Nantucket is a town steeped deeply, and proudly, in its past. The island, nearly 42 kilometres off Cape Cod, was discovered by English explorers more than 400 years ago, and its rich history – as a prominent whaling port, and later an exclusive summer colony for the wealthy – can be felt at every turn as visitors wind their way through the town’s cobblestone streets.
But in recent years, a crop of newer businesses – boutique hotels and restaurants skewed toward a younger, hipper set – are looking to update the island’s preppy, if somewhat fusty, image. Among these is 21 Broad, a boutique inn that blends fresh, modern style with the island’s historic sensibilities.
The most common way to travel to the island is by ferry, and 21 Broad is ideally located just blocks from the ferry terminal. It’s also right in the middle of the island’s biggest (and really, only) town. This means many restaurants and shops are just steps away. The island’s most popular attraction, the Whaling Museum, is just a few doors down.
Travelling to Nantucket with a car can be tricky – ferry reservations with vehicles have to be planned months in advance, and are costly. So a car or bike rental is highly recommended in order to explore the entire island, including its many stunning beaches. Conveniently, the island’s main car and bike-rental shops are just around the corner from the hotel.
The owner of 21 Broad, Lark Hotels, purchased the historic Nesbitt Inn – a property dating to 1872 – and overhauled the building. The Victorian façade was preserved while the interiors were decorated in crisp whites and pops of citrus yellow and sea greens. The owner also added an addition to the original structure, bumping up the inn’s room count to 27, and allowing for a giant patio out back, complete with a sleek, glass-encased fire pit.
We loved sitting by the fire pit at night – a rare peaceful outdoor space in the middle of the otherwise bustling town centre. After standing 20 minutes in a lineup one night for homemade ice cream at the Juice Bar (a Nantucket tradition), the hotel’s patio was the perfect, quiet place to enjoy it.
Whom you’ll meet
The hotel’s decor (and vinyl turntable in the lobby) screams young and hip, but it’s still Nantucket, so expect a moneyed, preppy crowd. On a recent August afternoon, an Ivy League twentysomething in tortoiseshell glasses and salmon shorts bobbed his head in the lobby to the Fleet Foxes. Across from him sat a middle-aged couple in matching Vineyard Vines polos, the husband talking shop on his cellphone while his wife picked at her nails.
If I could change one thing
The rooms tend to be small (think New York). One morning, a guest – a woman in preppy stripes and crisp white pants – was overheard complaining about this to the front desk. Some of the design features in the rooms do not help matters; while beautiful to look at, they can be impractical. Take, for example, the oversized vessel sinks in the bathroom: They are impressive, but leave little to no space for toiletries.
Eat in or eat out?
The hotel does not have its own restaurant, although a breakfast is served each morning in the lobby. The menu included zucchini lemon bread, olive oil and sage muffins, and fresh fruit. The hotel also bakes its own cookies, which are available in the lobby throughout the day.
If you want the ultimate Nantucket experience, walk around the corner to the shuttle that takes visitors to one of the island’s best spots: the Cisco Brewery. There, you can indulge in wine and beer-tasting, and listen to live music while sampling from the many food trucks that gather in the area.
21 Broad Hotel, 21 Broad St, Nantucket, Mass., 21broadhotel.com. Rooms from $459 (U.S.) in summer months and $129 off-season.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.