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Ferries run to Nantucket from several points, but we recommend Hyannis Port. Since we'll be getting off the return ferry around noon, we want to be as close to Cape Cod as possible. Furthermore, we need to arrive on the island in time to find our lodging and explore the town, which requires a morning ferry. That means staying as close to the docks as possible, and in Hyannisport the Hyannis Harbor Motel, as you can see in the photo at right, is adjacent to the docks and reasonably priced.

There are several ferries running out to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. They depart from a series of docks, beginning right in front of the Hyannis Harbor Motel and extending along an L shaped waterfront. You can see one of the ferries docked at right.

If you arrive at Hyannis Harbor in the afternoon, move into your room, and have some time before dinner, you might check out the Kennedy Compound. It lies about two miles out the road to the South, right on the waterfront. You won't get too close to the house, but you can get close enough to get a good picture. You'll see it again in the morning as the ferry goes past it on the way out of the harbor.

There is a beautiful outdoor pool at the Hyannis Harbor, with a children's pool you can see at the right. There is also an indoor pool. Both are heated.

Those flags you see flying mark a restaurant with sides open to the pool on one side and the harbor on the other. It's a scenic place to eat and the seafood is ok, but the menu is limited and mostly fried. If you arrive early and have time, there is an Amphibious Duck Tour (508-790-2111), Trolley Tour (508-771-8687), Cape Cod Dinner Train (888-797-7245), and the Kennedy Museum. Do not take any of the harbor or bay cruises, because you'll see the same water from the ferry.

For the evening meal, we highly recommend Tugboats. This restaurant is right on the water, built in a former sailmaking workshop. There are two levels, but the owners take special pride in their outdoor eating, having installed heated canopy decks for this purpose. Tugboats offers a classic Cape Cod menu of Chatham Scrod, Scallops, Crab Cakes, Atlantic Salmon and Snapper. Hyannis itself does not maintain a fishing fleet, but the next town up, Chatham, has been making a living from the fishing industry since the 1600s, and is famous for its Scrod. Tugboats gets its fish from there. Kids have their own menu, featuring macaroni and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches.. Tugboats is rather well known for its Key Lime, Boston Cream and Mud Pies. But the restaurant's real specialty is the Seafood Pasta Salad, which includes lobster, scallops and shrimp tossed in a tomato vinagrette with herbs, spinach, broccoli, parmesan and penne. From the Hyannis Harbor Hotel, Tugboats is directly across the water on Arlington Street, so it's a pleasant walk around around to the left. 508-775-6433. www.Tugboatscapecod.com.
We recommend booking passage outward on The Steamship Authority. These are big, comfortable ferries with indoor and outdoor seating. You will not be taking your vehicle. There is no parking on Nantucket, streets are narrow, the fare is too much, and you don't need it anyway. Carry large daypacks with enough clothing and personal items for three days. Buy one way tickets, as we recommend coming back on a different ship. Your fares should cost $30 each. You will arrive on Nantucket at about 11:30. There are ferries departing later, but you want to get to the island with half the day remaining. Your ferry will depart at 9:15. You should arrive at the ticket office by 8:45. You can drive the two blocks around the "L" from the motel and park your vehicle in a guarded lot. They do take credit cards when you check your car out three days later.The ferry ride is very photogenic so keep your cameras handy. You'll see lots of fish, birds and other marine organisms. Steamship Authority's number is 1-508-771-4000. We urge advance reservations.
Your trip out is on a traditional ferry. For the return on the third day, we recommend something different : a catamaran "jetboat," which is not exactly a jet but will seem close to it when you lift up out of the water and rocket forward. Seating here is airline style, front facing with seatbelts. Your fare on one of the jet boats is $64, double the traditional ferries, but it takes 75 minutes less. We recommend HyLine Cruises, which pulls into the dock right in front of the Hyannis Harbor Motel. You can then walk a block and a half to your vehicle. However, the Steamship Authority also runs a jetboat, the Flying Cloud, if you want to disembark right in front of your vehicle. Theirs is not so sleek a craft, but also makes the trip in 60 minutes. Again, you should make reservations ahead of time, then report 45 minutes early. The HyLine Cruise number is 1-800-492-8082.

Nantucket has gone to great lengths to preserve its image as a sort of 19th Century whaling village / upscale resort. Modern is not chic here. Walking and bicycling are the accepted modes of getting around the winding, narrow, cobblestone streets. Very few tourists arrive in vehicles.

You have to have advance reservations for lodging, and one of the amenities many of the bed and breakfasts offer is a shuttle at the ferry. Drivers will be holding up signs identifying which house they represent. Some of the rides are classic woodies from the 40s and 50s. (Since the town is small and the season short, vehicles put on few miles here so last practically forever.)

However, charming as the fleet of woodies is, walking the few blocks to your lodging up tree shaded streets past 1800s homes and shops is our preferred introduction to the island. Or you can rent your bike right there at the dock and pedal to your B & B.

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