It’s not very often that the editor for a regional magazine is invited on a press trip, especially when the territory I cover is routinely within walking distance of my home. But one lucky day this spring, an invitation to the Daffodil Festival in Nantucket appeared in my in-box. After confirming that this was indeed intended for me, I jumped at the chance to visit this little gem off the coast of Massachusetts, nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Nantucket Sound.
After a relaxed flight from Chicago to Boston, I took a tiny little Cape Air plane into Nantucket. Having a terrible fear of flying, the ferry from Hyannis Harbor was definitely my first choice for traveling to the island. However, the Cape Air flight left directly from Boston’s Logan Airport, where catching the ferry would have required a 90-minute drive to the Harbor. So, the 10-seater airplane it was. Fortunately, a good friend warned me about one strange request that occurs when checking in for such a flight. The gate attendant actually asks how much each passenger weighs. Afraid of what might happen if I didn’t tell the truth, I humbly confessed my poundage.
After all of the passengers checked in and had their carry-ons weighed, we were guided out onto the tarmac to an awaiting airplane. I strategically chose a seat right behind the pilot. As I watched him work through his routine checklist, I was close enough to notice that the fuel gauge said, “LOW.” Being the terrible backseat driver that I am, I almost pointed this out to him before thinking better of it. He does make this trip several times a day, I thought. And the eight other passengers seemed extremely calm, as this was clearly a typical Friday night for them after a busy workweek in the city.
After a “relatively” smooth hour-long flight into Nantucket as the sun was beginning to set, I was picked up by a White Elephant Hotel Residences shuttle and taken to the hotel. The van had barely come to a stop when we were greeted by Victor, one of the most gracious bellmen I’ve ever met. I checked in and he gave me a brief tour of the hospitality suite and its amenities, including a workout room and bicycle rental.
The White Elephant Hotel Residences is the newest offering in the Nantucket Island Resorts portfolio, a collection of premier hotels on Nantucket that specializes in bringing the unique Nantucket lifestyle to all guests. The White Elephant Hotel Residences is an extension of the award-winning White Elephant Hotel, the iconic property located right on Nantucket Harbor in downtown Nantucket. It continues to be rated among the top hotels in the world by Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler magazines. The residences offer all of the advantages of staying in a private apartment—kitchenette, living room, dining room, and an in-room washer-dryer—with all of the amenities of staying in a luxury hotel (room service, housekeeping, concierge, and a heated pool).
My room lived up to the elegant standard set by the White Elephant Hotel. Located on the second floor, my suite was appointed with warm, neutral, sophisticated décor, including a fireplace. While spacious enough to accommodate the typical family, the room was equally cozy to house me and a dear friend, Cynthia (Cindy) Morrison Phoel, who would ferry in from Boston on Saturday.
After settling in, I walked to Brant Point Grill, located in the main hotel, for dinner. I was seated on the outdoor screened porch that seemed like the best possible setting for my first meal on Nantucket. Looking out onto the harbor and over the quaint Children’s Beach, I perused the interactive wine menu presented to me on an iPad. After selecting a favorite Chardonnay of the hotel, I enjoyed a delicious bowl of New England clam chowder and the most perfectly prepared piece of sole. (For celebrity followers,
a recent episode of Bethenny Ever After: Lost at Sea was filmed in the very spot I was dining.)
I awoke early the next morning to visions of yellow—everywhere. Nantucket was brimming with excitement over its Daffodil Festival Weekend. From early April to mid-May, more than three million daffodils of every color, shape, and size bloom on Nantucket. Organized and sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, the Annual Daffodil Festival is a full-scale celebration of winter’s end, joyous for both islanders and visitors alike. Daffodils grace the island’s roadsides, gardens, and shop windows with blooms of yellow, orange, white, and even pale pink.
After grabbing Cindy from the ferry, we headed downtown, just in time for the judging of the Daffodil Festival’s famous Annual Antique Car Parade, which features more than 100 daffodil-bedecked vintage cars. I can’t put into words the spectacle we absorbed, where young and old were dressed from head to toe in their daffodil best.
Having built up an appetite, we snuck away from the sea of yellow to enjoy lunch at The Brotherhood of Thieves Pub. Cindy, who has lived in Boston for more than 10 years, said a visit to the East Coast wouldn’t be complete without sampling a lobster roll. The creamy lobster salad served on a warm pretzel roll was the most delicious sandwich I’ve had all year and was definitely a weekend highlight.
Wanting to work off some of those calories, Cindy and I rented two vintage bicycles from the hotel (complete with helmets) and toured the island. While the cheerful hotel concierge patiently mapped a cobblestone-free route for us, we quickly realized that neither of us could read a map. But our inability to navigate took us on the most exquisite adventure of Nantucket’s countryside and architecture. It was impossible not be taken by the sheer charm of the island.
By the time we found our way back to the White Elephant, the Residences were serving port and cheese to its guests. Catching up on anything and everything in the hotel’s comfortable hospitality suite, we watched as other guests checked in for the weekend, taking note that the average stay for most guests is three to four days.
Earlier in the day when I was filling Cindy in on my dinner at Brant Point Grill, I told her about the amazing drinks coming from the bar. So we decided to stop for a White Elephant cosmopolitan on our way to dinner at the elegant Òran Mór Bistro. There are no words to describe this mixology wonder of Stoli Citros Vodka, Cranberry Limoncello, and a splash of cranberry topped with champagne. While this drink packed a punch, it was one we’ll never forget.
Dinner at Òran Mór Bistro was the perfect end to a perfect day. This second-floor waterfront venue is one of the premier restaurants on the island. The menu changes nightly, and there are always surprising and unusual choices. We toasted a milestone birthday for Cindy, as I feasted on the quail and Cindy enjoyed the scallops.
While Nantucket is known for its shopping, Cindy and I only left Sunday morning to check this out for ourselves. There are no chain stores permitted on the island, allowing for one exclusive boutique after the next. With only an hour to spare before my flight and Cindy’s ferry, we stumbled upon Murray’s Toggery Shop, a Nantucket institution, where Nantucket Red expands as far as the eye can see. We were kicking ourselves for not venturing into this local treasure sooner in our visit, but we did leave feeling as if we had experienced real Nantucket lore.
As Cindy and I parted ways, we were pinching ourselves at the fabulous weekend we had delighted in. Nantucket’s appeal is immersed in the kindness of the people who live and work there, the sophisticated sensibilities of the island’s offerings, and the endless possibilities available to anyone who visits.
To learn more about White Elephant Hotel Residences and events happening on Nantucket year-round, visit whiteelephanthotelresidences.com.
—Ann Marie Scheidler