Nantucket vs. Cape Cod

Deciding between Nantucket and Cape Cod for your next vacation might feel like picking between two equally delicious desserts. Both destinations offer breathtaking scenery, rich history, and a laid-back vibe. But each has its unique flavor, just waiting to be discovered. Want to know which one will satisfy your vacation cravings? Keep reading!
Nantucket vs. Cape Cod

Table of Contents

Ah, Nantucket and Cape Cod – two classic New England destinations that never go out of style. But which one is right for you? Dive into our comparison, and we’ll help you find your perfect match. Let’s explore!

History & Culture

Peeling back the layers of history and culture in Nantucket and Cape Cod is a journey worth taking. Both destinations boast fascinating stories that can captivate any traveler. Let’s dive into the rich past and vibrant culture of these New England gems.

Nantucket, a small island off the coast of Massachusetts, has a storied past, dating back to its early days as a whaling hub. The island’s well-preserved historic district and charming cobblestone streets provide a glimpse into its 18th-century heyday.

Cape Cod, on the other hand, offers a larger area to explore, with each town boasting its unique history. From the arrival of the Pilgrims to the development of the region as a vacation destination, Cape Cod’s story is one of resilience and reinvention.

The arts scene on Nantucket is thriving, with galleries, theaters, and festivals bringing creative talents to life. Literature fans can’t miss the annual Nantucket Book Festival, which celebrates the rich literary tradition of the island.

Cape Cod’s arts and culture scene is equally diverse, with a myriad of galleries, museums, and theaters scattered throughout its towns. Music lovers will appreciate the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra and the many summer concerts hosted in the area.

Both Nantucket and Cape Cod are steeped in maritime history, and their love for the sea is evident in their cultural offerings. Nantucket’s whaling history is proudly showcased in its museums, while Cape Cod’s maritime past can be explored through lighthouses, historic ships, and tales of pirate treasure.

In conclusion, both destinations offer a treasure trove of history and culture waiting to be explored. Nantucket charms visitors with its quaint historic district and strong literary tradition, while Cape Cod’s diverse towns and vibrant arts scene promise an enriching experience for all.

Attractions & Activities

Now that we’ve covered the essentials, let’s dive into the fun stuff – the attractions and activities in Nantucket and Cape Cod. With so many exciting things to see and do in both destinations, you’ll never have a dull moment. So, let’s get down to business and see what each destination has to offer.

Nantucket, being the history and culture haven it is, boasts several must-see attractions like the Whaling Museum and the Oldest House. Take a stroll through the cobblestone streets of downtown Nantucket, and you’ll be immersed in the island’s captivating past.

For outdoor enthusiasts, Nantucket offers scenic bike trails, sailing adventures, and even a chance to spot some seals on a wildlife tour.

On the other hand, Cape Cod is an adventurer’s paradise with its diverse range of activities. History buffs can explore the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum, or take a trip to the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum. If you’re into nature, make sure to visit the Cape Cod National Seashore, where you can hike, bird-watch, or simply enjoy the breathtaking views.

Art lovers won’t be disappointed in Cape Cod, as the destination is home to numerous galleries and museums like the Cape Cod Museum of Art and the Sandwich Glass Museum.

For those seeking some adrenaline-pumping action, Cape Cod offers various options such as whale watching, kayaking, and even skydiving. If relaxation is more your thing, indulge in a spa day or join a yoga class on the beach.

While both destinations offer an abundance of attractions and activities, it’s important to consider what type of experience you’re after. Nantucket’s charm lies in its historic appeal and quaint atmosphere, making it perfect for a laid-back and cultural vacation. If you’re a fan of outdoor activities, Nantucket’s scenic bike trails and wildlife tours are sure to impress.

Cape Cod, on the other hand, caters to a wider range of interests and preferences. With its rich history, vibrant art scene, and diverse outdoor activities, Cape Cod has something for everyone. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or a nature lover, Cape Cod’s attractions and activities will keep you entertained.

In conclusion, both Nantucket and Cape Cod offer a variety of attractions and activities that cater to different tastes and interests. Your choice ultimately depends on the type of vacation you’re looking for and the activities that interest you the most.


When it comes to beach life, both Nantucket and Cape Cod are blessed with stunning shorelines that will make you want to dive right in. Let’s compare the sandy stretches and salty air of these two coastal gems, and find your perfect beachside escape.

Nantucket’s idyllic shores cater to all types of beachgoers. The island’s northern coast offers calm waters, ideal for families and beachcombers. Children’s Beach and Jetties Beach are popular spots for a family day out, with gentle waves and plenty of amenities.

