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Every season, we field phone calls and emails with this common question: can you make a day trip to Nantucket? The answer is easy: yes! Nantucket makes for a perfect day trip. There are some logistics you need to figure out, but that's where we come in.

Author: Lucas Johnston, Office Manager at Young's

Nantucket waves are better on the south shore where there are sandbars

Nantucket day trip FAQs

Is Nantucket worth visiting for just a day?

Absolutely! In fact, Nantucket’s size makes it perfect for seeing a lot in a short amount of time. Whether you stay on foot and explore the historic downtown area for the day, or you rent a bike or car and make your way out to the villages of ‘Sconset and Madaket, your day will be full of sweeping ocean views, quaint cobblestone streets, and world class dining and shopping no matter what you decide to do.

 How much does it cost to go to Nantucket for a day?

You’ll have to cross Nantucket Sound for your day trip to the island either by boat or plane. We have a whole page on how to get to Nantucket and the associated logistics, but here is some quick info:

Ferry from Hyannis

  • The Steamship Authority operates a high-speed ferry service in season ($81/round-trip) lasting about an hour and a traditional ferry ($41/one way), which takes about two hours and fifteen minutes.
  • Hy-Line Cruises has a one-hour high-speed ferry departing from Hyannis to Nantucket year-round ($89/round-trip).

Ferry from Harwich Port

  • Freedom Cruise Line departs from Harwich Port on Cape Cod and takes about 80 minutes to reach Nantucket ($96/round-trip).

Ferry from Martha's Vineyard

  • From Martha’s Vineyard, Hy-Line Cruises operates a seasonal inter-island ferry ($76/round-trip).

Plane from Hyannis or Boston:

  • Cape Air flies to Nantucket from Hyannis and Boston, and prices vary throughout the season (tickets can be quite expensive from Boston).

Do you need a car for a day trip to Nantucket?

If you want to see as much of the island as possible during your day, renting a car or an e-bike would be the best choice. You can see a lot of town on foot and a lot of the island on a bike, but if you are the kind of person who wants to maximize the sight seeing, having a motor makes it more doable.

Note: While you can take your car on the Steamship Authority vehicle ferry, tickets are very expensive and difficult if not impossible to obtain. It's more cost effective and flexible to rent a car on Nantucket when it comes to short trips.

How many hours do you need for a Nantucket day trip?

If you're only planning on exploring Town, a half day can be enough to walk the streets and piers, visit some shops, and get a bite to eat.

However, to really do some site seeing and get out of the downtown area, you will want a full day to ensure you have enough time to enjoy yourself, see the island, and make it back in time for your return trip without feeling rushed.

The small village of Quidnet by Sesachacha Pond is another beautiful spot to check out when visiting Nantucket

Nantucket Day Trip Itineraries

We have our top 10 Things To Do In Nantucket list, but each day trip is different depending on your mode of transportation and with whom you’re traveling. So to help you plan we’ve broken things down and made some recommendations based on these situations:

Day Trip to Nantucket on Foot

Making a day trip to Nantucket on foot is a great way to get a taste of what the historic downtown of Nantucket has to offer.

With loads of boutique shops, galleries, and scrumptious stops for nosh, your walking pace will determine how much you can see and experience.

You won’t have to miss the beach either as there are several well-known beaches located within walking distance of the main downtown.

The wharfs are great areas to walk around on Nantucket

Here is our favorite itinerary for day trips to Nantucket on foot:

  • When you get off the boat, start strolling the cobblestone streets of historic downtown Nantucket where you’ll pass by the homes of former whaling captains and ship builders where elaborate gardens now bloom in season.
  • Once you've taken in some of the sights in Town, head to the Whaling Museum to learn about Nantucket’s history and the whaling industry that helped forge Nantucket’s place in the world.
  • Refuel with a sandwich at Something Natural on Cliff Rd and then head over to Steps Beach for a picturesque view or a quiet picnic.
  • If you're looking for a little more action, walk down Cobblestone Hill and over to Jetties Beach and the Sandbar for a snack and cold refreshments.
  • Take Hulbert Avenue back towards Town and make a pitstop at Brant Point Lighthouse for a photo op while the boats go by in the harbor.
  • Visit the upscale shops, boutiques, and galleries that line the quaint streets and wharves of downtown.
  • Grab a meal at one of our many restaurants and finish off the day with ice cream from The Juice Bar before hopping back on the ferry.

Day Trip to Nantucket with Bikes

Nantucket has miles and miles of paved, separated bike paths, which make renting a bike an ideal way to get around Nantucket for a day trip. The island is just small enough that there are several different day trip itineraries that make for great opportunities to experience Nantucket by bike.

