by Lissa Poirot
Thirty miles off the coast of Cape Cod, and an hour by high-speed ferry from Hyannis, Mass., lies the intimate island of Nantucket. Within steps of the historic center of its cobblestoned streets awaits the White Elephant, consisting of 52 guestrooms and 11 garden cottages in the intimate hotel, and one- to three-bedroom “homes” in its special Residences.
The main hotel features a cozy library, relaxing spa, dining room overlooking the Nantucket Harbor, and a grand harborside lawn. The residences feature one- to three-bedroom “cottages,” complete with front porches, in-room fireplaces, SubZero kitchens, dining areas, and special concierge service. These are not to be confused with the hotel’s “cottages,” which also feature one- to three-bedroom accommodations.
Whether staying in the hotel or the residences, families can truly enjoy the essence of Nantucket charm. Days will be spent riding bicycles around the island, lounging on Brant Point or Children’s beaches, eating homemade ice cream, sailing in the sound, and sitting on the front porch and watching the fog roll in. It’s a quiet vacation, set amidst the luxury of the White Elephant.
Our Editor Loves
- Close to beaches and center of town
- Harborside lawn
- Provide home away from home
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
The White Elephant Hotel features 52 guestrooms, of which the Shoreline Suite is the only standard room suitable to families, with king bed and pullout sofa. For a stay at the hotel, select instead one of the 11 cottages, ranging from one- to three-bedrooms. These cottages include living areas and sometimes a dining room with kitchen, to make a stay more like home.
Hotel rooms and its cottages feature DVD players, small refrigerators, and free Wi-Fi, as well as beach towels and chairs.
Residences feature gas fireplaces, MP3 docking stations and stereos, gas fireplaces, SubZero, full-size refrigerators, Panini maker, toaster oven, microwave, blender, dishwasher, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, free Wi-Fi, and free bottled water. They also provide complimentary bicycles, beach chairs, towels and umbrellas, and have a library of videos, as well as Xbox and Wii that can be borrowed. The residences also have its own fitness center and private pool that welcomes children, including a 3 p.m. daily ice cream social.
Both locations provide complimentary mini muffins and coffee in the morning, with the Residences also providing afternoon cheese and port to its guests.
i've been spending a summer week or 2 on nantucket for many years starting in the early '80s. initially, i rented a few different homes around the island with friends, and one summer stayed at a very nice B&B in town. but recently i've been staying at the white elephant; this past summer was my sixth visit.
"wow!" is the best way to sum things up. the view of the harbor from the 2nd floor 'veranda' rooms is quintessential nantucket. the hotel grounds are gorgeous. the staff go well above & beyond to keep guests happy. superb breakfasts under the outdoor awning in morning sunlight. this last trip, we had late lunch a couple of times at a table on the grass with friends.... yippy-fantastic! our room was perfect; bed, furnishings, AC (needed only occasionally), and shower completely beyond reproach. an easy stroll to town, super convenient private parking for longer excursions in the car. you really don't want to skip the ride up the harbor on the hotel's classy boat for lunch at the wauwinet!.... but reserve this at least a month ahead of time because -- no surprise -- they're fully booked well in advance. (we had such a swell time at the lunch this past summer that we didn't want to leave -- skipped the return boat ride & grabbed a taxi back to town.) just plopping down on one of the many lawn loungers, steps from the harbor... it truly doesn't get any better. sunday buffet brunch was way over the top! port and cheese mid-afternoon every day.... the W.E simply doesn't miss a beat!
pricey.... and absolutely worth every penny for us.
i can't imagine how there could be a nicer place for a couple to stay on the island. to the management and staff at the W.E.... please don't ever change!
The White Elephant is a very fine hotel. It is located virtually adjacent to the Ferry Pier and is in walking distance to all of the town sites and restaurants. The rooms are commodious and the restaurant quite good. I have stayed there several times and the stays have always been excellent
The hotel, cottages and residences are as welcoming as a cottage rental, providing a luxurious and comfortable home away from home. However, the accommodations are not the reason behind the visit to Nantucket, and thusly, they don't try to compete. You won't find kiddie pools or kids programs here, but within walking -- or biking -- distance are places kids will enjoy, including:
Just across the street from the White Elephant Hotel is a small beach geared specifically toward families. Shallow and calm waters are perfect for little ones, and a playground and restrooms are also on hand. Around the bend is Brant Point Light house and Jetties Beach, a larger stretch of beach along the Nantucket Sound.
