The gorgeous island of Nantucket has become one of the top preferred vacation home spots for the most affluent people in the country and as such, has been dubbed “Billionaire’s Isle.”
Located 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, New England island is definitely not a budget destination for tourists and vacationers.
Luckily, apart from the 5-star hotels and inns, there are many beautiful houses and other accommodations in all parts of Nantucket, which are available for short-term rent, many of them at reasonable prices.
When going on a trip to this charming island, there are ways to have fun and enjoy the incredible views without breaking the bank.
Here are some ideas for things to do for free when in Nantucket.
Downtown Waterfront Walk
Nantucket is recognized as the single largest National Historic Landmark District in the USA. More than 750 restored and preserved buildings and houses are there, with many of them concentrated in the historic downtown.
You can enjoy a completely free Downtown Waterfront Walking Tour by downloading the free online guide and listening to the audio guide in order to ensure that you don’t miss a single significant site along the way.
The tour will take you through the historic cobblestone streets alongside some of the most beautiful and oldest captain’s mansions, buildings, and venues on the island.
You can start the tour at Easy Street, where you can take some photos of the iconic red rowing boat known as 007 and of the Killen Dory.
Then head to the Dreamland Theater Complex and the Opera House Club, which used to be popular clubs, restaurants, and saloons with famous guests such as Liz Taylor, Judy Garland, and President Roosevelt.
The walk continues to the oldest building on the waterfront – the Thomas Macy Warehouse, and then towards the New Whale Basin Marina at George’s Park, where the rich and famous dock their mega yachts.
You can then head to Petrel Landing and watch the traditional scalloping in October every year.
The walk ends at the grand brick building known as SOMA, where all of the electricity powering Nantucket used to be produced until the end of the 20th century.
Take your kids to the Discovery Playground at Hinsdale Park
The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association and the Nantucket Land Bank established this accessible playground with interactive elements just three years ago.
It is located at Hinsdale Park on 54 Old South Street and has a fun-filled ZipKrooz, which is 66 feet long, a Sensory Wall, a Crazy Dome, and a Netplex and ramping structures that kids of all ages will enjoy.
You can relax in the park while the children learn how to play different musical instruments or participate in classes for various crafts, art, and science.
Enjoy the view at Sconset Bluff Walk
This short but breathtaking walking path was created back in 1892 and is one of the most beautiful walkways in the entire country.
It is merely a mile long but passes by some of the most stunning historic cottages, which weathered gray cedar shakes and crawling roses that bloom in red and pink and reach to their roofs.
The path will take you past the perfectly trimmed gardens and backyards of the people of the village of Siasconset and then to the local market, where you can buy some snacks.
Also known as the Cliff Walk, the path leads to the dramatic cliffs on the eastern coast of Nantucket.
You can also take a turn and head to the sandy Siasconset Beach for some relaxation time, swimming, or a picnic.
There you can get a chance to take some fantastic vacation photos of the ocean view and the picturesque Sankaty Head Lighthouse.
See the lighthouses
Nantucket has three of the oldest still-functioning lighthouses in the USA. These historic structures have been guiding and saving mariners passing by, arriving, or leaving the island for centuries.
Brant Point Lighthouse is the first lighthouse you will see if you arrive via ferry.
This is the second oldest working lighthouse in the country and was first built in 1746 to help boats and ships safely arrive and depart the harbor.
Today’s wooden lighthouse is the 10th one rebuilt through the years and is from 1901. The locals believe that there is a tradition to throw a couple of pennies as you leave the island once you pass Brant Point Light, which can grant your wish and ensure that you return to Nantucket once again.
The Sankaty Head Light is a red and white striped brick lighthouse located on the east coast by Siasconset. It was built in 1850 and was famously moved back 400 feet into the shore to protect it from the destructive erosion of the cliffs.
The third lighthouse is located at the northernmost point of the island and is known as Great Point Lighthouse.
This lighthouse was built in 1784 and is in the area of the scenic Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge.
You can reach it with a 4WD vehicle and a special beach driving permit or by cycling or hiking through the sandy trails and the stunning barrier beaches.
Enjoy the sun and view at Steps Beach
Steps Beach is a hidden gem tucked in between the popular north coast beaches – Dionis and Jetties.
What makes it so unique are the steep set of steps that lead to the beach and, more importantly, the amazing view of the Nantucket Sound, the harbor, and the island from the top of the stairs.
Steps Beach is within walking distance from town and is generally less crowded than the other north shore beaches.
It is one of the top-rated Instagram-worthy spots and a beautiful place to take vacation photos or enjoy the marvelous view.
Collect Seashells on Surfside Beach
Surfside Beach is on the southern coast of Nantucket and is very popular among surfers, watersports lovers, and young people in their twenties.
The sandy and wide beach is perfect for spending a fun-filled day. It is also a great place to go hunting for beautiful sea glass, seashells, and other “treasures” on the shore, especially in the early morning before most people arrive and when the water is calmer.
In the evening, the surf and current become stronger, which attracts more surfers and watersports lovers.
Surfside Beach has restrooms, showers, lifeguards, and a nearby eatery known as The Surf, where you can grab some snacks or enjoy delicious fresh seafood dishes right on the beach.