Nantucket What Is Known For


Forget white whales. The objects of pursuit off Nantucket's shores are bluefish and striped bass. You can buy tackle (a 10-foot spinning rod is about right) and bait on the island, and even hire a guide. Then make your way to the beach (you'll need a 4x4 to reach Great Point and Smith Points, a pair favored by locals), but you can walk to Dionis, Pebbles, and Surfside beaches. Then, like Ishmael, cast your fate to the wind.


Visit the island's three lighthouses by bike or guided tour (leaving your car at home will be appreciated by the locals) but to experience the soul of Nantucket, pick up a general pass from the Historical Association. The $10 pass is good for entry to more than 20 sites maintained by the association, including the opulent Hadwen House, built by a whaling merchant named Starbuck (sound familiar?). The pass also will let you into the Whaling Museum, where the skeleton of a 43-foot finback whale watches over an incredible scrimshaw collection and nautical art.


Art galleries and shops dealing in marine antiques are mainstays here, but since the late 1940s the treasured keepsake of a visit to the island has been a Nantucket lightship basket. Each is woven with fine cane and made with a wood bottom and oak handles, and decorative ivory lids often carved with scrimshaw-like scenes reflecting the isle's whaling history. The baskets are pricey (figure $800 and up for one the size of a small purse), but the early designs have become collectibles, with prices well into the thousands.