In the summer, this up-and-coming theater offers a Young Actors Theater Company for children ages 5 to 14 for week-long programs. The Dreamland Foundation is a non-profit looking to restore the Dreamland Theater as a place to celebrate performing and visual arts. The theater shows kid-friendly films, family-friendly concerts, and even Yoga for Kids programs.
Discover the fascinating history of Nantucket as the former whaling capital of the world through the Nantucket Historical Association's Whaling Museum. Guided tours, exhibits, a children's Discovery Room and children's programs will give kids and parents a glimpse into island life, which began with the Wampanoag Indians. Be sure to pick up the Family Guide, which gives kids a scavenger hunt and activities connected to the exhibits.
Brant Point Grill
The only onsite restaurant is Brant Point Grill overlooking Nantucket Harbor. Children's menus with coloring books can occupy little ones in a setting that deceptively appears to be unfriendly to children. It may take you a moment to realize there are children present in the restaurant, as children of all ages are enjoying quiet meals with their families, unlike some loud chain restaurants where kids can be louder than the Muzak playing overhead.
The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and features a fantastic Sunday brunch complete with carving station, waffle station, omelet station, pastries, fruits, hot foods and desserts. At lunch and dinner, surf and turf is the restaurant's forte, with a fresh selection of seafood and decadent cuts of beef.
A special kids' menu (and sippy cups) are available for young guests, and there is a Kids' Corner with kid favorites and an ice cream cart during the Sunday brunch.
The restaurant is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. for breakfast and lunch and opens for dinner at 5:30 p.m. Sunday brunch runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The White Elephant is operated by Nantucket Island Resorts, which includes the Relais & Chateaux Wauwinet property. The Wauwinet's Topper's restaurant is considered one of Nantucket's best restaurants, as is top-ranked across the U.S., as well. Open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, save this one for a special date night and enjoy stellar wines from its wine cellar. A one-hour cruise from Nantucket Town to the restaurant is available seasonally, and is complimentary with dinner reservations.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
A movie library, bicycles and a fitness center are onsite for guests to use.
Complimentary Wi-Fi access is available.
The resort provides complimentary van transportation to and from the ferry docks.
The Art of Smart Timing
Nantucket is a seasonal island favored in its brief summer months of July and August, when rates are at its peak. April's Daffodil Days kicks off the spring season, which can be a fickle time to visit, with weather ranging from sunny and clear to foggy and cold. Nantucket's Christmas Stroll is a step back in time and keeps the season going beyond fall, which is truly a fantastic time to visit, as the weather is often cool but sunny and the crowds have dispersed. Most restaurants and attractions close between January and March.
Nantucket has a small airport serviced mainly by Cape Air, with flights originating from Boston or Hyannis. A word of warning, however: Nantucket's sea air is fickle and may fog over in the blink of an eye, grounding flights and sending stranded passengers to snatch up seats on the ferries. The Hy-Line Cruises Fast Ferry from Hyannis is only an hour trip and not too pricey. The Steamship Authority's "slow" ferry departs from Hyannis or Woods Hole, and takes two to three hours, respectively, but at about half the cost of the "fast" ferry. Both options disembark in the heart of Nantucket.
Nantucket Town is intimate and walkable, with most stores, restaurants and accommodations within a 10-block radius. To sample other beaches or explore residential areas lined with former sea captain residences, a bike will be all you need. Cabs are available if you'd like to venture further or do not want to walk, so a car rental is not necessary while enjoying the island.
For Mom and Dad
The White Elephant Spa features just four treatment rooms but the serenity and luxury found at any great hotel spa. Massages, facials, body treatments and other revitalizing treatments are worth the time-out from the kids.