The Californians Do Nantucket


When you think of Nantucket fashion, your mind fills with “Nantucket Reds,” upturned colors, topsiders, whale-print belts, lobster-covered shirts – or any outfit picked up at Murray’s Toggery Shop. When we do Nantucket, it looks like this:

cali style

As Californians, we don’t exactly fit in on Nantucket – which is sort of weird considering my husband’s family has owned a charming home in Wauwinet since long before it was stylish to do so. We’ve been lucky to spend many vacations there with our kids and their grandparents. (And although our suitcases arrive from California disappointingly fashion-light, we do clean up nicely when its time to head to town for dinner.)


For us, Nantucket is all about playing and relaxing with family: Lazing on the sand, splashing in the sea, playing sports on the beach, soaking up the maritime history, boogie boarding, shore casting and grilling seafood at sunset.


As Californians, we bask in every bit of Nantucket’s New Englandness during the time we spend there – the island’s preppy style only enhances its salty, exotic allure.

sunset horiz




The Roam Report : Nantucket

Date : Just about every summer since 2001

Itinerary : Get to Nantucket. Drive to Wauwinet. Stay for as long as possible!

Budget : We are fortunate to stay in our family’s home, which saves a bundle; summer rentals start at $3,000 per week. Food, drinks and activities are not as expensive as you might think, running about what you’d pay in any American holiday destination.

Travelers : Shelley, Kendall, Hayden (13) & Keaton (11)

The Good Stuff 

  • Children’s Beach Generations of summer kids have spent days splashing in the shallow, protected bay, napping under umbrellas and grabbing ice cream from the local vendors. Our boys loved catching minnows in buckets, building sand castles, clambering over the play structure and tossing balls on the grass – classic seaside family fun with lifeguards, restrooms, restaurants and loads of other kids to make it no-brainer easy for parents.
  • Pedal Around We consider it a “must” to spend a day on bikes. From our base in Wauwinet, we like to rent from Island Bike in Mid-Island. That shop gives us a great scenic ride back out to Siasconset (“’Sconset” to locals) on the east coast and lets us lock up the bikes there if we are too tired to ride back. The shop comes to get them the next day. Other families like to rent bikes downtown and ride around town.


  • Go Fish Chartering a sport fishing boat is a great way to spend a day on the water. We’ve had great experiences with two companies: Albacore Charters and Monomoy Charters. The Albacore is a slightly smaller boat that fishes for Bluefish and striped bass. Some trips go out farther and look for sharks. The Monomoy also runs a fun one-hour “Critter Cruise” which lets kids drop traps to catch lobster.

fishing boat

  • Stay Fish You don’t have to board a boat to fish: Our boys love to shore cast for blue fish. It is a very fun fish to catch-and-release or to drown with mayo, olive oil and lemon for dinner.


  • Sail Away Nantucket Community Sailing offers weeklong sailing and water sports camps for kids. The programs are as fantastic as they sound but you need to book at least six months in advance and there are no cancellations! (If your kid has a fever, send your other kid!)

sail camp

  • Dine on the Water There are numerous family-friendly options for dinners out in Nantucket that are low key and not too expensive. Check the local vacation guide for the hot places when you arrive because places change names/ownership often. We like the Tavern at Harbor Square because it is very family friendly and one of the only spots that doesn’t require reservations. For older kids and date nights, we like Cru. This place has the best location at the end of Straight Wharf. You’re sitting on the water’s edge with all the windows open, gazing at the harbor and pier. The kids never tire of looking at all the impressive boats and yachts. You can grab great appetizers, oysters and cocktails before heading elsewhere for dinner – or stay for a meal.
  • Whaling History The Nantucket Whaling Museum is a must-do for first-time visitors to the island. Along with great exhibits, the museum offers classes so check the schedule before you arrive.


The Not So Good 

  • Getting There Ain’t Cheap or Easy – First you have to get yourselves to Boston. The easiest and cheapest way from there is to rent a car and drive it onto the Nantucket car ferry (advance reservations needed) because unless you are staying in town or at a post resort, you will probably need a car on the island anyway. If you are short on time and long on cash, you can fly from Boston. JetBlue runs the one large plane to the island, while the rest of the flights are CapeAir, 9-seaters which cost about $1,000RT per person. They’re the quickest way to get there but if the weather is bumpy, you will arrive nearly deaf and rattled to the core.
  • Muggy & Buggy – Despite its position surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Nantucket is quite humid in the summer. We try to plan our activities for the mornings and our relaxing for the hot afternoons. Mosquitos are also a nuisance. The island has been trying to control the population for years but we all end up getting attacked at some point.
  • Avoid August If your plans permit, try to book a week that isn’t in August. Every year, mainlanders arrive on August 1 and take over the shops, homes and beaches. It is still fun but it is much easier to come at a less crowded time.


Good Family Trip? 

If you are just looking for a nice stretch of sand, keep looking. There are far easier-to-reach and cheaper beach destinations than Nantucket, to be sure. But we think the island is one of those uniquely American spots that make the extra effort worthwhile. Nantucket’s gorgeous setting, island locale, historical significance and inimitable New England island culture combine for a very special summer family experience – even if the culture is just a little bit foreign for we Californians.

Nantucket boys on beach edit


Good to Know 

  • Get a House – and Quick It isn’t a secret that a rental home is the best place for a family to stay on the island. VRBO lists a wide variety of rentals in all price ranges. My favorite places to stay/visit are Wauwinet, Siasconset and downtown. Rentals in Siaconset are probably a bit less expensive and more family oriented. Be sure to get a home with a BBQ to grill your seafood. Another helpful` amenity to look for is an outdoor shower. Whatever rental you pick, do it as soon as possible because summer rentals go like hotcakes. Most Nantucket families are regulars who book a year in advance so be plan now for 2016. The same is true for restaurant tables: Get your reservations now. It is never too early!

beach house

  • Great Groceries The island Stop and Shop is the biggest market on an island that you will ever see and will have anything you need. For specialty items, we have a few favorite places to shop: Sayles Seafood has the freshest catch fish, scallops and lobsters. Cowboy’s carries the best meats and will order from the mainland if you need a specific cut. The Islander is the spot for liquor (not sold in grocery stores or on Sundays).
  • Weekender Option – If you’ve got less time/more money, book into the White Elephant (in town) or Wauwinet (on the sea) for an elite weekend trip from the mainland. These properties provide a glimpse of New England luxury (and they run a ferry service to each others’ docks.)


Good Resources 

  • Nantucket Visitors Bureau – A great site with lots of good links and appropriate advice for families venturing to the island.
  • More Activities – For our family, Nantucket is first and foremost a place to hang out and relax with family. But if you need more to do, there is plenty! Wanna carve scrimshaw or hear an outdoor concert, Boston-based Mommy Poppins and Fathom have lists of more activities for kids. Check the local listings for outdoor concerts – our kids loved the Boston Pops when they play in August at Jetties’s Beach.
  • Fashion Advice Clearly, I’m not the one to ask about what to wear on Nantucket. If you want to fit in better than we do, PopSugar and HuffPost have advice for you. And to outfit your family in advance, check Murray’s Toggery Shop, the original Nantucket Reds outfitter.
  • Beach Books Though I’ve not read many myself, many visitors love Elin Hilderbrand’s catalog of summer tales to help you get in a Nantucket frame of mind.


by Shelley Fargo, June 2015

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Keywords: family travel, family vacation, family holiday, Nantucket with the kids, summer vacation with the family to Nantucket


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