No car ferry reservation? No problem!
Part of what I love about Nantucket is its innate romanticism based on its geographical qualities being an island off the coast of Massachusetts. Part of the US, part of the state I call home, 30 miles out to sea, but in some ways a world away. The moment I step off the ferry I feel lighter, immersed in the natural beauty of the island, the deliberate beauty of the town, homes and gardens, the rich history of the cobblestones and the promise of quality time with family and friends that awaits.
Between the ferries and numerous flight options and short term rentals it is probably easier than ever to visit Nantucket. I am not here to criticize, lament or celebrate these changes. I will continue to visit as I have for years. It's not home to me, but a celebrated vacation destination that I have been lucky enough to visit time and again through many different phases of my life.
One thing that has remained quite exclusive, however, is the ability to get your personal vehicle on and off the island. For good reason! The island is tiny, you have to bring your car by boat, and also, btw (hot take) it is completely not necessary. Last week the Steamship Authority announced they were postponing car reservations due to technology issues that were brought to light with the recent resident reservation opening. I know a lot of people set alarms, camp out, etc. to make sure they're first in the digital line so this is a bit stressful. This week, I thought I would take the time to share my experience and why I prefer not to bring my own car.
With endless miles of bike paths, a reliable public transportation system, taxis, and car rentals (some more controversial than others, I understand) you don't need to worry if you can't get your car onto the ferry. In fact, leaving your extension of home behind will allow you to enjoy the island more authentically with less of a filter. More on that to come, but today's reason is that by not bringing a car you get....
MORE TIME TO PLAY!
Reason number one to not bring a car is the convenience of taking whatever ferry (or flight if that's your thing) allows you to maximize your time on island. Last year one of the houses we rented came with a code to secure a car ferry reservation when it opened to residents in advance of the general booking date.
My husband was stoked about the prospect of having our car with us. It would be easier to pack on the departure end and easier to transport our kids and stuff around in the July heat. **To be fair to him, as a former offensive lineman (I just had to text him to make sure that was right), he is roughly twice my size and by default the vacation sherpa. I do my part by packing as light as possible, being organized AF, and feeding him cold beers.**
Anyway, I saw the appeal too, and I booked us on the only available car ferry left out of Hyannis at 4:00 pm. I was super bummed about this. Our time there is never long enough, so even if we can't get into our rental until the afternoon I try to maximize our time on island. This means booking the earliest ferry out and latest ferry home.
Typically, I would carry my kids directly from their beds to the car the morning of vacation, jammies still on, thumbs still in mouths, loveys tucked into the carseats to make the first reasonably timed ferry out of Hyannis. It makes for a sleepy car ride, mom and dad drink coffee and talk about how we've never seen so little traffic getting through Boston and then before you know it, the kids wake up in Hyannis excited for the boat ride, snack bar, first glimpses of Brant Point and the fun to come. This year it took us twice as long to get to Hyannis leaving in the afternoon, I spent the day second guessing everything we had shoved into the car out of convenience, and the kids were all hyped up asking if it was time to leave yet (over and over and over).
So my first tip to maximizing your time on Nantucket is to get there as early as it makes sense for you on the day of arrival. Even if you can't get into your accommodations right away! I'm used to navigating the island without an official landing spot from my college days. Yes, it's slightly more complicated with more luggage and humans in tow but in the spirit of travel and adventure, it's still absolutely doable with a family.
First - ask (always politely, and without expectation) if an early check in is possible. Sometimes it's not because of the time needed for the cleaners to complete a turn over, sometimes they say yes but with the caveat of an additional fee, but more often than you might expect, they'll just say no problem house will be open enjoy!
So you get off the ferry and you bump bump bump your luggage down the cobblestone street where you'll likely find an available taxi to transport you to your accommodations. (You can always call in advance to arrange for a pick up if you're more type A / responsible).
If you can't get in early, you can also ask if it's ok to drop off bags outside - leaving you free to enjoy the island while the accommodations are prepped. I like to arrange for bikes, baby gear and groceries to be delivered to our accommodations ahead of time as well. Again, allowing for max time enjoying the island. Drop your bags, and either have the taxi take you to your next stop, use those handy dandy bikes you were so clever to have waiting for you, or if theres NRTA Wave stop close by, take advantage!
I like to bring a tote bag with little figits for the kids, special snacks, my wallet, bathing suits, sunscreen and basic changes of clothes. This way, everything else can be dropped off, and you can be off to enjoy the day. Jetties is a great first day beach to go to with its amenities- the kids can splash around with 600 other kids in the shallow waters of the sandbar, you can catch up with old friends and make new ones, then rinse off grab some food and drinks and head back whenever your house is ready for move in. Again, you can utilize the bikes that were waiting for you at the house, a taxi, or maybe your new friends don't mind giving you ride :)
So you missed out on a car ferry spot, no big deal, you're there at 9 am instead of 6 pm. Your kids are pleasantly worn out, sun kissed and fed by the time you check in. You gained an entire day of vacation, and saved $500 by not buying a ferry ticket for your car. This is basically a savings plan.
On the departure side, I am notorious for not wanting parties to end. Where is the after party? Can I extend my lease? Let's just check hotels for last minute opening. I think I saw a for sale sign in Madaket... it wouldn't hurt to look.... after all, there's always the next ferry :)
Stock the Fridge:
The Wave (public transportation)
Baby/Kid gear rental:
Sandbar at Jetties:
In my next post, I'll talk about biking, and why it's an integral part of any vacation we take :)