14 Best Nantucket Photo Spots To Check Out

Nantucket Island, also known as “The Faraway Land” in the language of the native Wampanoag tribe, is located 30 miles south off Cape Cod. The island measures 14 miles long and 3 1/2 miles wide. It is a beautiful oasis of over 40% conservation land with numerous beaches open to the public for everyone to respect and enjoy.

Nantucket is steeped in history. The island was first sighted in 1602 by an Englishman named Bartholomew Gosnold, and it was settled in 1659. Whales were discovered off shore in the late 1600s, and the island was a major whaling port in North America between 1750 and 1840.

With the decline of the whaling industry in the 1880s, Nantucket became a Mecca for the tourism industry, and it continues to attract people to its natural and timeless beauty, as well as its first-rate attractions, hotels, and restaurants.

Here are the 14 best places to photograph when visiting Nantucket:

1. Altar Rock

Altar Rock is one of the great spots on Nantucket to get away from it all and experience some amazing views. Altar Rock is located within Middle Moors which is conservation land maintained by the Nantucket Conservation Foundation. It is the largest undeveloped section of Nantucket consisting of 3,220 acres of protected space. Altar Rock is often considered the crown jewel of Middle Moors.

Altar Rock is one of the tallest places on Nantucket with an elevation of 100 feet above sea level. On a clear day, the 360-degree views from the hilltop are spectacular. Visitors can spot Polpis Harbor, Pocomo Head, Great Point Light, Sankaty Head Light, and much more.

When accessing Altar Rock via the dirt road, you will notice a strange building with a needle-like rooftop. This building is used as a navigational aid by planes who are landing at the nearby airport.

2. Brant Point Lighthouse

Brant Point Lighthouse on Nantucket was established in 1746 to help the whalers at the time navigate around Brant Point. The lighthouse has been reconstructed many times over the years and the current 26-foot tall, cylindrical, wood tower was built in 1901. This 1901 lighthouse that sits on Brant Point today is the 10th light and 7th tower.

Over the years, Brant Point Lighthouse has become a must-view spot on Nantucket Island and is one of the most famous lighthouses. An exact replica of the lighthouse was actually built for the Mystic Seaport in Connecticut in 1966 – it is called the Mystic Seaport Light.

Brant Point Lighthouse can be easily accessed via a short walk from downtown Nantucket. It is about a 10-minute walk from the ferry terminals and visitors can get up close to the lighthouse and even walk on its boardwalk. There are no parking spots. The lighthouse can also be viewed from the Nantucket ferries as they enter and leave Nantucket Harbor.

3. Cisco Beach

Cisco Beach is a popular beach located a short distance from Cisco Brewery and Bartlett’s Farm. The beautiful white sand beach is one of the wilder beaches on Nantucket with strong waves and currents. If you’re looking to photograph some surfers in action, this is a great spot! The beach also offers some of the best sunset photographing on Nantucket.

4. Galley Beach

If you’re looking to capture some beautiful summer beach scenes, you have to check out Galley Beach! Galley Beach is a private beach for private residences and the Cliffside Beach Club. The pristine white sand beach is often full of colorful umbrellas which add a nice pop of color to any photograph.

5. Great Point Lighthouse

If you’re seeking adventure and beautiful views, a trip out to Great Point Lighthouse is a must! The lighthouse is best accessed via a drive through the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, although a private boat charter may be able to take you out to the point. When driving, you need a four-wheel-drive vehicle and a Overland Vehicle (OSV) permit which can be purchased at the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge Gatehouse. The lighthouse is a 5-mile round trip.

The lighthouse itself stands 70 feet tall and was first established in 1784 to help mariners navigate the passage between Great Point on Nantucket and Monomoy Island off Cape Cod. The original wooden lighthouse was destroyed by a fire in 1816 and a stone tower took its place the following year. This stone tower stood on the site until March 1984 when a storm took it down. The current lighthouse was built in 1986 and is a replica of the prior lighthouse. Modern additions were added to the lighthouse including solar panels and a 5-foot thick foundation.

6. Jethro Coffin House (Oldest House)

The Jethro Coffin House is believed to be the oldest house on Nantucket that sits on its original site. The house is believed to have been built in 1686 as a wedding present for Mary and Jethro Coffin. It was an impressive house for its time, standing two stories tall on the south-facing front facade and featuring a long, sloping north roof known as a “catslide,” which may have been an original feature. The rooms on each floor were distinguished by massive fireplaces: the parlor on the west side, the hall, or great room, on the east, and the lean-to kitchen in the back, beneath the low-hanging roof. On the second floor, there were two chambers, or bedrooms, with an attic above.

The house has gone through many different families over the years and in 1886 it was first opened to the public for its 200th anniversary. A little over a decade later, in 1897, the home was opened as a museum for summer visitors. In 1923, the property was purchased by the Nantucket Historical Association.

All property grounds and gardens are open daily to the public during daylight hours. Tours of the estate occur on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Learn more by visiting the Nantucket Historical Association website HERE.

