Nantucket Island is just a 20-minute flight from Boston, or you can drive and hop on the ferry in a few hours. Start your visit with a stroll round the old town. Nantucket discourages chain stores, so nearly all the shops are individual and locally owned. The centre is as cute as a button, punctuated with red brick and clapboard facades, homely shop signs and English green wooden benches. It's spookily perfect — rather like
being in the Truman Show. Old ladies pick up stray scraps of litter and drivers insist on stopping for pedestrians. Visit the Nantucket Pharmacy on Main Street, which still sells malted milkshakes and sandwiches alongside the cough mixture.
If you're in the market for a pair of whale-print trousers, Murray's Toggery, also on Main Street, is the place to go. You can get good Nantucket lightship baskets here — the custom of weaving developed on the long whaling voyages. For the real deal, visit Nantucket Country on Centre Street, which has a stunning collection of antique quilts. Immediately beneath is Michael Vienneau's scrimshaw shop with its antique whalebone carvings made, again, by the mariners on whaling journeys. Take a break for a Whale's Tale beer at The Club Car, a 19th-century converted Pullman car from the now defunct Nantucket railway. In the evening, try the seared Day Boat Scallops at American Seasons (80 Centre Street). Check in to a White Elephant cottage overlooking the bay — the Kittiwake at Boat Basin, with its balcony overlooking the fishing boats, is my favourite.
Head northeast, past the well-preserved cedar shingle houses with their distinctive railed rooftop platforms (at least 800 Nantucket houses are pre-Civil War). It's not far, because nothing is — the whole island is only 14 miles tip to tip. Check in to the Wauwinet Hotel, then explore the tip of the island, Great Point. You need a 4x4, or have the veteran Captain Rob drive you in a hotel vehicle and offer you commentary on the wildlife and seascape. You pass banks of beach roses, onto a stretch of sand populated only by a colony of seals who will scurry away to frolic in the surf. Climb the old lighthouse for a great view of the island. An easy half-hour bike ride will take you to the sleepy beach town of Sconset Bluff, locals far outnumbering tourists. Back at the hotel, dine at Toppers Restaurant, which has the best food that I tasted on the island. For meat lovers, the 48-hour Sous Vide Beef Short Rib is not to be missed.