Confusingly, Nantucket is not the only island in Nantucket. The name refers to both the town and the island itself. And within Nantucket the town, there are a few smaller islands with their own names. Tuckernuck, just west of Madaket, is the largest of these islands, with a small population of hearty summer residents.
Fully off the electrical grid and with no grocery stores or restaurants, Tuckernuck embodies a simpler way of life. And its residents, who collectively own the island, plan to keep it that way. Spending a day there truly feels like stepping back in time, when Nantucket was wild and inhabitants lived off the land. It might not inspire you to go off the grid, but it might make you see our islands a little differently.
If your go-to beach isn’t much of a hidden gem anymore, Tuckernuck is the perfect place to get away from the crowds. It’s ideal for a day trip, but a little knowledge and preparation are key. Here are 5 tips for making the most of a day out on Tuckernuck.
Check the Tides
This piece cannot be understated. The western edge of the island is a series of sand bars and shoals that are in constant motion. Unless you want your boat to end up like a clam (buried in the sand), keep an eye on the tides and map out your course ahead of time. Even with sophisticated navigation, there are a few tricky spots close to Tuckernuck that you need to be aware of when deciding where to anchor.
It goes without saying that you’ll need to pack everything with you. Unlike a trip to the beach, you won’t be able to head back to the house when you forget the umbrella, again. If you’re going out with kids, consider bringing even more games and snacks just to be safe. A trip to Tuckernuck can be a simple, quiet beach day, but it can also be an excuse to pull out all the stops.
Leave No Trace
To keep Tuckernuck pristine, everyone needs to do their part. Due to its isolated location, the island is home to a number of rare plant and animal species that aren’t even found on Nantucket. The Tuckernuck Land Trust is dedicated to preserving the island for generations to come, but needs our participation to make it happen.
If you see any trash, whether it’s yours or not, pack it away. It’s important to do the same anywhere on Nantucket, but especially so on Tuckernuck. Without very careful use of the island, its idyllic beauty might not remain the same.
Tuckernuck is a treasure trove of natural wonder. Perfect for kids and adults, it offers a chance to see seals, rare birds, and unique plants in an even wilder setting than Nantucket. The Tuckernuck Land Trust has a small field station full of information about the island and its plant and animal inhabitants. It’s a great place to bring kiddos who want to get their hands a little dirty while they learn.
To get the full experience, bring some binoculars, so you can really see what’s out there. Even if you don’t know what you’re looking at, it’s always fun to see the shorebirds up close.
The fishing around Tuckernuck is good…ok, really good. Heading out there, it’s impossible to miss all the boats fishing in the area. On the Northside, you might see anglers fly casting in the flats, while larger boats hit the bonito bar to the South. Head to Bill Fisher beforehand to get hooked up with the right set up, and you’ll (hopefully) catch yourself a keeper.
Stay for Sunset
As we said before, check the tides. If you’re worried about getting everybody out in the dark, don’t worry about staying for sunset. If you do feel confident, though, it’s worth a stay. Imagine an epic Madaket sunset with nobody else around and nothing but Atlantic rolling out in front. If you want that full Madaket experience though, you can always buy a drink kit or two at Millie’s beforehand.
Don’t have a boat?
If you can’t get there yourself, Nantucket Mermaids runs yacht charters to Tuckernuck throughout the summer. They have a wide selection of boats and packages to choose from, depending on how you want to spend the day.