If you are a year-rounder on Nantucket, you can count on many fingers and toes the number of times you have been asked, “What are the winters like on island?” And it is a very valid question indeed. Vacationing on Nantucket in the summer is deemed the quintessential seaside experience by travelers all around the world. Come July and August, Nantucket has fully bloomed and is bustling and buzzing with vacationers and day-trippers aplenty. But what many are curious to know is what island life is like the other 10 months of the year.
During Thanksgiving and Christmas, many people return to enjoy the holidays Nantucket-style. But after the New Year’s Eve streamers and confetti are cleared away, Nantucket hunkers and battens down the hatches. The overall pace of life drastically slows down. The majority of stores and restaurants close for the season, or go by their altered “winter hours.” You can go out to dinner on a whim without a reservation. You see the same familiar faces every day in the grocery produce aisle at 5 p.m., and cars frequently stop in the middle of the street to exchange a few friendly words and hellos out of their windows. There are even the times when you drive all the way from Polpis to town without passing one other single car. We get a lot of wind. We get a lot of grey days with heavy fog and ashen skies (she is called “The Grey Lady” after all).
By no means does Nantucket lack character during the winter months. She is fierce, lively, and beautiful in her own unique way. A common misconception is that the winter on island is desolate, lonely and depressing. In reality, there is plenty to do on Nantucket 365 days a year, as long as you keep your eyes open to it. There are community events, arts & crafts groups, cooking classes, lectures, plays, concerts and beyond. And if all else fails, a good book and a blazing fireplace goes a long way. Above all, no matter the season, there is Mother Nature. There are countless paths to walk, beaches to wander, bike rides to be had. There is something profound about standing on an empty beach, feeling the raw chill on your cheeks, while looking out upon the sprawling vast sea. There is something mystical about walking around town at night, where the laughter and chatter hung in the air and the summer crowds strolled just months before. There is time to reflect, and time for deep thought. So while the winter days may be cold 30 miles out to sea, the solitude is what rejuvenates and recharges us for the upcoming season. With each blowing of the ferry horn, each squawk of the seagull, and each lengthening of day, life moves on, bringing us closer to the warm days of summer once more.