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Getting to know Nantucket

Charlotte, a North America Travel Consultant, got to visit this serene island off the coast of Cape Cod earlier this year. Here’s what she got up to and what she recommends…

On a recent trip to New England I popped over to Nantucket and although I had heard many wonderful things about the island, I thought it would be very similar to the rest of the cape and New England. People always said to me you didn’t need to visit both. I would disagree. Nantucket is completely different from the cape. It has its very own rich history of which it is very proud of. The locals see themselves as almost ‘going back to America’ when they leave the island and that it is honestly what it feels like.

We set off from Hyannis on the Hyline ferry which even on a rough day was pleasant and it only took us 40 minutes, we were then met at the pier by our hotel driver and within five minutes we were standing in the White Elephant Hotel, our wonderful home for two days. My first impressions of Nantucket were that it all looked so perfect, all the buildings matched and everyone was so friendly; typical island life!

The people are so warm and welcoming and this dates back to when they lived side by side with the Native Americans and helped each other – very unusual for the time. The Native Americans told the ‘9 original purchasers’ how to fish correctly and eventually how to whale which is how the island became the time’s largest whaling fleet in the world. A lot of the people now living on the island originate from these original 9 men and they always have some great stories to tell! If you want to hear the point of view from a local then grabbing a local tour is the best way; Gail’s Island Tours take you around the historic points of the island and she will give you so many little nuggets about this historic minefield.

If you are as interested as me about the whaling history then visit the whaling museum, it is definitely worth an afternoon perusing the exhibition. Alternatively, if you are a more active family then get out on the ‘Heart of the Sea’ boat tour to see the famous landmarks from the must-read book and now big blockbuster film.

There is a real emphasis on the island of community, it’s a really safe environment for the kids to ride their bikes on the roads to the beach and the cars respect this and definitely come second. There is plenty to do for the children as well, I was lucky enough to visit the Maria Mitchell association; this is based on the first professional female astronomer in the US who grew up on the island. They have now set up a fantastic observatory in her honour and this proves very popular on a clear night, we were able to see Jupiter through their new telescope which meant we could see four of its moons. We then saw our moon in all its glory, just wow! They have just started their own evening programs so you can have a glass of wine whilst being guided around the constellations in the night sky.

I couldn’t believe how much there is to do on the island, and I haven’t even mentioned the beautiful beaches – only the more educational side to it which I wasn’t aware of! The beaches are truly stunning and they even have a lovely children’s beach right next to the White Elephant Hotel; all of the others around town you can easily cycle to. If you are there for a beach vacation then the numbers of boat trips are endless, the water sports are great and there is also fantastic whale watching. I would honestly recommend a bit of everything if you have the time! A week would be the perfect amount of time to explore the island but be warned it can be expensive in the summer! It’s definitely worth it though to stay on this island, a true piece of American history.

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