Nantucket Online

About Nantucket

Town, Madaket & Sconset

by Kimberly Nolan


The town center of Nantucket is more than a loading dock for ferry passengers. It is more than a host of eclectic restaurants. Beyond the boat slips and bars, there is a town that hearkens to the past. The cobblestones allow for a slow drive up Main Street. The pharmacy still sells sandwiches and ice cream, as it always did. Shop windows display antiques restored by hand. Inside studios, artisans toil on scrimshaw and baskets. There is still a need for historic homes to be maintained with authentic plaster bound by actual horsehair. Each season is infused with community events. Spring is synonymous with the Daffodil parade, where friends surround unique cars with celebratory picnics. Families sit shoulder to shoulder on beaches, to watch July 4th fireworks. At Halloween, kids are disguised as ghouls, witches, and characters, as they parade through town in search of candy. Some of those same kids make ornaments of colored paper and aluminum foil that hang from Christmas trees on Main Street through December. When the island sleeps, one dim light shines inside the museum. Behind those doors hangs the skeleton of a whale, a silent reminder of how Nantucket came to be.


East coast residents are accustomed to watching the sun rise over the ocean. However, there seems to be a lasting novelty about watching the sunset from a Nantucket beach. Those seeking a social sunset, complete with a margarita, head to Millie’s. While Smith’s Point offers a quieter option. From the shores of Madaket, floating scallop baskets are seen atop the water. Recreational scallop licenses lure men and women to don waders and merge their push rakes into the sea. On island, those scallops are the taste of a winter night, shared with neighbors at dinner tables. Commercially harvested scallops are sold on and off island, to restaurants and fish markets. The flavor of a Nantucket Bay scallop is sweetly unique, making them a commodity. Seemingly abundant, they are a delicate species, threatened by the dwindling eel grass habitat. Excessive amounts of nitrogen are proven to harm eel grass. Homeowners can promote the vitality of Nantucket Bay scallops by limiting the lawn and garden fertilizers. Eating a raw, sweet scallop on the Madaket shore, watching the sun set, is one of the rewards for being a steward of the earth.


’Sconset is a tree-lined hamlet located at the easternmost point of the island. Its quaintness is bedecked with a general store and locally-made items, ranging from salty to sweet. A short distance from the store stands a small sign that reads “public way.” The footpath is better known as the ’Sconset Bluff Walk. It meanders along the edge of private properties. The path is reminiscent of a private garden tour. Hydrangeas, and hollyhocks color the land, while lilacs and roses scent the air. Opposite the perennials, annuals, and picturesque homes, stretches the Atlantic Ocean — outward from the bluff walk, onward to the horizon. The serenity of ’Sconset is interrupted each April when the Daffodil Parade enlivens the streets. The parade is a spirited display of showy cars, each decorated in theme, flowers, and passengers. The streets are festooned with the color yellow. It is a celebration of the season ahead and a grateful farewell to winter. The parade starts in town and ends in ’Sconset, where it morphs into a tailgate picnic, with elaborate fare and libations. The party would impress Gatsby himself.

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