You’ll want to consider your stamina (and the weather) when planning your Nantucket day trip by bike as it can be windy and some of the rides average 2 to 4 hours roundtrip.

Biking in Sconset is calm and beautiful

These are some of our favorite day trip rides and their popular itineraries:

1. The 'Sconset Loop

The Sconset-Polpis Loop, or just the “loop” as locals call it, is probably the quintessential Nantucket bike ride. Leaving from town and riding out Polpis Road Bike Path to Sconset and back via Milestone Road Bike Path is about an 18-mile round trip, 90% of which is on bike paths.

Besides the great views and landscapes, some worthwhile stops on this route are: the Shipwreck and Life Saving Museum, Sankaty Lighthouse, and the Sconset Bluff walk. In season, take a break in Sconset and get a sandwich from Claudette’s and some ice cream from the Sconset Market.

2. Madaket via Cliff Rd

Madaket and the west end of the island also make for a great Nantucket day trip by bike. Head out on the Cliff Road bike path, and stop at Tupancy Links conservation area for a nature walk on your way west.

After crossing onto Madaket bike path, look for osprey in the elevated nests erected in the wetlands to either side of the road.

Once you reach Madaket, take a dip in the ocean at Madaket Beach and then treat yourself to a cocktail and a quesadilla at Millie’s just up the bike path from the Madaket Beach.

3. Cisco Beach

And now, what’s become a favorite day trip to Nantucket by bike: Cisco Beach and then Cisco Brewers. If you don’t want to put in too many miles on the bike or only have so much time on the island, heading out to Cisco Beach and Cisco Brewery is the way to go.

The incredibly popular Cisco Beach is only a few miles outside of town, and the Hummock Pond bike path leads you right to the parking lot. After you’ve had some fun in the sun, head back up the bike path and grab a cold one at Cisco Brewery.

The Brewery features food trucks, music and more throughout the year and is worth the visit. You can also check out 167 Raw and Bartlett’s Farm in the same area for other great food options. Don’t loose track of time while you’re having fun: you still have a boat to catch!

Combine intineraries with E-Bikes

Can’t decide? Want to do it all by bike? Well, now you don’t have to be a Tour de France rider to make that happen.

Renting an e-bike will enable you to see the whole island in one day. You won’t have as much time at each of your stops, but it is possible with an e-bike to combine all three of the above itineraries into one day. We don’t necessarily recommend doing this, but it is possible for those super active folks who'd rather see it all than stay in one place.

Day Trip to Nantucket with a Car

We get it: walking and biking aren’t for everyone, and to truly maximize your day trip to Nantucket and see as much as possible, renting a car or Jeep is the solution.

Having a vehicle opens up a lot more possibilities of what you can accomplish with your day trip to Nantucket.

Young's is the place to go for Nantucket rental cars

Here are our two favorite itineraries for Nantucket day trips with a vehicle:

1. The Great Point Adventure

Renting a four-wheel drive Jeep and heading to Great Point Lighthouse and the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge should be on the top of your Nantucket day trip idea list. If you haven’t experienced driving on sand or you’re a veteran to letting the air out and navigating the tire tracks, this is a worthwhile adventure that can’t be missed. Grab some food in town for a picnic lunch, and then head out to the Trustees’ gate house in Wauwinet to air down your tires before putting it in four-wheel drive and experiencing a pair of the world’s most beautiful and environmentally unique peninsulas. Explore all the details on our Nantucket Beach Driving guide.

2. The End To End Experience 

If beach driving isn’t your thing, then grab a car and tour the island for the day. Head out Polpis Road to Sconset. Head over to the Sankaty Lighthouse on the way and then check out the beautiful homes along the Sconset Bluff Walk. After heading back into town, drive out to Cisco Beach and then head over to the brewery for a break. Finally, if you’re leaving on a late boat, drive out to Madaket for a life savoring sunset and bite to eat at Millie’s.

Note: Keep in mind that many rental car agencies (including Young’s) have minimum rental periods for advanced reservations during high season, but single day reservations are more than welcome during the shoulder seasons. (If you are interested in a car for one day during the high season, please call us at Young’s one to two days before your day trip, and we can see what we have available.)

Day Trip to Nantucket with a Family

Coming over to Nantucket for a day trip as a family is a great way to experience the island. You'll want to consider the age and ability of your family members when planning your day on Nantucket.


1. Explore around Town with infants and toddlers

Families with infants and toddlers might want to stick to the historic downtown area, which is walkable with strollers and has plenty of fun activities for that age group. Check out family friendly Children’s and Jetties Beaches located within walking distance of the ferries; each of these beaches feature playgrounds, restrooms, snack bars, and shallow, calm water. If you’re lucky and happen to be on island at the right time, stop by the Nantucket Atheneum Library for a Nanpuppets performance and then head over to the fabulous Barnaby’s Toy Shack.

