It’s no secret that Nantucket, Massachusetts is a destination beach town for families. It’s been listed in the same breath as Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod as a premiere summer playground for decades. We were lucky enough to see this idyllic island getaway from a local’s perspective, and suggest the following activities, beaches, and shops for families visiting with kids (some may surprise you!):
Where to Play: If you’re visiting with young kids, everyone on-island will point you in the direction of Children’s Beach, located at the end of Harbor View Way, and for good reason. Protected by the harbor, the water is calm and lends itself to easy wading, splashing, and sand castle building. Plus, it boasts a great playground right on the sand and is close to shops and restaurants. Also within walking distance from town, however, is Jetties Beach. With rolling sand dunes, a snack shack, another playground (they’re onto something here!), and both protected and unprotected surf, our kids felt there was more to explore (and loved walking the sandy boardwalk over to the shack for ice cream cones).
When you’re ready for a break from the beach, be sure to check out the Whaling Museum (13 Broad Street). There’s a staffed room just for young kids to try activities and games, and lots of interesting exhibits for the older set (some might be disturbing if you have a whale lover in your group).
Then if you really want to get off the beaten tourist path, head down Madaket Road just past the dump (yes, you read that right) to Turtle Pond. (With older kids, you can easily bicycle here from town.) Are there really turtles here? You bet. And they’re huge. Bring pieces of raw chicken (yes, you read that right, too) to dangle on string as bait, and they’ll rise to the surface to nibble. Needless to say, kids can’t get enough (but keep little fingers out of reach of turtle mouths!).
There are also many walking and home tours offered by the Nantucket Historical Association. Most won’t hold the interest of very young kids, with the exception of the church tower at the First Congregational Church (62 Centre Street). Kids can climb 94 stairs to the top of the tower, which affords beautiful views of the entire town (and most of the island).
Where to Shop: There’s lots of fun shopping in town, but if you want to keep kids interested, head to The Toy Boat (41 Straight Wharf) and buy a traditional wooden boat (they have everything else you can imagine, too) to sail on nearby Children’s Beach.Â Then head to Bookworks (25 Broad Street) to pick out some titles about the island’s maritime history.
Where to Eat: We loved Cap’n Tobey’s Chowder House (20 Straight Wharf) for fast service and a kid-friendly atmosphere. Be sure to stop by The Juice Bar (12 Broad Street) during afternoon or after-dinner strolls through town; they have the best ice cream (and a great selection of Nantucket Nectar juices).
Where to Stay: As hotel prices can get crazy on Nantucket, we opted to stay in a home rental. Most are rented by the week, and there’s an abundance to choose from (reserve early and consider a fall getaway for reduced rates). Our favorite vacation home rental company with a nice selection on Nantucket: Home Away.