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Nantucket is a tiny island off the coast of the famous Cape Cod peninsula in Massachusetts and was once the whaling capital of New England. The island welcomes summer visitors with its beaches and gray cedar-shingle buildings, which make it easy to envision the island’s distant past as a whaling hub in the 19th century.
Nantucket’s permanent population sits somewhere around 14,000, but the number of inhabitants grows significantly to over 80,000 in July and August when the island is most idyllic. Many Nantucket hotels reach maximum capacity in the summer.
With just 105-square miles of land, the island is swarming with visitors in the warm months, but this unique destination is a mandatory part of any Massachusetts vacation.
From the iconic lighthouse at Brant Point and the cobblestones of Main Street to the surf culture of Cisco and Surfside, Nantucket squeezes quite a diverse array of environments into its tiny landmass. If New England were defined by one significant location, a picture of Nantucket’s iconic Main Street would undoubtedly qualify.
However, Nantucket has so much more to offer with some of the best hotels, bed and breakfast establishments, and boutique hotels in all of New England.
- TL;DR: Best Places to Stay in Nantucket
- Best Areas to Stay in Nantucket
- Where to Stay on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
- 1. Downtown Nantucket: Best Area for First-Timers
- 2. Siasconset Village (Sconset): Best Area for Safety
- 3. Tom Nevers: Best Area for Adventures
- 4. Surfside: Best Area for Families
- 5. Cisco: Best Area for Nightlife
- 6. Madaket: Best Area for Younger Travelers
- 7. Wauwinet: Best Area for Luxury Travelers
- Where are the best places to stay in Nantucket for families?
- Where should you stay on Nantucket for parties and nightlife?
- Where are the best beaches on Nantucket?
TL;DR: Best Places to Stay in Nantucket
- Best Luxury Hotel in Nantucket – White Elephant Hotel
- Best Mid-Range Hotel in Nantucket – Nantucket Inn
- Best Budget Hotel in Nantucket – Martin House Inn
- Best Vacation Rental in Nantucket – Luxury Home with Pool
- Best Resort in Nantucket – The Wauwinet Nantucket
Best Areas to Stay in Nantucket
- Best area for first-timers/tourists – Downtown Nantucket
- Best area for luxury travelers – Wauwinet
- Best area for safety – Siasconset Village (Sconset)
- Best area for families – Surfside
- Best area for adventures – Tom Nevers
- Best area for nightlife – Cisco
- Best area for younger travelers – Madaket
Where to Stay on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
1. Downtown Nantucket: Best Area for First-Timers
The area every first-time tourist will explore when they visit Nantucket, MA, is Downtown with the iconic Brant Point lighthouse and views of Nantucket Harbor. Downtown Nantucket (or just “Town”) sits along the island’s northern coastline, and the ferries that service the island arrive at the docks here, just south of the Brant Point Lighthouse.
Downtown is where you’ll find most of the hotels, and it’s the best place to stay if it’s your first time on Nantucket. As you explore the Nantucket town center, you’ll notice fantastic historical preservation that makes every step feel like you’re walking through the pages of a storybook.
Wandering down the cobblestone streets means discovering pocket gardens brimming with roses, gazing upon the iconic gray-shingled cottages, and feeling like you’ve entered a time machine to the 19th century. Town is where to stay in Nantucket, MA, for the first time, and the area is filled with historic inns like the Martin House Inn, as well as the best boutique hotels like the Seven Sea Street Inn.
If all the walking around downtown has your stomach grumbling, consider getting lunch or dinner at the Brant Point Grill in the White Elephant Hotel, one of the best Nantucket hotels. The restaurant and hotel are within walking distance of the Jethro Coffin house.
If you’ve never eaten fresh New England lobster, you might take the opportunity when you get a table at the Brant Point Grill. After eating, it’s time to relax on Children’s Beach, which is an ideal spot to play if you’re traveling with kids. It’s also the site of various recreational activities offered during the summer months. Children’s Beach is just around the corner from the White Elephant hotel.
The Brass Lantern Inn is another Nantucket inn within easy walking distance of the beach. Here are some things to do in Downtown when you’re staying at a Nantucket hotel resort, inn, or vacation home:
- Main Street sightseeing
- Brant Point Lighthouse
- Jethro Coffin House
- Children’s Beach
- The Whaling Museum
- Antique fire truck ride
You’ll find most of the hotels in Nantucket in Town. The location is convenient to the entire island, so it’s possible to stay in Town and reach every other area on day trips via ride-share, a car rental, or by bicycle.
