Massachusetts : Safety by City
- Cape Cod
- Fall River
- Martha’s Vineyard
- New Bedford
Nantucket, Massachusetts, sits 30 miles off the Cape Cod shoreline, offering an escape for tourists to a place that feels like a village lost in time.
“The Gray Lady,” as she’s nicknamed, offers abundant beach options but with a signature fog that can create an air of mystery over this island oasis.
Nantucket is technically the island’s name, but it’s also the name of the town and county that includes two remote neighboring islands.
Nantucket is farther away (its name actually translates to “The Faraway Land”) than Martha’s Vineyard but well worth the trip to get here.
The atmosphere here is less crowded, with more of a laid-back vibe than in other parts of the Vineyard or Cape Cod.
The historical district in Nantucket is the perfect blend of weathered wood with pops of color from awnings or signage.
You’ll find the only true “Nantucket Red” vendor here, and those who want to be stylish should buy a few garments because that’s what everyone wears “On Island.”
This coastal heaven allows driving on the beach, with more public beaches than you’ll find in many Cape Cod or Vineyard communities.
Three lighthouses dot the landscape, and the rich fishing and whaling history is prominent in museums, restaurants, and hotels.
Warnings & Dangers in Nantucket
OVERALL RISK: LOW
Nantucket has an incredibly low crime risk. Even over the past five years, violent crime has been cut in half, leaving just 24 in 2021. 70% of the violent crime victims knew their attackers. This is also a place that many billionaires call home, so ample security sticks out at every turn.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Several ferry rides are available from Hyannis to Nantucket. You can get a traditional ferry or a high-speed option, but the former is the only one that will transport a car. Once you're on the island, you can rent a car. Taxis and rideshares are available, but the most popular way to get around the island is by bike rental or the seasonal "Wave" bus system provided by Nantucket Regional Transit Authority (seasonal routes only).
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
You'd think with a bunch of billionaires and their heirs walking around, this would be prime pickpocket territory, but it's not. The risk is low; no pickpockets or purse snatchings were reported in 2021. You still shouldn't let your guard down. You also don't want to carry too much because a heavy backpack can get heavier with every mile walked.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
Hurricanes, flooding, intense fog, and winter storms are the risks on the island. The winds can impact if the ferries will travel to and from the mainland, with the high-speed ferry being the first to cancel in winds over 25 miles per hour. You'll also need to be familiar with the tide levels, as they can impact activities on or near the water.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
The town & country of Nantucket hasn't seen more than three robberies in a year since 2011, and most years had either one or no robberies. The risk is low, but there's a lot of potential for someone who isn't using property safety precautions.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
The risk of a terrorist attack is low, but there is another risk of explosives to discuss. On the emergency management page for the city of Nantucket, you must read the Unexploded Ordinance Awareness Program. A stretch of land on the island's south side was used as a practice rocket range in the 1940s. While the military presence is long gone, there is a risk unexploded ordinances are buried in the ground. If you come across anything that looks like a piece of metal or unnatural in that region, don't touch it. Call 911 immediately. One was found as recently as March 2022.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Nantucket doesn't have the aggressive street peddlers you might find on Cape Cod. You should be aware of rental scams. This is a community for the elite and affluent, so you aren't going to find a rock-bottom deal. Scammers can use rhetoric to pressure you to pay upfront through a wire transfer. This is a sure sign of a scam. Use the Travel and Lodging Guide from the city of Nantucket to find reliable and verified listings.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Nantucket doesn't have the rowdy nightlife or huge crowds of some other Cape Cod or Martha's Vineyard cities, but there are a few places like Nobadeer Beach that are more "party" beaches than others. Always use caution when you're drinking in crowds, and never leave a drink unattended. Overall, women will love the sanctity and charm of the entire island.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
Two water quality reports are produced for Nantucket, each on a separate part of the island. The 2021 Water Quality Report shows no violations in either one. Lead is a concern in the water since many buildings here are old, even though no violations were noted. Be sure to flush tap water by letting it run cold for a minute or two before consumption.
Safest Places to Visit in Nantucket
The official government website for Nantucket has a Culture and Tourism section that is as good as any tourism bureau could produce.
