They say “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Well, in my case, it was more like “you don’t realize what you’ve got until you go back.”
I’m talking about Nantucket, a little island 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod. It wasn’t until moving home last year that I really started to see how wonderful and special this place is.
When you think of Nantucket you probably think beaches, cobblestone roads leading to a historic downtown, sail boats and the quintessential New England grey shingled houses. Nantucket is all those things and in my experience a whole lot more. There’s a spirit of creativity, hard work, community and entrepreneurship that connects islanders and visitors together. We rely on each other to enjoy such a unique tourist driven economy.
There’s also the unmatched natural beauty everywhere you look. Thanks to conservation foundations over half the island is protected natural lands. While there are always new construction projects going on, so much of this island is made of parks, forests, ponds, fields, moors and beaches.
I’m sharing this guide of my absolute favorite places to eat, drink, play, swim, move, shop and shoot because I’ve fallen in love with this place. Some people it takes just one trip. For me it took over 20 years.
If you take anything from your travels here, I hope it’s that you can slow down a little and just appreciate all that is. I think people connect and love Nantucket so much because it means something different to everyone. Maybe it’s where they escaped every summer as a kid, or maybe they came here one summer and never left, maybe it was where they fell in love, or eloped, or could finally just relax. Whatever you find, I hope it makes you so happy!
I’ve also made a PDF condensed guide so you can take it with you on your travels
You can download the guide here
Download the Local's Guide to Nantucket
Breakfast & Lunch
I’ve included some of my new and old favorites for grab and go breakfasts and lunches. These are spots that I never (ever) get sick of.
15 Washington St.
This is the coffee shop I worked at last year and a huge reason I stayed on Nantucket. Not only is the coffee (especially the espresso) on point – the people are just the nicest.
- best for: espresso drinks, nitro iced coffee & matcha
- insider tip: While I do love me some espresso over ice, my favorite drink is the iced matcha latte. I’d recommend getting it with almond milk and a tiny splash of vanilla.
29 Centre Street
Lemon Press is relatively new on the scene and I’m so happy they’re here. They serve up tons of healthy, tasty eats and drinks. It is a little on the pricy side. If you’re craving some green juice the clean green is so satisfying and refreshing. They also have tons of tasty healthy tea creations.
- best for: healthy drinks, smoothies, breakfast
- insider tip: their banana bread is so dope, also I love their clean green juice
3 Harbor Square
Best sandwiches eva. ‘Nuff said. Haha just kidding I’ll tell you more. They have a ton of amazing flavor combos and make all their own bread. My meat eating friends swear by the turkey terrific. I love my Sicilian tuna and caprese. They also make a fantastic breakfast sandwich on their homemade bagels.
- best for: all the sandwiches & they sell tons of spindrift flavors
- insider tip: for breakfast get one of their bagel sandwiches, at lunch try the ciabatta bread
6 S Beach St
If you’re looking for the perfect lunch to bring to the beach, Cook’s Cafe is a total win. I haven’t had a bad wrap from Cook’s. You can get any of them with tofu if you’re a veggie and they have tons of awesome combos.
- best for: healthy flavorful wraps
- insider tip: get the Bangkok chicken (I have it with tofu) and add avocado #yourewelcome
21 Old South Road
My boyfriend and I recently discovered this new-to-the-island spot and we’re so addicted to their breakfast sandwiches and bagels. They also serve Starbucks coffee, so if you’re missing your ‘bux this is the place to stop. It’s out of town, so if you’re on your way to the beach you can skip the crowds.
- best for: breakfast sandwiches & bagels
- insider tip: that salt bagel tho
160 Surfside Rd
What was once a concession stand where you could grab burgers and a soda, has been made over into a fab spot for a healthy lunch. Yes, they still have their signature Surfside burgers but they also have meal worthy salads that you can get as wraps as well as the most delish homemade blueberry mint lemonade.
