully curated shop that is attached to the restaurant next door (which is byob, so it works perfectly!). You can always take the shuttle back to town (2 bikes fit on the front).Waiting in the endless line at the Juice Bar  The wall is covered with painted signs listing the choices (fresh watermelon juice! homemade fudge! fresh orange juice and vanilla shake!) the fan blows fresh waffle hot air in your face and, come nightfall, the line is around the block. I take that as a certain sign that it’s the spot to be. Chips and Burgers at Surfside Beach To me this place is ideal Nantucket: affordable, friendly, simple, and classy. I love seeing the kids run up from the beach with their dollars in hand, lining up for slush puppies, burgers, bags of Ruffle potato chips, or frozen candy bars. Watch out for the seagulls here! They are dive bombers with a keen eye for an unwatched burger. Bonus: surfside beach is the easiest beach to bike to and it has the cleanest bathrooms and showers. You can drive, bike, or take the shuttle.Bluefish Dip from East Coast Seafood Just before you turn down the road to Cisco Brewery, you’ll see a sign for 167 Seafood. This is my favorite spot to buy seafood–I love the way the shop carries just the right things for seafood buyers, I love how fresh everything is, and I love their bluefish dip. A container of that is the perfect snack for any Nantucket adventure.

Spending Money at Provisions, Straight Wharf Bar, and Straight Wharf  Everything this trio of businesses does, they do perfectly. Between the three they’ve got you covered for a morning brunch, a boozy drink and bar snack, or an expensive deluxe dinner.

I just noticed this could also be called “a guide to shade on Nantucket.”  ha!


  • Allie

    I was only there for about 3 days but this post makes me want to return! Yes quite pricey but I just enjoyed walking and soaking it all in. Love this new space, Rachael!

    • girlpolish

      That’s such a good point. Does she do that? I want to be like that.

      They put a slice of Jarlsburg cheese into the pancake on the griddle and it sizzles and melts into the batter. It’s amazing.

  • Julie

    I’m on Team Martha’s Vineyard (and actually just wrote a post like this with island favorites!), but it’s so fun to get a glimpse of life on the other MA island. These photos are so dreamy and timeless.

    • girlpolish

      “team” is such an apt way to describe it! Once you go to one, you almost never switch over. We must do MV someday, I feel like I’m always hearing about great businesses out there. And such a different vibe altogether from Nantucket.

  • Abbie

    Can you believe I grew up in Massachusetts and have lived here most of my life, and I’ve NEVER been to Nantucket? This post makes me feel like I need to remedy that, stat.

    • girlpolish

      yes! It’s classic, lived-next-to-the-tourist-spot so you never go. I’m guilty of that on many counts back in Michigan. The hostel tip that I mention was big news to me. Before that it was just way too expensive for most young people to casually visit. I hope you try it! September is lovely time out there…

  • kellyn

    this post came at the perfect time, got to see all the things i miss <3

    picture #1: your hair looks amazing. this is my favorite length on you!

    • girlpolish

      Kellyn! We did almost none of this on this trip. Being at end house, we just layed about in the lawn, barely made it to the brewery. #highstandards

  • Blaze

    Nantucket is number one on my list of travel destinations! My husband is convinced it will be outrageously expensive but all your tips make me want to go even more!

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