Nantucket in the summer is all about fun in the sun, from beach visits to bike rides. But the island of Nantucket, some 30 miles out to sea, has a rich history of shipwrecks, whaling, and sailing that is worth exploring. There are several museums on Nantucket that will appeal to maritime history buffs and warrant taking some time out from the beach to see. Perfect for a rainy day or to escape the midday heat, these Nantucket museums will entertain anyone with an imagination and a love of the ocean.
This museum is one of the island's most popular for good reason. Nantucket was the epicenter of the whaling industry in the early 1800s and brought considerable wealth and growth to the island. This museum, packed full of artifacts and interactive exhibits, gives visitors an understanding of every aspect of the whaling industry on Nantucket—from information about the whales themselves to the lives of the resilient women and children left behind. Visit the museum's website to see the schedule of events, tours, films, and other activities for kids and adults alike.
Anyone who has visited Nantucket knows how ubiquitous the Nantucket baskets are—a catchall that is great for beach picnics and carrying supplies to the boat. These iconic baskets were first made on board the Nantucket lightship (a ship that acts as a lighthouse) in the mid-1800s. These lightship deployments were long and didn't require much work from the crew, so the men were always looking for ways to entertain themselves. They began making these baskets that now serve as a symbol of island culture and history. This small museum seeks to preserve the unique history of the Nantucket lightship basket through its collections and educational programs. You can even learn to make your own basket with kids and adult weaving programs.
Take a short drive or bike out to the Life-Saving Museum on Polpis Road, overlooking Nantucket Harbor. Anyone drawn to the danger and excitement of the sea will love the adventures detailed in this museum. Ocean travel used to be much more dangerous than it is now, with a lack of modern navigational aids, and shipwrecks in bad weather were fairly common. Learn about the heroic adventures of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, similar to today's Coast Guard, and marvel at the collection of rudimentary artifacts that these men used to save countless lives.