A half-dozen years after Richard Nixon resigned, he arrived in Nantucket’s harbor on a yacht. A tourist was standing alone at a pay phone by the dock talking to his wife. “President Nixon’s here,” he said. She didn’t believe him. So he asked the former president to say hello. Nixon asked for her name and got on the phone.
“Hello, Betty,” he said. “Who’s this woman your husband is with?”
Tricky Dick screwed him. And the same thing happened when I asked my islander friends to list their secret go-to places. They’d almost rather surrender their firstborn.
Nantucket is in a class by itself. It’s 30 miles out to sea, with no traffic lights and no Mickey D’s. One-third of the island is conservation land. The other two-thirds is expensive.
Here are some tips that will help you have fun and not break the bank.
Beach plus . . .
■ Exercise and a picnic: Rent bikes and pedal to Something Natural, 50 Cliff Road (508-228-5034, somethingnatural.com), on the fringe of town. The oversized sandwiches (a half is plenty) are homemade and delicious — try smoked turkey and Swiss with tomato and avocado or avocado with cheddar and chutney, all on homemade Portuguese bread. Also grab an iced Matt Fee Tea, named after a creative employee, and a fresh-baked cookie. Then pedal 5 minutes and enjoy the calm waters of Jetties Beach, on Bathing Beach Road. Tip: Plan your trip around low tide. The quarter-mile-long sandbar that surfaces then makes you believe you can walk on water.
■ Grub: To reach Surfside Beach, a.k.a. Fisherman’s Beach, follow the Surfside bike trail to the end. The burgers at the Surfside Beach Shack, 160 Surfside Road (774-333-3833, surfsidebeachshack.com), are yummy, especially with a homemade lemonade. After lunch, instead of parking in the main lot, backtrack and make your first right onto Nonantum Road to access an unmarked dirt parking lot on the right. It’s where many islanders go for an after-work dip.
■ Tasty waves: Cisco Beach, at the end of Hummock Pond Road (508-228-7261, nantucket-ma.gov), offers nice-sized rolling waves and a Malibu vibe. On the way, stop at 167 Raw, 167 Hummock Pond Road (508-228-2871, 167raw.com) for takeout — guacamole and chips, bluefish pate, or Key lime pie.
Splurge for the 2½-hour charter boat trip aboard the 34-foot Just Do It Too, Slip 1013, Straight Wharf (508-228-7448, justdoittoo.com). It’s $110 per person, but Captain Marc Genthner is a human fish finder. He guarantees you will catch something. Usually you’ll wind up near Great Point with a boatload of fighting bluefish, bass, or bottom fish. Once we requested striped bass, and the captain used an umbrella rig. We trolled by John Kerry’s Brant Point house, and my son landed a 38-inch beauty.
Forget Main Street, where you might see the likes of Kourtney Kardashian window-shopping or Drew Barrymore schlepping her kids. Head to the Maria Mitchell Association’s Loines Observatory, 59 Milk Street (508-257-1117, mariamitchell.org), for open nights on Monday and Wednesday at 9, weather permitting. For $10 per person, get up close and personal with the rings of Saturn through the super-duper telescope; you can also take in the Ring Nebula — the remnants of a dying star — and assorted other heavenly bodies.
Hit the links
The Siasconset Golf Course, 260 Milestone Road (508-257-6596, miacometgolf.com), is a relative bargain. Known locally as Skinner’s, it charges $65 for 18 holes, $40 for nine. A seasonal membership ($750) includes unlimited play till Columbus Day weekend. You can pretend you’re playing at the state-of-the-art Nantucket Golf Club, just a short chip away, where membership runs several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Watch human beings act like sea gulls as one person’s trash becomes another’s treasure at the town dump, 188 Madaket Road (508-228-7244, nantucket-ma.gov/237/Public-Works). Also known as the “Madaket Mall,” it has “take it or leave it” hours Thursday through Monday — but don’t go on weekends. Free.
Raise a glass
A distillery, winery, and brewery, Cisco Brewers, 5 Bartlett Farm Road (508-325-5929, ciscobrewers.com), is a fine place to have a craft beer or specialty cocktail and listen to island musicians. Arrive early to beat the largest crowds. Tip: A free shuttle runs from town.
Dinner and a show
For a memorable end-of-day view, follow Madaket Road west to Madaket Beach and watch the sun get swallowed by the Atlantic Ocean. Then walk to Millie’s, 326 Madaket Road (508-228-8435, milliesnantucket.com), for dinner. The Hither Creek is grilled striped bass in corn tortillas with tomato and sweet corn salad, guacamole, and lime sour cream — perfect with an ice-cold Madaket Mystery served in a 16-ounce Mason jar. (The contents of the latter are a closely guarded secret.) Tip: If you didn’t book a table, give the staff your cell number before you watch the sunset and get a call when your table is ready.
Out on the town
A classy option for drinks and live music is the piano bar at the Summer House Restaurant, 17 Ocean Avenue, Siasconset (508-257-4577, thesummerhouse.com). The Piano Man himself has tickled the ivories in the beautifully decorated room, and you could even run into a certain GOAT football coach, whose summer home is within walking distance. A divey alternative is the Chicken Box, 12 Dave Street (508-228-9717, thechickenbox.com), where a younger, partying crowd mixes with the islanders. Favorite memory: At closing time, the place was still charging the $10 cover. Why? Jimmy Buffett had taken over the stage and was singing “Brown Eyed Girl.”
Dine and Dash
OpenTable handles reservations for about 10 island restaurants. To get around, an insider recommends meeting a native by calling a local cab company rather than using a ride-hailing app. Try Clyde’s Cab (508-332-6200) or Chief’s Cab (508-284-8497), run by a retired fire chief.