A Day on Nantucket – 7/14/2021 (2024)

We booked an early morning ferry this year to give ourselves some more time on island. “On Site” premium parking was a couple of blocks away. I had made dinner reservations a few days earlier at my 4th choice restaurant; the others having booked up a couple of weeks in advance.

I dressed in a manner with which I might pass myself off as a resident: White trousers, cotton button down shirt, woven belt (nautical motif), boat shoes and expensive-looking watch (turns out: the ultra-rich dress like slobs).

The day’s activities were built around Benjamin’s appt at the RMV [ed.: that’s the same as the DMV in NY]. His permit had expired during the pandemic and we found on Nantucket the only available appointment slots in the Commonwealth this side of October. It had better be the nicest RMV office ever. I want free cappuccino and biscotti.
Ferry was replete with snotty kids sporting private school sweats and sundresses, glued to their phones.
I had grabbed a handful of tourist pamphlets at the ferry pier in Hyannis and, while en route, scrambled to reserve an AM activity (I suppose I could have done this earlier).
I nearly sprung for the 90-minute sailboat ride on the 2-masted Endeavor ($600/family). But no. Settled on a more accessible put-put boat tour of Nantucket harbor (the free ice cream settled it for Danielle).
In addition to the endless rows of “ordinary” yachts – 40-foot Sea Rays and the like ($200k), there were several superyachts docked.
As I understand it, a superyacht is the same as a yacht except you change the unit of
length from feet to meters.
The Annastar is a sleek, 50-meter, jaw-dropping superyacht, built in Westport, CT, 2012. Owned by half-billionaire juice box man Stanley Star (he lately upgraded from an inferior, 36-meter boat). I wonder if there is a synagogue on board? If you laid end-to-end all the juice boxes he sold to make his fortune, they would stretch to the moon and back. I made that up (chocolate malted planet). But it is probably accurate. Annastar was parked next to an even bigger yacht, “Rock.it.” A quick ‘net search reveals it is owned by the Jimmy Johns sub shop guy (we do not like him; he is a big game hunter. There is a photo circulating on line of him nakedly hugging a deceased sea creature). I told our captain that Rock.it may be bigger, but the Annastar has more class (he agreed).
Our captain was a wealth of information, not just about Nantucket wealth (let us coin “wealthp*rn,” to capture the guilty fascination), but island history, flora and fauna. How much does it cost to dock a superyacht? “Excellent question,” he exclaimed. The rate is $10/foot/night. Sounds reasonable enough. For a 50 m yacht, that comes out to $1600/night. Annastar had been docked for 3 nights, while Rock.it had been sitting in port for 2 weeks. You could buy a Honda Civic for the price of that parking ticket. But, right, what does the Jimmy Johns guy need with a Civic?
From the interior photos online, much of the deck and below-deck space of Rock.it seems devoted to various types of sitting, and so resembles your typical Renaissance royal palace in decadence and lack of utility.

Something in my head broke when our captain quoted the $350k initiation fee of the Nantucket Yacht Club (that figure is not on their website. “If you have to ask…”). More than merely pointing up the folly of my cosplay, I wondered if these people are a different species.

Along our hour-long jaunt, we saw some cormorants, snowy egrets and various species of gull, each identified by our knowledgeable skipper. Danielle commented that one fluffy gull, upon scratching itself and then returning to rest position, seemed to transform into a different bird and back again (it did at that).
Some of the superyachts flew the flag of a British colony. “Bermuda?” Close, Cayman Islands. Of course.
Further out in the bay, we spotted the jaunty Endeavor, skipping the waves with her $600 party. Maybe next year.
Our captain described his love of sailing. I asked why he was not presently on a sailboat like Endeavor and he got very quiet. Oops?
Disembarked, thanked and generously tipped our captain. We were fortunate to get a table for lunch at “Or, the Whale,” on the warm and tony back patio. Scrumptious chicken confit for me, felafel for Benjamin and burger for Danielle – she did not care for the peculiar sauce. Sitting amidst the gaggle of gentile lushes, I was inspired to order a glass of chardonnay which, though palatable, was definitely a mistake. It took all afternoon and several overpriced coffees to sober up (must’ve been dehydrated). Gazing about, I tried to determine who among us were tourists and who locals. Wharton baseball cap on a dad, Fordham cap on a brooding teen, some ladies bejeweled, some not. Some flip flops. The whiteness of diners and wait-staff cast an interesting contrast against the easy-listening reggae wafting overhead.

