A toes-in-the-sand, island-style honeymoon is simply the stuff of newlywed dreams. While this may summon images of coconuts and palm trees in a far-flung destination like Fiji, the perfect island honeymoon may actually be closer than you think.
Located 30 miles off the pristine shores of Cape Cod and colored by its fascinating history, Nantucket boasts white-sand beaches, world-class dining, luxury accommodations in spades, and an abundance of New England charms (think cobblestone streets and hydrangea-covered cape-style beach homes). For those in search of some of the best seafood in the U.S. and a lively nightlife scene to match, the tiny island of Nantucket may be the perfect fit. And despite clocking in at only 14 miles in length, there's no shortage of romance to be found on this veritable seaside paradise.
Newlyweds can hole up in one of the island's stunning hotels or inns and spend days biking around the island, popping by farmer's markets and the local brewery, and soaking in vitamin D from the 82 miles of shoreline. Here, we speak to a local expert about how to plan the perfect honeymoon on Nantucket.
Planning a Nantucket Honeymoon
"Stepping onto Nantucket Island is, in some ways, stepping back in time," says Ava Rollins, of Ava Rollins + Associates, a luxury hospitality PR agency. "When you’re celebrating love, time often moves very quickly. Nantucket allows you—forces you—to slow down, in every regard, to island time—to savor more."
Meet the Expert
Ava Rollins is a Nantucket-based publicist and the owner of Ava Rollins + Associates, a luxury hospitality PR agency.
In addition to the slow pace of life on the island, the sheer natural beauty of the area, the distinct character of the two small towns (Nantucket and Siasconset), and the sense of community make the destination feel like an instant home away from home. "Because the island is rarely simple to visit, (or leave!) it makes time spent here more rarified and special," explains Rollins. "The aesthetic regulations, like our iconic shingled homes, bring a cohesiveness that soothes the eye and cleanses the palate. There is also a beautifully strong sense of community you can’t help but feel when you visit.
While the main town on the island is Nantucket town proper, a historic whaling town with picturesque cobblestone streets, dozens of waterfront restaurants and bars, and myriad shops and art galleries, the easternmost end of the island is home to Siasconset (known locally as 'Sconset). A quaint village famous for its clifftop cottages replete with climbing roses and hydrangeas, 'Sconset is home to a collection of incredible restaurants, a sweet general store, and some of the island's best beaches for swimming, sun bathing, and spotting the local seals.
As Rollins describes, the time-capsule style of this tiny island begins upon arrival. Travelers can choose to reach the island via ferry from Hyannis, Massachusetts; Steamship Authority offers the "slow ferry," which is a two-and-a-half hour ride across the Nantucket Sound (and allows cars), or the high-speed ferry (the "fast ferry"), which takes roughly an hour. Hy-Line Cruises, also based out of Hyannis, has an hour-long high-speed ferry, too. Conveniently, bikes and dogs are welcome across all three boats.
Alternatively, Nantucket is home to possibly the world's sweetest airport, which services both private jets and commercial airlines (like Cape Air, Delta, and JetBlue) and connects with major airports like Boston Logan and JFK.
High season on Nantucket, as in many New England hamlets, is from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The summer seasons see tens of thousands of visitors every year—which can cause congestion around town but is also part of the island's fun summertime charm and lively atmosphere. That being said, couples in search of a slightly quieter experience may want to consider a shoulder season; September is especially ideal as the high season has just ended, but restaurants and shops are still in full swing and the ocean is still relatively warm (compared to the cold months!).
When to Go: High season, and the best weather, is May through September, but after Labor Day the island is much less crowded, so September into early October is a beautiful time, if avoiding crowds is your goal. Shoulder seasons and the off-season (fall through late spring) are much quieter but still very beautiful, although fewer shops and restaurants are open and the weather, true to New England, can get quite cold.
How Much Time to Spend: While it can be a nice long weekend for those coming from New England, it's best to give yourself a full week to really experience the island.
Getting There: Travelers can arrive by ferry (the fast ferries or the slow ferry, which allows for cars), or via plane to the Nantucket Airport, which offers dozens of connecting domestic flights.
Transportation: On-island, lots of people drive and car rentals are available, though need to be booked well in advance in the summer. Lots of people bike (also available for rent) and downtown is very walkable. The Wave is the island's excellent bus transportation service, and there are lots of taxi services.
Must-Pack: Sandals, sneakers, sunglasses, sunscreen, swimsuits, light layers, and both casual clothes and dressier clothes if dining at more formal restaurants.
