Another summer trip to Nantucket island! Could there be a more picturesque, New England, seaside destination? Probably not. After visiting the Massachusetts gem with a four-month old baby, and again with a fourteen-month old, I can definitely say, it’s a kid-friendly place. I cannot wait to continue watching my daughter grow during summer escapes to one of the most beautiful places in the USA. Here are details to help make the most of your vacation, with or without kids!
How to get there:
There are several ferry options, from all different ports, but I choose to fly. With a toddler, it’s all about fast and easy! If you book early enough, a 39-minute, round trip flight from JFK to ACK, will run you about $150 for a seat with a lap child. I usually pay to add an extra bag, though, as babies require a lot of everything. If you plan on staying a long time and have a ton of stuff, you may want to consider ferrying over with your vehicle. Book this option as early as you possibly can, but be aware, it can cost close to $500. Without a car, the ferry will run around $75-$250 roundtrip, depending on if you want to take the quick trip from Hyannis, the long one from East 35th St., NYC, or the ports in between.
Where to stay:
When I can’t stay with local family, Airbnb is where it’s at. Nothing is better than your own beach rental that offers a patch of grass for lawn games, a grill and tables for outdoor dining, and communal family space for late-night board games and puzzles! You have to book early, but it will be worth it to have more options in lower price points because this island gets expensive very quickly. Note: A lot of rentals have week-long minimums, so if you’re planning on a shorter visit, there are seaside inns to book from, as well as some Airbnb room-only rental options.
Summer on an island is all about that beach. Since the island is so small, it is really easy to get around and check out all different beaches around the perimeter. (If you don’t have access to a car, there are plenty of Ubers and taxis, and even a shuttle bus to help you out.) We’ve checked out Madaket and Surfside beaches, but spent the majority of our time on the north shore of the island, where the wind and waves are more mild for babies and young children. For this reason, I recommend Jetties Beach. There is plenty of parking, a nice little bar and restaurant, and a decent stretch of sand where my daughter had (and hated) her first beach experience. Since my daughter thinks the water is too cold, and sand is too dirty (#diva), it’s more about providing her with a nice little spot to chill out with her toys. An umbrella just doesn’t cut it, so I always rent her a beach tent. This was especially helpful when she was at Jetties at four months. We had our own little area protecting us from the sun and blowing sand, where I could breastfeed and she could nap. It was great.
For all rental needs, I use Nantucket Baby Rentals. Their prices are so reasonable, and the company makes traveling with a baby so much easier. You simply book online and on the day of your arrival, the company will drop your items off right to your rental address, and then even pick them up from the front porch once you leave. This was my second year using this service, and I highly recommend. I usually opt for a bed–when she was little it was their bassinet option, but now we’ve upgraded to the Pack n’ Play–and a beach tent, but they have so, so much more. Check out their website.
Full days in the sun are not a reality for me anymore, with a baby that still naps 1-2 times a day. When I’m on vacation, I try to keep my daughter on a somewhat-normal nap schedule, which means we head back to the house right around lunch time. But the good thing about Nantucket, is that whether I plan to hit the beach in the morning when it’s really peaceful, or post-nap when family and beachgoers are at a high, the island is small enough that no trip feels like a huge effort. You can just go to the beach for a couple hours, grab lunch in town, and head right back. If you really want minimal beach effort, you can take your child to Children’s Beach. It’s basically like an over-sized sandbox. A little lot tucked in along the harbor, that has a lifeguard, calm water, and a playground. I would prefer to put my daughter in purer water on different parts of the island because this is basically right where people are docking and starting their boats, but she finds the water too cold, anyway, so maybe I’ll give it more thought next year. Children’s Beach is by no means a must-see Nantucket destination, but it’s a really easy, quick place to bring children to play around and interact with others, without having to get into full beach-mode.
Chances are, you’re going to be faced with some rain on a week-long vacation to the island. The “Grey Lady” days or mornings of Nantucket fog could put a damper on your beach days, but there is plenty to do on an island that promotes just chilling out. Some of my best family memories were getting all hygge back at the house with a deck of cards and a jigsaw puzzle, and tons of food and drinks. When we weren’t grilling and preparing big family meals, we got bacon, egg & cheeses, deli sandwiches, the makings for awesome cheese plates, and summer produce to snack on from Bartlett’s Farm. If the rain doesn’t make you want to stay in PJ’s, though, you can venture out to Cisco Brewers, which is always a good time. Food trucks, good music, and lots and lots of alcohol at the laid-back brewery. Best part, kids are welcome! There are usually multiple babies dancing and strollers all over, so don’t worry about bringing your little one to the party. It is a very indoor-outdoor establishment, so if that doesn’t interest you, you could visit the movie theater, whaling museum, shipwreck museum, and tons of restaurants (which I’ll detail below.)