Settled up, staggered out, hydrated, caffeinated, window shopped,.
We located the RMV, 15 minutes before Benjamin’s appointment, in the municipal office building across from the Whaling Museum (perused on a previous visit). Sign said, “Mask Required” (we had brought none). Ran around in expanding radii looking for a mask. Most establishments were no longer selling them. Found in a souvenir shop the last remaining mask on the island for $12. Everything is more expensive on Nantucket, including poor planning.

Dropped off Benjamin at the RMV (the sign now read, “Masks Requested.” ADHD is a b*tch) and Danielle and I perused one of the two Town bookstores. Proprietor is left-of-center. Anti-Trump polemics, Ibrahim X. Kendi, Ta Nessie Coates, and Adam Serwer’s, “The Cruelty is the Point,” all prominently displayed. Are there liberals on Nantucket? To the internet we go: Of 6000 ACK votes in the 2020 election, 5000 were cast for Biden/Harris. Curiouser and curiouser.

Benjamin’s appointment was over quickly. He was unable to take the test [eds. note: he took it soon after our return home]. Now for some fun – our planned exploration of the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge. Half the refuge is administered by the Trustees of Reservations, of which we are members, the other half by the Nantucket Wildlife Trust (of which we are not). Together, they comprise a slender, sandy wilderness that splits in two, jutting into the Atlantic, separating Nantucket Bay from Nantucket Sound, one prong terminating in the fabled and remote Great Point Light, the other rolling back towards Town, beach-lined, defining the far shore of the Bay. Our target was the former. A Trustees-sponsored jeep tour would have been the order of the day, but there were none on-order that day (due to… covid). No matter, we will hike. Looking at the map, the entrance to the refuge seemed to be guarded by a hotel called The Wauwinet. Looks like a cool spot, we should look into staying there. As the hotel’s jet black shuttle appeared in front of the municipal building to let off some guests, we buttonholed the driver to run by him our plan. Just proceed right past the hotel, he said, no one will stop you; paradise awaits. But our best bet, he advised, is to rent a jeep. We won’t get far on foot, and certainly will get nowhere near the lighthouse.
Thank you for your guidance.

A regular room at The Wauwinet goes for $1625/night. Oh, you want deluxe bayview? Those are $2k. That’s more than the famed White Elephant (we were later to learn that they are owned by the same company). The feeling of being an interloper rose in my gut.

I had read online horror stories about the island’s 15+ taxi services, each apparently more unreliable than the other, and further reports that Uber is the best way to get around ACK without a car, jeep, scooter, or bike. We hailed an Uber and made our way out of Town, through the Rotary, down Polpis Road, past the cranberry bogs, Lifesaving Museum, bike paths and roads to the island’s interior – the so-called Moors – and onto bucolic, rolling, isolated Wauwinet Road. Mindful of my draining phone charge, I asked our driver if he would pick us up in 2 hours. Certainly, he would. We were to text him when we wanted to leave and he would come in 15 minutes.

In a small, sandy parking area at the Trustees kiosk, jeep drivers were letting air out of their tires below a sign, “If you do not deflate to 15 psi you WILL get stuck!” I was glad we did not rent a jeep.

Just past the Trustees kiosk is the shady and elegant front garden of the hotel. Two 1930s burgundy-and-teak limos (Daimlers?) with special plates sat across from the main house.
A handful of busy staff milled about the main house and adjacent restaurant, Toppers. The Doorman greeted us with a warm smile and wordless invitation to enter. Some contented guests strolled about. Unease. Nearly all staff are people of Color. All guests are white. Have we happened upon an antebellum theme park ?

