Nantucket vs. Martha’s Vineyard

Deciding between Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard can be a pickle. Both of these island gems off the coast of Massachusetts have their own unique allure. But don't fret! We'll unravel the mysteries of these coastal beauties in this epic showdown.
Nantucket vs. Martha's Vineyard

Table of Contents

Hey there, wanderlust-filled traveler! If you’re like me, the thought of choosing between Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard for your next vacay leaves you with a severe case of analysis paralysis.

I’ve been to both, and I’m here to give you the inside scoop on what each island has to offer. So buckle up, and get ready for a deep dive into these New England paradises! Let’s get started on this wild adventure!

History & Culture

When it comes to history and culture, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard have their fair share. These islands are rich in stories, and they’re just waiting for you to discover them.

Nantucket’s whaling history is legendary. The island was once the whaling capital of the world, and remnants of that era can still be found today. In contrast, Martha’s Vineyard has a more diverse background, with influences from Native American tribes, European settlers, and African American heritage.

Walking through the cobblestone streets of Nantucket, you’ll be transported back in time. The preserved architecture reflects its whaling past, and you’ll feel like you’re living in a different century. Meanwhile, on Martha’s Vineyard, you’ll find a blend of architectural styles, from classic New England to Victorian and beyond.

The art scene on Nantucket is nothing to scoff at. The island is home to numerous galleries, featuring works by local and renowned artists. Martha’s Vineyard also boasts an impressive art scene, with a focus on local talent and a range of artistic styles.

When it comes to events and festivals, both islands have you covered. Nantucket hosts the famous Nantucket Film Festival, while Martha’s Vineyard is known for its Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival. Both islands also celebrate their maritime heritage with annual events.

In summary, if you’re looking for a deep dive into whaling history, Nantucket is the place to be. But if you’re seeking a more diverse cultural experience, Martha’s Vineyard may be more your style. Either way, you’re in for a treat as you explore the rich history and vibrant culture of these enchanting islands.

Attractions & Activities

Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard both offer a plethora of attractions and activities, ensuring that every visitor finds something to enjoy. Let’s dive into what each island has to offer, so you can plan your perfect vacation.

In Nantucket, you can explore the island’s rich history at the Whaling Museum. Here, you’ll learn about the island’s whaling past and see artifacts from that era. Additionally, the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum showcases maritime history and honors the brave islanders who risked their lives to save shipwrecked sailors.

If you’re a nature lover, Nantucket has you covered with the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge. The refuge offers miles of walking trails and is a haven for bird-watchers. Meanwhile, the Nantucket Conservation Foundation maintains several beautiful properties for visitors to explore, including Sanford Farm and Ram Pasture.

On Martha’s Vineyard, history buffs can visit the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. The museum is dedicated to preserving the island’s history and culture, with exhibits showcasing everything from Native American artifacts to the island’s role in the whaling industry. Also, the Aquinnah Cultural Center offers insights into the history and culture of the Wampanoag tribe.

Outdoor enthusiasts will love the many activities available on Martha’s Vineyard. The island is home to the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest, a sprawling reserve with miles of walking and biking trails. For a more adventurous experience, try exploring the island’s numerous conservation areas, such as Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary and Menemsha Hills Reservation.

Both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer unique opportunities for water sports. In Nantucket, you can try your hand at sailing, surfing, or paddleboarding. Martha’s Vineyard also offers a range of water-based activities, including kayaking, windsurfing, and even kiteboarding.

Finally, a visit to either island wouldn’t be complete without exploring their iconic lighthouses. Nantucket is home to the Great Point Lighthouse and the Sankaty Head Lighthouse, while Martha’s Vineyard boasts the Gay Head Lighthouse and the Edgartown Lighthouse, among others.

In conclusion, whether you’re interested in history, nature, or adventure, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer a range of attractions and activities to keep you entertained. The choice ultimately comes down to your personal preferences and what type of experience you’re seeking.


When it comes to beaches, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard have plenty to offer. In this section, we’ll compare the beaches of these two destinations, so you can decide which one suits your sunbathing and swimming desires.

Nantucket boasts over 80 miles (129 km) of coastline, featuring a wide variety of beaches. Surfside Beach, located just 3 miles (4.8 km) from town, is a popular choice for families thanks to its soft sand and lifeguard presence.

For a more secluded experience, try Great Point Beach, situated at the northernmost point of the island and accessible only by a 4×4 vehicle.

