Nantucket, a tiny, isolated island off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is a popular summer destination known for its dune-backed beaches and unpainted cedar-shingled buildings. The wharves and cobblestoned streets of the Town of Nantucket, evoking the island’s past as a 19th-century whaling hub, are lined with restaurants, high-end boutiques and steepled churches.
We decided to visit in the off-season to avoid the crowds and high-season rates. Our home base was the Harborview Nantucket, a unique property comprised of 11 luxury cottages that straddle the line between the town and the water.
Family-Friendly Review of Harborview Nantucket
The Harborview’s accommodations range in size from one to four bedrooms. All of the units have fully equipped kitchens with high-end appliances, washers and dryers, and modern decor that nicely complements the traditional New England architecture. The cottages are clustered in a horseshoe shape around a lovely lawn with a short boardwalk to the small private beach.
After our long journey, it was a pleasant surprise to check into our cottage and find two bottles of wine and an assortment of beer from the local Cisco brewery and winery.
We stayed in the Fair Wind, a two-bedroom duplex unit with a private balcony to enjoy the fabulous water view. The decor was sophisticated yet relaxed, and the colors blended perfectly with the environment.
Nantucket is affectionately known as the Grey Lady for the fog that can roll in at any time —perfect for enjoying our fireplace, which was stocked with wood. Our unit was one of two that are pet-friendly, so we brought our dog, Leila, and she had a blast.
The Stop & Shop grocery store is a two-minute walk from the hotel; guests also can arrange to have the refrigerator stocked prior to arrival. There is no restaurant onsite, but for families who do not want to cook in their cottage, many family-friendly choices lie within walking distance. The Concierge can arrange babysitting for parents to enjoy a night out at one of Nantucket’s many fine dining establishments.
Our favorite local coffee shop, the Handlebar Cafe, is right across the street from the Harborview. It’s also home to Nantucket Bicycle Tours, which offers guided bike tours of the island. And be sure to visit the old-fashioned soda fountain at the Nantucket Pharmacy on Main Street for one of their legendary frappes — my kids loved the black and white!
Activities and Amenities
In the summer months, beer and wine are served every afternoon on the Harborview lawn, also known as the “secret garden.” Parents can relax on the Adirondack chairs while the kids run around. The hotel has a very small private beach and provides kayaks, paddleboards and beach chairs in summer, but there are so many beautiful beaches on the island that the best advice is to visit them all and find a favorite. A trip to Brant Point Beach for a photo op at the lighthouse is a must.
There are a few bike rental shops right in town, and biking is a great way to explore the island. A nice route is to stop at Something Natural Cafe to pick up a picnic supplies and head to Steps Beach. Riding in town with small kids can be a bit challenging, so renting a tagalong or a trailer is recommended.
A friend who has a house on Nantucket told me to leave plenty of time for shopping in our schedule, and she was right: From antiques shops and art galleries to clothing boutiques and T-shirt shops, there’s something for everyone.
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Visiting a brewery is not the first thing that comes to mind for a family-friendly activity, but Cisco Brewery is well suited for kids. A free shuttle runs between the Town of Nantucket and the brewery, which is in a beautiful setting with lots of space for little ones to run around while Mom and Dad sit at a picnic table to enjoy one of the local craft brews.
We took the shuttle to Cisco Brewery and then took a 10-minute walk along a beautiful country road to Bartlett Farms, the island’s oldest family-owned farm. The farm’s market sells fresh fruits, vegetables, prepared foods, bakery items and much more. Kids will enjoy visiting Ben and Jerry, the resident Dutch belted oxen.
Guests can reach Nantucket either by airplane or by ferry. In the peak season, JetBlue has direct service from JFK Airport to the island, and there are two ferry lines with service out of Hyannis, Hyline and Steamship Authority (the latter is run by the state of Massachusetts and is less expensive). Each line offers both a high-speed passenger-only ferry and a car ferry.
Harborview guests don’t need a car, as there is a wonderful jitney service and plenty of taxis, but families who are staying a week or have small children may find a car convenient. Bringing one requires advance planning — reservations on the car ferry should be made as far as six to 12 months ahead for peak summer travel.
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Editor’s Note: Sandy was provided a media rate to review the property for Ciao Bambino. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Sandy Pappas.