Text and photo: Dragana Vulic Budanko
Source: Zaposlena Magazine
”Nantucket! Take out your map and look at it. See what a real corner of the world it occupies; how it stands there, away off shore, more lonely than the Eddystone lighthouse. Look at it—a mere hillock, and elbow of sand; all beach, without a background.” This is what Herman Melville wrote in mid 19th century in his famous novel, Moby Dick. Indeed, Nantucket is only a cay, a small island some fifty kilometers off the eastern US coast.
In the language of Native Americans, it means a “faraway land” or “a land far out at sea”. Although small, it has 129 kilometers of coast thanks to its unusual shape, with quiet harbors, dramatic cliffs, long sandy beaches, exciting nature, beautiful old houses and an interesting past. All this makes it an excellent sanctuary for the wealthy people, as well as for the regular people looking for a chance to escape the busy city life.
What used to be a whaling capital of the world is today one of the most precious and best preserved historical counties in the US. The protection covers some 800 houses from the early 19th century, both those made of red bricks built by wealthy whaling ships owners, as well as the typically gray, shingle style houses. After the Wampanoag Native Americans, Nantucket was populated by the Quakers who left a strong mark on the island’s history. They promoted the ideal of equality among all people, including women and African Americans – Nantucket abolished slavery long before the rest of America, and women had much greater privileges than the rest of the mainland.
In the biggest town on the island, Nantucket, you will find the Whaling Museum, the African American Meeting House, as well as the Petticoat Row that got its name from the picturesque, still existing shops that were owned and managed by women!
The nature in Nantucket is truly amazing. 36 percent of the island is under the protection of the Nantucket Conservation Foundation – the beaches, sandy dunes, peatlands, lakes and puddles, swamps, meadows, heaths and forests. Both the local authorities and Nantucket inhabitants are very protective of the environment, so everyone, including the visitors, is obliged to observe the strict rules of nature preservation and waste recycling. For example, regardless of what you own and how deep you pocket is, you are not allowed to pull up or step on the grass on the dunes, because grass helps reduce soil erosion (you get to the beach by wooden trails and stairs).
They are also protective about the bushes of Rosa rugosa, a pink rose of an unusual scent that covers the island, wrapping it in its intoxicating aroma. The Nantucket Conservation Foundation actively works on preserving the animal world as well. Apart from a great number of bird species, you can often see seals (which, although exciting, can be disturbing). Bird, seal and whale watching are very popular activities enjoyed by both the guests and the locals.
After one hundred years of economic stagnation, the whaling was replaced by tourism as the main industry on the island. In the summer, the population increases from 10,000 to more than 50,000. Due to its distance from the mainland, Nantucket started developing as a tourist destination much later than the coastal towns and its closest island neighbor, Martha's Vineyard. The locals were determined not to repeat the mistakes that caused the destruction or disturbance of natural and historical beauties and landmarks. Although 97% of the island’s coast in privately owned, it is completely open. This is something the people of Nantucket are very proud of.
Some of the coast is managed by municipal authorities, and the rest is left to the lone hikers, but lately also to the SUVs that are a great threat to the dunes. Many people are concerned that the erosion will decrease the size of their estates!
All the historical buildings have been under protection since 1972, with strict building regulations in place (some people like to joke that there is a “style police”). Protection of the environment is the basic rule of life on the island. It is therefore not odd that according to Forbes magazine, the price of real estate in Nantucket is in average higher than in the rest of the US, and also not odd is the fact that many people come to Nantucket knowing that it offers a top notch service in every sense. Tourists have at their disposal some excellent restaurants (known for lobster and clams), as well as magical beaches, houses, shops, golf clubs, gyms and spas, as well as an unbelievably rich selection of programs: tours of the island on bicycles and boats, fishing, water sports, eco tours...
Safety, peace and numerous programs adapted for children are some of the reasons why many families are drawn to the island. But despite the abundant offering, it is very often good enough just to stay on the beach, watching the children build their amazing castles in the sand, decorating them with sparkly stones and shells, or relentlessly run away from the foaming waves that wash the beach, or simply watch the vastness of the ocean and listen to the calming rhythm of waves that come out of nowhere and crash against the beach. Perfection can be surprisingly simple, and even if Nantucket loses some of its prestige, we hope that the delights it offers will remain.
Surface area: 272.6 km²
Altitude: 9 m
Links to the mainland by plane or ferry from NYC, Boston or Hyannis Port
Towns: Nantucket Town, Siasconset & Wauwinet