On the other hand, Jetties Beach is perfect for those seeking calm waters and a wide range of amenities, including a restaurant, playground, and tennis courts. If you’re a surfing enthusiast, Cisco Beach offers some of the island’s best waves, along with surfing lessons and equipment rentals.

Martha’s Vineyard also has an impressive selection of beaches, with over 100 miles (161 km) of shoreline. South Beach, located in Edgartown, is a popular spot known for its rolling waves and expansive stretch of sand. Alternatively, you can visit the more tranquil waters of Joseph Sylvia State Beach, perfect for swimming and beachcombing.

Menemsha Beach, on the western side of the island, offers stunning sunset views and is an ideal spot for families, with its calm waters and convenient amenities. If you’re looking for a more secluded beach experience, check out the remote beauty of Lucy Vincent Beach, which is only accessible to Chilmark residents and renters during the summer months.

In conclusion, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer an abundance of beautiful beaches for visitors to explore. Whether you’re seeking calm waters for swimming, lively surf for watersports, or secluded stretches of sand for relaxation, you’re sure to find the perfect beach on either island.

Eating, Drinking & Nightlife

The culinary scene and nightlife options are essential aspects to consider when choosing between Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Let’s dive into the unique flavors and experiences both islands have to offer.

Nantucket is well-known for its diverse dining options, ranging from casual lobster shacks to high-end restaurants. Seafood lovers will enjoy the fresh catch of the day, while those seeking international cuisine will find an array of options, such as Italian, Thai, and French.

Meanwhile, Martha’s Vineyard also boasts a thriving food scene, with farm-to-table establishments, cozy cafes, and upscale dining venues dotting the island.

When it comes to drinking, Nantucket is home to the island’s only brewery, Cisco Brewers, which also produces wine and spirits. This lively spot is perfect for a day of tastings and live music. On Martha’s Vineyard, visitors can enjoy a tour and tasting at the Bad Martha Farmer’s Brewery, or sip on locally made wines at the Martha’s Vineyard Winery.

Nightlife in Nantucket tends to be more laid-back, with several bars and pubs offering live music, trivia nights, and other entertainment options. The Chicken Box is a popular spot for dancing and live bands, while the Rose & Crown often hosts karaoke nights.

Martha’s Vineyard also has a relaxed nightlife scene, with various bars, lounges, and clubs offering everything from live music to themed nights.

For movie buffs, both islands have historic cinemas: the Dreamland Theatre in Nantucket and the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center in Vineyard Haven. These venues showcase a mix of independent films, documentaries, and classic movies, creating unique cinematic experiences.

In summary, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer a variety of dining, drinking, and nightlife options to suit different tastes and preferences. Whether you prefer a lively night out or a quiet evening savoring local flavors, you’re sure to find the perfect experience on either island.


Shopping opportunities can be an exciting part of any vacation, and both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard have unique retail experiences to offer. Let’s explore the distinct shopping scenes on each island.

Nantucket is home to numerous boutique shops and art galleries, where you can find one-of-a-kind clothing, accessories, and souvenirs. The cobblestone streets of downtown Nantucket are lined with specialty stores, making it a shopper’s paradise.

Martha’s Vineyard, on the other hand, has a more laid-back shopping atmosphere, with an eclectic mix of shops selling artisanal products, crafts, and local goods.

In both destinations, you can expect to find charming gift shops carrying items that reflect the island’s spirit.

Nantucket boasts shops like the Nantucket Whaler and Nantucket Looms, which offer high-quality clothing and home goods inspired by the island’s history and natural beauty. On Martha’s Vineyard, Alley’s General Store and Rainy Day are popular spots for unique finds and locally crafted treasures.

For art enthusiasts, both islands are home to a thriving art scene. Nantucket has several galleries showcasing the works of local and international artists, while Martha’s Vineyard features a mix of galleries, studios, and art centers, such as the Old Sculpin Gallery and the Featherstone Center for the Arts.

In conclusion, shopping on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard is a delightful experience that caters to a variety of interests. Whether you’re in search of unique clothing, locally crafted items, or captivating artwork, both islands have something special to offer.


Finding the perfect place to stay is a crucial part of any vacation, and both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer a range of accommodation options. Let’s take a look at what each island has in store for visitors in terms of lodging.

Nantucket boasts an array of luxurious hotels, cozy inns, and charming bed and breakfasts. Top-rated accommodations, such as the White Elephant and the Nantucket Hotel & Resort, provide exceptional service and amenities to ensure a memorable stay.

