Nantucket has some of the most beautiful and pristine shorelines in the world. For gentle surf, head to north shore beaches like Jetties, Steps Beach, Dionis, and Brant Point. If your family includes a senior member, Sconset Beach is among the easiest to access, though parking is limited. If you prefer surf and colder water, go south to Madequecham, Surfside Beach, Nobadeer, and Cisco are some south shore favorites. And if it’s adventure you seek, take your 4WD (with proper permits) and drive to Great Point and Coatue.
Please respect the Nantucket’s fragile environment and the beauty of our island. Clean up your litter, respect private property, and use only designated entry points. In areas where dune reclamation is taking place, please do not cross the rope or fence barriers protecting the dunes.
Nantucket North Shore Beaches
The beaches on the north shore of the island tend to have a gentler surf suitable for children, with the notable exception of Brant Point which has a strong current. Many of these are easily accessible from town and all have great views of either Nantucket Sound or the harbor. Great Point is also visible from some of these locations.
Nantucket South Shore Beaches
On the Atlantic side of the island; water temps tend to be cooler than on the North Shore Beaches. Most South Shore beaches on Nantucket can have heavy surf, strong currents, and shifting sands. Swimmers should be aware of rip tides and know how to handle themselves if caught in one.
Nantucket East Shore Beaches
Included here are inner harbor beaches and beaches for the more adventurous. Siasconset is accessible by bike path or shuttle bus. There is limited parking. The outer beaches require beach permits to drive to them and 4-wheel drive. Some car rental companies can provide you with a permitted vehicle.
Nantucket Beach Conditions
Beach Conditions are made available during the summer season, they are indicated by a flag icon on each beach that has available conditions. Absence of flags does not assure safe waters.
Green Flag Conditions:
Have fun and be safe!
- Calm Conditions
- Use caution
Yellow Flag Conditions:
Please use caution at all times.
- Surf conditions up to
- Wind and surf conditions may also change with little or no warning.
- Currents may exist under the ocean surface
Red Flag Conditions:
For Your Safety the Beach is Closed
- Rough and dangerous ocean conditions
- Weather and surf conditions may change suddenly
- Surf conditions running 3 ft. and larger
- Strong currents
- White caps due to high wind conditions
Double Red Flag Conditions:
For Your Safety the Beach is Closed
- NO Swimming in this area.
Purple Flag Conditions:
Potentially dangerous marine life
- Portuguese man-o-war (Jellyfish) may exist near shoreline.
- Sharks may exist near shoreline.
- Dangerous fish may exist near shoreline.
Nantucket Beach Safety
For your information we are providing general safety guidelines for enjoying our beaches.
Dangerous Surf Conditions
Rip Currents are the major cause of surf accidents. They are characterized by a strong flow of water rushing back out to sea. Rip currents occur when large amounts of water accumulate near shore due to natural wave action. Since water seeks its own level, the broken waves take the path of least resistance. This powerful flow of water can pull even strong swimmers into deep water. Generally, the size and strength of the rip currents are in proportion to the size and frequency of the wave action – the larger the waves, the stronger the rip currents. Depending on lateral currents, rip currents can be fixed at one location or can occur at more than one point along the beach. Large rip currents can be recognized by the sandy discoloration of the water.
Flow parallel to the beach. They range in speed from fast-flowing to subtle movement. These currents pose little threat to the average swimmer, but weaker swimmers can be pulled into rip currents and heavy surf simply by the force of lateral currents
Undertow usually occurs with high tides on beaches that rise sharply away from the water’s edge. Backwash occurs when the water remaining on the beach returns forcefully to the surf beneath later incoming waves. It is particularly dangerous for small children playing near the water’s edge. Even in the short distance between breaking waves and deep water, backwash is powerful enough to knock people off their feet.
Shore Break can occur at high tide when heavy surf conditions cause large waves to break on the beach with little or no water under them. Shore break can be particularly dangerous to a swimmer who is caught in such a wave because the wave can slam the swimmer on the beach, causing injury. Shore break is the most frequent cause of serious back, neck and shoulder injuries at the beach. Avoid body surfing during shore break conditions.
Nantucket Swimming Safety Advice
Beach Access Location Number and Signs
When you arrive at the beach – note your Beach Access Location Number which will be posted at the beach entrance. In case of emergency, when calling for assistance, give the operator this Beach Access Location Number so emergency vehicles can find you quickly.
Can cause serous injuries or drowning
Sudden Drop Off
Bottom drops off abruptly, You Could drown.
Waves break in shallow water, serious injuries could occur, even in small surf
You could be swept away from shore and could drown
Stings are painful, stay out of the water
If in doubt, Don’t go out.
- Never swim alone – use the buddy system.
- Don’t overestimate your swimming ability, especially early in the summer when the water is cold. Swimming ability is severely decreased in cold water.
- Judge your ability to participate in beach activities based on your swimming skills without the assistance of rafts and other flotation devices.
- Never dive into shallow water, or water of unknown depth.
- If you are confronted by a large wave and there is not enough time to get away from it, try to dive underneath the wave. Keep your body as low as possible until the wave passes over you. Timing is important, dive into the base of the wave just before it breaks. Do not dive if the water is too shallow – instead crouch and keep a low body profile.
- If caught in rip currents, relax and swim toward the shore at a 45-degree angle until you are free of the current. If the rip currents are strong, swim parallel with the shoreline in the same direction as the littoral current and then swim diagonally toward the shore. If you are not able to swim out of the currents, call or wave for help.
- When body surfing, do not ride waves in a straight line toward shore. Instead, surf at an angle to the waves. Stay away from the white water in the wave center to avoid going “over the falls.”
- Never swim while intoxicated. Alcohol impairs judgement, unnecessary risks are taken and a swimmer will tire more easily, increasing the chance of an accident.
Rules & Regulations
- Take direction from lifeguards at all times
- Floatation devices allowed at lifeguard’s discretion
- No un-leashed dogs are allowed
- No fishing
- No kite flying
- No vehicles allowed
- No open fires
- No alcohol
- No beach holes deeper than the patrons waist. Please fill in your hole before you leave.
- Long Whistle
Emergency, Exit the water
- Short Whistles
Lifeguard needs your attention, Follow directions.
Nantucket’s beaches are a treasure for residents and visitors alike to enjoy. Beach vehicle drivers must help ensure that Nantucket’s fragile ecosystem remains healthy and strong by following the Town’s beach access and driving rules and regulations. All beach vehicles must have an annual sticker issued by the Town of Nantucket. For more information on how to obtain a beach sticker and on the rules and regulations of beach vehicle driving, please click here.