Eat, and eat, and eat:
I feel like all my vacations are planned around food. You may have noticed I like food more than a little. Not just the cooking, not even the eating, the whole experience really. In my trip planning, the restaurants are researched the most, decided the earliest, and where I ultimately end up the happiest. And the food on Nantucket is just amazing. Really, no bad meals to be had. It is such a tourist destination, and this island knows that when people are on vacation, they want to eat! I love when a laid-back environment can offer sophisticated, inventive dishes, that do not take any shortcuts. Here’s a list of some restaurants I’ve visited that are perfectly fine for kiddos:
Atlas– Asian Fusion where the cocktails are SO amazing, the decor is a little confused, and the menu doesn’t do the food justice! Underrated, and nice and quiet at baby dining hour! Peak: The bartender’s inventive drinks tied with the Crispy Udon Pancake. Pit: When the kitchen substituted cod for salmon without asking us–dish was delicious though!
B-ACK Yard BBQ– Fun name, playing on ACK life. A very chill, kid-friendly BBQ establishment with awesome food. Advertise that they don’t have freezers or microwaves for maximum freshness. Peak: The biscuits and mac & cheese. Pit: The kid’s meal I ordered way ahead of everything else took just as long as our meals AND came in the form of a grilled cheese, not a quesadilla. They fixed it, but still, hungry baby…
Downyflake Restaurant– Your more basic, diner-style restaurant, but a stand-out with their own house-made doughnuts! Easy for a casual breakfast with kids. The mini doughnuts are a must for the table!
Fog Island Cafe- A happening, casual breakfast and lunch spot with tasty twists on classics. Since this restaurant is right in town, in gets a little crowded and stressful–long waits and squeezed in to tiny tables. Pop in if your party is small.
Handlebar Cafe- A popular coffee spot on the edge of town. A great place to power up your laptop and chill out with one of their inventive lattes.
Henry Jr. Sandwich Shop- Before heading to the beach, grab a couple tasty sandwiches from this locals spot. The bacon, egg & cheeses are tasty, but tiny, so you may want to embrace vacation-mode and get two!
Island Kitchen– An all day affair. Inside & outside dining, amazing specials, outstanding breakfast, and an ice cream parlor around the corner for dessert! Peak: The Eggs Benedict, but I hear the Spicy Shrimp Scramble is to die. Pit: The length of time I had to wait for said Eggs Benedict, toast, and a fruit cup tied with how those items and a coffee cost over $30.00…
Millie’s- A favorite and a short walk from Madaket Beach. Where New England and California meet! Great outdoor space and a relaxed environment.
Provisions- Another spot to help fill up your beach cooler! The deli has a sandwich for everyone.
Sconset Cafe- One of my favorites. This Sconset-area restaurant is really the whole package. In one of the prettiest areas of Nantucket, this small cafe only has a handful of tables, is BYOB (with a charming liquor store right next door) and makes for a pretty special evening. We parked our infant in the pram, right alongside the table!
The Tavern- A casual, harbor-side restaurant–great for outside seating and a nice afternoon cocktail and snack!
Kid-free Highlights: Check out Pearl, an upscale Asian Fusion/seafood restaurant I visited in my pre-baby days, or Galley Beach for a breathtaking sunset dining experience. (I did bring my daughter to Galley Beach, but I wouldn’t do it again. The tables are literally in the sand, which is such a highlight if you’re not trying to push a stroller through it!
There are tons more restaurants to choose from, and you really cannot go wrong. Next year, I will be checking out Lemon Press, The Nautilus, Dune, Lola 41, and other highly regarded establishments! Maybe I’ll even be able to get crazy and have a kid-friendly late night at the Chicken Box!
There are plenty of activities to get out in the summer weather and enjoy the island. With young children, you are a little more limited. My baby wasn’t large enough to go on whale watching or boating excursions, rent bikes to tour around the island, go surfing, or off-roading on the beach. But, outside all the eating and beaching, another highlight was the BEAUTIFUL Sconset Bluff Walk. The entire Sconset area (a slang term for the full name of Siasconset) is painfully picturesque. It makes you want to just walk up to every house, open the door, pour yourself a lemonade, curl up on a bay window, and cry because you don’t get to stay. The bluff walk takes you through small paths and backyards of some of the island’s most impressive houses and prettiest gardens. It’s a nice little walk to work up your appetite before a perfect meal at the Sconset Cafe. Baby tip: Skip the stroller for this walk and use a baby carrier.
So, that leaves town. Of course, you need to reserve time to walk the cobblestone streets of Nantucket’s town center. The area is so beautiful–protected from being overrun with chain stores and flashy decor–and offers a diverse selection of mens, womens, baby and pet fashions, art galleries, bars, ice cream parlors and fudge shops, and restaurants. You can find your matching family “Nantucket” hoodies, purchase your baby a blush pink Stella McCartney romper, or get future Christmas presents of little lobster Christmas tree ornaments. It’s really a nice place to wander around, spend some money, and get new seaside profile pics.
There’s Nantucket, for you, and what a great place it is. If you’re looking for a quick weekend getaway, or a longer trip to get some R & R, this could be the place for you. Summer is in full swing, so check out the island while there is still some seasonal time left!