Where to stay on Nantucket, MA

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Nantucket is a New England island boasting picture-perfect beaches, handsome lighthouses and historic homes on cobblestone streets. Once the whaling center of the world, this Massachusetts destination certainly has retained its charm over the centuries. But where to stay on Nantucket for the best experience?

Stay in Nantucket Town to have the best of the island at your fingertips. Nantucket Town is the island’s lively hub, filled with attractions and restaurants, where most visitors choose to bed down.

In contrast, the smaller island villages of Madaket, Sconset, Polpis, Shawkemo and Wauwinet are places to stay in Nantucket for those who crave for that ultimate seclusion.

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Nantucket Town

In Nantucket Town, you find the quintessential cobblestone streets and historic houses that you associate so much with Nantucket. The many well-preserved homes from the 18th and 19th centuries here set a unique vibe.

Stroll Nantucket Town to find an appreciated array of attractions, restaurants and shops. As the island’s main population center, Nantucket Town is where you find most of its activity.

The compact layout — it’s just minutes by foot between the downtown area’s ends — makes for a relaxing New England vacation. In Nantucket Town, you have all you need for a good time within walking distance.

It makes things even easier that the island’s ferry terminal is located in Nantucket Town. From the ferry terminal, where boats from Cape Cod arrive, it’s just steps to some of the best places to stay in Nantucket, such as the alluring Seven Sea Street Inn.

But how did the gorgeous Nantucket we know today begin its journey?

The Whaling Museum is a top attraction in Nantucket Town that teaches the rich whaling story of Nantucket and Cape Cod. A visit adds both context and depth to a Nantucket stay.

When you have had enough of history, the popular Jetties Beach calls for your attention. On the beach, a stone’s throw away from Nantucket’s downtown area, visitors of all ages have a good time together.

Pick Nantucket Town for: The main area.

Best hotels in Nantucket Town

  • Seven Sea Street Inn – At Seven Sea Street Inn, you really stay in the heart of Nantucket Town, close to both sights and eateries. On top of its unbeatable location, Seven Sea Street Inn also offers a heartwarming ambience making guests return year after year.
  • Anchor Inn – Anchor Inn has that quintessential New England appearance that it’s hard not to like, and provides easy access to the best of Nantucket Town. It might sound like a cliché, but Anchor Inn really is a place to stay in Nantucket where you want to cast anchor.
  • White Elephant Hotel – Right alongside Nantucket Harbor, the White Elephant Hotel has become a Nantucket favorite for travelers who want to spread out. The accommodation, beautifully overlooking Nantucket Harbor, offers spacious luxury at its very best.
The white Brant Point Lighthouse guarding Nantucket Harbor, MA
Brant Point Lighthouse, Nantucket.

Smaller villages

Nantucket Town is the undisputed heart of the island, where you find all you need for a delightful stay. History, entertainment and convenience are all great reasons to check in at a Nantucket Town hotel.

But if you look for something off the beaten path, there are smaller Nantucket villages to choose from too. These lesser-known communities — Madaket, Sconset, Polpis, Shawkemo and Wauwinet — have in common that they offer seclusion; few visitors make it here.

Just keep in mind that with that seclusion comes an in general very limited selection of lodging, restaurants and things to do.

Madaket

Away from the vibrant streets of Nantucket Town, Madaket occupies Nantucket’s westernmost tip. It’s a quaint village famous both for its sandy beach and jaw-dropping sunsets.

As the sun starts to set on the horizon, Madaket Beach is where you want to be. The soft beach, peaceful vibe and colorful sunset — it doesn’t get more romantic than this.

Sconset

Scenic Sankaty Head Lighthouse welcomes you to Siasconset (or just Sconset). This adorable town, at the southeastern tip of Nantucket, is dotted with one quintessential New England home after another.

If you like the idea of a peaceful stroll, the 2-mile out-and-back Sconset Bluff Walk hits a home run. With pretty homes and backyards on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, you feel at exactly the right place here.

Come summer, Sconset really wakes to life. Then a cute grocery store, Sconset Market, and a handful of restaurants make this a self-contained Nantucket village.

Polpis

Rolling moors and cranberry bogs welcome you to Polpis, representing Nantucket’s rural side. Don’t expect a traditional village but rather a picturesque countryside area with lots of space to enjoy.

Cycling the 8-mile Polpis Bike Path is the best way to tour this island slice. Take in the quiet scenery, stop by at the seasonal Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum and picnic at the 231-acre Windswept Cranberry Bog.

Shawkemo

Meaning “middle field of land” in Native American language, Shawkemo is tucked between Nantucket Town and Polpis. Stunningly facing Nantucket Harbor, this is one of the hottest residential areas on the island.

To see for yourself how beautiful Shawkemo is, hike the Shawkemo Highlands. The trail system, reaching 94 feet (29 m) above the sea level, showcases both the rising Middle Moors and splashing Nantucket Harbor.

Wauwinet

Wauwinet is Nantucket’s northeastern outpost. Its most shining feature, the location between the Atlantic Ocean and Nantucket Harbor, leaves visitors in awe — nature comes first, second and third here.

Find your very own beach spot in the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, providing miles of untouched coastline. This is a double-fingered peninsula where solitude is guaranteed; many times you encounter more seals than humans.

Make sure to bring your camera for Great Point Lighthouse, marking the northern end of Nantucket.

Pick the smaller villages for: Lodging off the beaten path.

Best hotels in the smaller villages

  • The Wauwinet – In the northeast, where the Atlantic Ocean meets Nantucket Harbor, the Wauwinet spectacularly sits. Offering a one-of-a-kind location and remarkable luxury, this is one of the best places to stay on Nantucket for those who really want to escape it all.
Nantucket beach with golden sand and dune vegetation
Golden Nantucket beach.

Final words about where to stay on Nantucket

Once a hub for the whaling industry, Nantucket has become one of the best island getaways in the USA. A stay on Nantucket, home to unspoiled beaches and quiet fishing villages, is like balsam for your soul.

In a rushed 21st century, it’s an experience needed more now than ever.

Living at a pleasant slow pace, Nantucket Town offers a variety of restaurants, watering holes and shops. But to take an additional step back, bed down at a Nantucket hotel in one of its (even) smaller villages.

Where to stay on Nantucket FAQ

Where should I stay when visiting Nantucket?

Nantucket Town is the most popular option for where to stay on Nantucket. In the area, just steps from the ferry terminal, you find a pleasant atmosphere and great selection of lodging. The other villages — Madaket, Siasconset, Shawkemo, Polpis and Wauwinet — are options off the beaten path.

Which is the best area on Nantucket?

Nantucket Town is the best area if you prefer to have restaurants and attractions within walking distance. Only consider the smaller villages if you crave for solitude. Keep in mind that regardless of where on Nantucket you stay, you can easily day trip to other island parts.

Where to stay in Nantucket with family?

The White Elephant Hotel stands out as one of the best places to stay on Nantucket for families who crave for both space and luxury. Yet with plentiful beaches and a cozy vibe, the whole island offers a gorgeous family setting; Nantucket truly is an American destination for the entire family to enjoy.

Which are the best places to stay in Nantucket for couples?

The many historic inns on Nantucket are like made for romantic getaways. Seven Sea Street Inn and Anchor Inn also offer incredible convenience, minutes from the ferry terminal and with several restaurants within steps.

Which is better Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard?

Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are neighboring islands off Cape Cod. Both offer stunning beaches, rich history, tasty restaurants and cute inns. Size and location wise Nantucket is, good or bad, smaller and located further away from Cape Cod and the mainland.

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