For those seeking more adventurous pursuits, the island’s south coast boasts surf-friendly beaches like Cisco and Miacomet, where waves can reach up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) high. Nantucket’s shoreline stretches over 82 miles (132 kilometers), providing plenty of space to find your own piece of paradise.

Cape Cod, on the other hand, has a whopping 559.6 miles (900 kilometers) of coastline, with a diverse array of beaches to explore. The Cape’s northern coast features the tranquil waters of Cape Cod Bay, where beaches like Skaket and First Encounter offer family-friendly environments.

Head to the Cape’s outer shoreline, and you’ll discover the majestic beauty of the Cape Cod National Seashore. This protected area spans 40 miles (64 kilometers) and includes stunning beaches like Coast Guard Beach and Nauset Light Beach, where you might even spot seals basking in the sun.

In summary, both Nantucket and Cape Cod provide beach lovers with an abundance of choices. Nantucket’s intimate island feel and diverse coastline cater to a range of preferences, while Cape Cod’s vast shoreline and striking National Seashore promise endless beachside adventures.

Eating, Drinking & Nightlife

When vacationing by the sea, indulging in delicious food, refreshing drinks, and a vibrant nightlife scene is a must. Let’s dive into the culinary and entertainment offerings of Nantucket and Cape Cod to see which destination will satisfy your taste buds and dancing feet.

Nantucket, although a small island, boasts a surprisingly diverse dining scene. Seafood lovers will rejoice in the local catch, while upscale dining experiences and cozy cafes cater to a variety of tastes.

As for the drinking scene, there are trendy bars, historic taverns, and even a local brewery and distillery to explore. While Nantucket’s nightlife is more laid-back, you can still find some lively spots for dancing or enjoying live music.

Cape Cod, with its larger size and wider range of towns, offers an even more extensive array of dining options. Seafood shacks serving up fried clams and lobster rolls are a must-try, while fine dining establishments and diverse international cuisine are also abundant.

When it comes to quenching your thirst, Cape Cod is home to a number of breweries, wineries, and distilleries, perfect for an afternoon tasting tour.

As for nightlife on the Cape, the scene varies depending on the town—

Provincetown is known for its vibrant LGBTQ+ scene, with lively bars and nightclubs that keep the party going well into the night. In other towns, you’ll find everything from dive bars and pubs to swanky lounges, ensuring there’s something for everyone. Live music is also a staple, with local bands and musicians playing at various venues throughout the region.

So, whether you’re craving fresh seafood, seeking out local brews, or itching to hit the dance floor, both Nantucket and Cape Cod have you covered. Nantucket offers a more relaxed and intimate atmosphere, while Cape Cod’s varied towns and larger size provide a wider range of experiences to suit all tastes and moods.


Shopping is an essential part of any vacation, whether you’re hunting for unique souvenirs or simply browsing through local boutiques. Let’s take a stroll through the shopping districts of Nantucket and Cape Cod to see which destination will fulfill your retail therapy desires.

Nantucket offers a charming shopping experience with its cobblestone streets lined with quaint boutiques, art galleries, and specialty shops. You’ll find everything from local crafts and antiques to high-end clothing and accessories.

Shopping in Nantucket is an intimate affair, with many stores located within walking distance of each other, making for a relaxed and enjoyable day of browsing.

Cape Cod, on the other hand, boasts a much larger and more diverse shopping landscape—

From the charming streets of Chatham and Provincetown to the bustling shopping centers of Hyannis, there’s something for every shopper. You’ll find a mix of well-known brands, local boutiques, and unique shops offering everything from beachwear to handcrafted jewelry. Art enthusiasts will appreciate the numerous galleries showcasing the works of local artists.

If you’re in search of a more traditional mall experience, Cape Cod has you covered with the Cape Cod Mall in Hyannis. This indoor shopping center features a mix of popular retailers, department stores, and a variety of dining options to refuel during your shopping spree.

In conclusion, both Nantucket and Cape Cod offer delightful shopping experiences tailored to different preferences.

Nantucket’s cozy boutiques and art galleries are perfect for those who enjoy a more leisurely and intimate shopping environment. Meanwhile, Cape Cod’s vast selection of shops, malls, and galleries ensures every shopper will find something to suit their taste and style.


When it comes to laying your head down at night, you’ll want to be sure you’re choosing the perfect spot to rest and recharge. Let’s dive into the accommodation options available in both Nantucket and Cape Cod to help you make the best decision.

Nantucket is well-known for its charming inns, cozy bed and breakfasts, and boutique hotels. Many of these establishments are housed in historic buildings, adding to the island’s unique character. If you’re seeking a more intimate and personalized experience, Nantucket’s accommodations won’t disappoint.