Martha’s Vineyard also offers a variety of lodging options, including upscale resorts, quaint cottages, and family-friendly hotels, such as the Harbor View Hotel and the Winnetu Oceanside Resort.

If you’re looking for a more intimate experience, both islands have a selection of charming bed and breakfasts and inns.

Nantucket’s historic inns, like the Union Street Inn and the Century House, offer a cozy atmosphere and personalized service. Similarly, Martha’s Vineyard has options like the Hob Knob and the Charlotte Inn, which provide a warm and welcoming environment for guests.

In conclusion, whether you’re seeking luxury accommodations or a cozy retreat, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard have lodging options to suit every traveler’s preferences and budget.

Family-Friendliness & Children’s Activities

Traveling with kids can be both exciting and challenging, which is why it’s essential to choose a destination that offers plenty of family-friendly activities. Let’s compare Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard in terms of their offerings for families and children.

Nantucket is known for its family-friendly atmosphere, offering a range of activities for kids of all ages. The island boasts beautiful beaches with calm waters, perfect for young swimmers and sandcastle builders. Additionally, Nantucket’s Whaling Museum offers interactive exhibits and activities that will engage and educate children about the island’s history.

Martha’s Vineyard, on the other hand, also provides numerous options for families seeking a fun-filled vacation. The island features several parks and playgrounds, as well as family-oriented activities like mini-golf and ice cream shops.

For an educational experience, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum offers exhibits that cater to both kids and adults, making it an excellent family outing.

Both islands also offer outdoor adventures for families to enjoy together. Nantucket provides scenic bike paths and nature trails for families to explore, while Martha’s Vineyard boasts the Flying Horses Carousel, the oldest operating platform carousel in the United States, which is sure to delight children and parents alike.

When it comes to accommodations, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard have family-friendly lodging options. Nantucket’s hotels and inns often feature family rooms and suites, while Martha’s Vineyard offers a selection of spacious vacation rentals and resorts that cater to families.

In summary, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard excel in providing a family-friendly atmosphere and an array of activities for children. Choosing between the two destinations will ultimately depend on the specific interests and preferences of your family.

Getting There & Getting Around

When planning a trip to either Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard, transportation is a crucial factor to consider. This section will compare the accessibility of each destination, as well as the options available for getting around the islands.

To reach Nantucket, most travelers fly into Boston Logan International Airport, then take a connecting flight to Nantucket Memorial Airport. Alternatively, you can opt for a ferry ride from Hyannis, which takes approximately 1 hour on the high-speed ferry and 2 hours on the traditional ferry.

Martha’s Vineyard can also be accessed via Boston Logan International Airport, followed by a short flight to Martha’s Vineyard Airport or a ferry ride from Woods Hole, Falmouth, or New Bedford. The high-speed ferry takes around 45 minutes, while the traditional ferry ride lasts about 1.5 hours.

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, getting around Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard is relatively easy. Both islands offer multiple transportation options to suit your preferences.

In Nantucket, you can rent bicycles, mopeds, or cars to explore the island at your own pace. Additionally, the Nantucket Regional Transit Authority operates shuttle buses that serve various routes throughout the island.

Martha’s Vineyard also provides several options for getting around, including bike rentals, car rentals, and a public bus system operated by the Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority. The bus system offers affordable fares and covers all major towns and attractions on the island, making it a convenient choice for visitors.

Taxis and rideshare services are also available on both islands, providing another option for travelers who prefer a more personalized mode of transportation.

In conclusion, getting to and navigating around both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard is relatively straightforward, with multiple transportation options available to suit your needs. Whether you prefer to take in the scenery on a bike ride or rely on the convenience of public transportation, both destinations have you covered.


When planning a vacation, the weather plays a significant role in the overall experience. In this section, we’ll compare the climate and weather conditions of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard to help you decide on the best time to visit.

Nantucket experiences a cool maritime climate with mild summers and chilly winters.

Average summer temperatures range between 60-75°F (15-24°C), making it ideal for outdoor activities and beach visits. Winter temperatures can drop as low as 30-40°F (-1-4°C), so be prepared for chilly conditions if you visit during this time. Spring and fall offer pleasant weather, with temperatures averaging 50-65°F (10-18°C).

Martha’s Vineyard also features a maritime climate, with similar weather patterns to Nantucket.

