Nantucket Whaling Museum

Top choice in Nantucket

One of the island's highlights, this evocative museum occupies an 1847 spermaceti (whale oil) candle factory and the excellent exhibits relive Nantucket's 19th-century heyday as the whaling center of the world. There's a worthwhile, albeit long (54 minutes), documentary on the island, incredible scrimshaw exhibits (engravings and carvings done by sailors on ivory, whalebone or baleen) and a 46ft sperm-whale skeleton rising above it all. Be sure to head to the rooftop deck for lovely views.

Admission is steep, but depending on which level you choose you'll have access to other sites around town. With the all-access pass you get admission to several preserved houses, which often function as their own small museums.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Nantucket attractions

1. Nantucket Atheneum

0.09 MILES

More than just the public library, this stately Greek Revival edifice is a sight in itself. The 2nd-floor Great Hall has hosted such notables as Ralph…

2. First Congregational Church

0.15 MILES

Everyone comes to this church, which traces its roots to the early 1700s, for the eagle-eye view from the top of the steeple. It's well worth the 94-step…

3. Children's Beach

0.15 MILES

Right in town, Children's Beach is heaven for young kids, with gentle water, a fun playground and picnic facilities. It's along S Beach St at the north…

4. Hadwen House

0.33 MILES

A walk through the Nantucket Historical Association’s Hadwen House, a Greek Revival home built in 1845 by a whaling merchant, provides testimony to just…

5. Jethro Coffin House

0.43 MILES

Built in 1686, the Jethro Coffin House is the town’s oldest building still on its original foundation. It’s in a traditional ‘salt box’ style, with south…

6. Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum

0.48 MILES

What the lighthouse is to the New England coast, the lightship was to the sea – essentially a floating lighthouse to warn of dangerous shoals or sandbars…

7. Old Gaol

0.52 MILES

To see where drunken sailors used to spend the night, visit the Old Gaol, the c 1806 jail that served Nantucket for 125 years. It was constructed using…

8. Brant Point Light

0.53 MILES

Welcoming ferries into Nantucket Harbor, this lighthouse was established in 1746 and is still in operation. It's quite tiny (only 26ft), but impossibly…