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The epitome of summer in New England —Nantucket’s cherished White Elephant resort beckons with a fresh new look and a storied stay packed with quiet luxury.

by Jenny
By Angela Caraway-Carlton.

A couple dressed in coordinating striped sweaters and sunhats is reading on loungers by the harbor, spritz cocktails in hand. The smell of the sea and the sounds of laughter waft through the air, as kids run free on the nearby swath of sandy beach and groups of boisterous sailboaters set a course from the marina. It’s a quintessential New England moment that feels ripped from the pages of a Vineyard Vines ad, and a summer scene that generations of families, couples, and tightknit groups of friends have been recreating at the White Elephant Nantucket resort for a century. 

“Nothing on Nantucket has changed, but everything on Nantucket has changed,” a local tells me upon arrival, about the island where most homes are uniformly clad in weathered gray shingles, and where stoplights and big-box retailers are non-existent. What has evolved is the White Elephant, a landmark waterfront resort that’s part of a collection of four hotels and resorts on the island. Celebrating its 100-year anniversary, the resort reopened for the season in May flaunting a multi-million-dollar revamp of its 54 rooms and suites and 11 garden cottages, as well as the lobby, and outdoor spaces. 

Reimagined by the same group that designed its sister property White Elephant Palm Beach in 2020 — think of Nantucket as the coastal cousin of Palm Beach, with many residents owning homes or frequenting both islands — the iconic hotel’s reincarnation embraces what coastal living is supposed to look like, yet, is authentically Nantucket. Elegant guest rooms showcase ceilings brushed in blue to recall a Nantucket summer sky, grasscloth wall coverings channel the dune grasses, and custom carpets in a basket weave design are a nod to the island’s basket weaving history. Choose a harbor-view room with a balcony for views of the sparkling waters of Nantucket Harbor and let the sounds of the rocking boats anchored in the marina lull you into island bliss. Large families or couples looking for romance should book one of the spacious cottages that lean into the “cottagecore” trend with sweet details like scalloped furniture, floral pillows, and patterned wallpaper. Custom artwork is peppered throughout the property with each of the commissioned artists creating their own interpretations of island life. The first to catch your eye is a standout piece that hangs behind the lobby desk featuring a woman dressed in Nantucket-red shorts and a striped sweater sitting in a rowboat—an homage to tenacious White Elephant founder Elizabeth Ludwig who predicted in the 1920s that the once-rustic property would be the island institution that it is today.

The resort is easily accessible to the adorable downtown where you’ll want to wander the cobblestone streets to peruse high-end boutiques (you won’t see a big-name brand outside of Lilly Pulitzer and Vineyard Vines) and soak up the postcard-worthy setting marked with window boxes overflowing with bright flowers, steepled churches, and a bustling wharf. For a better understanding of the island’s past and a closer look at some of the area’s stately homes and buildings, take a walking tour with the Nantucket Historical Association.

On the 14-mile-long island known for its nautical know-how, search out three lighthouses, like the picturesque Brant Point Lighthouse that’s a short walk from the resort; learn about Nantucket’s rich maritime history as a whaling hub at the Whaling Museum, where a giant whale skeleton dangles from the ceiling and a rooftop deck offers spectacular vistas of the harbor; and set off on resort bikes to island staple Cisco Brewers to sip something cold while listening to live music. 

Seafood reigns supreme on the island, and at the resort’s on-property restaurant Brant Point Grill, dig into signature dishes like a perfect-in-every-way lobster roll, creamy clam bisque, and the fresh catch of the day, as well as their signature Lobster Bloody cocktail that’s like a meal thanks to a generous garnishment of lobster claw meat. White Elephant guests can hop aboard the private passenger boat, The Wauwinet Lady, to cruise over to the posh The Wauwinet Hotel for lunch or dinner at Topper’s restaurant. At this fine dining restaurant, guests are treated to caviar, fresh oysters plucked from beds that sit 300 yards from the hotel, a rich, flaky tart flambee made with bacon and gruyere, and decadent homemade pastas like a bucatini topped with summer truffles. A highlight of my stay was sipping a glass of wine on the waterfront lawn of The Wauwinet and watching the sun sink into the horizon —a breathtaking moment that everyone stops to appreciate.

You’ll still be floating when the sun sets on your last day on Nantucket. Until another visit beckons, we can still get a slice of the White Elephant magic in Palm Beach. whiteelephantnantucket.com

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