It’s the height of July, and the island is a teeming mass of vacationing humanity. Our Sunday morning favorites at Black Eyed Susan’s are barricaded by a maze of hungry crowds that hug the corner of India Street. The cozy corner seats at Slip 14 are crammed with people, rowdy and ready for a drink. There are no more hot dog buns left at Stop & Shop, and Hatch’s is out of ice. Our favorite places and best kept secrets are mob scenes, swarming with crowds.
Before we swear off anything or curse anyone, we are forced to step back and remember what it is all about. What keeps us here, or keeps us all coming back again and again? The island swells with people in July and August, here from all over the world to come and enjoy all that is Nantucket. But as we see this tide of crowds rise and fall with each passing weekend, it is important to wipe away all the fuss and remember the real reasons for this diehard love of a place.
Beyond all the fantastic eateries, fancy shops, and elite events, lies an island whose natural beauty is anything but showy. The rugged landscapes of rolling dunes and beachside brush are really the allure of the island. Wipe your eyes, see past the congested Main Street and the tides of people piling off the ferry, and find your way to the nearest beach.
It seems that these beaches provide the only solace , allowing us to return to the laid-back state of mind so in tune with Nantucket summers. The beaches here can ease even the most uptight minds, and all you need is to lose the shoes and take a stroll in the sand. You’ll find yourself squeezing your toes, unable to grasp just how lucky you are.
The 82 miles of coastline unfold in to perfect bands of rolling dunes that melt off into the Atlantic. The warm sand makes the perfect day bed, and while beach chairs and other gadgets have been perfected to aid in your lounging comfort, I’ve found that my favorite way to recline is simply to dig the perfect body bed. Carve your own chair in the sand, spread out a towel and enjoy the sun.
When choosing your beach du jour the Grey Lady offers a wide selection. The north shore beaches are perfect for families with small children with calm waters and few waves. Jetties Beach and Children’s Beach are popular with convenient parking, facilities with food, restrooms, and lifeguards watching the water. Sheltered by dunes, Dionis Beach is another safe bet, and only a short walk from the Eel Point Road NRTA shuttle bus stop.
If you’d rather set out on your own, 40th Pole is the perfect option. Load your gear into your 4WD, and set up camp away from the crowds. With notably warm waters, 40th pole is suitable for a long, leisurely swim. Pack a beach picnic spread out in the back of your truck, and remember your fishing gear to end your evening the right way, surfcasting for striped bass and bluefish.
The south shore beaches have larger waves and colder waters, but lifeguards stand watch at Surfside, Cisco, Miacomet and Madaket. Surfside Beach is a popular south shore stop, with bike paths and shuttles transferring beach goers.
If you’re looking to surf, head out to Cisco Beach. The waves are big, and on the right day the sets are perfect for surfing. Intimidated by the break? Lifeguards are on hand, and surfing lessons are also an option at Cisco.
Spend an afternoon at Madaket Beach and catch the unparalleled sunsets, or head to the eastern shore of ‘Sconset Beach to relax and finish the day with a stroll around the charming town.
Whichever beach you choose, make sure to sun safely, and bring along a high SPF sunscreen to shield your skin from sneaky Nantucket rays. Stock a cooler with bottled waters, and bring along a picnic lunch. Provisions in Harbor Square has a great selection, with the rumored favorite Turkey Terrific providing plenty of sustenance for a long day at the beach. If you’re heading out to Cisco beach, Bartletts Farm is right on the way. Pick up some sandwiches from the deli counter, and grab some fresh local goodness from the grocery selection.
If you make it into town, pick up a set of Kadeema paddles at Sunken Ship, and have an early afternoon paddle game. Go for a swim, then return to your sculpted sand chair to relax. When the fog rolls in, close your eyes, and fall asleep to lull of the late afternoon break, and as the sun starts setting, count your lucky stars that you’re on Nantucket.
The sand cools off, the waves subside, and the beaches are drenched in darkness, but the night does not completely rule out beach enjoyment. If you’re feeling spontaneous, Steps Beach is the perfect nighttime spot in the late summer. Head down for a dip on a humid August night, and swim in the phosphorescence for an incredibly refreshing beach surprise.
Afternoons at the beach blend together, a seamless lull of active and passive, swimming and lounging. The day bleeds into night, and a Nantucket sunset becomes your signal to pick up your things and retrace your trail back to the car.
The beach becomes the background for so many of our island memories. Suntanning with friends at Surfside, fishing out at 40th, or evening picnics at Nobadeer, the beaches of Nantucket hold special meaning for each of us. Whatever memories you associate with these places, the beaches of Nantucket remain the unspoiled, original spots of the summer. Whatever beach you choose, remember that we are stewards of these landscapes. Always pick up your trash, and clear away any trail you leave behind. Keep the beach as you found it, and preserve the natural beauty that keeps us all so addicted to Nantucket.
– Kate Dellas, Nantucket Today