Whale watching off Nantucket is both fun and rewarding. The island, reached by ferry or plane from the Massachusetts mainland, offers a nautical and nice getaway, one that’s low-key, but upmarket.
Shearwater Excursions all but guarantees wildlife sightings. As the company’s 47-foot power catamaran heads 15+ miles off the coast, we spot a pod of playful dolphins looping in and out of the Shearwater’s wake. That’s exciting, but we’re in search of bigger critters. We keep a lookout for the telltale blow spray from the minke, finback and humpback whales known to frequent these waters.
The kids, standing by the ship’s rails, binoculars in hand (bring your own) scan the horizon. Finally, we hear “Thar she blows” from the captain as he points out a minke off our port side. We follow his footprint, the flat patch of water created by his dive, to estimate where he’ll resurface. Soon a humpback bursts from the water not far from us, then plunges back into the sea, a dramatic sight that makes the six-hour trip worthwhile.
The Shearwater also offers shorter outings to Muskeget Island, 30-minutes offshore and home to nearly 3000 grey seals.
For more watery adventures, try fishing for bass and bonita with the Just Do It Too or other charter boat, or come aboard the sloop Endeavor for a ride across the Nantucket Sound that may include a stop on a beach for sunbathing and beachcombing.
A prosperous whaling port in the 18th and 19th centuries, Nantucket drew seamen who like Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab pursued sperm whales for their oil, blubber and bone. Walk down such streets as Main, Liberty and Winter and you can still see the former homes that these prosperous captains built during whaling’s 1800s heyday.
Although many of Nantucket’s beaches have rough waters, a few are better than others for swimming. Kids like the long stretch of shallow water on Jetties Beach as well as the relative calm Children’s Beach. South Shore favorites include Surfside Beach, located off Surfside Road, and popular with teens. Drive here or bike the 3-mile ride on the Surfside bike path from town.
The eastern shore has Siasconset Beach, reachable by road or by a seven mile bike ride to the town of Sconset, a pretty place where many of the old sailors’ cottages really do have rose-covered vines growing on the roofs. It’s better to look than swim here as the surf ranges between medium to heavy.
To partake in another island tradition, a clambake, contact Sayle’s Seafood. They’ll provide you with all the fixings—chowder, steamers, mussels, lobster, corn-on-the-cob, and potatoes—for a do-it-yourself dinner.
The Beachside at Nantucket, a motel type lodging is 5-minute walk to Jetties Beach. The property has a heated outdoor pool, nice for those kids who can’t get accustomed to the bracing Nantucket waters. The beachfront Wauwinet, a luxury Nantucket property, offers fine dining and classic Nantucket sea views.