However, they did produce one, and you can find it at VisitNantucketIsland.org.
There’s a downloadable Visitor Services Travel and Lodging Guide available too.
NantucketCulturalDistrict.org is another great website for hyper-local activities and events.
Nantucket has some amazing restaurants, from fine dining to lobster shacks.
Aside from the shacks, you’ll need to make a reservation in advance.
Resy is the most popular website for Nantucket restaurants, but some locations require you to reserve by phone.
Some restaurants fill up months in advance, while others only accept reservations up to 14 days in advance.
In any event, don’t wait until you are on the island to book a reservation, or you’ll end up at the lobster shack (which isn’t a bad option).
10 walking tour maps are available on the city’s website, and you can go at your own pace.
The options cover history, nature, famous buildings, and notable trails of influential people throughout Nantucket.
You can download the Tour of Lights map during the holiday season to see holiday decorations as only Nantucket can provide.
The island is 14 miles long, east to west, and four miles wide from north to south.
It’s about half the size of Martha’s Vineyard with an exponentially smaller population, even during the high tourist season in the summer.
You can take a ferry ride to and from the Vineyard in the summer.
If you arrive by ferry, you’ll be dropped off in the heart of the island.
Taxi stands will line the way before you get to the historic downtown, complete with weathered buildings and cobblestone streets.
All the shops, restaurants, and businesses will be open in the summer, but a lot of places will close down or have very limited hours in the off-season, which begins around October.
Be sure to stop by the Whaling Museum to learn about the industry that once catapulted this island to international fame.
Candle-making was also a booming industry, so there’s a whole exhibit to learn about that.
You can also learn about the Tragedy of the Essex when an aggravated sperm whale sank the boat in 1820.
To learn more about shipwrecks, visit the Nantucket Shipwreck and Life Saving Museum, which is open seasonally.
The museum shows the pre-Coast Guard life of rescuers who lived by the motto, “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.”
The Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum pays tribute to the art and skill of a wooden-woven basket made famous by lonely lightship men who created these mementos for loved ones, but the baskets were also used practically as a carrying bag.
Head to the island’s east end for the small fishing village of Sconset (aka Siasonset Village) and the famous Bluff Walk that takes you along the shoreline, behind private houses, and atop the bluffs.
It’s a two-mile walk.
A wonderful note on this is that the person who created the Bluff Walk intended for it always to be a public spot, realizing at some point, private homes could seclude this area.
Sconset Beach sits below the bluffs.
Sankaty Head Lighthouse is in Sconset and is only sporadically open to the public so check before you go.
The Great Point Lighthouse is at the northernmost tip of the island.
Tours are available through a group called The Trustees.
Otherwise, you’ll face a six-mile walk on the sand or a beach ride in a vehicle to get there and not be able to get the full tour.
The Brant Point Lighthouse is close to downtown and easily accessible for viewing, but tours inside are unavailable.
Places to Avoid in Nantucket
You won’t find a dangerous part of Nantucket, from downtown to the far edges of the island.
Your biggest concern might be accidentally or carelessly going on private property and being asked to leave.
While you can drive on many of the beaches here, very strict rules must be followed for your safety, the safety of others, and the protection of the sand dunes.
You’ll need a four-wheel drive vehicle to navigate the sand, and you’ll have to let some air out of your tires.
The government also requires a certain list of safety items to take with you.
One thing to avoid on a trip to Nantucket is rushing it.
It is hard to see everything in one day, especially with long ferry lines and wait times.
You can enjoy the downtown area in one day, but you won’t get to the Bluff Walk and the lighthouses in one day, or you’ll limit how much you can enjoy it.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Nantucket
- You can explore a community crime map to see the most recent crimes in Nantucket. It’s a little tricky to find, but if you go to the Nantucket Police Department website and click on Citizens Services, you’ll find the map option.
- Nantucket Town & County officers an e-News publication every month. This is a great way to learn about what’s happening in the community, especially during the off-season.
- If you plan to bring a car on the ferry, you should plan months in advance. You can’t use the high-speed ferry to transport a car, and reservations for car ferries fill up quickly. You can also rent a car on the island, but it might cost more – however, consider the costs of the ferry transport, which can easily be $300 or more.
