Two companies compete for ferry passengers from Hyannis to Nantucket: the Steamship Authority and Hy-Line Cruises, with terminals on opposite sides of Hyannis Harbor. The Steamship Authority is the slightly less expensive option.
From the South Street Dock in Hyannis, the Steamship Authority (tel. 508/477-8600) operates year-round ferry service for cars, passengers, and bicycles to Steamboat Wharf in Nantucket. The Steamship Authority’s fast ferry to Nantucket, MV Iyanough, is for passengers only (no cars). It takes 1 hour and runs four to five times a day. Reservations are highly recommended.
The Steamship Authority’s conventional ferries carry cars as well as passengers and bikes, though car rates are significantly more expensive, and drivers and passengers must also buy individual ferry tickets on top of the charge for vehicles. No advance reservations are required for passengers traveling without cars, but car reservations must be made months in advance.
There's a fee for Steamship Authority parking as well. Don't worry about making parking reservations. The Authority has several lots, with a free shuttle from the farthest locations.
Operating from the Ocean Street Dock in Hyannis, Hy-Line Cruises (tel. 508/228-3949) sail to Straight Wharf on Nantucket. Hy-Line’s high-speed passenger catamaran, the Grey Lady, makes five to six hourly trips per day year-round. Pets are allowed on the ferry, except in the first-class section.
There's a fee for parking and Hy-Line passengers can reserve a space in advance, but it’s not essential: Hy-Line has several lots (a free shuttle serves the off-site lot), and though spaces can fill up in the summer, other companies offer parking nearby for similar rates.
From Harwich Port, Cape Cod: To avoid the summer crowds in Hyannis, you can board a passenger-only ferry to Nantucket run by Freedom Cruise Line (tel. 508/432-8999). Boats leave from Saquatucket Harbor in Harwich Port (702 Route 28, across from Brax Landing). The line makes two or three trips a day in season and one trip per day in the shoulder season. The trip takes 1 hour and 15 minutes. Parking is free for day-trippers. Advance reservations are highly recommended.
Tip: All of the above ferries are equipped with Wi-Fi.
Bringing a car to Nantucket: Given Nantucket’s size and the excellence of its public transportation options, there really is no need to bring a car with you to the island. A round-trip fare on the Steamship Authority car ferry is very expensive, even during the off-season.
If you must bring a car to the island, you need to make reservations months in advance to secure a spot on the conventional ferry. Because of the limited options, have alternative departure dates in mind when you call.
Note: The Steamship Authority charges different rates for different car lengths. You will need to specify the make and model of your car when you make your reservation. Car rates do not include drivers or passengers; you must get separate tickets for each person going to the island.
Arrive at least 1 hour before the ferry departs. Otherwise, your space might be released to standbys. If you arrive without a reservation and plan to wait in the standby line, there is no guarantee you will get to the island that day.
You can also fly into Nantucket Memorial Airport (tel. 508/325-5300), which is about 3 miles south of Nantucket Road, on Old South Road. The flight to Nantucket takes about 30 to 40 minutes from Boston, 20 minutes from Hyannis, and a little more than an hour from New York City. There is frequent shuttle bus service from Nantucket's airport terminal to town for a small fee.
American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and JetBlue run flights from New York City.
See It All in One Day
In the summer, Hy-Line operates a 1-day round-trip Around the Sound cruise from Hyannis, with stops in Nantucket and Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard. It’s a full-day expedition, departing at 9:30am and returning around 7:30pm, allowing several hours of exploring at each island. Visit Hy-Line's website or call 800/492-8082 for more information.
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.