Sunday, October 13, 2013

In My Footsteps: The First Nantucket Trip

            After finally exploring Martha’s Vineyard for the first time in my life my thoughts quickly turned to making landfall on Nantucket.  Growing up I had heard that almost every square inch of Nantucket was historic, a slice of what Cape Cod was long ago.  When I got a chance to go and visit I could not wait to see if the island lived up to all of the lofty praise.  I am glad to say it definitely did.
            Nantucket lies thirty miles off of the shore of Cape Cod, a much longer trip than to The Vineyard.  Luckily the Steamship Authority ran a special on round-trip tickets on the high speed ferry.  This meant I could enjoy a quick hour long trip each way rather than the usual
Brant Point
two hours plus on the regular ferry.  One word of warning though about the high speed ferry, yes it is a much faster ride but it will be very windy and you will get spritzed with water if you’re close to either side.
            From the moment the ferry docked I began to feel what everyone had always told me about Nantucket.  Broad Street was the entrance to the island and I had to stop and look around to soak in the atmosphere much like I did when stepping foot upon Martha’s Vineyard.  Also like The Vineyard I did my research on where to rent a bicycle and chose Young’s Bicycle Shop, a very good choice, I recommend them.  A quick check of my bike and I was on my way.
            Even though Nantucket is smaller in size than The Vineyard there is just as much to be seen and not enough time to see it all.  Luckily the first place I wanted to visit was only a short pedal away.  Brant Point Lighthouse on Easton Street is a perfect way to start a day on Nantucket.  For me who loves lighthouses it’s a perfect spot no matter the time. 
            If the lighthouse looks familiar you may have seen replicas of it on the shore of Lewis Bay in Hyannis, Massachusetts, or at the Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut.  It is also one of the most photographed lighthouses in the country.  How could one resist with the light’s diminutive stature and long railings stretching out before it? 
Despite its fame the current Brant Point Light is hardly the first on the site.  In actuality the current lighthouse is the tenth light on the site and seventh tower.  The most recent lighthouse before the current one sits only a few hundred feet away on the ground of the Coast G
Middle Moors Serengeti
uard Station.  The taller tower, deactivated upon building the current tower in 1901 is missing its lantern and is now used as an office and radio room.
There are so many places to see in the downtown area of Nantucket and I wanted to make sure that I set aside enough time for that, however before that I wanted to head east.  I wanted to head to the village of Siasconset or ‘sconset as locals call it.  This is where some of the most beautiful views on the island are located.  To get there I had to take my bike to the ‘sconset Bike Path which parallels Milestone Road all the way to the coast.
I had tunnel vision along the bike path, wanting badly to see the ‘sconset Bluff Walk and Sankaty Head Lighthouse.  However something caught my eye and caused me to make an unscheduled stop.  Off to my left was something that looked straight out of an African Safari.  I had stumbled upon the Middle Moors Serengeti of Nantucket.  What exactly is it?  The Middle Moors Serengeti is a 400-acre plain with scattered trees and vegetation.  Altar Rock, a hundred feet above sea level, provides a view of almost the entire island it seems.  This unscheduled stop will be a destination for sure on my next trip to Nantucket.
Continuing on the ‘sconset Bike Path leads you to a rural rotary near the Siasconset Old Historic District.  A turn down Gully Road brings two amazing spots into view.  First is the Sconset Footbridge, the other is ‘sconset Beach.  The Sconset Footbridge is a ninety-foot long wooden bridge stretching over the road which was built in the late-19th century by well known Siasconset architect Charles H. Robinson.  Climbing the stairs and standing above the road there is a breathtaking view of ‘sconset Beach at the end of the road.    
A view from the 'sconset Bluff Walk
I had to leave my bike behind for the next area that was on my list, the ‘sconset Bluff Walk.  It is a slightly off the beaten path gem on Nantucket.  To get to it one has to go up a shielded walkway just off of Bank Street.  Once at the top you are in for a treat.  The footpath leads you along the outskirts of beautifully manicured homes on the left side and gives you increasingly incredible views of the beach on the right side.  Just after the summer ended the homes are mostly vacant but the weather is still good enough that the landscape is green and flowers still in bloom.  It is difficult to describe this place and do it justice, it is something that has to be experienced.
A short ride north from the Bluff Walk is Sankaty Head Lighthouse overlooking Sankaty Head Golf Course to the west and the ocean close by to the east.  The red and white striped lighthouse was originally built in 1850 and was moved back from the eroding cliffs in 2007.  When first lit in 1850 Sankaty Head Light was visible 20-miles away making it the most powerful lighthouse in New England.  This is a beautiful area with only the ocean waves making noise and the views are spectacular across the neighboring golf course toward the Milestone Cranberry Bog an
Sankaty Head Light
d Middle Moors.
After visiting Siasconset it was time to head back on the bike path to downtown Nantucket to see what everyone had told me about.  I could go on and on about the beautiful historic buildings and charming cobblestone streets but probably not do them justice.  The one spot I want to mention that is a unique way to check out Nantucket is the First Congregational Church on Centre Street.
It is a beautiful nearly 300-year old building and most churches make for great photo opportunities, however there is something else about this building that makes it a ‘must see.’  For a small donation one can climb the ninety-four steps to the top of the church tower for a view of Nantucket Harbor that has to be seen to be believed.  The original tower and bell were removed when the church was moved to its current location in 1834; the current tower was built in 1968.  There is always someone at the top to answer any questions and give a history of the tower and what you can see as you look out of the windows at the surrounding area.  It is well worth the hike up the stairs.
My first visit to the island of Nantucket lived up to all of the hype that I had heard.  It is every bit a throwback to another time with the cobblestone streets downtown.  It seemed as though every single house I saw during my time there was beautiful and historic.  I loved ‘sconset and even the l
View of Nantucket Harbor from inside First Congregational Church tower.
ong ride on the bike path was a pleasure.  I already cannot wait for my second trip to Nantucket which will not be too far off.  Have fun and happy traveling!