We walked past the main house along the sandy road.
On our right rose a boggy hillock with hotel bungalows and private homes, all weathered Nantucket Grey. Just beyond lay the waters of Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic. On our left a rolled narrow strip of hardy cranberry and mangroves, through which short paths and boardwalks led to private beaches on Nantucket Bay. The scene was strikingly beautiful, the flora casting sharp shadows against the fine, white sand, the waters of the Bay glinting and rippling in the afternoon sun. The only sounds were the sea breeze and birdsong. A path to the Sound side of the peninsula was clearly marked as being for hotel guests only – they lease the Sound-side beach.
With dwindling phone battery and water, we made our way along the sandy road, stepping aside to let by the occasional jeep. We walked further along. I do not think we ever got past the private properties to the Refuge proper.
Poor Danielle was fading in the sun. We made our way back. Danielle bought us 3 glasses of pink lemonade from some kids, we texted our driver and waited. He did not come in 15 minutes, or ever, and my phone decided it was off-duty. No matter, Benjamin has the Uber app on his phone. I have never before seen “No Drivers Available” on Uber. Ouch. The app offered the option to schedule a pickup, which I did, for an arbitrarily-chosen 20 minutes hence. Benjamin said that this would accomplish exactly nothing, which it did. Uh, oh. I did not bring any phone numbers for the unreliable cab companies. I acutely felt the discordance between our situation and that of the hotel guests. Both isolated in paradise, they happily and we desperately.

Made our way back to the Trustees kiosk to plead for help. None forthcoming; he was closing up (where does he live?). The lemonade kids and their dad were gone. A kindly local, a middle-aged woman, pulled up and asked us if we were ok, but pulled away before we could take her up on what seemed to be a half-hearted offer for a lift into Town.

I gazed down doubtfully at my boat shoes, the toes now caked in fine sand. “Wait here.” I sucked in my chest and, with shoulders back and chin held high, marched past the smiling, mute doorman into the elegant, cozy lobby of the most exclusive hotel on the most exclusive island in the Northeast. I must have looked a sight: sweaty, red-faced, my Nantucket costume covered in fine playa dust.
I asked the concierge if she would call us a cab.
“If you like, but you can take the shuttle.”
“We’re not guests.”
“No worries, you’re white.”
Ok, she did not say that, but it was implied. Joke’s on you lady, we’re Jewish.
Seriously, it was very gracious of them to let us use their shuttle and probably more convenient than disposing of our dehydrated bodies.

While waiting in the shady garden for the jet black shuttle, a portly, white haired gentleman in blue collared Tee and white slacks came out to water the flowers with a garden hose. The Manager. The watering is a gesture of humility. He greeted me.
I will offer our conversation in ACK-ese, with English translation:
“Afternoon!” [“Who the f*ck are you?”]
“Afternoon!” [“We are harmless, no need for the police.”] (different inflection, you see).
“We came to hike the Reserve.” [“We really do not belong here and we know it.”]
“Where are you staying?” [“How rich are you?”]
“Dennisport” [“We are not rich enough to stay on the island, but have some money and may be worth your time.”]
“Oh! You came over just for the day?” [“You are not worth my time.”]
“Yes, and it seems we found a place more rarified than the White Elephant.” (This brown-nosing to curry favor is identical in ACK-ese).
“We like to think so.” [“I am the Manager and humble-brag with ease.”]
“Thanks for the use of your shuttle. From what we have seen, we would love a stay here.” [“We could probably afford a week in February during a blizzard.”]
“We would love to have you.” [“We are closed in February and rooms never go below $500/night, and that is only during off-season Category 3-and-up hurricanes.”]

