Nantucket in 48 Hours

Updated July 21, 2020.

It’s Throwback Thursday, so I’m throwing it way back to… last week in Nantucket! I only had 48 hours to spend, so I had to spend them wisely. Here’s what I came up with!

Day 1

10:06am: Land at Nantucket Airport (ACK)

I flew in on United from Dulles (IAD) via Newark (EWR), but JetBlue, American, and the Cape Cod’s own Cape Air also fly into ACK. All the planes that fly into ACK are small, however, and they’re all regional jets. Get ready for a “prop plane” experience!

More here: What to Expect Flying in a Tiny Plane

10:30-12:30: Private Bike Tour

This was the best way to start my quick trip! Cole at Nantucket Bike Tours was a phenomenal guide. I booked my tour via their website two weeks in advance, but I think even shorter notice would have been ok. It was only $20 more for me to take a private tour instead of a group tour, but that was worth it for me.

It’s true a group tour would have been fine, but I told Cole my preferences and that I’m a travel blogger, so he customized it for me, making sure we saw some special sites that even locals don’t know about! And we skipped the stuff I wasn’t as interested in, like celebrity homes. The tour was two hours, and I felt confident that I could explore more on my own since I got the lay of the land with a local!

IMG_7041 2
Off on my bike tour with my bike, Lucretia!
Get all the details: How to Explore Nantucket by Land and Sea

12:30-4:00: Dropping Off Luggage, Lunch, Whaling Museum

Then I was on my own! Cole was kind enough to let me leave my backpack in the office so I could get right to the tour, so when we finished up I grabbed my bag, picked up an iced lavender latte at Handlebar Cafe, and found my way to the Jared Coffin House, my home for the duration of the trip. After dropping off my bag, I walked around downtown Nantucket looking for a place to eat.

Cali Power Sandwich from the Lemon Press
Keep eating: What to Eat on Nantucket

That was just the pick-up I needed to power through the rest of the afternoon! Next stop: Whaling Museum. The Nantucket Whaling Museum is a place I didn’t spend enough time. I got through most of it and saw the highlights, but they have programs throughout the day, and your ticket is only good for one day!

Check out their website before you go and find their daily schedule so you can make sure to see what you want to see! You will definitely see the whale skeleton, and I really liked the scrimshaw exhibit upstairs. Also, do not miss the view from their roof walk! I left a few minutes earlier than I would have liked so I could pick up a free bus pass at the visitor center for the next day’s museum excursion.

Whale skeleton
View from the roof walk
Scrimshaw–art from whale bones and teeth

4:00-5:30: Sailing on the Endeavor

I also highly recommend taking a sailing tour on the Endeavor with Captain Jim and his son James. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed that we didn’t sail around the island (I don’t know where I got the idea that we would!), but it was an exciting experience all the same! We got to watch them hoist the sails, and some of the passengers even got to help! It was a gorgeous afternoon, and the views from the ship cannot be beaten! Captain Jim gave us some great information about the island, its history, and his boat, which he built himself 40 years ago!

The Endeavor
Sails up!
The view from the boat!

5:30-7:00: Supper and Ice Cream

Time for supper! There are lots of places to eat down at the wharf after your boat tour, so take your pick! I went a little farther off the beaten path and ate at LoLa 41. It was the most expensive sushi I’ve ever eaten. I wish I’d eaten at the Wharf! But travel is about learning. The best thing I did was get ice cream at The Juice Bar. Every list of “things to do on Nantucket” includes the Juice Bar for ice cream, and now I know why! It was the creamiest ice cream I’ve ever had, they had seemingly dozens of flavors and combinations to choose from, and they make their own waffle cones! I had one scoop each of cake batter ice cream and cookies n’ cream in a waffle bowl. It was amazing!

Ice cream for me!

7:00pm: Back to the Hotel

I know, I’m a total dud! I love go-go-going as long as I can, but after a 4:30am wake up time and going all day long, I was exhausted! There was a ghost tour at 8:00pm that I was interested in, but it was a two-hour tour, and I knew I wouldn’t be having fun by 10:00pm! Anyway, I needed a shower and some time to get my blogging started until time for sleep!

Day 2

5:45am: Morning Run and Breakfast

Another reason I like to go to bed early is that I like to get up early! I love to run in a new place, and thanks to the Map My Run app, I can get lost anywhere in the world without actually getting lost! Check out the scenery:

Iconic church tower
Found out why Nantucket is called “The Gray Lady”–check out that morning fog!

And I met the sweetest, somewhat grandfatherly gentleman at The Hub, where I picked up a breakfast croissant to eat outside. We had a great conversation, and he gave me the low-down on the folks around town!

Hearty kale and cheese croissant

9:00-12:00: Coffee, Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum

One wonderful thing about Nantucket is that there are absolutely no chain restaurants, and only two chain clothing stores that I saw. That means lots of amazing coffee! So you know I had to stop into a cute bakery to people watch while I waited for the bus to the Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum.

Mocha at Petticoat Row Bakery

The Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum is definitely worth making an effort to see. If I had it to do over again, I would have planned to rent a bike for a few hours that day instead of arranging my day around the bus schedule. It’s great that the bus takes you the four miles from town to the Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum, but the bus only runs every hour and 20 minutes. It’s about a 10 minute ride from downtown, and finding the right bus was easy. But that meant I would either have 40 minutes at the museum (not quite enough for me) or two hours (too much for me!). Since I had lots of other sites on my agenda for the day, I decided to go the 40-minute museum route. Too bad! But I learned a lot while I was there! For more tips on what to know before you go, read this: What to Know Before Your Trip to Nantucket.

