It’s hard to believe, but summer is only one month away, which means 1. It’s time to start making your summer activity plans, and 2. Nantucket photo sessions begin very soon! If you’ll be finding yourself on Nantucket this June, August, or September, book a spot on my calendar here.
With the sunny season quickly approaching, I wanted to share some of my personal favorite things to do on the island (other than going to the beach!), as well as some recommendations on things to do with your kids on Nantucket (these recommendations come straight from moms who spend time on the island with their kids and have scoped it out for you!). You don’t need an excuse to get over to Nantucket, but it’s nice to have a few ideas in your back pocket, which I’ll be sharing with you. I’ve also got a great photography event I would love to see you at when the summer kicks off so that you can document the summer of ‘23 in style.
Here’s what you should be planning to do this season:
1. Go to an Art Show.
If you’re reading my blog, chances are you’re already interested in photography on some level — whether it’s taking photos yourself or having them taken of you! On Friday, May 26, the Nantucket Photographers’ Network is hosting a show at the Dreamland Theater. This is the perfect event for a date night! The event runs from 5-8pm on Friday evening, and admission is free! Stop by before dinner the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend and see some beautiful art featuring your favorite places on the island, and support local artists while you do so. Who knows, it may even inspire you to pick up a camera.
2. Take a Walk or Go for a Bike Ride.
Nantucket has so many beautiful trails and bike paths over most of the island, from breathtaking coastal scenery to shaded forests, I forget I’m exercising! For the photography nerds out there, these are also great spots for a photo walk.
These are a few of my best spots for getting some physical activity:
- Sanford Farm
- Ram Pasture
- Polpis Bike Path
- Nantucket Field Station
- Windswept Cranberry Bog
- Tupancy Links
The great thing about these trails is that they’re all dog-friendly and easy to access. These are mainly long, winding trails that are generally pretty flat and make for a great walk or run around Nantucket.
If you’re looking for a longer excursion: Bike to ‘Sconset, stop at Sankaty Lighthouse on the way, and grab lunch or ice cream in this tiny cottage-filled town on the southeastern edge of the island. If you happen to be on island during peak bloom (i.e., June/July, do not miss a visit to ‘Sconset, where you’ll see gorgeous flowers surrounding and scaling the walls of the shingled beach homes).
3. Dine at Local ACK Restaurants.
It wouldn’t be a complete day in Nantucket without stopping in for one of the many outstanding gastronomic adventures available to us. Many of the best spots on the island source their grub from local farms, so you are often getting a true “farm to table” experience. Supporting local restaurants has become so imperative in these last few years, so be sure to give one a try next time you’re here.
One general note: In the summer, Nantucket restaurants tend to book up fully, so my advice is to choose the restaurants you most want to eat at while you’re on the island, and set several reminders for yourself the day reservations open up! These are a few of my favorite restaurants on Nantucket right now that are worth the interruption:
For Morning Coffee:
- Roastd is focused on both great cafe fare and all-around wellness; they serve delicious coffee and tea, and also offer general-store-type remedies such as CBD and spa products. Plus, the cafe itself is so homey, you’ll want to sit down and write a novel while you’re there.
For Lunch & Takeout:
- The Beet is an amazing blend of Latin and Asian cuisine that’s both healthy and downright delicious, plus they offer great gluten-free and vegetarian options (and amazing cocktails too!) Pro tip: If you love salmon as much as I do, add it to one of their salads. They cook it perfectly every time, making a healthy meal feel like an indulgent treat.
For a Post-Beach Day Beer:
- Cisco Brewery is a spot you’ve probably heard of even if you’ve never been to Nantucket. They have a Boston location now too, but the original is on Nantucket. Cisco is pure fun with truly excellent beer (I love the Grey Lady Wheat Ale). Most of the space is outdoors, they have live music, and it’s dog-friendly. It doesn’t get much better than that.
- The Nautilus
- You absolutely can’t go wrong with The Nautilus — if you can get in, that is! Set your alarm for 7 days out from your desired dinner date. This place is fun and lively, always has a great soundtrack playing, and offers super flavorful, inventive Asian-inspired dishes. Some of my favorite dishes are the Tempura Oyster Tacos, Grilled Pork Riblets, and the Blue Crab Fried Rice.
- In my opinion, the best Italian on the island, and the atmosphere seals the deal. The restaurant is divided into several different rooms, each of which has its own vibe while maintaining consistent decor. The substantial bar on the main floor is the perfect mix of relaxed and elevated – I would definitely recommend Ventuno for a before- or after-dinner drink as well.