Summer temperatures on the island typically range from 60-77°F (16-25°C), offering a comfortable climate for outdoor exploration. Winters are cold, with average temperatures hovering between 30-40°F (-1-4°C). Like Nantucket, spring and fall on Martha’s Vineyard provide mild temperatures, averaging between 50-68°F (10-20°C).

In summary, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard experience similar weather conditions due to their maritime climates. Summer is the most popular time to visit, offering warm temperatures perfect for beachgoers and outdoor enthusiasts. However, spring and fall also provide pleasant weather for those looking to avoid the peak tourist season.


Safety is a crucial consideration when traveling, and in this section, we’ll examine how Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard compare in terms of safety for visitors. Both destinations are generally safe, but it’s essential to be aware of potential concerns and take necessary precautions.

Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are known for their low crime rates, making them ideal destinations for a relaxing and worry-free vacation. However, like any tourist destination, it’s always wise to keep an eye on your belongings and be aware of your surroundings. Petty theft and opportunistic crimes can occur, but they are not common.

Aside from crime, it’s important to consider natural hazards and safety concerns related to outdoor activities—

Both islands have their share of wildlife, including deer ticks that can carry Lyme disease. Take precautions such as wearing long pants and using insect repellent when hiking or spending time in wooded areas. Additionally, be mindful of potential water hazards, like rip currents and strong waves, when enjoying the beautiful beaches.

In conclusion, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are generally safe destinations with low crime rates. Just remember to exercise common sense and take precautions against natural hazards to ensure a pleasant and secure vacation.


When planning a vacation, cost is often a significant factor in deciding between destinations. In this section, we’ll compare the expenses associated with visiting Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, focusing on factors such as accommodation, dining, and activities.

Nantucket is generally known for its high-end offerings and can be more expensive than Martha’s Vineyard.

Accommodations on Nantucket tend to be pricier, with upscale hotels and rental properties being the norm. Dining options also lean towards the luxurious side, with many fine dining establishments available, although there are still some budget-friendly options for those seeking a more affordable experience.

Martha’s Vineyard, on the other hand, provides a broader range of options for travelers with varying budgets.

While the island also has its share of luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants, there are more affordable accommodations and eateries available. This makes Martha’s Vineyard an excellent choice for travelers seeking a more budget-conscious vacation without compromising on quality or experiences.

In summary, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer memorable vacation experiences, but they cater to different budgets. Nantucket is better suited for those seeking a high-end getaway, while Martha’s Vineyard is more accommodating to travelers with a range of budgets.

Which Is Better – Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard?

After comparing Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard across various factors, it’s clear that both islands offer unique and unforgettable experiences. Each destination has its own set of attractions, activities, and atmosphere that cater to different preferences and budgets.

Nantucket’s rich history and culture create an enchanting atmosphere that draws visitors who appreciate a more exclusive experience.

With its high-end shopping, luxurious accommodations, and gourmet dining, Nantucket is the perfect choice for travelers seeking a lavish getaway. The island’s pristine beaches and picturesque landscapes provide a serene backdrop for relaxation and leisure.

Martha’s Vineyard, on the other hand, offers a more diverse range of experiences, making it an ideal choice for visitors with varying interests and budgets.

From its vibrant history and culture to its unique attractions and activities, Martha’s Vineyard has something for everyone. The island’s beautiful beaches, family-friendly atmosphere, and affordable accommodations make it a popular choice for families and budget-conscious travelers alike.

When it comes to getting there and getting around, both islands have their own set of transportation options. Nantucket’s smaller size makes it easy to navigate, while Martha’s Vineyard offers various modes of transportation to explore the island’s distinct towns and attractions.

Weather-wise, both islands enjoy pleasant temperatures and beautiful scenery throughout the year. However, it’s essential to consider the time of year and the specific weather conditions when planning your trip to either destination.

Safety is a priority for both islands, with low crime rates and a strong sense of community. Visitors can enjoy their vacations with peace of mind, knowing that they’re in a safe and welcoming environment.

Lastly, the cost factor plays a significant role in choosing between Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Nantucket is known for its high-end offerings and higher prices, while Martha’s Vineyard caters to a wider range of budgets without sacrificing quality or experiences.

In conclusion, the choice between Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard ultimately depends on your preferences, interests, and budget.

Nantucket is the ideal destination for those seeking a luxurious and exclusive experience, while Martha’s Vineyard offers a more diverse and budget-friendly option for a memorable vacation. Whichever island you choose, you’re sure to have an unforgettable getaway in these beautiful New England destinations.