7. Madaket Beach

Madaket, on the island’s far west coast, has one of the most beautiful beaches. During the summer, surfers flock to Madaket Beach for big waves and secluded surfing. The beach is long and narrow, with towering dunes and stunning views of the water from private cottages. It’s especially lovely in the evenings, when locals and visitors congregate to watch the spectacular sunsets.

8. Nantucket Boat Basin / Straight Wharf

The Nantucket Boat Basin is a fantastic full-service marina in historic Nantucket Harbor. The Boat Basin is the premier luxury destination for sailors and yacht captains in the New England area. Guests can enjoy luxury amenities, pet-friendly docks, and concierge service at this full-service marina. The marina can accommodate a wide range of vessels thanks to its 240 boat slips. The Boat Basin is a short walk from the island’s many beaches, bike paths, cobblestone streets, and lighthouses, and Nantucket town is just a few steps away, teeming with award-winning restaurants, museums, charming boutiques, and galleries.

Head out on Straight Wharf in the summer to check out the superyachts that often are docked there.

9. Nantucket’s Compass Rose

For nearly 75 years, the compass rose on the side of the building (Ralph Lauren) has drawn attention to Nantucket’s place in the world. It was designed and installed on the side of H. Marshall Gardiner’s store in the early 1930s, at a time when attention was needed to bring business not only to his store but to the Island itself.

The compass rose displays mileages from around the world to connect Nantucket and its whaling history to important places and ports around the world. During the whaling era, Nantucket vessels docked in places like Tahiti, Samoa, and New Zealand. The whale oil brought back to Nantucket would go on to light the lamps of London and other major European cities. During the China trade, Nantucket vessels traveled to Hong Kong and Canton.

If you’re looking for one of the best places to photograph on Nantucket – the compass rose is a must! It is located on the corner of Main Street and Washington Street.

10. Old North Wharf

Old North Wharf is one of Nantucket’s most photographed and coveted locations. The wharf offers breathtaking harbor views and stunning homes. There are also plenty of hydrangeas and other flowers which appear in the summer and are great for photographing. Old North Wharf is the perfect place to stroll in photographs when in Downtown Nantucket.

11. Santaky Head Lighthouse

Sankaty Head Lighthouse has been standing on the shores of Nantucket for over 160 years. The lighthouse was erected in 1849 in the easternmost point of the island in the village of Siasconset. Congress funded the lighthouse because the shoals of Nantucket were a hazard for mariners.

A French Fresnel lens (now at the Nantucket Historical Association) and a single-wick whale oil lamp were used to illuminate the lighthouse at first. To tend to the light, the keeper and his assistant alternated four-hour watches around the clock. From 1850 to 1944, the lighthouse was home to the keeper and his family. In 1933, the lighthouse was electrified. The U.S. Coast Guard took over the duties of the lighthouse in 1944 and made changes to modernize the lighthouse. In 1950, the original lens was removed and a Second-order Fresnel lens was installed. The lighthouse was then automated in 1965. The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

The lighthouse was acquired by the ‘Sconset Trust in 2007. The trust advocates for the preservation of historically significant properties and land. Sankaty Head Lighthouse was getting dangerously close to the edge of the bluff in 2007 so they moved the 405-ton lighthouse. The lighthouse was moved 405 feet to the northwest of its original site. It now stands approximately 270 feet from the bluff’s edge.

There is a small parking lot close to the lighthouse which allows visitors to see the lighthouse up-close. The ‘Sconset Trust opens the lighthouse several times a year.

12. Sconset Bluff Walk

The ‘Sconset Bluff Walk is Nantucket’s most scenic path and is ideal for visiting/photographing at any time of year. It leads from the picturesque village of Siasconset to the Sankaty Head Lighthouse. This public walkway runs directly in front of some of the island’s most beautiful homes. Walkers can see lavish summer homes on one side and the bluff down to the Atlantic Ocean on the other. There are also flowers everywhere you look during the spring and summer!

The trail is extremely low-key, with few markings along the way aside from the Bluff Walk sign. Homeowners are very nice about visitors walking the path.

13. Steps Beach

Steps Beach is one of the greatest spots to photograph on Nantucket. The beach is located on the Nantucket Sound side of the island just off Cliff Road about four miles from town. There are dozens of mansions located around Steps Beach, but it is completely public – although there is no parking close to the entryway.

14. The Old Mill

The Old Mill is a historic windmill on Nantucket, Massachusetts, located at 50 Prospect Street. It is the oldest operating mill in the United States, having been built in 1746. The Nantucket Historical Association owns and operates the mill as a museum. When the mill went up for auction in 1897, the Nantucket Historical Association was able to secure it with a winning bid.

Following major overhauls in 1930, 1936, and 1983, the mill is now capable of grinding corn in the same way it did 250 years ago. In 1992, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers designated the Old Mill as a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark. Don’t miss out on this great Nantucket photo location!

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