What’s the best neighborhood to live on Nantucket Island?
There’s really no wrong answer to that question…
Walking through downtown Nantucket is like walking into history. The main town on our island, this is where you’ll find the Nantucket Whaling Museum and other historic sites, restaurants, cafes, coffee houses, bakeries, art galleries, gift stores and boutiques, ice cream shops, and churches. Along streets that are paved with cobblestones and Belgian paving blocks, you’ll see homes that date back to the Whaling Era, all beautifully preserved and lived-in. There are pocket parks, gardens, and the wharves, where you can see million-dollar yachts next to fishing and sailing charters. During the summer season, there are art openings, concerts, theatre productions, and street musicians that liven up downtown Nantucket.
It’s Brant Point Lighthouse that welcomes people to Nantucket (and where you toss a penny as you depart to guarantee you will return). The Brant Point Coast Guard Station guards our harbor, and the streets in this neighborhood are lined with stately homes and well-manicured yards and gardens. The beach at Brant Point has calm waters and beautiful views of the harbor and of boats sailing in and out. It’s a favorite during summer months for picnics and photo sessions. It’s just a 20-minute walk or short bike ride from Town.
A favorite spot to watch the sunset, Cisco Beach is also a terrific spot for surfer and beachgoers who like the waves and can handle strong currents. It’s about 4 miles from downtown. In this Nantucket neighborhood, you’ll find Bartlett’s Farm with their greenhouses and market full of fresh food and Cisco Brewers, the island’s famous brew-pub, where beer, wine, spirits, and conversation flow as you listen to live music and enjoy treats from local food trucks. Trails criss-cross acres of conservation land, and it’s new to Hummock Pond, where you can kayak and swim. A bike path offers easy access to the beach and other sites.
The Cliff area is known for majestic private homes with panoramic views of Nantucket Harbor and the Sound. Homes here are highly prized and rarely come on the market. It’s within walking distance of downtown Nantucket, and it’s on the Cliff where you’ll find access to Steps Beach, a favorite with families due to the calm harbor waters, soft white sand, and sandbar within reach of most swimmers at low tide. It’s steep staircase is lined with rosa rugosa during July. Tupancy Links, a Nantucket Conservation Foundation property, has 1.5 miles of trails and a spectacular view of Nantucket Harbor and the island’s North Shore.
A little over 3 miles from Town on the western side of Nantucket, the sand roads of Dionis will lead you to the dune of Dionis Beach, where families enjoy calm waters and long stretches of sand with plenty of shells to collect. About a mile-and-a-half farther west is the Eel Point neighborhood, with large estates, and a saltwater lagoon called “the Bathtub.” Very popular with locals is 40th Pole, and peak summer days this beach is very crowded. The Linda Loring Nature Foundation is in the Eel Point area. LLNF manages 275 acres of open space with rare habitats, osprey and other birds, wildflowers, and grasslands.
Across from Eel Point is the island of Tuckernuck. Approximately 900 acres, Tuckernuck is privately owned and has no paved roads or public utilities. The few dozen homes there are inhabited seasonally, and many species of birds thrive there. The entire island of Tuckernuck has been identified by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as Core Habitat, a critical component for protecting statewide biodiversity.
Well-loved for its sunsets, this western area on Nantucket is 6 miles from Town. There is a seasonal NRTA shuttle from Town to Madaket and a bike path with beautiful vistas along the way. With its sand roads, small cottages, miles of coastline, Long Pond, Hither Creek, marshes, meadows and bog, Madaket is less tamed than other areas of Nantucket Island. On the southern side of Madaket, Madaket Beach has rough surf, and erosion has made beach access challenging. Mildred Jewett,”Madaket Mille,” was a famous resident, known and respected for her service to animals and to people in distress. During WWII she patrolling the area, once removing a live mine. In 1965 Jewett was given the title “Commanding Officer, West End Command.” The calm and shallow bay at Smith’s Point, the tip of Madaket across from Eel Point, is a fun beach for families with young children.
Madequecham is on the southeastern shore of Nantucket, accessed by a long dirt road that leads to a parking area and path to the beach. The waves and current along the south shore make this beach best for strong swimmers and surfers. An area of unspoiled beauty, the beach here is rarely crowded. Much of the privately owned property in Madequecham is surrounded by more than 2,000 acres of conservation land in Madequecham Valley.
Almost 3 miles from Town, located between Cisco and Surfside, here you’ll find Miacomet Pond (a freshwater pond good for fishing with a small beach good for young children—but watch out for snapping turtles and poison ivy), Miacomet Beach with surf, Miacomet Golf course (the only public course on-island), lovely homes, and miles of walking trails beloved by dog owners & their pups. Ladies Beach is a remote and lesser visited beach beyond Bartlett’s Farm toward Miacomet.
Middle Moors is the largest expanse of undeveloped land in Nantucket: 3,220 acres of the approximately 4,000 acres here are owned and preserved by the Nantucket Conservation Foundation. Walking trails are cut along moors, a cranberry bog, woodlands, ponds, and rolling hills. Altar Rock, the Serengeti, and the Pout Ponds are three main Nantucket landmarks in the Middle Moors.