The shuttle pulled up and we took our seats in the back. No a/c, windows open. A gaggle of 50-something guests, heading to Town for dinner, were loudly conversing up front. Cyclists all, they have “biked the 5 Boroughs” (I did not know that was a thing), and from The Wauwinet to Town – but not tonight. They ate at Nautilus last night and Cru the night previous (these are two of the heavy hitters which were entirely booked when I had checked earlier in the week).
I called up to them:
“We much enjoyed ‘Or, the Whale’ for lunch today!” [“Rich people, back here.”]
“Oh, yes!”
“We couldn’t get a table at Cru or Nautilus.”
“Cru is lovely.”
“We’re headed to Nantucket Tap Room.”
(Amidst themselves): “Where are they going?” “Tap Room!” “Oh, yes!”
We said our goodbyes. I thanked and tipped the driver.

Onto Tap Room, located in Jared Coffin House (rooms here are a mere $700/night in-season).
Our server took our order with a Russian accent.
Me: “Спасибо!”
She: “I’m not Russian.”
Must I keep doing that? Ukrainians hate the Russians, but they have the same accent. I do not think she spat in our food, but it was an unusually fast meal.
Heineken non-alcoholic beer for my libation, having learned my lesson. I think the kids liked their food.

We had time before ferrying back to stop at the other bookstore in Town; this one has an alcove devoted to various Moby Dick editions and commentaries. Benjamin got “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.” Danielle looked a lot, but did not get anything.
Sometime after the sun dipped below the horizon, we headed back to Straight Wharf. Danielle regretted not having gotten a book, during our wait for the ferry.
Separate queue for “Captain’s View.” We had paid the extra $12/seat to see what it was (see below). Straight Warf has the Cru bar as its terminus and is otherwise lined with touristy clothing shops and a few other eateries. We people-watched through the dusk.

Several grinning, jocular young men, approaching each other from opposite ends of the warf, traded bird calls:
“Ca-caw, ca-caw!!”
(Must you? That is SO annoying!)
“To the yacht! Ca-CAW!”
So that’s it. They are heading back to the yacht and sharing an inside joke. I am a trained mental health expert and can say that they are being obnoxious precisely because they can.

Arriving later than late (out of the darkness, someone yelled, “mazel tov!” I knew there were more of us around here somewhere) the ferry discharged its passengers, whitish ones to the hotels and clapboard homes, darker-colored ones to the service quarters – or directly to work for third shift (the fatigued, stressed expressions on the faces of the service class readily distinguished them from the others).
As for the former group, as they passed, I exclaimed:
“Welcome to Martha’s Vineyard!”
Some ladies smiled. One older gentleman said, “Is this Hyannis??” Oops. Hyannis is where he embarked. Good thing I am off-duty.

Captain’s View is just the seating area on the foredeck, with different-colored seats. No Captain was in-view and that’s precisely all it was, $12/seat extra.

Danielle was not a happy camper. She became increasingly seasick over the course of the hour-long trip. We tried various interventions, including seeking a spot on the lower deck and, eventually, trying to disembark before the ferry was quite moored (got yelled at). But what worked was vomiting in the trash by the door.
“I’m never going on a ferry again. “Well, we will try some Dramamine next time.
Listened to HP Lovecraft on the drive back.

A Day on Nantucket – 7/14/2021 (2024)


Is one day enough in Nantucket? ›

However, to really do some site seeing and get out of the downtown area, you will want a full day to ensure you have enough time to enjoy yourself, see the island, and make it back in time for your return trip without feeling rushed.

What is the busiest month in Nantucket? ›

Summer: June, July, and August are the peak summer months on Nantucket, and this is when the island is at its busiest.

Is Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard better? ›

Martha's Vineyard is the larger of the two islands and is also far busier. Its population swells to over 200,000 in summer, so you could run into some crowds. Nantucket is smaller and doesn't get as busy. If you're looking to relax and hit up a secluded trail or beach, it's worth considering.

Does anyone live on Nantucket year round? ›

While the island's population fluctuates throughout the year due to seasonal residents and tourists, the year-round Nantucket population is 14,255 according to the 2020 Census.