2. Enjoy active adventures with older kids

Families with slightly older children can consider renting bikes for their day trip. Young’s has rental bikes with baby seats, burley trailers that can fit up to two small children and be towed behind an adult bike, and all sizes of kids and youth bicycles. With bikes, families can head out of town to north shore beaches like Steps Beach and Dionis Beach after picking up sandwiches at Something Natural along the way. Families with pre-teen and teenaged children who feel comfortable biking more and swimming could head to the south shore beaches of Surfside (snack bar and restrooms) and Cisco (Bartlett’s Farm and 167 Raw are located nearby to Cisco Beach and are great stops for food).

3. See both ends of the island with a car or Jeep

Renting a car or Jeep might also be the right choice for your family’s day trip to Nantucket. With a car or Jeep, you won’t be restricted by time or ability while you’re here. A Jeep rental could mean taking the whole family for an off-road, over-sand adventure to Great Point Lighthouse. If your family has a car at their disposal, you would be able to see the Shipwreck and Life Saving Museum in Polpis but also get some beach time in out in the west end at Madaket. The island truly is your oyster with a car or Jeep to help you get around.

Day Trip to Nantucket as a Couple

Nantucket is a very romantic stop even just for a day trip, and couples often make the ferry or plane ride over from Cape Cod or the Vineyard for the day.

You’ll want to make sure you know your partner well enough before deciding how you’d like to get around the island for the day. Not everyone wants to ride the tandem bike!

The path to Steps beach in Nantucket makes for a lovely walk

1. Stroll around Town

Couples can find plenty to do right in historic downtown for their day trip to Nantucket so it’s definitely possible to eschew the bike or rental car. Stroll the historic, cobblestone streets, and stop in at the various boutiques, galleries, and shops that bustle throughout the season. With lots of casual to upscale dining in downtown, couples can enjoy a great lunch with a view at spots like Cru or Straight Wharf. Jetties and Steps Beaches see a lot of families, but there is also plenty of space for a couple to find some relative peace on the beach not far from downtown.

2. 'Sconset or Cisco

Lots of couples make the day trip to Nantucket to bike, which is understandable with the island’s miles of paved, separated bike paths and lots of magnificent (and romantic) places to stop and take in amazing views and vistas. The ‘Sconset-Polpis Loop, which takes you by Sankaty Lighthouse and through the ‘Sconset Bluff walk, is a day trip favorite for couples. If you don’t want to put in as many miles, couples can head to Cisco Beach for the day and then Cisco Brewery for some food and libations before making the short journey back to town and the ferries.

3. Beach Driving Experience

Once again, for those who don’t want to bike or want to do as much as possible for their day trip to Nantucket, renting a car or Jeep is the way to go. Taking a Jeep to Great Point Lighthouse and driving over-sand is a thrilling experience as a couple, and there are plenty of places to find a spot of beach all to yourself.

4. Sunset in Madaket

If you're not leaving until night time, another great option is to grab a car and head to Madaket and the west end for the day where you can soak up the sun at Madaket Beach and then grab food and drinks at Millie’s.

Day Trip to Nantucket as a Group

Group dynamics vary just like they do for families and couples. We always suggest being honest about the desires and abilities of the various members of your group when making your plans. After all, you’re hear to have fun, aren’t you?

Surfside beach on Nantucket's south shore has a place to eat and picnic

1. Group activities on foot

Groups can have a lot of fun on their day trip to Nantucket with out a car or bike. On foot, groups can make their way around the historic downtown with plenty of things to do. Visit the Whaling Museum, and then head over to the Brant Point Grill at the White Elephant for a gourmet lunch. Or try some old-school clam shack flavor at Sayle’s Seafood before having an Elbow Bender at the Lobster Trap. With loads of shopping and plenty of stops to have a bite to eat or a beverage, most groups won’t have enough time to do everything in town on their day trip to Nantucket.

2. Group activities with bikes

Biking is a quintessential Nantucket activity, and if your group is up to it, then go for it. The Sconset-Polpis Loop is by far the most popular ride, but Cisco Beach and Cisco Brewery are close runners up for favorite day trip rides for groups with bikes.

3. Group activities with a vehicle

Groups also love getting a rental Jeep and heading out to Great Point for some soft sand driving. Don’t miss out on this opportunity, which is an experience your group will not soon forget. Renting a car or Jeep is also a great idea for groups with friends who do not like to bike or walk everywhere. You’ll be able to do and see more with a car, and you will also keep that friend happy who really didn’t want to bike.