Thank you to Daybreak Writer and Editor, Matthew Allen, a local Nantucketer for this special piece on Nantucket’s four seasons. All photos are by Bill Hoenk.
Sign up for the Daybreak Newsletter here.
The January winter storm, which left Nantucket briefly submerged underwater, served as a stark reminder that here, the weather has a much greater impact on people’s lives than anywhere else. From the gray, desolate winter months to the dense springtime fog, from salty summer breezes to vibrant fall colors, Nantucket’s seasons and weather are truly one of a kind.
Winter is a true test of patience for every islander. It is windy and cold and never-ending. The sky and the landscape blend together and wrap the island in a blanket of sleepy gray, and everything becomes flat and muted. January and February are perhaps the hardest months of all—the days shrink, the winds are raw, and everything freezes over, even the ocean, resulting in Nantucket’s signature “slurpee waves.” The island doesn’t see much snow, but when it comes, it tends to come with a menacing ferocity. Utility poles collapse, the roads turn to ice, trees snap, schools close, boats cancel, and, for a brief time, the island becomes acutely aware of its isolation. Indeed, islanders are very much at the mercy of the weather in these gray months—and isn’t there something strangely comforting about that? There is a shared sense of struggle among the community, the feeling that all we can really do is keep our heads down, stiffen our shoulders, and plow through. We are all in it together.
When the ice thaws and spring arrives at long last, it is a marvelous sight to behold. Cherry blossoms burst, revealing beautiful rosy clusters; daffodils decorate the island in green and yellow; hues of pink and orange and magenta paint the sky. Just as the trees and the flowers blossom, so too does the community itself. Islanders wake up from their long winter naps feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the summer crowd. It is easy to lose sight of spring as the island prepares frantically for the looming summer season—don’t take it for granted! Spring boasts some of the island’s most exciting events and activities, perhaps none more indicative of Nantucket’s eccentricity and facetiousness than the Daffodil Festival, that final weekend of April when islanders parade around the streets adorned in the most outrageous costumes imaginable.
Summer comes quickly. The cold northerly winds of the off-season suddenly cease, and a warm, delightful breeze from the southwest prevails. Temperatures hover around the low- to mid-70s—not too hot, but not too cold either. Summer on Nantucket is a rainbow of colors: emerald green lawns, cotton candy Hydrangeas, bright pink sunsets, deep, crystal blue waters, ruby red roses. During this time, the island brims with activity, and long days of biking and beaching, of cocktails and clams, retail relief and brunch by the boats, extend into Nantucket’s dazzling nights.
If winter and spring (and summer, for some) are endured, then fall is a gift. Fall heralds the slowing down of life on-island, when traffic diminishes, businesses shorten their hours, beaches empty, and islanders reclaim their home. The onset of fall is marked by a crisp change in the air. The summer heat and humidity finally break, and whatever warmth remains bleeds into October so that days still have a summer quality—you can go biking, boating, and even for a swim—while nights cool down, making sleeping much easier. Meanwhile, the land displays one final show of color before it plunges once again into the long, gray winter. Poison ivy leaves, once a healthy green, climb up evergreens, dressing them in suits of flashy red; the autumn cranberry harvest turns the fields of Nantucket a glorious scarlet; monarchs float along, landing on goldenrods and coppery grasses.
Writer and Editor: Matthew Allen
All photos are by Bill Hoenk.