How walkable is Nantucket? ›

Downtown Nantucket has beautiful, quiet streets lined with historic homes and is easily walkable.

Can you walk around in Nantucket without a car? ›

Nantucket is a very walkable and bike-friendly island, so it's also possible to get around by foot or bike.

Why do people like Nantucket so much? ›

Nantucket is a small island around 30 miles off the coast of Massachusetts that weaves together history, nature, and unique culture into an enchanting experience for every traveler.

Is Nantucket for the wealthy? ›

"The concentration of wealth is quite stunning on Nantucket, and it keeps escalating," Bruce Percelay, a real estate developer and the publisher of the island's N Magazine, who has been vacationing on Nantucket for nearly all of his life, told Business Insider.

What is the nicest part of Nantucket? ›

Polpis. This scenic area, far from the hustle and bustle of Nantucket Town is this sprawling neighborhood with low moors leading to the harborside beach with protected waters. It's an ideal spot for homeowners seeking peace and solitude.

What is special about Nantucket? ›

Nantucket is known for whaling, Nantucket bay scallops, foggy weather, lighthouses (three of them!), Main Street, Cisco Brewers, fantastic fishing, iconic holidays like Nantucket Stroll and the Daffodil Festival and the Rainbow Fleet.

Which is wealthier, Marthas Vineyard or Nantucket? ›

Nantucket is the Marilyn to Martha's Vineyard's Jackie (even though the Kennedys are over in Hyannis — but you get the point). The island has become a playground for the hyper-wealthy, with probably more billionaires per square mile than many other places on the planet.

What billionaires live on Nantucket? ›

Other billionaires who own homes in Nantucket include former Google chief executive officer Eric Schmidt and Blackstone Inc.'s Steve Schwarzman, who was reportedly behind the largest private home sale in the island's history. As for Schwab, he appears to be ready to give Straight Wharf a try.

What celebrities live on Nantucket? ›

It's not unusual to hear of celebrities visiting our little island and several notable people own houses (mansions) on the island, including Tommy Hilfiger, the Kerry's, Eric Schmidt, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, and Dorothy Hamill, among others.

What is the average income in Nantucket? ›

About. In 2022, Nantucket, MA had a population of 10.5k people with a median age of 39.7 and a median household income of $131,736. Between 2021 and 2022 the population of Nantucket, MA declined from 10,699 to 10,479, a −2.06% decrease and its median household income grew from $108,167 to $131,736, a 21.8% increase.

Which is better to visit, Cape Cod or Nantucket? ›

In the end, you really can't go wrong with either, and both destinations are absolutely gorgeous. While Nantucket has that magical charm that feels like a postcard, Cape Cod has tons of coastline, various towns to explore, and tons of attractions to see.

Can you do Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket in a day? ›

With Hy-Line Cruises' inter-island ferry service, hopping islands is easy! Make your way to the Steamship Authority dock on Nantucket, purchase your ticket, and board the fast ferry to Martha's Vineyard. The journey only takes about one hour and drops you off at Oak Bluffs.

Can you go to Nantucket for a day from Boston? ›

If you only have a day to experience Nantucket's New England charm, maximize your time with this convenient package. Rather than hiring a car and taking the slow ferry, enjoy minibus transfers to Hyannis, cross to Nantucket in just an hour, and spend almost a whole day exploring independently by bus, car, or on foot.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rubie Ullrich

Last Updated:

Views: 5583

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (52 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rubie Ullrich

Birthday: 1998-02-02

Address: 743 Stoltenberg Center, Genovevaville, NJ 59925-3119

Phone: +2202978377583

Job: Administration Engineer

Hobby: Surfing, Sailing, Listening to music, Web surfing, Kitesurfing, Geocaching, Backpacking

Introduction: My name is Rubie Ullrich, I am a enthusiastic, perfect, tender, vivacious, talented, famous, delightful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.