When the warm weather approaches, there is no place better to be than at the beach—or in your backyard with a fabulous book. “Reading has long been an American summertime tradition. The kids are out of school and so summertime reading has always been more fun,” says Elin Hilderbrand, author of 28 books set on Nantucket Island, off the coast of Massachusetts. “The beach is one place where books trump phones—maybe it’s the glare of the sun! Everyone needs a time and place to read books that allow them to escape.”
And, it wouldn’t be summer if you didn’t escape into one of Hilderbrand’s books. Considered one of the most notable romance writers around, there is an element of a beach escape in every novel Hilderbrand writes. Fodor’s was able to chat with the Queen of Beach Reads about her favorite bites on Nantucket, secret beach activities, and what she’s currently reading.
What is your best travel tip for visiting Nantucket?
Elin Hilderbrand: If you rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle, a trip up to Great Point is a must. It’s Nantucket’s ultimate destination. Even better, at certain weeks late in the summer, Smith Point on the western tip of Nantucket is open for drive-on. This is my all-time favorite beach because you can access both the ocean side and the sound side.
What is your favorite dish and restaurant on Nantucket?
EH: I love the “Krabby Patty” from the Surfside Beach Shack. It’s a crab shrimp and scallop patty that I load up with lettuce, tomato, bacon, avocado, and their tomato tartar sauce. It is the perfect beach sandwich. I also really love the secret Big Mac at the Tap Room.
What is your favorite beach read?
One of my all-time favorite beach reads is Labor Day by Joyce Maynard. This novel is set in the sweltering hot last weekend of summer and the story is so engrossing, so bittersweet, and so beautifully written, that it’s literally the perfect beach read. Another novel I perennially recommend is Emma Straub’s The Vacationers about a dysfunctional family’s trip to Mallorca. It’s smart and sassy with an elegant European setting.
The Queen of Beach Reads’ Guide to Nantucket
Want to do Nantucket like a local? Hilderbrand has put together a comprehensive guide to the island in her Blue Book. Here are some of her favorite recommendations to stay, play, sip and slurp!
What to Do
Take a Cooking Class: For the culinary buffs, I highly recommend a cooking class at the Nantucket Culinary Center.
Nantucket Island Surf School: If you’ve always wanted to try surfing, now is your chance.
Endeavor Sailing: This sailing excursion is perfect for groups and you can bring your own food and drink, too.
Miacomet Golf Course: It can be tricky getting a tee time at Miacomet Golf Course because it’s the only public eighteen-hole course on the island, but if you’re a golfer, it’s worth a visit.
Where to Eat
Cisco Brewers: There are three barns, one housing a beer bar, one a wine bar, and one a spirits bar, all serving Cisco products, including their popular Whale’s Tale Ale. However—and I do not say this lightly—alcohol is the least important thing about the place. This is a center of joy. There are food trucks — 167 Raw for raw bar and guacamole, Nantucket Poke for bowls and tartare, and Nantucket Lobster Trap for swordfish sliders and lobster rolls.
Sandbar: If you’re coming to Nantucket, I highly recommend Sandbar. It’s located at Jetties Beach, which is less than a mile from town and can easily be walked.
Galley Beach: This is another on-the-beach setting, though one that is quite upscale. The Galley is quintessential Nantucket.
Bar Yoshi: This is the place to go for sushi; I always opted for fried rice, dumplings, and spring rolls.
Languedoc: The Languedoc is elegant-yet-relaxed — you can eat escargot in your Patagonia puffy vest. I always order the cheeseburger with garlic fries, paired with the chopped salad as a starter, and the sweet inspirations sundae for dessert — it’s the perfect meal!
Petrichor: This wine bar located mid-island and has outstanding food, including my favorite fried-chicken sandwich on the island. They also do a terrific brunch.
The Chicken Box: It’s just a bar, the best dive bar in America, with beer-sticky floors and beautiful people three-deep at the bar, and terrific bands.
The Gaslight: The food is nothing short of amazing here. The menu comes to you from Liam Mackey, the chef of Nautilus, and at 10 pm, the music kicks in. If you need one more reason to check it out, there’s also a champagne vending machine!
Where to Stay
The Nantucket Hotel and Resort: This hotel is located on the edge of town and within easy walking distance of shopping, restaurants, museums, and galleries, as well as Children’s Beach, Jetties Beach, and Brant Point Light.
Cliffside Beach Club: This is the only accommodation directly on the beach. Their lobby is one of the most spectacular spaces on the island.
Wauwinet Inn: This inn is nine miles out of town, but the drive takes you along the beautiful and winding Polpis Road, where you’ll pass farms, ponds, and the Nantucket Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum.