While visiting our friends Jo and Oliver in Cape Cod, Massachusetts this past summer, we made a day trip to the quaint island of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Under the guidance of Jo and Oliver, who were our tour guides for the day, we planned to spend the entire day on Nantucket Island.
We headed out bright and early on a Sunday morning from their home in Dennis Port and drove to Hyannis Port an hour away to board our ferry to Nantucket Island. The winds and water in this area of the Atlantic Ocean are not cold like they are back home in California, which made the entire ferry ride very pleasant and enjoyable. We saw charming harbors with boats bobbing in the waters and beautiful towns and land strips off Cape Cod as we sailed past multiple small islands. After a pleasant hour and a half ferry ride we arrived at Nantucket Island where Jo’s long-time friend Marlena was waiting for us at the docks. Marlena who works in Nantucket every summer took the day off to spend time with us to show us around this beautiful island.
The Harbor Shops
Our first stop after stepping off the ferry was a stroll around the harbor shops. This is a very cute strip with little cottage boutiques that have a beachy theme. The shops were perched on white as snow walkways made of oyster shells. With colourful flowers spilling out of window boxes at every storefront, this area was a lovely preview to the beautiful island of Nantucket. While we checked out the harbor boutiques Oliver went to pick up our rental car from the local airport.
After a leisurely stroll along the harbor boutiques we hit the road to tour Nantucket Island.
Sankaty Head Lighthouse
Our fist stop was the Sankaty Head Lighthouse. Built in 1849, this lighthouse was a showstopper. Beautifully painted in white and red, it is hard to miss this statuesque lighthouse that has provided safe passage for countless sea faring vehicles for over a century.
I learnt some interesting facts about lighthouses from the informational boards at this park. I learnt that in 1789, George Washington signed into law the creation of the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment under the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. The Sankaty Head Lighthouse went “on-line” in 1849 and used a whale-oil lantern for power and the light shone through a Fresnel lens, which was the most powerful lens available at that time.
Sankaty was one of the first lighthouses in the United States to receive a Fresnel lens. A Fresnel lens is a lens that was originally developed by French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel for lighthouses. A Fresnel lens can capture more light from a small light source; this allows any light from a lighthouse equipped with a Fresnel lens to be visible over greater distances.
The sky was spectacular on this day and the lighthouse shone majestically against a crisp blue sky. We couldn’t go inside the Sankaty Head Lighthouse, but we did walk around the park and enjoy this gorgeous day with the lighthouse as the backdrop. It was a beautiful sight to see. This was one image worthy of an artist’s paintbrush.
Over the Sand Driving at Great Point Beach
After our tour of the Sankaty Head Lighthouse we drove to Great Point Beach, a private beach off Wauwinet Road where we got to drive our car on the sand, what the locals call “over the sand driving.” Have you ever driven your car on the sand on the beach? Well, we did here.
Wondering how we were able to manage driving on sand? For one, it helps to have an SUV. At the entry to this private beach, there is a guard who mans the entrance gate. Here we are given a special sticker showing that we paid for entry and that our tires were checked to make sure the tire pressure is lowered to 10-15 psi. That’s like almost having a flat tire. We then drove on the sandy path towards the beach. This was a very unique experience. Anjali said the drive over sand felt like driving over marshmallows or as Oliver put it “It feels like a gentle roller coaster ride.”
Great Point Beach was pristine and peaceful. It was a gorgeous beach with a clean sandy shore and clear blue waters. After relaxing in the sun, getting our feet wet, and hunting for some sea glass, we hit the road over the sand again and drove into town to the historic Nantucket neighborhood of Sconset Village.
Sconset Village. A Nantucket Fairytale Village
Sconset Village is a local gem. Marlena told us about this area and encouraged us to stop by and walk around this picture-perfect neighborhood. Sconset Village is known for its charming low-roofed bungalows, some of which are more than two centuries old. Here we stopped by the local ice cream parlor for an ice cream break before strolling the old-village streets that were right out of a fairytale storybook.
This little village was so perfect that it felt dreamlike. We walked on narrow oyster shell walkways flanked on both sides by charming cedar cottages overflowing with flowers that had not a single dry petal on them. These flowers were just impeccable. The lawns were lush green with no brown patches to be seen. The entire neighborhood overlooks the crystal blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean. This picturesque neighborhood had us all spell-bound, guys and gals alike.
Lillie’s, roses, hydrangeas, daisies, and all types of perennials were bobbing their flowers happily in the modest gardens here, as they enjoyed the lovely sunshine and the cool ocean breeze. This area was so beautiful that we wondered, “Do people really live here?” Or are these homes just showcases for landscape designers and home design decor?
Window boxes in every home were overflowing with spectacular flowers. Each window box could be a painting of its own. Gorgeous flowers in pinks, blues, whites, and purples all mingling together in flawless harmony looked absolutely stunning. What is their secret to such lush and beautiful flowers I wondered?
We spent a lot of time walking around this neighborhood. I even saw local residents riding their French inspired bicycles with baskets brimming with vegetables and baguettes. Even the residents seemed to be fitting into this charming utopian like landscape.
It took a lot to pull us away from Sconset Village and head to our next destination, which was the downtown locale of Nantucket Island.
By the time we got to downtown Nantucket, it was already 6pm and many of the shops on this cobblestone-lined area were closed.
We explored this old-fashioned downtown strip and did some window-shopping while Oliver drove to the local airport to return our rental car. As we strolled in downtown Nantucket, we made our way to the harbor where we caught the 7pm ferry back to Hyannis Port in Cape Cod.
The Story of a local legend. Nantucket Nectars.
While waiting for the ferry Jo asked us if we had tried Nantucket Nectars, a very popular drink company in this area. We said we hadn’t. To which Jo asked us: “Want to hear a really funny story of how Nantucket Nectars became a successful juice company?” Jo proceeded to tell us this story that has now become local lore.
The story of Nantucket Nectars is of two college graduates from Brown University named Tom Scott and Tom First who chose to take a break after graduation and hang out on Nantucket Island. Tom and Tom as they became known liked Nantucket island and the beach lifestyle so much that they decided they didn’t want to leave. Here they were enjoying the laid-back island culture with no sense of urgency to look for a job or start a career. After taking odd jobs here and there, relaxing on the beaches of Nantucket, and sailing for a few months, Tom and Tom’s Moms gave them an ultimatum: “Get a real job or come home.”
The last thing Tom and Tom wanted to do is leave the idyllic island of Nantucket. In this case for Tom and Tom, their business degree and hanging out at the harbor and sailing really paid off. They noticed a need for a drink service for health conscious well-healed sailors who came on shore to Nantucket and when they were prepping their boats at the harbor.
In response to this opportunity, Tom and Tom started a small fruit-juicing service where they made fresh juice blends, bottled them themselves and started selling them on the harbor. They would go by the larger sailboats in their small boat and sell their fresh squeezed juice bottles right off their boat. Their first juice blend was peach nectar made with fresh local peaches. From peach nectar they expanded to fresh-squeezed orange juice, lemonade, and other creative juice blends. They called their juice company Nantucket Nectars.
Nantucket Nectars became so popular among the harbor community and boating tourists, that word spread very fast of these delicious fresh squeezed juice blends. Customers started requesting grocery stores back home in Cape Cod and Boston to carry Nantucket Nectars. Nantucket Nectars started gaining momentum and they began distribution all over the East Coast and got funding to expand nationally as well. This success story even became a case study at Harvard Business School.
These two college graduates went from lolling on the beach on Nantucket Island to entrepreneurial millionaires within a few years. A decade later by the time Cadbury’s bought them in 2009, sales had reached over $50 million.
After hearing this very cool story, we decided that we had to try one of these juice blends. We made sure to have one of the famous Nantucket Nectar drinks back in Cape Cod. 🍹
Listening to Jo tell the lore of Nantucket Nectars made our 30 minute wait for the ferry go by very fast.😊
A perfect day spent on the fantasy island of Nantucket, Massachusetts.
The best way to describe our day trip to Nantucket is like this: Visited the island of Nantucket where we stepped off the ferry onto a land of spectacular scenery. Drove on the sands of Nantucket’s clean and serene beaches. Stopped by the majestic Sankaty Head Lighthouse. Strolled in the charming fairytale village of Sconset. Saw the most beautiful cottages with lovely flowers and gardens overlooking the shining blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Window-shopped at the harbor and on cobblestoned downtown Nantucket. Ended the day with a scenic ferry ride over Biscay Bay back home to Cape Cod.