Nantucket on the cheap
Though Nantucket has always attracted trust-fund kids and the low-key Volvo set, you don't have to pay a fortune to spend a holiday there. Now is an ideal time to visit the breezy and bucolic New England island: The town's charming hotels and salt-licked restaurants are deeply discounted and often crowd-free, and the island's festivals draw out quirky locals who might get lost in the shuffle during the high summer season, when celebrities descend on the Manhattan-sized island en masse.
But unlike the Hamptons, going local in Nantucket means acting like a penny-pinching Yankee and eschewing expensive dinners and flashy yachts for humble lodgings, self-catered picnics and thrift-store hunts. Going Yankee in Nantucket is a lesson in understatement, but a rewarding experience. Below are a dozen ways to save money in Nantucket.
1. JetBlue began seasonal service from JFK to Nantucket in 2007. Round-trip flights cost an average of $300-$400, but they go on sale frequently on weekdays for as low as $69 each way. Check Airfarewatchdog.com and Kayak.com for details. Note: A new JetBlue route from JFK to Martha's Vineyard kicks off on Memorial Day weekend and runs through Labor Day and is likely to offer some sales. (jetblue.com)
2. Plunk down 10 bucks for the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce's Spring Saver Card, which gives you 10 percent to 25 percent off a variety of products and services from more than 30 island businesses from April 1 to June 15. There are essentials such as 15 percent off at Dan's Pharmacy and 10 percent off at Cowboy's Meat Market and Deli, plus splurges such as a 90-minute sail aboard the Endeavor (10 percent off). The Spring Saver can be purchased online (where participating businesses are listed) or picked up at the chamber's office at Zero Main St. (nantucketchamber.org)
3. Admire the hydrangeas, marble fireplace and comfy poster beds at the handsome and cozy Jared Coffin House, a Federalist-era brick inn built in 1845 with rates that start at $125 a night through June, and $230 a night in July. The historic property is walking distance from the ferry and a quick cab ride from the airport. The new restaurant, Brick Bistro, features comfort food with a twist, such as smoked tomato soup, duck confit tacquitos and zucchini blossoms stuffed with lobster and saffron butter. (29 Broad St., 508-228-2400, jaredcoffin house.com, brickbistro.com)
4. Picnicking in Nantucket is an art form and an excellent way to save a bundle of money on eating out. The sunny Cottages & Lofts at the Boat Basin have full kitchens and harbor views, and they are within walking distance of the Grand Union grocery store, which can also be reached by the property's complimentary bikes (available on a first-come, first-served basis). Rates start at $185 in May, $235 in June. (1 Old South Wharf, 508-325-1499, thecottagesnantucket.com)
5. Order the secret off-menu burger (only 20 available a night) at American Seasons, founded in 1988 and serving regional Nantucket fare such as octopus terrine and tobacco-rubbed duck breast. Or grab a seat at the bar and sample from the "small bites" menu ($6 apiece) with items such as Dungeness crab chowder with smoked potato, bacon and peas, or day boat scallops and corned beef hash. (80 Center St., 508-228-7111, americanseasons.com)
6. The Take It or Leave It (TILI) pile at the Nantucket dump is an eco-friendly lesson in Yankee ingenuity and a treasure trove of first editions, vintage furniture, Lilly Kid's clothing and various one-offs including a whole lot of last season's hand-me-downs from the island's affluent families. The drop-exchange site is free and open to all, and monitored closely to avoid improper disposal. If material is not picked up, it's sent to its proper venue for disposal and/or recycling. All clothing is removed at the end of every day and sent to a charitable organization. (16 Broad St., nantucket-ma.gov/Pages/Nan tucketMA_DPW/faq)
7. There's no shortage of charming and expensive antique shops in Nantucket, but you'll also find some great gems hidden at the Nantucket's Hospital Thrift Shop, full of clothing, housewares, furniture, books and more. All proceeds benefit the Nantucket Hospital. (17 India St., 508-228-1125; nantuckethospital.org/ThriftShop/ThriftShop.html)
8. Enjoy a concert under the stars on Children's Beach, right on the harbor, where the Park & Recreation Committee offers a series of concerts on Thursday and Sunday nights in July and August and hosts a free ''Friday Night Flicks,'' which shows G-rated movies outdoors every week. (2 Bathing Beach Rd., 508-228-7213, nantucket-ma.gov)
9. Rent a Cannondale or Trek bike at Young's Bicycle Shop, which has been run by the same family for 80 years and remains the go-to source for bikes, maps and repairs on the island. Bikes cost $20 for a half-day (up to four hours) but are only $25 for the full day (until sunset) and include a bell, a helmet, a lock and a rear cargo rack with a bungee cord. Some models are even equipped with a basket. Get a flat? Don't worry, Young's provides islandwide repair service. If you already have a bike, Young's also sells wicker baskets, a Nantucket must, and rents cars and jeeps. (6 Broad St., 508- 228-1151, youngsbicycleshop.com)
10. Start your weekend evening off with small-batch chardonnays or single-estate Pinots at currentVintage, which offers complimentary wine tastings every Friday from mid-April through October and is a sponsor of the Nantucket Wine Festival (starting Wednesday). This Friday, for example, there's a salami tasting with Cesare Casella of Salumeria Rosi in New York and Lia Tolaini-Banville of Tolaini Estate. (4 Easy St., 508-228-5073, currentvintage.com)
11. No trip to Nantucket is complete without a jaunt on the water, but you don't need a yacht to experience the sea and fresh salt air. Hop aboard Freedom Cruise Line's 80-minute ferry-ride ($79 round-trip) to Harwich Port, on Cape Cod, with great discounts available online (508-432-8999, nantucketislandferry.com). And the Hy-Line Ferry offers free travel for children 12 and younger on traditional ferries to and from Hyannis. (adults $45 round-trip, hylinecruises.com)
12. The best view of Nantucket is not from some cloistered private estate but rather from the First Congregational Church Tower, which visitors are invited to climb for a $5 donation. Get a bird's-eye view of Nantucket harbor from the 120-foot-high white bell tower. (62 Center St. 508-228-0950, nantucketfcc.org)