Hotel guests in a Nantucket hotel or inn somewhere in Town usually get access to a complimentary breakfast, which is helpful when you’re aiming for an affordable Nantucket vacation.
It’s rare to find cheap hotels in Nantucket, but you will find more than one Nantucket hotel with helpful amenities to make your vacation easier. Here are some beautiful places to stay in Downtown Nantucket:
- Best Budget Hotel in Downtown: 21 Broad
- Best Mid-Range Hotel in Downtown: Martin House Inn
- Best Luxury Hotel in Downtown: White Elephant Nantucket
- Best Boutique Hotel in Downtown: Union Street Inn
See Related: Best Things to Do in Boston, Massachusetts
2. Siasconset Village (Sconset): Best Area for Safety
Siasconset Village is a little fishing village on the eastern edge of Nantucket Island, but nobody calls it by its full name. Instead, locals and travelers call it ‘Sconset (Sconset), and it hasn’t changed much since the 1700s when it started to become a popular place for vacations, fishing trips, and tiny Nantucket inns.
Yes, you read that right: people were vacationing in Sconset in the 1700s, and it remains one of the best areas to stay for excellent Nantucket hotel deals and vacation home stays.
The Sconset Bluff Walk is one of the best things to do when staying in the village. It was created by a resident in the late 1800s who wanted to ensure that visitors could always enjoy the beautiful views whether they resided in the village or were just visiting it.
One of the neat features of the village is that most of the historic homes have the year they were built on a sign somewhere on the house. Many of the cottages also feature amusing nautical themes and characters.
It’s worth noting that most of the places to stay in Sconset are vacation homes rather than hotels. Most Sconset vacation homes offer all of the expected amenities like a flat screen TV and free Wi-Fi access. Renting a vacation home in Nantucket is an excellent way to get everyone their own private bathroom, which is helpful when traveling in a group.
If you stroll far enough along the Sconset Bluff Walk, you’ll reach the Sankaty Head Lighthouse, which dates back to 1850. If you’re itching for a nautical souvenir, you’ll find a gift shop near the lighthouse.
The lighthouse remains operational today but was automated in the 1960s, so you won’t find an old, crusty New England lighthouse keeper inside. Consider the following activities for your trip to Sconset:
- Sconset Bluff Walk
- Sankaty Head Lighthouse
- Ice cream at the Sconset Market
- Sconset Beach for seal watching
- Siasconset Golf Course
- The Chanticleer Restaurant & Gardens
Sconset isn’t so much a town as it is a little village, so it’s an excellent place to stay in Nantucket when you want the bare minimum of neighbors and tourists around you during your stay. The closest you’ll get to a Nantucket hotel in Sconset is probably The Wade Cottages or The Summer House Cottages, which are collections of cottage-style rooms close to the ocean.
You’ll also find cute vacation rentals and cozy homes to rent for your stay in Nantucket, MA. Here are a few options for your stay in Sconset:
- Best Budget Cottage in Sconset: Tiny House Cottage
- Best Mid-Range Cottage in Sconset: Roof Tree House
- Best Luxury House in Sconset: The Bounty
See Related: Things to Do in Salem, Massachusetts
3. Tom Nevers: Best Area for Adventures
Tom Never was a Wampanoag man born in Nantucket, MA, in the 1600s. Stories about him suggest that he was a whale watcher who searched the ocean from a high vantage point along the island’s southeast corner. The beach in the area, as well as a nearby swamp and a pond, were named after him.
At one time, the train depot that served the neighborhood was called “Tom Never’s Head,” but locals decided to shorten the name to Tom Nevers. One of the best activities in Nantucket, MA, during the summer is sitting on the beach, and each beach around the island is a little different.
If you’re looking for a beach without huge crowds, you might take a picnic basket to Tom Nevers Beach to relax. On a cloudy day, the surf can get pretty raucous, so it’s best to keep to the sand and your beach chairs if you’re not an advanced swimmer. Here are some excellent activities in Tom Nevers:
- Tom Nevers Beach
- Nantucket Harvest Fair
- Tom Nevers Field
- Serengeti Nantucket Nature Preserve
You won’t find a traditional Nantucket hotel in Tom Nevers, but you’ll definitely find several beautiful vacation homes for rent. Some homes have views of the ocean, and most offer all the modern amenities you might want for your vacation.
