Daisy Allsup falls for the charms of the New England playground island of Nantucket, spending 3 days at super luxurious family favourite, The White Elephant Village:
Early summer is an ideal time to visit the Big Apple, but with kids in tow it can feel like a long way to go for a few days in the city. Why not make like the New Yorkers, and combine your holiday with a trip to Nantucket? Much like our classic family favourites (Rock, Salcombe, Aldeburgh, Bembridge etc) the same East Coast families return to the island year after year, decamping from New York or Boston for the summer holidays.
Known as the ‘Grey Lady’, Nantucket is an all-American playground with oodles of charm. No sooner have you stepped off the ferry than you’re wandering up Main Street, feeling like you’ve stepped onto a film set. Think white picket fences, clapboard houses with porches and rocking chairs, window boxes in full flower, stars and stripes above the front door. Wholesome preppy families wander about in shorts and trainers, proudly wearing their matching Nantucket hoodies.
Steeped in history, Nantucket was once the centre of the whaling industry and one of the wealthiest places in America. From this outpost in the Atlantic expeditions departed for up to ten-year voyages in pursuit of whale oil that fueled the Industrial Revolution. It’s the land of Moby Dick, and you can just imagine ladies in crinoline and curls walking up the cobbled Main Street to church.
We stayed at the White Elephant Village, conveniently located on a quiet street right in town. The Village is made up of an Inn (rooms and suites) and Residences which each have two-three bedrooms and their own fully equipped kitchens. Our two-bedroom apartment was vast with lovely bright interiors, a porch and small lawn out front, and we could very happily self-cater. Through a gate just next door lies the large swimming pool. At the end of May it is only just warm enough to swim, but nevertheless there are lots of children splashing around, and lovely staff handing out sun cream and snacks. The hospitality is second to none, and everywhere you go there’s another smily face to help you.
Descending our front steps, you’re in town in under 3 minutes, with a first stop at the Juice Bar, which rather confusingly is an ice cream parlour and island institution where hundreds of flavours are served in ruffled, waffle cones. Just up the road is the Whaling Museum, a fascinating small museum with family-friendly tours and a large play area. We were fascinated to hear tales of ‘Nantucket Sleighrides’ – when a boat was dragged along the waves at a speed of knots after it had harpooned the whale. And when you look at a map, even the island itself is whale shaped!
Another must-see in town is Nantucket Bookworks with it’s own heavenly kids’ corner. Settle in for storytime or just explore and get cosy, there’s never been a more inviting book shop for little ones. Newly opened Barnaby’s Place is a sweet kids’ café inside the book shop where kids can get creative, read and have tea. The traditional Pharmacy is fun too; have a sandwich and a milkshake sitting up at the bar with the locals.
The White Elephant provides complimentary bicycles for guests; take them along the cycle lanes that run along the coast. We headed up to Cisco Brewery; after a half hour’s cycle your’re rewarded with a cold brew, gin and tonic from the distillery or delicious rose from the vineyard. Despite being a brewery kids are welcome and it’s a family-friendly affair, with food stalls serving up hot dogs, lobster rolls and fries, plus lots of dogs with waggy tails to say hello to. Further up the road, another 10 minutes cycle is Barlow Farm which kids will love. With a garden centre, and deli, kids play area it’s a nice pit stop for lunch if you are heading on to the beach.
The whole feel is outdoors-y and relaxed. Really you don’t have to go anywhere at all; the calm bay of the Children’s Beach is 200m away, there’s the pool, tennis courts, and of course your own porch and rocking chairs. If you don’t fancy cooking there’s the Brant Point Grill, or you can even order picnic baskets to take with you to the beach. For a special dinner, take the White Elephant’s shuttle to the far end of the island to its sister hotel, The Wauwinet and enjoy a meal at Topper’s. More adult in feel, watch the sunset over the Atlantic and enjoy a truly sumptuous set menu in a romantic, classic dining room.
Scott Dunn offers seven nights at The White Elephant, Massachusetts from £4900 per person. This is based on a family of 4 staying in a 2 bedroom cottage and includes flights and transfers. To find out more please visit www.scottdunn.com or call 020 8682 5030.
NB. Direct flights from New York to Nantucket take 1 hour 15 mins. A weekend ferry runs throughout the summer from East 35th Street NYC, to Nantucket, 26 May–10 September.