- Proprietors Bar & Kitchen
- Like Ventuno, Proprietors has a number of different rooms spread out over two floors, so you can come back again and again (like I do) and feel like you’re having a totally unique experience each time. The focus here is on small plates and honestly, they’re all good. Reservations are accepted 30 days in advance, so plan ahead!
- Lola 41
- An island favorite that’s been around for quite some time compared to many of the newer restaurants on the scene. Lola has an amazing menu, but personally, I choose it for the sushi. I’m a huge sushi fan and would probably eat it every night if my wallet could handle it. Lola provides my fix. If there’s one thing on the menu that can pull my focus away from the sushi, it’s their tuna burger. Truffle fries on the side with extra gravy, please.
For a Special Occasion:
- Toppers is the perfect special-occasion setting, right along the water in Wauwinet (they harvest their oysters 300 yards away from your seat!). For an even more memorable experience, you can take a boat over from the White Elephant. My husband and I did this for my 40th birthday dinner and it was simply the best!
- After a long day of beaching, biking, and brews, nothing hits better than ice cream at the Juice Bar. Just be prepared to wait in a loooong line if you go after dinnertime, but I promise it’s worth the wait!
4. Stop in on Island Small Businesses.
Small businesses truly make the world go round, and Nantucket really has some of the best. There is so much to see and do to take in the great outdoors on Nantucket, but also no shortage of great shopping, which makes the perfect activity for a rainy day!
These are my favorite shops on Nantucket right now:
- Wheat and Nomad
- Both of these downtown shops are great for laid-back yet put-together clothing in neutral tones. I heard linens are in this summer (according to my husband, they were never out), so these are the perfect places to stock up.
- Their styles feel slightly more “on-trend,” featuring designer clothing, shoes, and jewelry. What’s even better is that they donate 20% of all their proceeds to both local and global charities. (I found the dress I wore for my 40th bday dinner at Olivela – see pics above.)
- The Verdant Maiden
- Perfect for all things beauty and self-care related. Store owner Julie also carries some really cool personal and gift items in addition to great beauty products. Be sure to check out her astrology journals and candles!
- The Green Market
- The Green Market seriously has everything: Skincare, plants, antiques, and even grab-and-go meals for when you shop too hard and need a bite to eat. Check out their home and kitchen goods too!
- And while this post isn’t about places to stay on the island, I would be remiss not to share with you the incredible secret that is The Green Market Farm. If you need a luxurious place to stay for a large group gathering, a branding photography shoot (in the off-season), or a new and unique wedding venue, book now – this place won’t be a secret much longer.
5. Spend Time with Your Kids with these Family-Friendly Nantucket Activities!
While most of the places I’ve mentioned so far are family-friendly, your little ones need plenty of stimulation and varied experiences, and you can only go to the same beach, or on the same walk, so many times before they get bored. Here are a few kid-approved ACK-tivities they will definitely enjoy:
Nanpuppets. Nanpuppets puts on the most adorable puppet shows for kids. My niece and nephew LOVE Lizza and her shows!
The Whaling Museum. This museum offers tons of great exhibits, and a breathtaking view of Nantucket Harbor. They even have a kids section!
Art classes at Barnaby’s. Barnaby’s is more than your typical toy store — they also offer tons of classes where your child can learn to paint, sculpt, and more. Just be prepared for your kid to come home messier than they left!
“Swim with Grace” Swim Classes. Swim with Grace is amazing because they offer instruction to everyone from babies (!) to mommy-and-me sessions, to private and adult instruction. Whether you are an avid swimmer or never made it to water, learning alongside your child is such a rewarding experience.
Visit the Maria Mitchell Aquarium! I’ve seen photos of my niece and nephew at the Aquarium and the joy on their faces is priceless. The Aquarium even has a “touch tank” allowing kids to hold crabs and other sea creatures — if they dare!
As far as kid-friendly restaurants, there are plenty of these on island as well, but parents in the know opt for the back patio at Or, the Whale (a relative newcomer downtown) or the Sandbar at Jetties, where the kiddos can play on the beach while you catch up with friends in a casual atmosphere.
Finally, if you’re shopping downtown, be sure to stop at Nantucket Bookworks, which has a great selection of books, games, and gifts for both kids and adults. I’ve done the majority of my Christmas shopping here in years past! And Pinwheels has an awesome collection kids and baby clothes and accessories.
I hope this overview of fun Nantucket activities for the summer of 2023 has been helpful! And if you’re looking for that booking link to get your Nantucket family photo session on the books, here it is again.