Some luxury home rentals even come with a steam room and heated outdoor pool. For instance, a beautiful vacation home on Green Hollow Road has a pool on the property. Positively Paradise also has a swimming pool and a hot tub with convenient beach access. Consider the following places to stay in Tom Nevers:
- Best Budget Cottage in Tom Nevers: High Tide
- Best Mid-Range House in Tom Nevers: Nantucket Getaway
- Best Luxury House in Tom Nevers: Positively Paradise
See Related: Best Day Trips from Boston, Massachusetts
4. Surfside: Best Area for Families
If you’re traveling with young ones, Surfside is a fun and popular area in which to stay and explore for swimming and surfing, and it’s definitely where to stay in Nantucket with kids. Surfside is ideal for groups who want to stay outside of Town and relax on some of the most entertaining and fun beaches on the island but still have easy access to Town via bicycle, ride-share, bus, or car.
Realistically, it’s possible to visit Nantucket without a car since the island is so small, and if you’re in reasonable shape, you can ride a bicycle from one side to the other over the course of a day. However, there is a shuttle service run by the Nantucket Regional Transit Authority (NRTA) that departs from Town near Washington Street and the Union Street Inn.
Here are some activities for your family’s visit to Surfside:
- Surfside Beach
- Nantucket Ice Community Rink
- Fisherman’s Beach
- Nantucket Bake Shop
- Winter Park & Playground
Surfside is the most playful area of Nantucket with its popular beach, and you’ll find many vacation rentals at a variety of price points. If you think you’ll visit the beach often, try to get a home just a short walk from the beach to avoid the hassles of parking. Here are a few places to stay in Surfside:
- Best Budget Stay in Surfside: Beautiful Custom One-Bedroom Apartment
- Best Mid-Range Cottage in Surfside: Beach Lover’s Dream
- Best Luxury House in Surfside: Stunning Surfside 6-Bedroom Estate
See Related: Things to Do in Pittsfield, Massachusetts
5. Cisco: Best Area for Nightlife
Cisco Beach and its neighborhood, which are west of Surfside, offer excellent activities for adults, like the very popular Cisco Brewers, where locals and travelers to Nantucket, MA, enjoy music and excellent craft beer in the outdoor courtyard. The property features a winery, distillery, and brewery, and there’s tons of outdoor seating for a chill and relaxed afternoon.
You don’t need to stay in Cisco, though, to enjoy the brewery. If you’re staying at one of the Nantucket Resort Collection hotels, like Veranda House downtown, you’re just a few miles away from the brewery.
If you’re staying in a vacation home in Cisco near the south side of the island, you’re even closer. When you leave the brewery and after waiting about thirty minutes, jump into the surf and take a swim at Cisco Beach.
The beach is popular with surfers, and you can try your luck landing a wave or just watch the surfers as you sit on the beach on a lazy summer day. The sunsets are really spectacular at Cisco Beach, so it’s a great place to visit at the end of the day before you return to your cozy Nantucket inn or vacation home.
If you’re staying in a boutique hotel like Chapman House, don’t forget the beach towels and other seaworthy amenities that come with every room.
- Miacomet Golf Course
- Ladies Beach
- Cisco Brewers
- Surf at Cisco Beach
- Bartlett’s Farm
Cisco is an excellent place to stay when your main focus in Nantucket, MA, is visiting the beach during the day and spending your evenings enjoying a glass of craft beer. You’ll also find some beautiful vacation homes in Cisco that offer the perfect outdoor space for gatherings with a bottle of wine and good company.
Turn off the flat screen TVs inside and head outdoors to the cozy deck with a view of the ocean. Here are a few places to stay in Cisco, Nantucket:
- Best Budget Cottage in Cisco: Upside Down Home with Ocean View
- Best Mid-Range House in Cisco: Cheerful Cisco Cottage
- Best Luxury House in Cisco: New Luxury Family Home
See Related: Best Islands in the US to Visit
6. Madaket: Best Area for Younger Travelers
If you love nothing more than a glass of wine and a beautiful sunset, head to Madaket on the western side of Nantucket. This neighborhood offers a beautiful combination of wild, sandy beach trails and fun events for kids, as well as picturesque spots for picnics and sunsets.
