Even though it becomes swarmed with tens of thousands of tourists and vacationers each year and has some of the most expensive properties in the country, the island of Nantucket has vast areas of land where nature is untouched and the wildlife lives undisturbed.
In fact, thanks to the Nantucket Conservation Foundation, the Nantucket Islands Land Bank, and the multiple other foundations and conservation societies on the island, nearly half of its land, including all of its beaches, is protected from any future construction and development and is free to access by the public.
Even though it is costly and nearly impossible to buy a house in Nantucket, you can still experience that authentic feeling of living like a local by renting one of the gorgeous houses available in all island areas.
You can choose a house closest to the beaches or natural refuges and spots where you plan to spend most of your time during your trip to Nantucket.
Here are five of the best places to visit to fully grasp the stunning beauty of Nantucket’s flora and fauna.
Long Pond Trail
This peaceful spot is the perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle and the crowds which arrive in Nantucket during the peak of the summer season.
Long Pond is one of the 7 Nantucket ponds included in the list of the Massachusetts Great Ponds.
It is located in western Nantucket and has a size of 132 acres. The water is a mere 4 to 6 feet deep, making it perfect for safe kayaking and SUP paddling for kids and beginners.
The grassy loop trail, which goes around it, is a 1.25-mile walk and offers a picturesque view of the water and the wetlands and an opportunity to spot some local birds and wild animals.
It is a top preferred spot for fun dog walks and picnics with the family.
Miacomet Pond is another of the island’s six freshwater ponds included in the Massachusetts Great Ponds list.
It is more remote than many other sites and trails on this list, especially if you stay in Town.
The pond is next to Miacomet Beach, a beautiful wide and sandy beach on the island’s south coast. So, you can pick whether you want to paddle or swim in the pond’s calm and warm fresh waters or surf and enjoy some waves in the Atlantic Ocean while there.
The Pond itself is perfect for kayaking, SUP, fishing, and swimming.
Nature is absolutely stunning, and many birds have chosen to nest there because of the site’s tranquility and the fewer crowds.
Keep in mind that the beach doesn’t have facilities or lifeguards, so you should pack some snacks and drinks before heading to the beach and the beautiful pond for a quiet and serene day.
Squam Swamp Trail
This is another easy loop trail that will allow you to soak in the fantastic views of Nantucket’s perfectly preserved nature.
The walking trail is open all year round and is 1.75 miles long, so it is perfect even for people with very young kids.
An average walker will complete this loop trail in less than 50 minutes, but during the walk, you will pass by some magical swamps, bogs, vernal pools, sassafras, tupelos, beech trees, red maple tree forests, and meadows.
The path passes through some fun spots like tree stumps, roots, and boardwalks, so it will keep the kids entertained and offer an authentic wildlife adventure to the parents too.
The trail can be found at the point where Pocomo Road intersects with Wauwinet Road.
Middle Moors Trail
Middle Moors is a unique protected land and is the largest single piece of undeveloped land on the island of Nantucket. Its size is 3,220 acres, and Middle Moors has several walking trails you can explore.
The extensive conserved land consists of three main areas- Alter Rock, Serengeti, and Pout Ponds.
Alter Rock is among the highest points on the island and is 100 feet above sea level. The peak offers a unique panoramic view of Middle Moors and some of Nantucket’s most significant sites, including Great Point Light, Sankaty Head Light, Polpis Harbor, Pocomo Head, Coatue, and Siasconset.
Serengeti is the Middle Moors area named after the famous Tanzanian Serengeti Park because of its similar low-growing flora and the wooden-cut figures of wild African animals placed alongside the walking paths.
Pout Ponds are several kettle ponds in the western part of Middle Moore. The local legends from the times of the original native inhabitants of Nantucket – the Wampanoag tribe have it that the ponds were created from the footsteps of a giant who roamed the island.
Middle Moors has many different trails with varying mileage, which often intersect. You can access the area from various sides, including Milestone Road and Polpis Road.
Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge
The Coskata-Coatue is among the remotest and most beautiful wildlife reserves in Nantucket. It is located on the north coast on the territory of two peninsulas.
The refuge has a vast area of 390 acres and includes one of the most scenic barrier beaches, the brightest lighthouse in New England – Great Point Lighthouse, and incredible views of the ocean and the Nantucket Sound.
The walking trail through Coskata-Coatue is among the longest walking trails on the island and is almost 16 miles long. The path is mostly on soft sand, so you should make sure to wear appropriate shoes and bring along water and snacks.
You should be prepared for a walk of at least four hours to complete the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge trail.
If you’re not up for such a long and strenuous walk, you can reach the refuge with a beach driving permit and a suitable 4 x 4 wheel drive vehicle.
During your walk to and through this beautiful conserved property, you will be able to enjoy some stunning ocean views, spot seals and other wild animals and birds, and spend time on one of the most beautiful barrier beaches in the country, which divides the Nantucket Sound from the Atlantic Ocean, and visit one of the three historic lighthouses on the island – Great Point Light.
The Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge is also known for having the largest red cedar forest in New England and is home to some rare local shore and water birds and animals.
If you prefer to join a guided tour, you can join one and learn more about the local ecosystem and history of this unique refuge.