Click on highlighted text to view photos.Weather: Nantucket, Massachusetts
Related stories and sitesJune 5, 1997
(CNN) -- There are only two ways to Nantucket -- by boat and by small plane. Appropriately, the secluded, 57-square-mile crescent off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts derives its name from a Native American word meaning "faraway island."
The obstacles to getting to Nantucket, ironically, are one of the main attractions for tens of thousands of tourists who crowd its bed-and-breakfasts, beaches and boutiques every summer. Nantucket means escape -- not only from the big-city pace of Boston and New York, but from many reminders of modern life.
Nantucket has been called "The Timeless Island" because so much of its history remains intact. In 1659, a group of Massachusetts Englishmen purchased the land from Native Americans for 30 British pounds and two beaver hats. The house of Jethro Coffin, of one of the early settler families, still stands; built in 1686, it is known simply as the Oldest House.
Another famous Nantucket landmark is the Old Mill, which was built in 1746 with salvaged wood. One of the oldest windmills in the country, it still grinds corn.
Three lighthouses testify to the island's maritime past. Nantucket prospered from whaling in the early 1800s, when many of the island's finest homes were built. From the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, Nantucket's floating "lightships" helped patrol the busy shipping lanes between Boston and New York. The cobblestones of many of the island's streets were once ballast on trading ships.
Two of Nantucket's lighthouses, as well as the Coffin House, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In all, more than 800 pre-Civil War structures survive on Nantucket.
Nantucket guards more than its historic architecture. About a third of the island has been set aside for protection from development. Wildflowers and endangered plants thrive in the protected environment, which is open to the public for bird-watching and nature hikes. Public beaches are also plentiful.
Bicycling and walking are popular ways to get around. To this day, Nantucket does not have a traffic light.
Despite its rustic simplicity, the island is known for its top-notch restaurants, classic inns, and pricey boutiques. Yachts from all over the world dock in Nantucket, bringing wealthy visitors and celebrities. (With classic New England reserve, one online Nantucket travel guide encourages visitors "not to make a fuss" if they see a star.)
Late summer is high season on Nantucket. That's when flowers (and tourists) are abundant, and the island's "English-style" climate eases a bit, providing more consistently sunny days. In August, a huge wooden sailboat regatta, the Opera House Cup, takes place.
By fall, most visitors have gone home. Before they lose sight of the island, however, many follow the tradition of tossing a penny into the water from the ferry, with a wish to come to Nantucket again someday.Weather: Nantucket, Massachusetts
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Nantucket Island Information Center (hotels, rentals, ferry schedules, restaurants, etc.)
An Insider's Guide to Nantucket
Nantucket Bed and Breakfasts
The Cape Cod Information Center
Martha's Vineyard Travel Information
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