- best for: lunch on the beach
- insider tip: try the original or blueberry mint lemonade
5 West Creek Road
Probably the most popular shots on my instagram have been of breakfast sandwiches from the green. They were one of the first organic healthy cafe’s on the scene, and have a special spot in my heart. I love that they’re always introducing new specials and delicious treats.
- best for: a healthy, filling lunch & breakfast
- insider tip: the vegan breakfast sandwich and chocolate chunk cookie are both legendary
For dinner spots, I included a lot of affordable options. These are places I go on the regular and can actually afford. There are tons of amazing restaurants in town but most of them will cost you at least $50-80 per person with drinks. Instead, I’m sharing where I actually eat when I’m going out.
326 Madaket Rd
I crave Millie’s all winter. They serve up tex-mex, southwestern eats with a focus on fresh seafood and produce. I literally could eat there every night. I almost always get the hither creek tacos, but I really appreciate their meal worthy salads. So many places treat salads as an afterthought, but not Millie’s. This spot is (way) out of town on the west end of the island, but the shuttles stop here, so you could even ride a bike out and shuttle back… or take cab.
- best for: fresh seafood tacos & southwest style eats
- insider tip: hither creek (striped bass) tacos, street corn & a margarita = heaven
29 Centre Street
This little bistro, tucked back on Centre Street, is one of my all time favorites. I love their small menu that focuses on seasonal ingredients because it means each meal is so well thought out. It’s really affordable, especially for how amazing the food is and I love that it stays open year round.
- best for: it’s the best date spot
- insider tip: I almost always get the salmon and the goat cheese tart salad – they also do brunch on Saturday and Sunday and it’s the best on island (get the goat cheese toast!)
note: it’s BYOB
1 Chins Way
Like the name implies, Island Kitchen focuses on bringing local ingredients and flavors to each meal. Their small menu packs a big punch and if they have a salmon special, don’t ask questions, just order it.
- best for: seasonal local dishes
- insider tip: I always try to order the specials
Also they’re starting to serve homemade ice cream and donuts
If you’re not on a budget or are looking for a #treatyoself meal check out:
These three spots all have incredible fresh ingredients, creative dishes and passionate chefs.
12 Broad Street
If you love ice cream, Juice Bar is an absolute must. Be prepared to wait in line, but just think, that gives you plenty of time to decide which flavor to pick. This was one of my first jobs and I worked there for 7 summers so I’ve got mad love for the Juice Bar.
- best for: ice cream
- insider tip: don’t be afraid to sample flavors before you try them, my go to’s are: peanut butter cup, green monster (mint cookie dough) and chocolate peanut butter cookie dough. Also the homemade waffle cones are a-may-zing
9 Centre Street
This relatively new chain of activewear stores carries staple pieces that are chic, comfortable and super versatile. The fabrics, colors and fits are all really flattering. I’m not a big neon workout gear gal, so I love the grey, black and blue color palette.
- best for: activewear
- insider tip: ob-sessed with their high waist yoga pants & super flattering rain jacket
9 S Beach St
Walking into Follain is like walking into a natural skincare oasis. They’re known for carrying brands dedicated to natural and non-toxic skin care and beauty products. Everyone in the shop is super knowledgable, kind and helpful.
- best for: all things non-toxic beauty & skin care
- insider tip: don’t be afraid to ask for help and sample products
2 Washington St
Not only am I obsessed with their ivy covered store front, but Milly & Grace also has such a beautifully curated selection of fashion and housewares. There’s an subtle island vibe without being overkill Nantucket-y.
- best for: clothes, gifts & housewares
- insider tip: snag an instagram pic in front of the ivy walls, they’re so adorable
0 Candle Street
I’m all about the beachy laid-back style and vibes of Faherty. Stop by and chill in their comfy chairs, they might just have a 6-pack of Cisco Brewers open too. All their pieces are so comfortable, I live in my terry pull over sweater.
- best for: causal, comfy post-beach looks
- insider tip: they carry some reversible flannel shirts aka 2 shirts in one. Also I totally have my eye on their signature beach blankets, so cool!
