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Can You Drive to Nantucket Island?

Nantucket is located 30 miles off the South Coast of Cape Cod and is 14 miles long and three and a half miles wide.

It’s a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life, with much to do and explore, so it makes sense to question whether taking your car to tour the island is a viable option.

Nantucket, Massachusetts

You can’t drive non-stop to Nantucket island, as it’s surrounded by water, without any land connections, but you can take your car there via a car ferry, departing from Hyannis, MA, and crossing over to Nantucket terminal. Once on the island, there are road systems running throughout, but parking can be limited during the Summer months. It’s also possible to rent a car or bike to explore. 

Taking a car ferry to Nantucket

The Steamship Authority ferry company operates a year-round service that accommodates car boarding of 52 vehicles departing from Hyannis, MA, and crossing over to the Nantucket terminal building.

Nantucket is located 26 miles from Cape Cod’s mainland port of Hyannis, and the ferry journey time is 2 hours and 15 minutes. 

If you’re choosing to leave your car at either of the ferry ports, then parking is available on either side. So you can either leave your car before boarding a passenger-only ferry over to the island, or park when you arrive on the island and freely walk around, rent a vehicle, and so on.  

Additional Info:

  • You’ll need to use an elevator that transports passengers between the vehicle deck and the passenger deck, so be sure to arrive at the ferry terminal 30 minutes before the departure time.
  • It’s essential to reserve your car ferry spot in advance.
  • Expect to pay a minimum of $400 for a round trip for regular-sized vehicles and $450 for larger vehicles.

Distance to Hyannis terminal from mainland locations

Below is the distance from surrounding mainland locations to the Hyannis terminal. You’ll need to add boarding time and ferry travel time to your overall journey time. 

  • Providence, Rhode Island – 1 hour 21 minutes (80.6 miles)
  • Boston, Massachusetts – 1 hour 18 minutes (71.3 miles)
  • Worcester, Massachusetts – 1 hour 18 min (71.3 miles)
  • Springfield, Massachusetts – 2 hours 34 minutes (151 miles)
  • Hartford, Connecticut – 2 hours 44 minutes (165 miles)
  • New Haven, Connecticut – 2 hours 57 minutes (177 miles)

Is it worth driving to Nantucket Island?

Whether or not it’s worth driving to Nantucket Island is dependent on what you are planning on doing once you arrive. 

Visitors at Nantucket Cranberry Festival

On the one hand, due to the island’s smaller size, limited parking (especially during the Summer), and the expense of taking your car there on the ferry, it’s feasible to question if taking your car there is a good option.

Once you’re on the island, you’ll offload in the center of the main town, making lots of attractions easy to access, including restaurants, gift shops, museums, and other amenities on offer. So if you are only planning to stay around this area, taking your car serves little purpose. 

On the other hand, Nantucket is 14 miles long, and if you’re planning to explore the island’s attractions further afield, such as beaches, different landscapes, and scenic spots, then driving is a viable option, especially if you’re with the family, as you can keep everyone and their belongings in one place.  

Methods of transport on the island

Aside from driving your car, there are other transport methods available to maneuver around the island, such as riding a bike, taking a shuttle bus, or using an uber car. Biking is a popular option, as Nantucket is quite flat, so you won’t be exhausted while exploring the island, and you’ll easily be able to access beaches and restaurants.

There’s also a public transit shuttle that departs from downtown Nantucket and operates through many routes throughout the island, including the far-out areas.

Additionally, there are driving tours available, so if you want to sit back, relax and let someone guide you, you can safely leave your car at the ferry dock and let someone else take the wheel around the island! 

Nantucket car rentals 

For rental vehicles on the island of Nantucket, a top-rated option is Nantucket Windmill Auto Rental.

They offer a wide selection of vehicles, and you’ll find car rental services available at the Nantucket Memorial Airport terminal. Reservations are recommended, although you can generally rent on the day you arrive. 

Prices for vehicle rentals on the island start from $69, but on average, you’re going to be spending over $100 per day to rent a car on the island.

Places to drive to on the island

Let’s take a look at some popular tourist destinations on the island. 

Cisco Brewers

The Cisco Brewers is a fan-favorite tourist spot on the island. There’s a large selection of brews, including craft beer, wine, cocktails, and spirits for you to indulge in. You can also take a brewery tour and get to see how all the delicious drinks are made!

There’s live music during the Summer months, alongside food tents and trucks, perfectly setting the atmosphere for a few cold beverages. 

​There’s a parking lot and also an overflow lot available nearby. 

Explore the beaches

If you’re traveling with the family, then there’s a children’s beach on the North Shore called Jetties Beach, which is nearby a playground and tennis courts. If you’re traveling with elders and need an easy-to-access beach, then Sconset Beach is the most easily accessible, which is situated at the easternmost point of the island.

For surfing, head to one of the North Shore beaches, such as Jetties and Steps Beach, and for colder waters, travel to South Side beaches, such as Surfside and Cisco Beach.

Parking is available at or nearby the majority of beaches on the island. 

Whaling Museum

Great for an educational experience, the Whaling Museum offers exhibits and audio tours, as well as movies and live lectures on the history of whaling, and also gives details about the stranding of a whale on a local beach, really bringing things to life!

This is an informative and interesting experience, and you’re guaranteed to leave with a greater understanding of the island’s culture and history.

Paid parking is available nearby the museum. 

Summary

Nantucket has no land connections, such as bridges, leading from the mainland to the island, but you can take your car there via car ferry, with a crossing time of 2 hours and 15 minutes. If you want to explore further than the main town, then driving can be a viable option. 

However, parking is limited (especially in the Summer), and the main form of transport on the island is via biking, with rentals readily available. When considering driving onto the island, it’s important to take a look at a map, consider your itinerary, and plan accordingly.