Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

WHALE OF A PAST IN NANUCKET

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By Pat Neisser, Mature Life Features

NANTUCKET, Mass. —- Time on this island is warped back to the 17th century whaling era.

This outcropping 30 miles off Cape Cod has gray- and white-shingled homes dating back more than a couple of hundred years, charming historic villages, ancient lighthouses, and miles of bike paths all wrapped up in pristine beaches.

Its popularity is such that traffic is at a standstill during July and August. Installing even one stop light drew the residents’ wrath, as did the idea of speed bumps. And limiting cars was a no-no to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

The time to come here is spring or fall. The very lowest rates are found during the “quiet season,” January through March, but many businesses are closed then. Spring, before tourists swarm over this 14-by-3 1/2-mile island, and fall, after they leave, offer stunning blue skies and cool crisp days on uncrowded cobblestone streets. Spring blooms into a bounty of colors. Fall’s crimson-colored leaves create a luxurious landscape. In either season, the island’s mood is relaxed. You’ll meet local residents and get to know the real Nantucket. Visitors are likely to include bird watchers as well as fishermen after striped bass and bluefish.

If feasible, leave your car on the mainland and take a flight or ferry here. Driving on the island is a nuisance. Shuttles, buses, and bikes do the job, and, mostly, you can walk. You can stroll through Nantucket Town where all the action is. Shops and restaurants dot the streets. Island specialities include scrimshaw (carved ivory), and gold and silver pendants called “Sailor’s Valentines” that once were made out of shells. Grass baskets and colorful sportswear are popular. During the cooler months, cable-knit sweaters and warm jackets are the norm.

Dining on the island is a particular pleasure. Among local specialties is the lobster-roll salad, famous along on the East Coast, as well as steaks and shellfish.

Whether you explore by yourself or take a tour, you’ll pass by cranberry bogs, through villages such as Siasconset (“Sconset” to the locals) clustered around the small bays, and fishermen plying the waters. There are some 800 restored homes and businesses built between 1690 and 1840 along with working lighthouses and historic museums.

The Nantucket Historical Association operates a series of museums and historic properties. Among them is  the Whaling Museum, where you can learn the origin of the Nantucket Sleigh Ride.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2003

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Written by Cecil Scaglione

March 10, 2012 at 12:05 am

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