Mid-island includes many of the island’s commercial endeavors: shops, restaurants, gas stations, hardware stores, garden centers, schools, Nantucket Cottage Hospital, pharmacies, and the island’s largest grocery store. The Nantucket Police Department, Nantucket Fire Department, and Nantucket Airport are located mid-island. This area is densely populated. It’s an easy bike ride from Town, and the NRTA shuttle has frequent stops in this section. The 8-acre Creeks Preserve is a beautiful spot mid-island to stroll, picnic, and see panoramic views of the salt marsh and Nantucket Harbor.
Located along the harbor, the high-end homes in these quiet, highly desired residential areas have beautiful views of Town and Coatue. The Nantucket Land Bank’s Creek Preserve overlooks Monomoy, and the Nantucket Conservation Foundation’s Maskquetuck Reservation is in Shawkemo. Squam Swamp and Squam Farm have acres of walking trails where you can explore the wild beauty of our island. There are several pristine beaches along this stretch of Nantucket, including Monomoy Beach, Cathcart Beach, and Quidnet Beach: all with gentle waters. Quidnet overlooks Seschacha Pond: a great spot for families with young children. Many of the homes in these private enclaves on Nantucket have direct access to the beach.
Nearly 8 miles from Town, Pocomo is a favorite of windsurfers and kite boarders. Many of the homes are situated at the end of long driveways, offering privacy and solitude. Pocomo Beach has calm harbor waters and is rarely crowded, but can get buggy during peak summer months. The bike path leading to Pocomo starts at the mid-island rotary.
This scenic area, far from the hustle and bustle of Nantucket Town is this sprawling neighborhood with low moors leading to the harborside beach with protected waters. It’s an ideal spot for homeowners seeking peace and solitude. Four miles from Nantucket Town, this area is ideal for boating, sailing, and hiking. The Polpis bike path is scenic. In Polpis you’ll find the narrow dirt road that leads to Altar Rock, the highest point on Nantucket. The Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum is on a beautiful Polpis property along Folger’s Marsh. The UMass Field Station is also in Polpis, and they welcome visitors to respectfully expore much of their 107 acres.
On the eastern side of Nantucket, about 9 miles from Town, this peaceful neighborhood of stunning homes is criss-crossed with narrow sand roads. Here you’ll find Sesachacha Pond, ideal for families, and over a nearby line of dunes is the open ocean. From certain areas, Sankaty Lighthouse is visible. The Nantucket Conservation Foundation owns large swaths of this area, including Squam Swamp, a magical place of hardwood forests, freshwater bogs, and vernal pools.
Siasconset is located on the east side of Nantucket Island a little over 8 miles from Town down Milestone Road. ‘Sconset Village is known for its rose-covered cottages (some dating back to the 1600 and 1700s) and for the ‘Sconset Bluff Walk, the iconic footbridge & sundial, Sankaty Lighthouse, and Larsen Park. The village is also home to magnificent estates. There’s a seasonal market, restaurants, a wine shop, tennis club, and post office. Nantucket’s Daffodil Festival Tailgate Picnic is held in Siasconset every April. The quaint, narrow streets are ideal for a stroll through history, and are particularly beautiful when the roses are in full bloom in July. The NRTA Shuttle runs to ‘Sconset seasonally.
Just 2.5 miles from downtown, everyone heads to one of Nantucket’s South Shore beaches during the summer months to enjoy the wide swaths of soft sand and refreshing surf. Most neighborhoods in Surfside are a mix of year-round and summer vacation homes. Many Surfside properties along the shoreline have stairs directly down to the beach. It’s easy to get to schools, bakeries, restaurants, and downtown along the Surfside Bike Path, and the NRTA has several stops in Surfside. Surfcasting is popular along the beaches and Nobadeer Beach in this area is one of the more popular drive-on beaches (permits are required).
“Upside-down” style homes (living spaces upstairs and bedrooms downstairs) on large properties with long driveways are common in the Tom Nevers neighborhood of Nantucket Island. There is plenty of open space in this nature-filled setting: more than half of this area is conservation land. From their top floors and second-floor decks, residents of Tom Nevers enjoy broad vistas and distant ocean views. From the bluff above Tom Nevers beach, sometimes migrating whales can be seen; some homes also have distant views of Sankaty Lighthouse. Tom Nevers is 7 miles from downtown Nantucket and approximately 2 miles from Siasconset.
Wauwinet is the gateway to Nantucket’s northeast tip where the ruggedly beautiful 1,117-acre Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge is home to red cedars, a maritime oak forest, deer, raptors, seals, Snowy Owls, and shorebirds. Great Point Lighthouse is located here. The Refuge is owned and maintained by the Trustees of Reservations, Nantucket Conservation Foundation, and Audubon Society: permits are required to access by vehicle. To one side of the Wauwinet neighborhood is the harbor: to the other is the wild Atlantic Ocean. This summer retreat has a combination of cottages and exquisitely designed homes: nearly all seasonally inhabited. Wauwinet is a little more than 9 miles from downtown Nantucket. There are shops for provisioning in this part of Nantucket Island, but it is the location of the very exclusive Wauwinet Inn and Toppers Restaurant.