Where is Nantucket Located, and How Do You Get to it? (Map Included)

Nantucket is among the most popular summer getaways in New England.

And for good reason – it boasts some of the most serene white sand beaches on the East Coast, has an absolutely charming downtown, and nothing says “summer” quite like Nantucket’s uniform gray shingled cottages.

You may have heard of Nantucket in a book, movie, or TV show. Or come across Nantucket Nectars juices in the grocery store, seen shorts described as “Nantucket Red,” or stumbled upon a Nantucket basket handbag.

Wherever you’ve encountered “Nantucket,” you may wonder where it is located. And the next logical question is how do you get to Nantucket?

Where is Nantucket located?

Nantucket is an island about 30 miles offshore from Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It’s directly south of what’s known as the Mid-Cape, which includes the towns Hyannis, Hyannis Port, and South Yarmouth.

A map showing where Nantucket is located in relation to Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard.

The island, about 14 miles long and 3 1/2 miles wide, experiences a different climate than neighboring areas due to its location.

The Atlantic Ocean heavily influences Nantucket’s weather, which produces a moderating effect. As a result, the island’s winter climate is warmer than mainland New England, and its summers are cooler. Temperatures in Nantucket rarely go above 81°F or below 14°F.

Nantucket is also east of the other prominent Massachusetts Island, Martha’s Vineyard. The distance between these two popular summer getaways is roughly 20-30 miles. However, the distance can vary as multiple channels and passages separate the two islands.

A map showing where Nantucket is located in relation to the rest of Massachusetts

How do you get to Nantucket?

Now that you know where Nantucket is, you’re probably wondering how visitors travel to the island.

Since Nantucket is relatively far offshore, it’s not easy to get to. Visitors have three options – private boat, ferry, or airplane.

Because arriving by private boat requires personalized instructions, we’ll focus on traveling to Nantucket by ferry or airplane.

By ferry

Most visitors to Nantucket arrive by ferry.

Ferries are constantly arriving and departing the island during the summer season. That said, there are a few things to consider when deciding which ferry is best for you.

A ferry going to Nantucket

First, it’s important to know two main ferry companies travel to Nantucket – The Steamship Authority and Hy-Line Cruises. Both ferries operate out of Hyannis, which is in the middle of Cape Cod (often called the Mid-Cape).

These companies’ ports are close in distance (less than a 1/2 mile apart), but they are distinct. Since traffic can be heavy in this section of Hyannis Port, be sure you type the right one into your GPS before driving.

Next, it’s also important to know that high-speed and slow Nantucket ferries exist. While Hy-Line Cruises only operates high-speed ferries, Steamship Authority operates both. Here’s the difference:

  • High-speed ferries: These ferries will get you to Nantucket in one hour. They are more expensive, and while it’s possible to bring a bike on the ferry (for an extra fee), bringing your car is not possible. These ferries book up quickly, so make reservations online.
  •  Slow ferries: These ferries take two hours. However, they’re also less expensive, are often less crowded, and have space for cars. If you bring your vehicle, you must make reservations weeks or months in advance in the summer months.

While purchasing tickets at each port is possible, it’s better to book in advance as space fills up quickly – especially during the summer.

If you find yourself making last-minute plans and have arrived at the port to discover all tickets sold, know that standby tickets may be available. These tickets may be sold closer to where the ferry is docked. A ticket agent can help.

Two other ferries also travel to Nantucket. Freedom Cruise Line leaves from Harwich Port, east of the Cape, and takes 80 minutes. And Seastreak, a high-speed ferry, departs from New Bedford on the south shore of Massachusetts and is a two-hour trip.

By airplane

The other common way to get to Nantucket is by plane.

While this method can be more convenient for some travelers, it also tends to be more expensive.

Flights to Nantucket leave from the following airports throughout the year: Boston, Westchester/White Plains, Hyannis, New Bedford, and Martha’s Vineyard. Seasonal flights also leave from New York’s JFK and LaGuardia airports, Newark, Washington D.C., Charlotte, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

And these are the primary airlines that service Nantucket (ACK):

As the name suggests, Cape Air is a small regional airline with numerous flights to Cape Cod and the islands throughout the year. Its flights originate in Boston, New York’s JFK, New Bedford, Hyannis, and Martha’s Vineyard.

Jet Blue is also a popular choice for flights to Nantucket. It provides seasonal service from Boston, Washington-National, and all regional New York City airports.

DeltaUnited, and American Airlines also provide seasonal service to Nantucket. Flights leave from New York City (JFK & LGA), Newark, Washington (Dulles and National), Charlotte, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

The Nantucket airport (ACK) - one of the ways to get to Nantucket

How to get to Nantucket from Boston

You have a few options if you’re traveling to Nantucket from Boston.

By air

Flying is the easiest and most hassle-free way to get to the island. While this method is more expensive, you won’t have to spend hours sitting in traffic waiting to cross the Bourne Bridge into Cape Cod. On average, a flight from Boston to Nantucket takes only 30 to 40 minutes.

If flying to Nantucket isn’t an option, your subsequent choices are taking the train (only available in the summer), taking a bus, or driving. With each of these options, the first step is to get to Hyannis and then, from there, catch a ferry to Nantucket.

By train

The Cape Flyer provides train service from Boston’s South Station to Hyannis from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. It only operates on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Stops along the way include Braintree, Brockton, Middleborough/Lakeville, Wareham Village, Buzzards Bay, and Bourne.

Once you arrive at the Hyannis Transportation Center, a ferry shuttle or trolly should be available to take you to one of the ferries.

A significant advantage to taking the train is that you won’t be stuck in traffic but can relax and enjoy the scenery.

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By bus

An alternative way to get to the Hyannis Transportation Center is to take a bus. The Peter Pan and Plymouth & Brockton Bus lines provide service from Boston to Hyannis. You can take a ferry shuttle or trolly from the transportation center to one of the ferry docks.

The advantage of taking a bus is that you’re not the driver. However, you’ll still be stuck in traffic (especially on a summer weekend).

Unlike the Cape Flyer, buses travel throughout the week, not just on weekends.

By car

The least desirable but often most practical way to get to Hyannis from Boston is by car.

Traffic to Cape Cod is notorious for being backed up in the summer months, sometimes for hours, as vehicles navigate through the roundabout leading to the Bourne Bridge (essentially the northern entrance to Cape Cod).

This means that if you choose to drive, you’ll not only have to sit in traffic, but you’ll also need plenty of time to arrive at your ferry.

Note that both Hyannis ferries charge for parking, which adds to the expense.

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A photo of Kerry Flatley leaning against a wall

About Kerry Flatley

Kerry Flatley has lived in New England for the past 26 years. She has roots in Maine & Massachusetts, family in New Hampshire, and grew up close to the Connecticut border. She loves all that this region has to offer – the ocean, mountains, islands, history, villages, and cities. When she’s not writing about New England, she’s relaxing at home in the Boston suburbs with her two teenage daughters and husband.

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