3 Salem Street
I love the eclectic mix of clothes and jewelry in this shop. Beautiful dresses, shoes and accessories with a boho kind of vibe. They also carry my all time favorite jeweler’s work: Hannah Blount. Her pieces are very nature inspired and have such cool organic shapes.
- best for: jewelry & dresses
- insider tip: ask to check out the Hannah Blount jewelry
23 Federal Street
Owner Meg is one of the best group fitness instructors I’ve ever taken a class from. She’s the perfect balance of motivating, positive and challenging. I leave those classes shaking but happy.
- best for: a kickass workout
- insider tip: they have an amazing activewear selection upstairs
31 Washington Street
The owners of Handlebar Cafe also run a bike tour company. It’s the perfect active way to discover some famous spots and hidden gems on Nantucket. They do a down-town loop as well as a more ambitious ride out to the east side of the island. I’m bias because I’m friends with Jason, but I really think it’s one of the best, friendliest and most fun ways to learn about Nantucket.
- best for: a unique, active and fun tour of Nantucket. It’s a great way of meeting new people.
- insider tip: don’t forget sunscreen!
9 Amelia Drive
Supta is a new studio on the scene and it’s already my favorite. I love the clean, bright open space filled with plants. All the instructors are wonderful and they have a great variety of classes from a more challenging freestyle flow to a wonderfully relaxing restorative class. My favorite is the 40 – 20 class (40 minutes of vinyasa with a 20 minute restorative session).
- best for: a beautiful, inspiring yoga experience
- insider tip: try to take a class with Evie (who was on episode 19 of the podcast). As part of the savasana they give out cool lavender cloths for your eyes and it’s the perfect way to end a class.
5 Bartlett’s Farm Road
People are obsessed with Cisco Brewery for good reason. It’s the perfect spot to hang out with friends and drink a great beer or cocktail. Both babies and dogs are allowed so it never gets to crazy. Also who doesn’t want to chill and drink with dogs?
- best for: laid back vibes & great drinks
- insider tip: they have a shuttle that can take you in and out of town. They make their own flavored vodkas and they’re killer.
130 Pleasant Street
Atlas is a fantastic restaurant and bar located mid-island. It’s a great place to grab a craft cocktail before hitting the Box (which is right next door). The bartender is incredible and so passionate about creating creative, unique and delicious drinks.
- best for: craft cocktails
- insider tip: ask David (aka Pepe) the bartender to make you a surprise drink with your favorite liquor. He’s a master!
12 Dave Street
If you’re looking to dance the Box is your spot. The have a variety of bands and DJs that come through and it’s almost always packed.
- best for: live music and dancing
- insider tip: don’t wear open toed shoes
Most Picturesque Spots
Around the island:
The ‘Sconcet bluff walk
In front of the Compass Rose on Washington Street
The harbor view from Easy Street
Quintessential houses on Union Street (Stone Alley)
The view from the top of Steps Beach
- South Shore: Fisherman’s Beach // Nonantum
- North Shore: Step’s Beach // Lincoln Cir
Best Place to Watch a Sunset
- Steps Beach
Best Way to Get Around
- Rent a bike from Young’s (right off the boat on broad street)
- & take the Wave Bus $1-$2 per ride or you can get a week pass
- Use a local cab, yes there’s uber, but there are some great locals who work super hard – here are two I love:
- Clyde’s Cab (508)-332-6200
Where to Stay
If you’re not on a budget, two really cute, chic inns in town I’d totally stay at are:
Nantucket Instagram Accounts I Love Following
- @greyladygirlphotos – (this one’s mine)
- @nantucketblackbook – the go-to gal for all things hip and happening on Nantucket
- @emilymentes -a lifestyle account with lots of great beachy vibes
- @rebeccalovephotography – an amazing island portrait and lifestyle photographer
- @evieyoga – my favorite yoga teacher – great perspective on the island and wellness
- @jessicajenkinsphotography – I love the way she captures Nantucket