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For visitors who are unfamiliar with Nantucket, the island is a little bigger than it looks on a map. It can be challenging to figure out how to get around in a way that lets you accomplish your whole to-do list, but Young’s is here to help you navigate the different choices you have when planning your Nantucket trip.

The best ways to get around Nantucket are on a bike, in a car, or on foot. Each method has its pros and cons, and we’ll break each of them down so you can decide which mode of transportation suits your trip best.

Author: Lucas Johnston, Office Manager at Young's

nantucket bike rentals at the harbor

Biking Around Nantucket

Visitors to Nantucket have been biking around the island for more than a century, and biking continues to be one of the best ways to get around and explore Nantucket. With miles of paved and separated bike paths, quiet streets and mellow dirt roads, you can go just about anywhere by bike on Nantucket.

Pros of biking around Nantucket

  • It's a fun experience: Biking isn't just transportation; it's fast enough to cover ground quickly but slow enough to stop and smell the hydrangeas and take pictures.
  • It's efficient: There are many miles of paved and separated bike paths going to all ends of the island.
  • It's relaxing: Outside of town you'll find plenty of quiet streets and mellow dirt roads.
  • It's economical: Biking and bike rentals are less expensive than renting a car or bringing your vehicle over on the ferry.
  • It can be advantageous: Skip the frustration of sitting in traffic or finding parking in town or at the beach.
  • It's family friendly: The whole family can go by bike with appropriate size bikes, trailers or carriers.

Cons of biking around Nantucket

  • Not everyone likes to bike or is physically able to do so (that being said, we're happy to chat about biking options for kids and adults that might have difficulty riding on their own).
  • Biking to get around is less suitable when traveling with a lot of luggage.
  • Staying out of town may be too far to make your experience enjoyable if biking is your only way to get around.
  • Our hills are small, but you might consider other options if you're wearing your nicest clothes for a night on the town.

Final verdict on biking around Nantucket

Renting bikes are perfect for day trips and longer stays. Biking provides the perfect pace to really see and experience the island and all of its nooks and cranberries while still covering plenty of ground. In a car, it’s easy to miss some of the best vistas and small quiet places that are around every curve of the road, and walking doesn't allow you to explore as much of your surroundings. It may not be the best option for every situation, but there's a reason why bikes are such a big part of life on Nantucket.

If you're thinking about renting bikes, Young's has the largest fleet of high quality rental bikes on the island. We also have electric bike rentals for riders looking to see more in less time. Check out all our great options and reserve some for your trip!

Jeep driving on the beach on nantucket

Driving Around Nantucket

As much as we love biking, driving is a great way to get around Nantucket. The island is just big enough to warrant a car especially if you have a family or large group and are staying for multiple days or longer. Cars are suited for getting around most of the island if you’re sticking to the paved streets and well-traveled dirt roads, but if you’re up for some adventure, a four-wheel drive vehicle opens up a whole other world.

Pros of driving around Nantucket

  • It's fast: The island is just large enough that driving to get around is sometimes more realistic for families or large groups or those who want to "see it all" in a short amount of time. Plus, there are great beaches off the beaten path that are miles from town and down long dirt roads.
  • It's easy: With a vehicle you can pack everything and everyone into the car without a worry.
  • It can be adventurous: Beach driving is an incredibly unique and fun activity.

Cons of driving around Nantucket

  • With narrow streets and low speed limits, town traffic can be frustrating during the summer season.
  • Getting your own vehicle to the island is expensive, and reservations on the car ferry can be difficult to get.
  • Rental vehicle prices increase during the high season, and gas is quite a bit more expensive than “off-island”.

Final verdict on driving around Nantucket

Vehicles are great for long stays, out of town accommodation, and adventurous experiences, but there are a few drawbacks to consider. Traffic, parking, and the general costs of choosing to drive can be challenging so they're worth considering when planning your Nantucket vacation.

If you're thinking about renting a vehicle on Nantucket, Young’s rents Honda Civics and Jeep Wranglers help you get around and see the island. Our Honda Civics are perfect for driving around the paved roads while our Jeep Wranglers have the appropriate beach permits to drive to Great Point or on town beaches as well as being equipped with the necessary tools for beach driving.

Nantucket has lots of great shops and art galleries in the center of town.

Walking Around Nantucket

Walking is an excellent way to get around Nantucket if you’re staying in town. Downtown Nantucket is small enough to walk, and with quaint shingled homes lining cobblestoned streets, you’ll be treated by using your own two feet to explore the historic district. The gardens are striking, the houses dating back to the whaling days are remarkable, and the abundance of shops, restaurants, and bars give you plenty to do.