It was a dark and stormy day at the museum!
This map lights up to show where the shipwrecks have occurred through the years.
Those are britches in the life preserver!
More here: What to Know Before You Visit Nantucket

12:00-4:00: Lunch and Historic Sites

I got a bit rained on waiting a couple of minutes for the bus back to downtown, but not too badly, and after the clouds passed, the rest of the day cleared up! I ducked into Fog Island Cafe for lunch, only to find they were still serving breakfast! After a short wait, I got a spot at the bar and ordered up a breakfast wrap with fruit. I’m glad Nantucketers like their breakfasts!

Breakfast wrap and fruit from Fog Island Cafe

On to the historic sites! I don’t know that I did these in the most efficient order, but I did get them all done before they closed at 4:00pm, so that’s a win in my book! Unfortunately, the Coffin School was closed for repairs, but the other sites were open. My Nantucket Historical Association ticket, which I purchased with my Whaling Museum ticket the day before, included the Fire Hose Cart House, Greater Light, Old Gaol, Old Mill, and the Oldest House, and that is the order in which I visited them. Again, it would have been nice to rent a bike. If I had it to do over again, I would, but walking was good enough to get it done!

All fire hose carts were hand-drawn and hand-pumped. There was a nice film about the devastating fire of 1846 that showed the path and progression of the fire.

Hand-drawn Fire Hose Cart

Greater Light was a horse barn that two eccentric sisters purchased and made their home. They created a place for their artwork and antiques from all over the world!

Bedroom in Greater Light Home

This is the “new” Old Gaol (pronounced “jail”). The one they had before was too easy to break out of, so they build a new one in 1806 that kept people in!

Two-person Gaol (Jail) cell

The Old Mill! There were three mills at one point, but this is the oldest and the only one left. The gentleman giving the tour to me showed me how milling was done and how they put the sails on. Millers would need to use all five senses so they wouldn’t burn the corn!

Old Windmill for milling corn

I needed a little snack on my way across town to my next stop. The apple cake at Bean was wonderful!

Coffee and apple cake snack break at Bean

Now we’ve come to the oldest remaining house on Nantucket. It’s been restored over the last 300+ years, but it was originally build by a very influential family on Nantucket. It was built as a wedding present for the son of a Coffin and the daughter of a Gardener–a real Romeo and Juliet story!

The Oldest House

4:00-6:00: Taking it in and Suppertime

The town of Nantucket itself is just as cute and charming as you see in pictures and movies. The homes are all uniform with their cedar shakes or wood siding (very few are brick, but those that are really pop out!), and it’s truly picturesque. After my museum day, I walked around taking pictures and found myself down at the Wharf for supper.

I was really there!
The Club Car of “Wings” fame

Here’s the real New Englander fare from the Tavern at the Wharf:

New England Clam Chowder
Lobster Roll

And who can resist ice cream? This one came from Jack and Charlie’s down on the Wharf.

Ice Cream sundae!

After a busy and surprisingly humid day, I was ready for a shower and to fall into bed! Back to the Jared Coffin House for me. It’s the oldest hotel on the island, and it is one of the only buildings in town to survive the 1846 fire because it was made of brick.

Jared Coffin House

Day 3

5:45am: Morning Run and Coffee Break

I do love a good morning run! My last morning’s running route took me the opposite direction of yesterday’s run, so I got to see a bit more of how the year-round on-islanders live. There are nice biking and running paths that took me by some shops and businesses, and I stopped for an iced coffee at Wicked Island Bakery on my way back toward downtown. Who can resist?

Wicked Good Coffee!

After a shower and some last-minute re-packing, I set out in search of breakfast and a few more photo-ops around town. Here’s a look at the veggie scramble and cheese grits from Black-Eyed Susan’s:

Almost like Southern fare!

And here’s one of my favorite shots from the trip. I love this mural down by the waterfront!

Best mural ever.

And then it was time to head out to the airport. I checked out of my hotel and had them call me a cab at 9:00am, but that was too early for my 10:35am flight! If I had left at 9:30 or even 9:45, I would have been fine. As it turns out, the security screening for that flight doesn’t even start until 9:45, and Nantucket is such a small airport that it’s really only about 10 steps from security to your gate, and you’re right there at the plane! But since I arrived about 9:15, I had time to check out their airport restaurant and grab a muffin and iced coffee (are you surprised?) and see some of the faces of Wings on the wall:

Wings! Sorry, we’re missing Joe, Helen, Lowell, and Bud.

So long, Nantucket! I can’t wait to come back! Have you been to Nantucket? Are you planning a trip? Let me know below!

Find everything you need to plan your own trip on my United States Page!

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4 responses to “Nantucket in 48 Hours”

  1. It sounds like you had a wonderfully full trip way to pack in all the sights! 🙂

  2. […] this was a short trip (48 hours, to be exact), I needed to be efficient about my clothing choices. I knew when I landed, I’d have time to […]

  3. […] decide where you go, what you do, and when you do what you want! You can check out my itinerary for Nantucket in 48 Hours for the details–I stayed busy the whole time. From historical sites, to museums, morning […]

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