Nantucket used to be the whaling capital of the world, but the island stays afloat nowadays thanks to its busy summer tourist season, which is the time of year it's is best known for.
However, if you're trying to decide when the best time to visit Nantucket is, you should first think about what "best" means for you and your group.
All four seasons have something to offer would-be Nantucket visitors for a variety of reasons, so in this article we've broken down all the main considerations you'd want to think about.
The best time to visit Nantucket depends on your group dynamics and trip goals
- June, July and August are the best times to go to Nantucket for families and those who prioritize warmer weather and beach time.
- Fall (September and October) and Spring (April to early June) are perfect for couples and friend groups, or those who are looking to enjoy the island when it's less busy.
Main factors to consider when planning your trip to Nantucket:
- Weather: are you looking for warm, action packed beach days or a cozy, quiet atmosphere?
- Open businesses: Memorial Day in May to Indigenous Peoples' Day in mid October is the window in which most businesses are open
- Crowds: summer is great, but it does add an element of hustle and bustle that some may want to avoid
- Events: if you're primary objective is attending one of our famous festivals
- Price: the island is highly seasonal, and you can expect to pay more during the summer
Best time to go to Nantucket with a family
Families will enjoy the summer the most of any season on Nantucket. Between the amazing weather (upper 60s to upper 70s generally - yes that's considered amazing to us locals) and the amount of activities available, this is the ideal time of year for families to visit the island.
June, July and August are bursting with summer camps, children’s events, and all kinds of lessons: surfing, sailing, swimming, etc. There’s definitely more to do than any family possibly has time for. The weather is also perfect for renting bikes to explore our many bike paths.
Besides the innumerable activities available, summer is also when school is out making it the best time of year for families to visit Nantucket.
Best time to go to Nantucket as a couple
Couples, young and old alike, will find any time from April through October to be great opportunities to make a trip to the island. Summer will provide the best weather, and if you’re a couple that loves some hustle and bustle, then the summer months are the best time to go.
However, if you’re a couple looking for a quieter getaway and some romantic seclusion, then your best bet is fall or spring. September in particular is the crown jewel for couples with the weather still feeling summer-like but the beaches, streets and restaurants having transitioned to their mellow shoulder season vibe. September is worth it for your special someone.
Best time to go to Nantucket with a group of friends
Friend groups, whether they are bachelor or bachelorette parties, old college buddies, or a mishmash of work and life friends, can have a blast on Nantucket.
Spring and fall provide the best times of year to visit Nantucket for groups of friends. The shoulder seasons are less expensive than the summer months, and it can be easier to rent a house for a big friends’ reunion weekend.
There’s also plenty to do during the spring and fall with most restaurants and bars being open, and the weather is good enough for bike rides, strolling through town, or taking a Jeep to Great Point. The fall and spring are some of the best times to visit Nantucket with your friends.
Best seasons to visit Nantucket
Summer in Nantucket
Summer is the island at its busiest with the island almost overflowing with visitors. Most of the best things to do in Nantucket are open and doable. The island is also at its most lush and glorious with gardens overflowing with hydrangeas and our vast conservation areas screaming with dense, green summer growth. The water temperature is also at its highest, and this is the most ideal time of year to get to the beach or out on the water.
- Temperatures are typically in the upper 60s to upper 70s during the summer months. Early June can experience what locals call “June-uary” when temperatures can be in the upper 40s and 50s on some days. Nights are cool in June and late August so you’ll want some layers.
- Families make up the largest portion of summer visitors. There are also many snowbirds that make Nantucket their seasonal summer home, and couples come to enjoy romantic summer escapes as well.
- Summer is when the greatest number of businesses are open on the island.
- Summer feels busy and at times crowded, but there’s still plenty of places to escape the summer bustle.
- Each week in the summer brims with festivals, events and activities.
- Summer is also the time of year when Nantucket is most expensive so be sure to pack an extra arm and leg, because being here during the summer will cost you a pretty penny.
