The kid-friendly perfection of Nantucket
For a quick dinner in the heart of Nantucket town, we tried the newly opened Sea Dog, a lively and airy pub with burgers, corn, sweet potato fries, crispy beer battered fish ‘n’ chips, and beers from the local Cisco brewery. Admittedly more appealing to adults for its beer selection alone, the Brotherhood of Thieves is split into two dining areas that appeal to younger patrons, one a shady patio and garden, the other a dark and cool former whaler’s drinking hole. Our meal of a kids-sized grilled cheese with vegetables, black bean veggie burger and chunky lobster roll, washed down with a milk, Peak Summit ale and a Painkiller cocktail (rum, coconut cream and fruit juices) respectively, left everyone happy.
But Millie’s, a few blocks from Madaket Beach, was our favourite spot. Their hourly shuttle bus picked us up from the town visitor centre and we went swimming before dinner. Still in our wet bathing suits, we picked out two picnic tables – the second, a pint-sized one my daughter preferred. Inside are pictures of the salty local after whom the restaurant is named, including a shot of her with Fred Rogers, the famous children’s television presenter, who also lived nearby. Our affordable meal of seared tuna tacos, vegetable-stuffed quesadilla and margaritas, was probably the best we had on the island -- enhanced by al fresco sea breezes.
The winner of my informal poll on where to get the best ice cream was nearly unanimously Juice Bar (12 Broad Street, 508-228-5799), a small corner shop in Nantucket town that deservedly has a line snaking out its door and around the corner during high season. We happily raced to catch the rivulets of locally made chocolate chip cookie dough and mint Oreo ice cream melting down our cones and dripping onto our hands.
We stayed at the Cottages & Lofts at Nantucket Boat Basin, individual one- to three-room weather-worn cabins with views over the water, located on the piers at the eastern end of Nantucket town. With kitchens and full-sized refrigerators and no adjoining cottages, they are great for self-sufficiency and noise insulation. The office has DVDs for all ages and colouring and activity books to hand out, but it is worth staying there for the “beach bus” alone — an exclusive pick-up/drop-off service for guests that includes towels, folding chairs and beach toys.
The Cottages are part of an accommodation group that owns some of the best real estate in town. Its White Elephant Hotel, pricier than the cottages, is located next to Children’s Beach and was ranked last year in the top 20 of Travel + Leisure's list of the best family hotels in North America for nice touches like the kids’ story hour in the library. The company’s Residences and Inn, the highest end of the group, have posh suites and exclusive amenities such as boat rentals and its own pool (with free ice cream in the afternoons).
There are many other options, of course, including inns and bed and breakfasts, both in and out of town. Nantucket.net has a comprehensive list of options, with descriptions and links to the properties.
The general affluence of Nantucket means the shopping experience is more Ralph Lauren than T-shirt shops. But there are still opportunities for kids to find memory-worthy souvenirs. Nantucket Bookworks has a kids’ room jam packed with books, book-related toys and other fun games and puzzles. My daughter was charmed by the cute, nautical-themed apparel at Kidding Around (2 Broad Street; 508-228-7952), but finally gave in to one of the high quality options at the Toy Boat, choosing a fairy princess doll she immediately took to the tiny fairy garden just outside the shop.