Nantucket is easily navigated on bike, moped, or foot, and also by shuttle bus or taxi. If you're staying outside of Nantucket Town, however, or if you simply prefer to explore by car, you might want to bring your own car or rent one when you arrive. Adventure-minded travelers may even want to rent a jeep or other four-wheel-drive vehicle, which you can take out on the sand -- a unique island experience -- on certain sections of the coast (a permit is required). Keep in mind that if you do opt to travel by car, in-town traffic can reach gridlock in the peak season, and parking can be a nightmare.
By Bike & Moped
When I head to Nantucket for a few days, biking is my preferred mode of transportation. The island itself is relatively flat, and paved bike paths abound -- they'll get you from Nantucket Town to Siasconset, Surfside, and Madaket. There are also many unpaved back roads to explore, which make mountain bikes a wise choice when pedaling around Nantucket.
A word of warning to bikers: One-way street signs and all other traffic rules apply to you, too! This law is enforced in Nantucket Town, and don't be surprised if a tanned but stern island policeman requests that you get off your bike and walk. Helmets are required for children 15 and under. Bikers should also remember not to ride on the sidewalks in town, which are busy with pedestrians strolling and exiting shops.
Mopeds and scooters are also prevalent, but watch out for sand on the roads. Be aware that local rules and regulations are strictly enforced. Mopeds are not allowed on sidewalks or bike paths. You'll need a driver's license to rent a moped, and state law requires that you wear a helmet. The following shops rent bikes and scooters (all are within walking distance of the ferries): Cook's Cycle Shop, Inc., 6 S. Beach St. (tel. 508/228-0800), which rents bikes and mopeds; Nantucket Bike Shop, at Steamboat and Straight wharves (tel. 508/228-1999; www.nantucketbikeshop.com), which rents bikes and scooters; and Young's Bicycle Shop, 6 Broad St., at Steamboat Wharf (tel. 508/228-1151; www.youngsbicycleshop.com), which rents bikes and also does repairs. Bike rentals average $20 to $30 for a full day. Most places renting scooters or mopeds require a valid driver's license and the operator to be 18 or older. Rentals cost about $70 for a one-seater or $90 for a two-seater for 24 hours.
By Shuttle Bus
Inexpensive shuttle buses, with bike racks and accessibility for those with disabilities, make frequent loops through Nantucket Town and beaches, and to outlying spots. For routes and stops, contact the Nantucket Regional Transit Authority (tel. 508/228-7025; www.nrtawave.com), or pick up a map and schedule at the visitor center on Federal Street or the chamber of commerce office on Main Street. The shuttle permits you to bring your clean, dry dog along, too. There's room for two bikes on a first-come, first-served basis. The cost is $1 to $2, and exact change is required. A 3-day pass can be purchased at the visitor center for $10.
Shuttle routes and fares are pretty simple. Downtown shuttle stops are located on the corner of Salem and Washington streets (for South, Miacomet, and Airport loops); on Broad Street, in front of the Foulger Museum (for Madaket Loop and Beach Express); and on Washington Street, at the corner of Main Street (for 'Sconset loops). Most shuttles run approximately every 30 minutes for most of the season; from July until Labor Day, the Mid-Island Loop runs every 15 minutes, and the Miacomet Loop every 20 minutes.
- Airport Loop services Nantucket Airport to the center of town at Washington Street; every 30 minutes, on the hour and half-hour, from 10am to 6pm; the fare is $2.
- South Loop services the Surfside Beach, Hooper Farm Road, and Pleasant Street areas; every 15 minutes, from 7am to 11:30pm; the fare is $1.
- Miacomet Loop services the Fairgrounds Road, Bartlett Road, and Hummock Pond areas; every 30 minutes, from 7am to 11:30pm (more frequently during the busiest months of summer); the fare is $1.
- Madaket Route services Madaket (from Broad St. downtown) via Cliff Road and New Lane; every 30 minutes, from 7am to 11:30pm; the fare is $2 each way.
- 'Sconset Route 1 services 'Sconset via Polpis Road; every 80 minutes, from 10am to 6pm; the fare is $2 each way.
- 'Sconset Route 2 services 'Sconset via Old South/Nobadeer Farm and Milestone roads; every 60 minutes, from 7am to 11pm; the fare is $2 each way.
- Beach Express services Surfside and Jetties beaches (the in-town stop is on Broad St.); every 40 minutes for Jetties Beach, and every 30 minutes for Surfside Beach, from 10am to 5:30pm; the fare is $2 each way to Surfside, $1 each way to Jetties.
By Car & Jeep
I recommend a car if you'll be here for more than a week or if you're staying outside Nantucket Town. However, there are no in-town parking lots; parking, although free, is limited to Nantucket's handful of narrow streets, which can be a problem in the busy summer months. Also, gas is much more expensive on Nantucket than it is on the mainland.
Four-wheel-drive vehicles are your best bet, as many beaches and nature areas are off sandy paths; be sure to reserve at least a month in advance, if you're coming in summer. If you plan on doing any four-wheeling in the sand, you need to get an Over-Sand Permit ($140) from the Nantucket Police Department (tel. 508/228-1212). To drive in the Coskata-Coatue nature area, you need a separate permit from the Trustees of Reservations, at the gatehouse (tel. 508/228-0006), which costs about $140 for a season pass, or a $35 gate fee for a day-rental four-wheel-drive that comes with the Over-Sand Permit. Dogs are not allowed, even in a car.
The following on-island rental agencies offer cars, Jeeps, and other four-wheel-drive vehicles: Hertz, at the airport (tel. 800/654-3131 or 508/228-9421; www.hertz.com); Nantucket Windmill Auto Rental, at the airport (tel. 800/228-1227 or 508/228-1227; www.nantucketautorental.com); and Young's 4*4 & Car Rental, 6 Broad St., at Steamboat Wharf (tel. 508/228-1151; www.youngsbicycleshop.com). A standard car costs about $129 to $139 per day in season; a four-wheel-drive rental is about $199 to $229 per day (including an Over-Sand Permit).
You'll find taxis (many are vans that can accommodate large groups or those traveling with bikes) waiting at the airport and at all ferry ports. During the busy summer months, I recommend reserving a taxi in advance to avoid a long wait upon arrival. Rates are flat fees, based on one person riding before 1am, with surcharges for additional passengers, bikes, and dogs. The most centrally located taxi stand is at the bottom of Main Street, in front of the Club Car restaurant. A taxi from the airport to Nantucket Town will cost about $15, plus $1 for each additional person. Reliable cab companies on the island include All Point Taxi & Tours (tel. 508/228-5799); Canty's Cab (tel. 508/228-2888); Chief's Cab (tel. 508/284-8497), which is run by the island's former fire chief; Lisa's Taxi (tel. 508/228-2223); and Val's Cab Service (tel. 508/228-9410).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.