Pros of walking around Nantucket

  • Downtown Nantucket has beautiful, quiet streets lined with historic homes and is easily walkable.
  • The town area is filled with shops and restaurants making walking the right choice for exploring and strolling the historic district.
  • The wharves and docks are only open to foot traffic so walking is the only way to experience the waterfront.
  • There’s no need for a car if you’re staying in town for the day or a short stay and not planning on heading out of the historic district.

Cons of walking around Nantucket

  • Nantucket is big enough that without a car or bike, exploring the rest of the island on foot would be difficult and time consuming.
  • There's a lot more to Nantucket than the historic district, and the beaches and villages outside of town are not to be missed if you have the time.
  • Nantucket has some narrow streets without sidewalks that lead you out of the downtown area, and walking your way out of town can feel a little daunting.

The final verdict on walking around Nantucket

Town is rich with history, beauty, and things to do, and walking is a great way to experience it.

the Madaket bike path takes you to the western end of the island where you can enjoy quiet beaches and beautiful sunsets

Other Means of Getting Around Nantucket

It should go without saying that there are other ways of getting around Nantucket besides driving, biking or walking. Here are some of those options:

  • Nantucket has taxis, and Uber and Lyft drivers operate on the island as well. However, at peak times and depending on where you’re trying to go, it may be difficult or impossible to get a taxi. Uber and Lyft are similar and can be expensive when demand is high.
  • The town has a bus system known as The Wave, which runs various routes around the island, and is the only public transportation system on the island. The Wave buses only stop at specific places, which can often be a good distance from wherever you’re ultimately trying to reach. Some Wave routes also have long intervals between buses so if you miss a bus, it can be a bit of a wait until the next one comes.
  • Some rental companies offer scooters for rent, but beware: Nantucket roads are narrow and windy. Cars and trucks will pass you on these scooters, and this can make many people feel nervous. An unfortunate but common summer sight is a line of cars stuck behind a scooter on its way out to 'Sconset or Madaket, who are waiting for their first opportunity to accelerate past. Locals are generally very friendly, but they can get pretty frustrated with the scooters and their operators so don’t be surprised if someone passes you in a less than friendly manner.

Getting Around Nantucket: Tips & FAQs

Can you bike around Nantucket in a day?

This is a loaded question as riders of many different ability levels travel to Nantucket. The island is mostly flat, which makes for fairly easy riding, but it can also be windy, and pedaling six miles into a headwind can really drain you out. Biking around Nantucket in a day would be fairly easy for the diehard cyclist, and the moderately active adult could bike around the island in a day if they planned to be out on the bike from morning until afternoon. E-bikes make it possible for casual riders to tackle the whole island in a day, but you should still expect a tender backside after being in the saddle for most of the day.

We at Young’s recommend most riders tackle the east or west ends of the island separately. The east end ride known as “the Loop” takes you out Polpis Road to the village of ‘Sconset and then back into town via Milestone Road. For most rides, this 15-to-16-mile journey takes anywhere from two to four hours depending on how long you stop along the way. Biking out to Madaket and the west end isn’t as far, but at about 12 miles round trip from town, this ends up being a two-to-three-hour affair for the average rider. With that kind of mileage and time, it’s easy to see how lumping both the east and west ends together can result in a long day in the saddle.

Do you need a car on Nantucket?
It is perfectly reasonable to visit Nantucket without a car especially if you are just coming for the day or plan on staying in the downtown area. However, a car can make it a lot more efficient to see more of the island.

How do you get around Nantucket without a car?
If you’re planning on visiting Nantucket without a car, there are a number of different ways to get around. Biking is a great way to get around the island without a car. There are also taxis, Ubers/Lyfts, and a public bus system that makes it possible to get around Nantucket without a car.

How big is Nantucket Island?
Nantucket is 14 miles long, and three to five miles wide. It is 105 square miles.

Is it easy to bike around Nantucket?
With miles of paved and separated bike paths, Nantucket is ideally suited for biking. The average rider will find it fairly easy to bike around Nantucket. The island is mostly flat with some small ‘hills’, but it can be windy at times, which can make even a flat road fill like a mountain. The island is just big enough that trying to bike the entire island in one day may be a tall order for some riders but not impossible. Most riders pick certain sections of the island to bike: ‘Sconset and the east end, Madaket and the west end, or out the Hummock Pond Road bike path to Cisco beach (with a nice stop at Cisco Brewers as a reward). Nantucket has a lot of options when it comes to planning a day, morning or afternoon of biking.