June in Nantucket
June marks the official start to the summer season on Nantucket. The first two weeks of June still feel a little like the shoulder season: most businesses are open, but the summer crowds haven’t arrived yet. Once most schools have recessed for summer break, the island really transitions to summer, and the island begins to burst with activity. The Nantucket Book Festival takes place in mid-June, and the Nantucket Film Festival starts the last week of the month. Summer camps begin late in the month along with a wide variety of other activities.
July in Nantucket
July begins with a bang and is arguably the busiest month in Nantucket. The first week with the Fourth of July holiday brings the most visitors to the island than any other time of year. Besides the fireworks show, Fourth of July celebrations include the closing of Main Street with a water competition between the Fire Department and reserve firefighters in addition to other side streets being closed for food trucks and a farmer’s market. There are a number of different festivals in July like the Nantucket Garden Festival and the Nantucket Dance Festival in addition to many other events put on by various island organizations.
August in Nantucket
The beginning of August is the second busiest time of year in Nantucket. The first two weeks are almost as crowded as the first week of July, and the summer weather is still in full swing. The Opera House Cup sailing race takes place during Nantucket Race Week in August, when the harbor is filled with a multicolor menagerie of sailing vessels. August is also when the Boston Pops come to the island to play a benefit concert at Jetties Beach for the Nantucket Cottage Hospital. As August begins to wind down toward September, the nights become cooler, and the crowds start to thin out as families and seasonal workers leave the island for the start of the school year. The island takes on a more relaxed atmosphere as crowds leave, and the local community takes a breath after a busy season.
Fall in Nantucket
I don’t want to upset my fellow islanders by letting the secret out, but fall on Nantucket is our happy place. The weather remains warm, the crowds are gone, and seasonal businesses are still open making this one of the most pleasant times of year. Plus, the colors begin to change revealing a secret side to the island that not everyone gets to enjoy.
- Temperatures during the day range anywhere from the 40s to the lower 70s. Nights are cool so a mix of summer and fall gear is necessary to be prepared for whatever mother nature decides.
- Couples, both old and young, as well as families with very young children tend to visit during this time of year. Groups of friends come on the weekend in addition to many weddings taking place during the fall.
- Most businesses are still open until early October, but the island has a more relaxed attitude during the fall with less crowds and locals happy to be past the summer season.
- The fall plays host to fishing tournaments, fall festivals, and running and bike races.
September in Nantucket
September is the Goldilocks month on Nantucket. It’s not too hot, and it’s not too cold: the weather is summer-like though cool at night, and the water is still warm enough to swim in. The island isn’t as busy, but everything is still open and feels alive with other visitors and locals. The month starts off with Labor Day weekend, which is Nantucket’s unofficial end of summer. Events like the Maria Mitchell Women of Science Symposium and the Nantucket Project take place in September. Outdoor activities like the Cross-Island Hike and the In-Shore Classic fishing tournament occur in September.
October in Nantucket
Things start to cool down more noticeably in October. Most businesses remain open through the first weekend of October, but after Indigenous Peoples’ Day, businesses outside of Town and the mid-island area will be closed. October is still a great time of year to visit Nantucket with mild weather and no crowds; you can really feel like you have the place to yourself. Come to the island for the Nantucket Half Marathon race, or check out Nantucket Conservation Foundation’s Batacular Bike Race, which is a mountain bike race through the conservation area known as the Moors.
November in Nantucket
Though not as nice as October, November can still be pleasant on Nantucket. There isn’t as much going on, but the island is lovely with fall colors. Nantucket has become a popular holiday destination for Thanksgiving with a number of different events taking place on the island. Main Street is decorated with Christmas trees, and there is an annual tree lighting ceremony at the Pacific National Bank. If you’re brave enough, take part in the Nantucket Atheneum’s Cold Turkey Plunge by jumping in the harbor at Children’s Beach on Thanksgiving morning. Benefits go to the Weezie Library for Children.
