Guest Contributor | September 14th, 2008
Words by Kira Poskanzer
Photos by Jono Rotman
Summer in New York City certainly has its charms: concerts in the park, dining in the garden at the back of the restaurant, dark and cool movie theaters. But sometimes, you just have to get out of town. We decided to forgo the standard Manhattan summer jaunt to the Hamptons or Fire Island for a trip a little further north, to get a taste of New England instead. We headed to the islands off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts: Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. And what we found was exactly what you’d want when you escape the city. We jumped off a pier into the salty sea, rode bike paths through cranberry bogs, and ate simple, freshly caught seafood. It was summer perfection.
The first stop upon arriving in Nantucket and taking a short walk through the cobblestoned town was the Wauwinet , an inn and resort on a thin spit of land on the northeast side of the island. The land is so narrow here that you’re a minute away from a beach on either side. The bay side is warm and calm, and the ocean side is cold and rough, but they’re both beautiful and private, and it felt luxurious to have to make that choice each time we wanted to swim. All the amenities at the Wauwinet—port and cheese hour in the afternoon, bicycles with panniers packed with towels and water for our ride around the island, flowers in the room, fresh fruit in bowls in the hallways—were simplified and refined. Our cozy room overlooked the small grass lawn and the wide bay dotted with small boats. Staying at the Wauwinet was how I’d imagine it would be to stay at a wealthy relative’s summer house: calm and isolated, quiet and exclusive. From Wauwinet, it’s about a six-mile bike ride to Sconset, the village on the southeastern corner of the island. We left our bikes unlocked, picked up an ice cream and the general store and wandered around the tiny town, with its own set of beaches and perfectly tended homes.
We decided to spend a night in town, at the White Elephant Hotel , right on Nantucket Harbor. The rooms here are more modern and sleeker than the Wauwinet; it’s less of a summer cottage and more of a boutique hotel. But they’re both right on the water, and in both places, the crisp summer light streams in. There were fabulous spa treatments to be had here, in rooms right off the garden next to the harbor. We walked around town from the White Elephant, navigating narrow streets, inspecting pricey gifts, gawking at the giant yachts in the harbor, and wondering what the settlement was like when it was one of the world’s largest whaling ports. Dinner was at Black-Eyed Susan’s, a small wood-paneled restaurant set up like a diner, but with distinctly un-diner-like, subtle and satisfying American food on its frequently changing menu.
Next came the ferry from Nantucket to Martha’s Vineyard. With only a night left on the trip, we only stayed in Edgartown, the elegant seaport filled with old whaling captains’ homes. Martha’s Vineyard is larger than Nantucket, and feels less isolated and more lively and diverse. It is whitewashed and colorful compared to Nantucket’s quiet, cedar-shingled and staid elegance. In Edgartown, we stayed at the Hob Knob, a 19th century house that’s housed some of the more famous visitors to Martha’s Vineyard. The Hob Knob has the feeling of a bed and breakfast—tea and sweets in the afternoon, antiques in the rooms, nooks and crannies—but it also feels fresh and impeccable. We loved the room we stayed in on the third floor, with windows on two sides that let the cool breezes blow through.
On both islands, we could always successfully find a relatively unpopulated stretch of beach or a quiet neighborhood to stroll through. Many families have been vacationing here for years and years, and it’s easy to see why. But, it’s also easy to slip right in to the summertime culture and pretend you’ve been there as long as anyone.