Nantucket town is a beautiful historic setting with sandy beaches, lighthouses, tranquil harbors, dramatic cliffs, and beautiful mansions and gardens. Visitors to Nantucket Harbor can enjoy the nightlife in town, relax on the beach, or have an exciting family weekend.
Popular with the rich and famous, Nantucket Harbor is a pleasant break from stress-filled cities. Tourists in Nantucket Harbor know they will find the best seafood and gourmet restaurants as well as great casual dining. Nantucket Harbor is a family-friendly location where children are safe and welcomed by local businesses.
Most visitors come in the summer, but the island is great throughout the year. Off-season, the summer population of 55 thousand shrinks to around ten thousand. Much of the island is protected by the Nantucket Conservation Foundation that cares for the beaches, forests, bogs, dunes, meadows, grasslands, marshes, and ponds.
The entire island of Nantucket is a National Historic District with many historic sites managed by the US National Park Service. Most of the sites are close enough together for a walking tour. The historic sites include Main Street, the Oldest House, the African Meeting House, the Pacific National Bank, the Nantucket Atheneum (library), Brant Point Light, the First Congregational Church, Hawden House, and the Whaling Museum.
Nantucket Harbor enjoys a humid continental climate with large seasonal differences. Summers can be hot and humid, and winters can be terribly cold. Rain is distributed evenly through the year, although there can be winter droughts. Nantucket Harbor temperatures range from an average high of 25°C (78°F) in July and August to an average low of -4°C (25°F) in January and February.
With a long and dramatic history of whaling, Nantucket Harbor is home to one of the best whaling museums in the Northeastern United States. The Nantucket Whaling Museum is located in the Mitchell family's original 1847 candle factory. Used as a warehouse and offices from the 1870s until 1929, the restored building is now home to the Nantucket Whaling Museum.
The museum features the restored candle factory and an observation deck that overlooks Nantucket Harbor. It also has a fascinating 14-meter (46-foot) sperm whale skeleton. Also in the collection are whaling artifacts like longboats, scrimshaw, and harpoons. The restored candle factory displays artifacts from that trade. The museum's beam press used for making candles by extracting oil from spermaceti (the wax found in the head cavities of the sperm whale) is a rare reminder of the old whaling days in Nantucket Harbor.
The Nantucket Harbor whaling museum is open every day from May through October from 10am until 5pm and on Thursday through Monday from 11am until 4pm through the middle of December. Adult admission is $17. Seniors pay $15, and admission for children from six to 17 is $8.
Nantucket Harbor is home to the annual Nantucket Race Week. This eight-day festival is a community effort with many parties, awards ceremonies, and regattas. Scheduled for mid-August 2012, Race Week is hosted jointly by the Nantucket Yacht Club and the Great Harbor Yacht Club. It is the main fund-raising event for Nantucket Community Sailing. Races and social events hare held in Nantucket Harbor every day during Race Week.
The Old Mill in Nantucket Harbor was built in 1746 by a sailor who had been in Holland for some time. The Nantucket Harbor mill is the oldest one still functioning in the United States. In 1828, Jared Gardner bought the neglected mill for firewood; however, this Nantucket Harbor carpenter decided to restore it for grinding corn. It operated from then until 1892. In 1897, Caroline French bought it and donated it to the Nantucket Historical Association. The Old Mill is open every day in June and from mid-September to mid-October from noon to 4pm and from July through early September from noon until 5pm. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children from six to 17.
Found on the shore of Nantucket Harbor, the Maria Mitchell Association Aquarium is open during the tourist season. Converted from an old Nantucket Railroad ticket office, the aquarium exhibits local species that are released back to the wild after the season is over. Constantly changing, the displays can include octopuses, seahorses, or sharks. The touch-tank represents the local ecosystem where clams, crabs, young horseshoe crabs, and many more creatures delight the kids.
The Nantucket Vineyard, Cisco Brewery and Triple Eight Distillery is a popular stopping point for visitors to Nantucket Harbor. Lasting about an hour and a half, adults pay $20 to see the vineyard and brewery and to sample the products that include Cisco's well-known whiskey. The tour takes visitors through the brewery, the distillery, and the winery. Visitors should bring their own snacks, as there is no restaurant on-site. Live music complements the tour.