Spring in Nantucket
After January and February, which can seem to last forever here, spring is a welcome friend. March is very much still ‘winter’ on Nantucket though it can have milder days, and the island begins to feel a little less empty with seasonal workers starting to return to the island. April and May are really what everyone is waiting for with the days getting a little longer and a little warmer.
- Temperatures can vary from the upper 30s to the upper 60s throughout the spring. The weather can do anything from idyllic 60s and sunshine to miserable freezing rain and gusty winds.
- Couples and friends typically visit in the spring, but families also come during vacation weeks and on weekends.
- The island still feels like it’s waking from winter hibernation during the spring, and most businesses open in April and May. Don’t expect everything to be open until mid-May.
- The spring is the beginning of festival season on the island, and there are some great events at this time of year like the Nantucket Daffodil Festival and the Nantucket Wine and Food Festival.
March in Nantucket
The month of March doesn’t get a lot of love from the locals: after January and February, you just don’t feel like you can do another month of grey, cold and windy days. Many businesses on the island are still closed for the season in March, and the weather can be uninviting to say the least. Not that Nantucket isn’t worth visiting at this time of year, but it’s best for those who love some solitude and don’t mind the weather.
April in Nantucket
April is when the new season kicks off on Nantucket. Businesses begin to open back up, and the weather can be enjoyable and decent for biking and walking. The Nantucket Daffodil Festival is the unofficial season opener and a longtime favorite of locals and visitors alike. There is an antique car parade with picnics popping up along the parade route from town to ‘Sconset as well as other daffodil related events and activities.
May in Nantucket
May in Nantucket is when summer starts to feel like a real possibility and not just some fleeting dream from the year before. The days get warmer, and more and more people begin to arrive on the island. Generally, the weather is a little cool to head to the beach, but the cool to mild temperatures are great for biking or walking. Two large annual events take place in May that help set the stage for the summer to come: the Nantucket Wine and Food Festival in mid-May, and the Figawi sailboat race over Memorial Day Weekend.
Winter on Nantucket
For many people, Nantucket doesn’t exist in the winter, but the island is still here from December to February even if not many of us want to be. Though milder than the mainland, Nantucket winters can be cold, damp and windy. It’s not for the faint of heart, but the island exhibits a stark beauty during the winter that is worth the cold, lonely bellow of wind through the eaves.
- During the winter, temperatures can plummet to the teens or below thanks to the wind chill, but there can be surprisingly mild days in the upper 40s or low 50s. It doesn’t snow often, but it can happen. Some winters see no snow, and others can have multiple snow events. More often than not, it’s grey, cold and rainy.
- December is the final hurrah of the season for Nantucket with the annual Christmas Stroll weekend and the holidays at the end of the month.
- Winter sees the fewest number of visitors to the island. For most folks, winter is the least desirable time to visit Nantucket because of the weather and the number of business that are closed during the off-season.
December on Nantucket
The annual Christmas Stroll weekend opens up the month of December in Nantucket. This holiday shopping weekend takes place the first Saturday of December and sees Main Street closed to vehicles so that visitors and locals alike can ‘stroll’ around town. One of the highlights from Stroll is Santa Claus arriving in town via a Coast Guard vessel. Nantucket can also be a great place to spend Christmas and New Year’s, and that week sees families coming to Nantucket for a quiet, island holiday.
January and February in Nantucket
With the New Year rung in, Nantucket gets ready to hibernate. January and February can be cold, bleak months on the island with temperatures staying low and winter storms moving through. Construction ramps up during the winter months so Nantucket isn’t dead, but islanders in the trades are getting things done. The island is at its most empty during February school vacation week; this is a good week to walk through town and count how many more deer than people you see. And if you’re “lucky”, the harbor could freeze over, and the waves might turn to slush. These are some of the joys of Nantucket in the heart of winter.