How to Make the Most of Nantucket on a Budget

Bird eye view to Nantucket lighthouse and beach
Waterfront houses and boats in Nantucket, Massachusetts

Nantucket is a beautiful place to travel to, whether for a romantic getaway with your loved one or a fun trip with friends.

But Nantucket isn’t just all about great beaches and fantastic restaurants.

It’s also about rich history, an exciting culture that has existed for centuries, and beautiful natural views.

Sometimes though, this presents a problem: how can you enjoy such an incredible location with limited funds? Here are some useful tips on how to make the most of Nantucket on a budget.

Book Ahead

Nantucket is only accessible by ferry or air. There are eight commercial airlines and five ferry companies to choose from. Taking a ferry is usually the cheaper option, but if you book a flight ahead you can still find a good deal.

The cheapest transportation available is the Steamship Authority Traditional Ferry. A one-way ticket for an adult from Cape Cod’s Hyannis Port is $19.50. If you have a kid under 5 the transportation is free. If your child is between 5 and 12, the ticket is $10.

Even if you’re planning to camp in one of two primitive sites on the island, you’ll need to reserve space. Booking your accommodation early will guarantee a great variety of available rental properties. This will increase your chance of finding the perfect vacation house that will fit your budget.

Make Your Meals

If you’ve already chosen to book a vacation home, you can save money by cooking some of your meals in its kitchen. Go shopping at one of four supermarkets on the island for fresh fruits and vegetables or bread and meat for sandwiches.

Check this list of trips from NYC to try

Walk or Ride a Bike

Lighthouse in Nantucket, coast walk

Nantucket is small, so it’s easy to get around on foot or by bike. Plan your sightseeing itinerary based on what’s within walking distance of where you’re staying (or even just rent a car for a day).

And with 65 miles of bike trails, you can go anywhere on two wheels – all you need is a map and a helmet. You can also rent bikes at affordable prices from local shops such as Young’s Bicycle Shop and Nantucket Bike Shop.

Visit in the Off-Season

Most people are unaware that Nantucket has two distinctly different “seasons.” The busy season is from mid-June to Labor Day, and the off-season is from October 1st to Columbus Day weekend. The busiest time of year for a visit to Nantucket is July and August, but visiting in the off-season may be the best way for those who want the island experience without the crowds and expense.

If you want to book a room in a hotel rated above 8 out of 10, you’ll have to pay an average of $650 during the high season. The average for the same during the off-season is $280.

Nantucket Massachusetts Houses in the evening

Many people who live on the island prefer to visit during the off-season months when it is much quieter, less crowded, and more affordable. If you have never been here in the off-season, you will be surprised by how pleasant it can be. Off-season weather is milder than on the mainland, with an average temperature of 55 degrees F during October.

Usually, days are sunny and warm, with cool nights perfect for sightseeing. There are fewer crowds, which means shorter lines at restaurants, shops, and attractions. And if you get a rainy day or two, there are enough cozy indoor places to spend your time until it clears up again.

Have a look at this NYC 3-day itinerary

Choose Free or Low-Cost Entertainment

Nantucket is known for its historic homes, white sand beaches, and beautiful scenery. If you are on a budget doesn’t mean you have to sit in your room watching Netflix all day. You can still enjoy the island’s beauty while participating in local events.

  • Nantucket Book Festival: If literature is your thing this is the event for you. The Nantucket Book Festival takes place each June over four days. It features readings by authors, panel discussions, workshops with authors and illustrators, writing contests for children and teens, and other literary-related.
  • Nantucket Comedy Festival: It will take place between July 14 and July 16. The festival is usually a weekend full of laughter and positive emotions. You can buy a ticket for a show of your choice. There is also one of them which is free – “Stand up & learn kid’s comedy showcase”.

For a day at the museums or joining historical tours, you’ll have to pay about $30 per day per person.

You can also check out the full list of major events in Nantucket and pick these that will take place during your vacation.

Explore the Beaches

The most popular beaches on Nantucket can get pretty crowded on lovely days. But some smaller, lesser-known beaches are just as beautiful and less crowded.

Nobadeer and Children’s Beach are among the best for families with small children because it has a long stretch of soft white sand, gentle waves, and a lifeguard in the summer months. Another family-friendly beach in Surfside Beach is known for its calmer waters and great views of Sankaty Lighthouse. 

If you want to avoid the crowds altogether, head to Great Point Light at the island’s northernmost tip. This 11-mile drive is only accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicles, so it’s rarely overcrowded. If you’re looking for a more secluded beach experience, check out Dionis Beach.

It’s less popular than other local beaches because it’s not easily accessible by public transportation. But if you want to avoid crowds, rent a car and bring your food and drinks to make a day of it.

Bird eye view to Nantucket lighthouse and beach

Make the trek out to Surfside Beach and take in the stunning scenery. This beach is much less crowded than others on Nantucket, so you can enjoy a relaxing day in the sun or take advantage of more accessible access to swimming or water sports like surfing and paddleboarding. You can also bring your food and drinks in a cooler – something you can’t do at other beaches on Nantucket because of local ordinances.

Nantucket is famous for its beaches, but bringing all that gear with you can quickly add up. If you’re traveling by plane and want to avoid baggage fees, consider buying beach chairs and other items when you get there. You can find used beach gear at many yard sales around the island (locals put their wares out for sale every Saturday morning) or purchase them new at stores like Bartlett’s Ocean.

Wrapping Up

Nantucket, Massachusetts, is a popular summer vacation spot for those who can afford it. The tiny island is home to incredible beaches, restaurants, and shopping, but it’s also costly.

For many people, a trip to Nantucket is a once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation. If you plan it carefully, you’ll truly enjoy it even if you are on a tight budget.

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