Often referred to as the “new Martha’s Vineyard” and recently dubbed as “Billionaire’s Isle,” Nantucket is not the place to go on a lavish vacation if you are on a very tight budget. Located just 30 miles south of mainland Massachusetts, the “Little Grey lady of the Sea” is an idyllic spot for vacationers looking to hit the beaches. It is also a leading destination for history enthusiasts who want to admire the colonial-style architecture, infrastructure, and lighthouses. It is a chosen spot for the rich and famous and for sports enthusiasts, anglers, and foodies too.
It is known for some of the most expensive properties, luxurious hotels, top-of-the-line boutiques, and restaurants, and as a place loved by the wealthiest and most influential people of the country.
Still, there are ways to visit this New England island without breaking the bank and spend some time there on a modest budget.
Here are some tips to minimize the costs of your vacation in Nantucket, MA.
Choose a rental instead of a hotel
The prices of properties for sale on the island are rocket high, and there is limited availability on the market. But luckily, there are many local dwellings, houses, lofts, and other dwellings offered for visitors as short-term rentals.
There are such rentals available in all different neighborhoods of the island and for all preferences and budgets.
If you find lodging that fits your budget and rent it well in advance, you can save tons of money instead of spending it on expensive hotels and last-minute reservations.
Plus, you can save even more money if you share the rental with friends or extended family.
Opt for the least expensive way to get to and around Nantucket
The least expensive way to reach the island of Nantucket is via the Steamship Authority traditional ferry. It takes two hours and 15 minutes to reach Nantucket from Hyannis Port in Cape Cod. But it will cost you about $40 for a round ticket per adult and $20 for kids aged 5 to 12.
The Hy-Line Cruises passenger-only hi-speed ferry is twice as faster but will cost you almost double too.
Flying to Nantucket Memorial Airport is possible even on a budget, but if you book your plane tickets early enough and if you plan your visit for the shoulder months of the summer season – before or after the peak in July and August.
Plus, many times, the plane tickets for travel on work days are half the price of weekend travel tickets.
Even though it is technically possible to take your car to Nantucket, the prices for the ferry are incredibly high. You can expect to pay from $332 to $600 and more per vehicle. Plus, it is much easier and eco-friendlier to get around this tiny island via bike, foot, or shuttle bus.
Renting a bike there is cheap. The daily passes for the shuttle buses are about $2-3 per day.
Plan your vacation for the spring or fall
During the high season, which is in July and August, the population of the island swells to over 50,000 from the usual permanent population of 10,000 local residents. This is the time when the lodgings are most expensive, and so are the restaurants and services on the island. Plus, the place is crowded, and finding a table in the restaurant can be almost impossible during the high season.
So, to save money and avoid the crowd, as well as get access to more venues and sites and restaurant reservations, you may want to plan your vacation for the spring or during the fall.
While there are some high-end fine dining restaurants and eateries in Nantucket, you can find many diners, restaurants, bars, and snack bars where you can eat fresh seafood and delicious locally sourced food at much more reasonable prices.
There are also farmer markets and stores where you can purchase fresh produce and groceries. Then you can prepare snacks and meals in your rental lodging for further money-saving.
Choose late May, September, or October for your trip to Nantucket, so you can still enjoy the amenities and relatively good weather. Most of the restaurants and other businesses open on Memorial Day in May and remain open until October 11 (Indigenous Peoples Day/Columbus Day).
Enjoy free or affordable activities in Nantucket
Thanks to the determination and effort of the Nantucket Conservation Foundation and the Land Bank, as well as other authorities and organizations, access to all 82 miles of beaches is entirely free. So, you can enjoy spending your days on one of the many idyllic beaches there. If you are lucky, your landlords or rental companies will include beach toys and other items you can use as well.
You can also explore the famous sites, such as the three historic lighthouses and the Sconset Bluff Walk, and stroll through the historic Downtown for free.
There are multiple hiking and walking trails in all areas of the island, including the wildlife refuges and other areas, which you can enjoy for free or at symbolic prices.
Even out of the high season, you can expect to pay about $27-28 per day for museum tickets, tours, and other attractions in Nantucket. But during the summer, the local businesses, authorities, and community organize free events and attractions like beach events, live music, yoga or craft courses, and others.
There is inexpensive disc golf you can play. You can rent a kayak for as little as $25. This will allow you to enjoy the panoramic views of the island from the sea or to explore the ponds and marshes of Nantucket.