Places to Stay During a Nantucket Honeymoon
Every single hotel on Nantucket brings its own character to a guest's experience; it's just a matter of the type of romantic stay you and your spouse are in search of. These are a few of our favorite accommodations on the island.
Tucked along the eastern shores of the island (closer to 'Sconset), The Wauwinet is a Nantucket icon. Equal parts intimate coastal elegance and modern luxury, the resort boasts 32 sumptuous rooms and suites, along with four private cottages. The on-site restaurant, TOPPERS, is one of the island's finest—the wine list is not to be missed.
White Elephant Nantucket
Located in town, White Elephant's harborside hotel and cottages epitomize Nantucket-chic. With multiple accommodation styles (hotel rooms and suites, garden cottages, residences, downtown lofts, and an inn), there is something for every kind of island dweller here. The convenient location means that the hustle and bustle of town is just around the corner, and those interested in staying on the property will have no shortage of activities to choose from, between the excellent spa, a full-service pool, and more.
Jared Coffin House
The island's most legendary hotel—and a historic landmark—is the Jared Coffin House, tucked away among the cobblestone streets of downtown. Guests will find that the mansion-turned-hotel pays homage to the island's seafaring history through its storied architecture and quaint décor while offering modern comforts and excellent on-site dining.
Housed in a former sea captain's home, this stylish 20-room hotel sits right off the town's harbor. Greydon House offers guests elegant accommodations, a Venetian-style restaurant on-property, and unique features like an overgrown English garden and an impressive art collection, in addition to the convenience of its downtown location.
Things to Do During Your Nantucket Honeymoon
Broken down by season, Rollins recommends a few of the Faraway Island's can't-miss activities and events:
Head to Nantucket for the annual Daffodil Festival (known locally as Daffy), which opens the season with a colorful tailgate and picnic.
You'll be spoiled for choice come summertime—but keep in mind that high season (from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend) means huge throngs of people across most corners of the island, so plan ahead for pretty much everything. Beach picnics at Surfside or Steps Beach are idyllic on sunny days, as are yachting excursions around Nantucket Harbor, and afternoons spent sipping local brews at Cisco Brewery. Make time for shopping in town, too, and don't skip a trip out to Madaket for one of the best sunsets on the island.
Try your hand at scalloping just off the island's shores, for which you need a simple permit. You may still get some warm and sunny days, perfect for long beach walks, long bike rides, and bundling up for outdoor meals in town.
Cozy up by the fireplace and bar at Greydon House for a craft cocktail. While there isn't much activity in the dead of winter, it's a great time to bundle up and explore the island's stunning landscape.
Where to Eat During Your Nantucket Honeymoon
Island-dwellers truly are spoilt for choice when it comes to dining on Nantucket. Whether you're in search of the daily catch or a farm-to-table, candlelit dinner, you'll want to leave plenty of time on your schedule for several sit-down meals. These are Rollins' top recommendations:
Le Languedoc Bistro
"Order a dirty martini and cap it with an ice cream sundae. Thank me later," Rollins says of this restaurant downtown known for its elegant atmosphere and French-inspired fare.
Rollins recommends guests "go early for cocktail hour on the lawn, then perch by the fire pit" at TOPPERS at The Wauwinet. As for the food, expect some of the freshest, most expertly prepared seafood on the island and an extensive wine list.
Brotherhood of Thieves
"Steeped in photography by locals, hit the new Notch Whiskey Bar upstairs and then ask for the sushi menu," says Rollins. Other can't-miss items at this Broad Street institution: Anything with lobster in it, the buffalo caesar salad, and the cheesesteak egg rolls.
"Eat and drink everything!" Rollins recommends of The Nautilus. Go for the intimate, moody atmosphere and stay for the exquisite small plates, perfect for two.
One of her all-time favorite meals, Rollins suggests grabbing fish tacos, the tuna burger, or lobster rolls from this food truck and setting up a blanket at Cisco beach for a Nantucket sunset.
"Sit outside on the harbor and walk the wharf before or after dinner. All their food is reliably excellent!" says Rollins. Known as one of the island's dining hotspots, we recommend booking your reservation well in advance.
Budgeting for a Nantucket Honeymoon
Like many small beach destinations in New England (Cape Cod, The Hamptons, Martha's Vineyard, etc.) Nantucket can be very pricey year-round, but especially so in the high season. Booking plane tickets, ferry tickets, hotels, rentals, and activities well in advance (think six months or more) will potentially help you with savings. Dining and drinking on the island is expensive, as is the case with most islands since resources have to be shipped in.