Nantucket is a tiny but unique Atlantic island set 30 miles south of Cape Cod and mainland Massachusetts and 30 miles away from Martha’s Vineyard.
The island offers some of the best preserved colonial and pre-civil war lighthouses, houses, buildings, and cobblestone streets. Along with that, it has more than 80 miles of stunning beaches and perfectly conserved flora and fauna.
It is a top-preferred upscale preppy New England coastal vacation spot and is home to some of the most exclusive summer homes and other properties in the area.
Luckily, there is a wide variety of vacation houses which you can book for your stay there. Depending on your preferences and budget, you can decide between spending your vacation in a cozy historic cottage, a beach condo, a stately waterfront mansion, or one of many more options.
Once you have booked your lodging and ferry or plane ride, you are ready to start packing for your trip.
Here are some tips from locals and returning visitors of this dreamy New England island.
Dress for the ferry ride
The easiest and cheapest way to reach Nantucket is via ferry from Hyannis, Cape Cod, or other ports on the mainland or Martha’s Vineyard.
But even if you are going on a summer vacation in the peak of the season, you should be prepared for the ferry ride. This means wearing the appropriate waterproof clothes, shoes, and rain gear.
Keep in mind that Nantucket has been named “The Little Grey Lady of the Sea” because of the sudden thick fog and weather changes that can occur at any time on the island and around it.
Don’t forget to bring some seasickness pills, especially if you are not sure how you will handle the trip, which is between one and two and a half hours.
A handful of pennies
Don’t forget to bring along some pennies for your trip to Nantucket. The reason is the old “Penny toss” folklore tradition. It calls for throwing “two pennies overboard” as the ferry rounds the Brant Point Lighthouse before leaving the island. This is believed to ensure a safe future return to the island and grant you one wish.
Light and cooling outfits and sun protection
If your trip to Nantucket is in the peak of the summer in July and August, you should pack some light clothes made of cooling fabrics to protect you from heat and humidity.
Also, remember to pack your sunglasses, a sun hat, suitable beachwear, and enough SPF protection to safely enjoy your time on the beach or anywhere else on this magical island.
As for the beach umbrellas, beach chairs, coolers, fishing gear, and others, you can rent them once you get to the island. Or, if you are lucky, your vacation rental residence may offer some of these amenities included in the price.
Layers and fleece for unexpected weather changes
Even though the summer days can be warm and sunny, you need to keep in mind that the temperatures can drop significantly once the sun sets on Nantucket. Plus, the weather can change at any time on this small island.
So, make sure to bring along some fleece, cashmere, or other suitable sweaters, hoodies, or jackets to layer on top of your daily wear as you head off for a walk or some fun at night.
An umbrella or rain jacket for those rainy days
As mentioned earlier, the weather in Nantucket can change abruptly, even in the middle of the summer. So, it is a good idea to bring along a travel umbrella, a rain jacket, and suitable shoes for such rainy days.
Such gear is also convenient if you are planning to hop on one of the many sailing excursions and tours offered in Nantucket.
A good book to read
Although there are so many things to do and see in Nantucket, you may want to pack a good book for relaxation on the beach.
Suppose you want to get into the spirit of this unique island truly. In that case, you can bring along the classic American novel “Moby-Dick” by Herman Melville, which was inspired by an actual whaling ship captain from the years when Nantucket was considered the “whaling capital of the world.”
Comfortable walking shoes and flats
Despite the fact that you can bump into some celebrities, athletes, and other famous people on this fashionable island, it is recommended to skip the high heels and stick to some comfortable flats when in Nantucket.
There are several reasons. Firstly, it is a small island where the preferred method for traveling is by bike or walking.
There are some amazing walking and hiking trails too.
Plus, there are better places to show off those new stilettos than the cobblestone streets in town.
Some locals recommend bringing along water shoes for the rocky bottoms and drop-offs in the water, which occur as a result of the changing tides.
A beach bag or day pack
Make sure to bring a beach bag or a day pack, or both for your Nantucket vacation. You will need it to bring your beach gear, sunglasses, sunblock, book, phone, snacks, and more along with you to the beach or when going on a walk or enjoying other activities around the island.
Stylish but comfortable outfits
Although it is a fashionable destination preferred by the rich and the famous, you don’t need to wear haute couture designer clothes all of the time.
Instead, make sure to pack some more casual preppy coastal and nautical-inspired clothes in white, pastel tones, or the iconic Nantucket Reds faded red color.
Choose flowing dresses, tunics, or skirts with ruffles, fun, colorful prints, and a nautical feel for your stay on this island.
If you are planning a special event or want to enjoy dinner at one of the top fine dining restaurants in Nantucket, then you can pack a fancier outfit and some high heels for the special occasion too.
Find more travel tips in our archives.
Meg is an author at Cinnamon Hollow. She writes on a variety of topics sharing tips and ideas for daily life.