On the other hand, Cape Cod offers a broader range of lodging options to cater to various budgets and preferences—

From luxury resorts and charming inns to family-friendly hotels and vacation rentals, Cape Cod has something for everyone. Camping enthusiasts can also find several campgrounds throughout the region, providing a more rustic and close-to-nature experience.

In a nutshell, Nantucket’s accommodations offer an intimate and charming atmosphere, perfect for those who appreciate a more personal touch. Cape Cod, with its wide variety of lodging options, ensures that travelers of all types can find their ideal home away from home.

Family-Friendliness & Children’s Activities

Planning a family vacation is all about finding a destination that offers activities and attractions for all ages. Let’s explore what Nantucket and Cape Cod have to offer when it comes to family-friendliness and children’s activities.

Nantucket may be a smaller island, but it still packs a punch when it comes to family-friendly fun—

The island boasts a variety of children’s camps and programs, ranging from sailing and sports to arts and crafts. Additionally, families can enjoy exploring the Whaling Museum, taking a bike ride along scenic trails, or participating in a guided nature walk to learn about the island’s flora and fauna.

Cape Cod, on the other hand, is known for its abundance of family-oriented attractions and activities—

From mini-golf courses and go-kart tracks to whale-watching tours and nature centers, there’s no shortage of fun to be had. One of the region’s most popular family attractions is the Cape Cod National Seashore, where kids can participate in ranger-led programs or simply enjoy playing on the beautiful beaches.

Both destinations offer a variety of family-friendly accommodations, ensuring that your little ones will be well taken care of during your stay. Nantucket’s inns and bed and breakfasts often provide a cozy, home-like atmosphere, while Cape Cod’s hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals cater to families with amenities such as pools, playgrounds, and kid-friendly dining options.

In summary, both Nantucket and Cape Cod are excellent choices for a family vacation, with each destination offering a unique set of activities and attractions. Nantucket’s charm and smaller scale provide a more intimate family experience, while Cape Cod’s diverse range of activities ensures that there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Getting There & Getting Around

Traveling to your dream destination is part of the adventure, so let’s dive into the logistics of getting to Nantucket and Cape Cod, as well as the best ways to get around once you’ve arrived.

To reach Nantucket, most visitors fly into Nantucket Memorial Airport (ACK) or take the ferry from Hyannis, Massachusetts. The ferry trip lasts approximately 1 hour (high-speed) or 2 hours and 15 minutes (traditional ferry), covering about 26 miles (42 kilometers) across the Nantucket Sound.

Once on the island, getting around is a breeze, as Nantucket is quite compact. Renting a bike or moped is a popular option, but there are also taxis, shuttles, and a reliable public transportation system called the Nantucket Regional Transit Authority (NRTA) available.

Cape Cod, being a larger area, offers more options for getting there. You can fly into one of the regional airports, such as Barnstable Municipal Airport (HYA) or Provincetown Municipal Airport (PVC), or drive in via the Sagamore or Bourne bridges that connect the Cape to the mainland.

Once you’ve arrived, having a car is the most convenient way to explore the region. However, there’s also the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA) that offers bus service throughout the Cape, as well as the CapeFLYER train that runs between Boston and Hyannis during the summer season.

In a nutshell, getting to and around Nantucket may be a bit more limited due to its smaller size and island location, but it offers a more relaxed, laid-back atmosphere. On the other hand, Cape Cod is more accessible and provides a wider range of transportation options, making it easier to explore its diverse towns and attractions.


Weather can make or break a vacation, so let’s chat about the climate in Nantucket and Cape Cod to help you decide when to plan your trip. Both destinations share a similar climate, but there are some subtle differences worth considering.

Nantucket experiences a maritime climate, with cool summers and mild winters. Average summer temperatures hover around 75°F (24°C), while winter temperatures average around 35°F (2°C).

The island is also known for its foggy and overcast days, adding a touch of mystery to the picturesque scenery. Keep in mind that Nantucket can be quite windy, so pack a light jacket, even during the warmer months.

Cape Cod, on the other hand, boasts a more temperate climate. Summer temperatures are typically a bit warmer, with averages around 77°F (25°C), while winter temperatures are similar to Nantucket, at around 35°F (2°C).

Although the Cape also sees its share of foggy days, they tend to be less frequent than on Nantucket. That said, don’t forget to pack some layers and a light raincoat, as the weather can change quickly.

In summary, Nantucket and Cape Cod have comparable weather, but Nantucket is generally cooler and foggier, while Cape Cod offers slightly warmer temperatures and more sunshine during the summer months.