It’s the best area to stay in Nantucket when you want an amazingly chill and relaxing vacation. Like the other communities outside of Town on Nantucket, Madaket is a peaceful area with bike paths, beach walks, and activities that younger travelers may enjoy.
If the allure of a remote, windswept beach on the Atlantic intrigues you, make an appointment with Madaket Beach. It’s a great place to watch the sunset, and the frequent winds are ideal for flying a kite. Just be aware of the rough surf.
The beach is often pummeled by some serious waves, so it’s helpful to visit during low tide. After your outing to the beach, try the ice cream or buttery lobster rolls at Millie’s Market. Then, take in the scenery on a bike ride on the 5-mile Madaket Bike Path. End your day with a beautiful sunset at Smith’s Point.
- Madaket Beach
- Millie’s Market
- Madaket Bike Path
- Smith’s Point
Many visitors stay in hotels in downtown Nantucket, then head to Madaket for day trips via the bus, but the neighborhood does feature several beautiful vacation rentals for those who want to stay outside of downtown and aren’t concerned with a hotel’s central location. Here are a few possibilities for your stay in Madaket:
- Best Budget Cottage in Madaket: Love Sand, Madaket on the Beach
- Best Mid-Range Cottage in Madaket: Scallop Oceanfront Cottage
- Best Luxury House in Madaket: Grey Seal Vacation Home
See Related: Cheap Places to Visit in the US
7. Wauwinet: Best Area for Luxury Travelers
Wauwinet sits at the northeast corner of Nantucket Island, and the area is where you’ll find the Nantucket hotel resort and landmark, The Wauwinet. If you’re looking for a hotel with perks like a private beach, fitness center, and luxurious rooms, stay at The Wauwinet, one of the best Nantucket hotels.
You’ll find most places to stay on the island near Nantucket’s historic district, but the Wauwinet is far outside of downtown, and it’s one of the best hotels on the island, with access to private beaches and some amazing amenities.
Guests have access to a full-service onsite spa. Don’t forget to go on a complimentary boat cruise during your stay. If you’re not a hotel guest, you can still take the boat cruise for a lunch or dinner reservation at Topper’s.
If you travel north along the small landmass that juts out from the island, you’ll reach Great Point Beach, the lighthouse, and the Nantucket National Wildlife Refuge. If the island’s west side offers the best sunsets, Wauwinet on the east side and its nearby beaches are your best option for beautiful sunrises.
You can reach the lighthouse on foot or by bicycle as long as you get a day pass at the entrance gate to the nearby Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge. Some travelers head to the lighthouse in a Jeep or any vehicle with an Oversand Vehicle (OSV) permit.
- Great Point Lighthouse
- Boat Cruise from the White Elephant Hotel
- Nantucket Shipwreck and Life Saving Museum
- Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge
- Great Point Beach
The Wauwinet Nantucket is definitely one of the premier Nantucket hotels to stay at in the area, but you’ll also find some vacation homes that range from cozy to extravagant. Here are a few of the best hotels and residences to consider in the Wauwinet area:
- Best Budget Cottage in Wauwinet: Cachalot
- Best Mid-Range House in Wauwinet: Lockup Beach House
- Best Luxury Hotel in Wauwinet: The Wauwinet Nantucket
Where are the best places to stay in Nantucket for families?
The area around Surfside Beach is the best place for families, and the beach will make you feel like you’ve been transported back in time to the classic family vacations of yesteryear. Downtown is also a great place to stay in Nantucket because it’s near Children’s Beach. Hotels in Nantucket close to the beach and downtown include the White Elephant and the Brass Lantern Inn.
Where should you stay on Nantucket for parties and nightlife?
Nantucket isn’t the most famous place to party in Massachusetts, but the island does offer some venues for evening cocktails or craft beer. Cisco Brewers is a great place to enjoy a pint with friends. Many of the large vacation homes in Nantucket make great spots for afternoon barbecues, too.
Where are the best beaches on Nantucket?
Strolling along the downtown historic district and shopping are popular pastimes on Nantucket, but the beaches are the real reason to visit the island, and each beach is “best” for something different. Surfside Beach is the best place to take your family. Sconset Beach is excellent for wildlife watching. And Madaket Beach is lovely for romantic sunset beach walks.
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- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.