The Nantucket over-sand driving permit is almost as ubiquitous as the famous Nantucket red pants sold at Murray's Toggery. Emblazoned on everything from t-shirts to license plates to bumpers (duh), this special permit allows drivers to take part in the time honored tradition of off-roading on some of the island's most beautiful and remote stretches. Here's what you need to know before getting behind the wheel.
Getting Geared Up
A 4-wheel drive vehicle is required for over-sand driving. While you can bring your own on the ferry, there are also several options for renting the island vehicle of choice, a Jeep, when you arrive. There are four rental agencies at the airport, so you can pick your car up upon landing and head over to your room at 21 Broad.
What you gain in convenience, though, you lose in a hefty airport tax. For guests arriving by ferry, we'll send you to Tim at Affordable Rentals, just three blocks from downtown. Tim will have you rolling in no time, but we do highly recommend reservations in July and August or you may be out of luck.
Keep it Legal
Rental Jeeps come with a Town of Nantucket Beach Permit (or Oversand Permit if you intend to explore Coatue Wildlife Refuge). But if you bring your own Jeep to the island, do not pass go, head directly to the Nantucket Police Department to purchase your own Nantucket souvenir. Prices vary depending on duration of the permit.
With permit in hand, we suggest making a day of it and grabbing picnic supplies. While you can't go wrong at any one of the island's great sandwich shops, we do have a few favorites. If you want to load up before leaving town, Provision's is the perfect one-stop-shop. Their best selling Turkey Terrific sandwich is just that - Thanksgiving between two slices of Portuguese bread. We're always thankful for one of those.
If your plan is to head west towards Madaket, Something Natural is a no brainer. Located on Cliff Road, this shop's reputation for killer sandwiches (including vegetarian and vegan fare) goes well beyond the island's shores. Depending on your appetite, one sandwich is usually enough for two people, leaving ample room for the equally tasty homemade cookies.
So now you're ready to hit the sand. Safety first - your wheels must be deflated to 14psi before driving on the sand to lessen the damage to the delicate ecosystem and your tush. For beach driving, Eel Point Beaches, located on the north shore, are your best bets to the west, and 40th Pole Beach is one of our favorites. This remote spot is home to some of the best seashells and sunsets on the island. Please note that there are no lifeguards or restrooms on this beach so come prepared.
If your compass is pointing east towards Sconset, treat yourself to something from Claudette's. They have a very short season, Memorial to Labor Day, but their meatball sandwich makes it a worthwhile trip.
To explore the eastern end of the island, the Middle Moors is a vast swath of land covered in trails and punctuated with hidden ponds. You can bask in the solitude while having lunch by the side of scenic Gibbs Pond - a nice change from the high season crowds in town. Another option, which we would consider a must-do at least once, is a trip to Great Point, part of the Coatue Wildlife Refuge. There are no lifeguards or restrooms on this stunning and expansive 8-mile beach going out to the iconic lighthouse. You'll pass by a massive flock of seals (sunbathing in the spring, swimming in the summer), but if the piping plovers are nesting the refuge will be closed.