Let’s face it, when you’re vacationing, feeling safe is important. So, let’s dive into how Nantucket and Cape Cod stack up when it comes to safety. Both destinations are considered quite safe for tourists, but there are some things you should be aware of while visiting.

Nantucket and Cape Cod are known for their low crime rates, making them popular choices for families and solo travelers alike. Of course, you should always take the usual precautions, like locking your car and hotel room, and being aware of your surroundings. But overall, both destinations offer a safe and welcoming environment for visitors.

There’s something unique to consider when it comes to safety in Nantucket and Cape Cod: ticks. Both destinations have a significant deer population, which means ticks can be an issue, especially during the warmer months.

Lyme disease is a concern, so be sure to take precautions like wearing long pants, using insect repellent, and checking yourself for ticks after spending time outdoors.

Another aspect to consider is water safety. Both Nantucket and Cape Cod boast beautiful beaches, but be aware of rip currents and varying water temperatures. Always swim near lifeguard stations and heed any posted warnings or flags.

In conclusion, Nantucket and Cape Cod are both relatively safe destinations, with low crime rates and a welcoming atmosphere. Just be mindful of ticks and water safety, and you’re sure to have an enjoyable, worry-free vacation in either location.


Everyone loves a great vacation, but nobody wants to break the bank. So let’s talk about the costs associated with visiting Nantucket and Cape Cod. It’s essential to consider expenses like accommodation, food, transportation, and activities to make the most of your budget.

Nantucket, known for its upscale charm, can be a bit pricier than Cape Cod. Luxury accommodations and fine dining options are abundant on this island, but expect to pay a premium for the experience.

On the other hand, Cape Cod offers a wider range of accommodations and dining options, catering to various budgets. You can find charming inns, vacation rentals, and even campgrounds at more affordable prices.

When it comes to eating out, Nantucket is home to some top-notch restaurants, but the prices can be steep. In contrast, Cape Cod’s dining scene offers more variety, including budget-friendly seafood shacks and family restaurants. So, while you can still find high-end dining options in Cape Cod, your wallet might thank you for choosing this destination.

Activities and attractions also vary in cost between the two destinations. Nantucket’s boutique shops and art galleries might tempt you to splurge, while Cape Cod’s natural beauty and outdoor activities can be enjoyed at a lower cost.

In summary, Nantucket can be more expensive than Cape Cod, especially when it comes to accommodation and dining. But if you’re looking for a luxurious getaway, it might be worth the extra expense. On the other hand, Cape Cod offers a more budget-friendly vacation with a diverse range of options to suit every wallet.

Which Is Better – Nantucket or Cape Cod?

Alright, we’ve reached the grand finale of our Nantucket versus Cape Cod showdown. It’s been a rollercoaster ride through history, culture, beaches, food, nightlife, shopping, accommodations, family-friendliness, transportation, weather, safety, and costs. But now, it’s time to reveal which destination is the best fit for you.

Nantucket, with its rich history and charming atmosphere, is an ideal choice for those who crave a luxurious and sophisticated getaway. If upscale accommodations, fine dining, and boutique shopping sound like your cup of tea, then Nantucket might be your perfect destination. However, keep in mind that its exclusivity comes at a higher price.

Cape Cod, on the other hand, offers a more diverse experience for visitors. If you’re a history buff or a culture enthusiast, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in Cape Cod’s charming towns and villages. With its stunning beaches, Cape Cod is a beach lover’s paradise and a great option for those who enjoy outdoor activities and watersports.

When it comes to dining, nightlife, and shopping, Cape Cod takes the cake with its wide range of options catering to various budgets and tastes. From budget-friendly seafood shacks to high-end restaurants, there’s something for everyone in Cape Cod.

And if you’re looking for a family-friendly destination, Cape Cod’s ample children’s activities and attractions make it an excellent choice.

As far as transportation goes, Cape Cod is more accessible than Nantucket, thanks to its proximity to major cities and a broader range of transportation options. And while both destinations boast pleasant weather, Cape Cod’s milder winters might appeal to those who prefer to avoid harsher conditions.

Safety-wise, both Nantucket and Cape Cod are relatively safe, but it’s essential to stay informed and take precautions when visiting any destination. Lastly, when considering costs, Cape Cod offers more budget-friendly options for accommodations, dining, and activities, making it a more wallet-friendly choice.

So, which one should you choose? Ultimately, it depends on your preferences, budget, and what you’re looking for in a vacation.

If you’re after a luxurious, exclusive getaway, then Nantucket might be the destination for you. However, if you’re seeking a diverse, budget-friendly, and family-oriented vacation, Cape Cod could be your perfect match. Either way, you’re in for an unforgettable experience.