- Nantucket Alerts offer emergency notifications to your mobile device or email, so you can get information about developing weather, safety risks, or other civil concerns. Dozens of Alert Me options are on the city’s website too, so you can pick and choose which information you want.
- In late 2022, the Gender Equality on Beaches bill went into effect. This means that anyone can go topless on any beach in Nantucket. While the controversial issue could always be repealed or restricted, you should be prepared to see topless men and women on any beach.
- A Nantucket Beach Map is available on the Town & County website. Please review all the rules, and you’ll be required to keep a copy of the map in your vehicle at all times when you get the beach permit.
- Check the hours of restaurants far in advance to see what days of the week they close. While some travelers will save money by visiting mid-week, many restaurants close down mid-week to replenish and rest for the busy weekends.
- Aside from one beach club, Nantucket’s beaches are open to the public, which is much different than in some Cape Cod communities or on Martha’s Vineyard. The beaches on the north side of the island face less volatile waters, aside from Brant Point. Southern beaches have better surfing, stronger currents/rip tides, and more beach erosion.
- If you are ever on a beach and see seals, don’t go near them. Sharks feed on seals, and you could be walking or swimming into a dangerous situation. Use the Sharktivity app to see reports of recent shark sightings on Nantucket or any other Cape Cod community. Ask lifeguards about shark sightings before you get in the water, and follow all beach warning signs.
- The Town & County website has a visitor’s section that lists all the restaurants open in a given week, the hours, and the availability of to-go food. You should trust this as the most reliable information as it’s updated weekly, and individual restaurant sites might not be.
So... How Safe Is Nantucket Really?
Nantucket is a very safe community.
You can use that crime map to review recent crimes before your visit to confirm there isn’t a surge in crime.
Since Nantucket brings in the elite and affluent crowds, a criminal is likelier to stand out in that crowd.
People here also are very involved with reporting anything suspicious.
The weather can be risky, but if you review the emergency management plan and the risks, you’ll be able to better navigate during your trip.
Fog can limit visibility, but the dense fog could be thick on one side of the island while the other end is clear.
If a hurricane or tropical storm is approaching, get off the island.
About 10,000 people reside here year-round, and that population goes to 50,000 during the summer (which is also hurricane season).
Waiting to evacuate could cause long lines or leave you stranded on the island without power or clean water in the aftermath of a storm.
The rich people who visit Nantucket can also create an elitist vibe and make common travelers feel like they’re being judged.
Martha’s Vineyard might be a better option if you’re looking for a more flip-flop and casual sundress community.
However, you’ll get fewer crowds and more beach space on Nantucket.
How Does Nantucket Compare?
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You'll need a U.S. Visa or Visa Waiver to enter the United States, but most likely, you'll go through Customs and Border Patrol on the mainland, not in Nantucket. Have your passport with you at all times, but using the ferry to get to the island doesn't require extra screening for international visitors.
The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted here, as it's still part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This is an upscale community with inflated prices for just about everything, so let your credit card company know about the increased charges you'll make. You don't need to carry cash around, but if you prefer to, exchange currency on the mainland or in your home country before departing.
Nantucket will require a jacket, sweater, or sweatshirt any time of the year. Even warm summer days lead to cold nights. If you want to fit in with the locals, dress in styles like J. Crew, Lilly Pulitzer, or Vineyard Vines. While the cobblestone streets aren't ideal for wearing heels or wedges, you'll see plenty of people wearing them as style comes before comfort when it's time for a night on the town. With the number of foggy days here, bring a waterproof jacket and anti-humidity products for long hair.
Six commercial airlines have routes to the Nantucket Airport. You can reach major cities like Boston, New York, Washington, or Providence. If you choose to fly out of Boston or Providence, you'll lose several hours on the ferry ride back to the mainland, getting your car situated, and driving 90 minutes to either airport.
Travel insurance is a wise investment for Nantucket since there are several pressure points - the ferry, the weather, and the mainland traffic - that can lead to delays or cancelations. Some hotels on Nantucket offer individual travel insurance in case of an unexpected cancelation or delay.
Nantucket Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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Massachusetts - Safety by City