AN ENGLISH GIRL IN NANTUCKET
“No honey, you don’t have time to eat another bowl of cereal. We must leave now if we are to make it to Hyannis in time to catch the 8:30 ferry to Nantucket.”
A 7 year old doesn’t need to know that the drive to Hyannis is only a 25 minute drive from our campsite near Nickerson State Park on Cape Cod.
I gave it 45 minutes, fully anticipating, as so many parents do, that getting a child out the door could be delayed for a myriad of reasons.
Renting motorhomes from Cruise America is a big reason for delays. There are too many interesting compartments for a curious child to explore.
Normally, he was allowed to press several buttons, sit in the front and pretend to drive. But this morning there’s no reason for us to miss the ferry to Nantucket.
Nantucket is an island that has fascinated me since I first read about it in a novel as a teenager. The name of the book has been forgotten for a long time, but the images that the author evoked in his writings have remained in my mind. It’s been firmly on my bucket list ever since.
It took several attempts to get the US to go. The pandemic forced us to cancel several times, which made my husband wonder if a visit to Nantucket was worth the trip to London.
The Hy-Line cruise terminal is well signposted from the highway and easy to find, and the local staff are friendly and organized. Since we are in a caravan, we park in one of the larger parking garages.
But the car park is only a 5 minute walk from the ferry terminal and the whole process couldn’t be easier. Refusing another bowl of cereal at the campsite is alleviated by a croissant and “baby chino” from the cozy cafe next to the terminal.
Only an hour away, it is a short and pleasant boat ride from Hyannis. The soft gray clapboard-style homes along Nantucket’s shoreline look a lot faster than we expected.
We talk to a nice Cape Cod dad and his kids who say they make this trip often, especially in the summer. Their tanned skin speaks of picnics on the beach, games on a sunny deck, and an outdoor lifestyle that’s hard to beat.
SAND DUNES AND COBBLED STREETS
Against the blue sky and bright sun, the cobbled main street with its various shops, ice cream parlors and cafes looks exactly as I imagined.
As we disembark, we see that the surrounding area is a bustling and busy area with boats coming and going from the port. “Tym, thum, thum” fills the air as cars and bikes take over the island’s cobblestone streets.
Main Street is lined with large Greek revival buildings with huge columns reminiscent of the Parthenon in Athens.
Next to it are smaller but equally beautiful Quaker cottages. As awkward as it sounds, the incompatible juxtaposition of properties somehow works and the different architectural styles balance each other beautifully.
Nantucket is only 24 kilometers long and 3-6 kilometers wide. Getting to know the island by bike is easy and fun, especially when there is an investment in proper cycling routes.
Our first stop on the bike is Dionis Beach, an easy 15 minute ride on the Madaket bike path. Sand dunes rise from the parking lot and we stumble eagerly to climb over them, so curious what view awaits us on the other side.
It’s idyllic. The white sand and crystal clear sea are exactly as described in the novel many years ago. It’s not quite mid-morning yet, so the beach is quiet and we have a selection of different sunbathing spots, warm sand between our toes as we walk around looking for the perfect place to live.
EAT IN NANTUCKET TOWN
The town of Nantucket has plenty of restaurants. Grilled swordfish, fried clams, lobster rolls and grilled shrimp compete for our attention.
None of the staff are rude, if you want to eat there, just come in, you’re welcome. But if you don’t, that’s okay too. We were evicted with; “Have a great day! Enjoy Nantucket! Don’t miss Brant Point Lighthouse?”
We walk into the restaurant of our choice and breathe in the air, a delicious combination of seafood, salty seawater, sunscreen and something sweet we can’t quite place.
BRANT PUNTA SAUSAGE
According to the waiter’s directions, we won’t miss the Brant Point Lighthouse. Well worth the 20 minute walk into the centre. The road that leads to it is so far quieter than the other roads on the island. It gives us a better idea of what life on Nantucket must be like after the ferries bring tourists back to Cape Cod and beyond.
It is a charming lighthouse built in 1746 and the second lighthouse in colonial America. The weathered beauty against the white sand beach is Instagram worthy and our arrival coincides with two Japanese girls asking us to take their photo. They filter and instantly upload the image for the world to enjoy and follow.
In reality, the Brant Light House needs no filtering: it remains a fascinating sight despite, or perhaps because of, its current altered appearance.
Like an elegant older woman with a twinkle in her eye and stories to tell. The American flag hangs proud against the cyclic structure, and proud it should be: it is a lighthouse owned by the United States Coast Guard and, despite its age, is still an active aid to navigation, ensuring the safety of all who sail along the coast.
PROMISED TO RETURN
Our time here is almost up and we hurry towards the ferry terminal. But in line we realize that we have just enough time for an aperitif in a nearby bar.
The sun-bleached decking basks in the last rays of the evening sun and after watching the couple finish and leave the table, the decision is made. We hurriedly order a couple of Aperol Spritzes, disappointed that we’re not yet on the island to watch the party begin at the bar.
With music pouring out of the open windows, we catch the last few minutes on this tiny island, determined to make the most of our time here. We are talking about going back a few years and staying longer.
Our son is thrilled with his suggestion that maybe we can learn to surf the stronger waves at Cisco Beach. Or he rents one of the open jeeps that we admired during the day, he visits the Loines Observatory and stops by the whaling museum.
Opportunities for exploration and discovery abound on Nantucket. I love it. The 15-year wait on Nantucket has paid off.