Luke slowed our Jeep so we could gaze at the shallow tidal pond where the swans and their cygnets, basking on the sandy shores amongst the gulls and their chicks, seemed to be as enamored with the serenity of our surroundings as we were. The bumpy, sandy dirt road led us haphazardly through tangles of beach roses in what seemed to be the far edge of remotely lain backyards. We drove quietly, speaking little, absorbing this already incomparable experience. Little did we know the real magic was yet to begin…
Though often shrouded in mist and fog, the Grey Lady’s spirit is a far cry from its moniker. Humbly boasting a historic downtown with cobblestoned streets and overflowing with charm, the often nautically-themed shops and exquisite food alone could take you through a couple days. But Nantucket only begins there. Four nights and four full days didn’t do the island — or us — justice...with so much to offer from Steps Beach and Surfside, scenic drives to lighthouses, the Bluff Walk in ‘Sconset, and biking to home-envy, we’re already planning our return in the quiet of the off-season. (Speaking of homes, I could go back merely to walk Union, Orange, and Cliff roads — not to mention all of ‘Sconset — to take note of the charming door knockers and rose trellises alone.) Bustling but equally quiet, this New England island reeks of the salty fairytale-like charm you read about in novels, and gifted us a rather inimitable adventure.
The rambling dirt roads past the Wauwinet opened suddenly as we were funneled through the final bramble to find ourselves on soft yet distinct tracks on the open beach of the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge. The warm, humid air filled our noses and the breeze tangled my hair...salty, salubrious, peaceful, and calming.
The Great Point Light was not yet in sight, the sea spray clouding our view of the distant beach. Sunbathing seals peppered the sandy shores, indifferent to the passing of our 4x4, and we trekked on, cleansing our souls with each salty breath. And then rather without warning, the Light appeared in the mist: all at once proud, enchanting, steadfast, and captivating. I had no doubt that we had quite literally driven into a painting.
The clarity of the lighthouse increased as our distance decreased and the surrounding windswept dunes and waving grass framed it in a way you could only call stunning. The tracks guided us off the beach and wound around the west side of the light, where we soon discovered we were all alone. With contained excitement we made our way back out to the beach on foot, and it wasn’t long before a seal just offshore caught sight of us. He followed us as we walked up and down the shore, curious if nothing else. We ate our sandwiches while the gulls and piping plovers skittered and soared around us unfazed, and most probably seeking a nibble.
Time sped on yet stopped simultaneously, and as we were quite vocally resisting our departure we were serendipitously greeted by a refuge volunteer who invited us to the top of the Light. As we climbed, the iron steps clanged with en echo under our shoes, further engaging our sense of seclusion and the intoxication that accompanied it. The ladder at the top ascended to our final vista, an exhilarating 360° view where land, sound, and sea blended like paints on canvas.
If I could only choose one word to describe the solitude, serenity, and surreality of this remote sand spit, it would be… magical.
Alexandra Barnes (@turquoiseandsunshine)