Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

Off Season, On Island Escape

October 23rd, 2018

Last weekend Stretch and I went island hopping, from Manhattan to Nantucket. It was the perfect autumn escape – no people, decent weather, long walks, big fires and a lot of nature.


There’s something kind of thrilling going to an island off-season, off radar. Gone are the crowds, the lines snaking around the hottest restaurants, the cars crawling into town. There was no traffic, no rush to find a hidden beach, no clamour to get anywhere.

True, we didn’t sunbathe, swim or sail. But we were busy. On the first day we bike rode along some of the island’s 35 miles of bike paths, past roads with suggestive names like Old Quidnet Milk Route or Burnt Swamp Lane. The paths were so empty that one woman waved us down to ask if she could take our photo. She worked for a local realtor and was writing a blog about biking on the island but could find no bikers. Until we came peddling along…

When we got back to our hotel-  the old world, charming  Wauwinet 

it was time for a chilled game  or three of Backgammon.
(I won!!! ??????)

That night we went into town and ate one of the best meals that I’ve had in ages at Nautilus.

The concierge at the Wauwinet told us she doesn’t even bother trying to get guests reservations at Nautilus during the peak summer months. People line up at noon to book a table a month away. But in October, it’s a different story. The casual restaurant with its popular bar scene was packed and buzzy on Friday night. We were seated  within half an hour with no reservation.

The tempura east coast oyster tacos, crispy marinated calamari and grilled lamb chops were heavenly.

Chef Liam Mackey is one to watch…

As we were paying we asked our waiter if there was anywhere to dance on the island.

Sure, go to the Chicken Box. It’s the only place on the island.

So we did.

And we danced alongside lots of locals to an enthusiastic band called Buckle and Shake. Again, no line, a $10 cover fee,  and all ages bogeying on the spacious dance floor, while others played pool in the back.

The next morning it was raining. We headed to the Whaling Museum. There we listened to a dramatic story teller recount the tragedy of the Essex, a sea voyage so harrowing and rich in detail, including cannibalism, that the story inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick.

When the skies cleared we grabbed a taxi and headed to remote and lovely Sconset on the eastern part of the island. We hiked about 6 miles starting in Sconset, past the Sankaty  lighthouse,

past deserted beach houses – some in mint condition, others less so…

and then down onto the beach itself… Apart from a flock of seagulls and a single seal that slithered by, we were alone.

Nantucket has 82 miles of coastline. We have 80 left for our next visit. About half of Nantucket’s 30,000 acres are under conservation. Take a drive down Milestone Road if you want to see Nantucket’s version of the Serengeti.

It was a short trip, a direct 45 minute Jet Blue flight from JFK. We were gone for 48 hours, but it felt like a week.

PS. Thank you Anne Hardy for all your Nantucket tips. You were absolutely right when you texted:

Wauwinet is going to be lovely and compelling and hard  to leave…  Sconset is delightful!

The Wauwinet closes for the season this Sunday (Oct 28) and reopens April 18th.

See you there.


October, 2018