My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at,, and, soon to be in stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter!

Directions:  Brant Point Lighthouse: From the ferry head down Broad St., take 2nd right onto S. Beach St.  After .2 miles turn right onto Easton St., follow it to the end.
            First Congregational Church:  From the ferry head down Broad St., take 2nd right onto S. Beach St., after .2 miles turn left onto Easton St., continue onto Chester St., turn left onto Centre St., church is on right.
            ‘sconset Bluff Walk:  From the ferry head down Broad Street, turn left onto S. Water St., continue onto Washington St., follow .3 miles turn right onto Francis St., turn left onto Union St.  Turn left onto Lower Orange St., at rotary take 3rd exit for Milestone Rd., follow 6 miles, continue onto Main Rd.  At rotary take 1st exit for Ocean Ave., slight left onto Gully Rd., continue onto Codfish Park Rd., continue onto N Gully Rd.  Follow it to a curve, straight ahead will be pathway to Bluff Walk.
            Sankaty Head Lighthouse:  From the ferry head down Broad Street, turn left onto S. Water St., continue onto Washington St., follow .3 miles turn right onto Francis St., turn left onto Union St.  Turn left onto Lower Orange St., at rotary take 3rd exit for Milestone Rd., follow 6 miles, continue onto Main St., at rotary continue straight to stay on Main St.  Turn left onto Broadway and slight right onto Shell St., continue onto Sankaty Rd., follow .7 miles turn right onto Bayberry Lane, turn left onto Baxter Rd., follow it to end.

            Nantucket Historical


Unknown said...

Thanks for the share! Did you enjoy Sankaty Head Lighthouse? My husband and I get one of those classic Nantucket Summer Rentals every year and visiting the light house has to be my favorite part :)!

Christopher Setterlund said...

Hi Joan, I absolutely loved Sankaty Head. In fact when I get to go back in spring I have made arrangements to meet one of the caretakers and go up inside the lighthouse for some photographs to use in my second book I am working on.