Experience a different side of Nantucket in this tranquil hideaway on the west end of the island. By Tom Richardson
If you love Nantucket, but are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Nantucket Harbor, plan a visit to peaceful Madaket, on the extreme western end of the island. And if you end up liking the place, you’ll be in good company, as Madaket was once the summer retreat of children’s television host Fred Rogers. From the late 1950s until his death in 2004, Rogers spent his summers in a small, ramshackle cottage he called “The Crooked House.”
Today, the house, situated on a sandy lane overlooking Madaket Harbor, is still owned and used by the Rogers family. But the Rogers’ legacy is only one part of Madaket’s intrigue. The harbor was also where the first European settlers of Nantucket landed in 1659, and quickly set about “procuring” land from the resident Wampanoags. In the following centuries, the area served as a quiet, isolated farming and fishing community, until modern transportation transformed it into an idyllic vacation spot in the mid-1900s.
Tiny Madaket Village is little more than an enclave of summer homes and beach cottages, along with a marina, a restaurant and a small store. It’s where you can still get a sense of old Nantucket, with the Atlantic surf booming on the south shore and the quieter waters of Madaket Harbor lapping just a few hundred feet to the north. It’s a place to unwind and unplug, and revel in the natural beauty of the island.
For those planning to visit Madaket in their own boat, whether for the day or overnight, be aware that there are no transient slips or moorings on this side of Nantucket. However, there is a good anchorage in the northeast corner of the harbor, tucked in behind Eel Point, and you can leave a dinghy at one of the public landings on Hither Creek. The other option is to keep your boat on a mooring in Nantucket Harbor and either bike or take the shuttle to Madaket, a distance of 5 ½ miles.
MEET AT MILLIE’S
If you want to dine in Madaket or get a drink, your only option is Millie’s, the village’s lone restaurant and bar. Named for the village’s celebrated and curmudgeonly resident, Millie Jewett, the restaurant opened in 2010 on the same site as the West End restaurant, and serves a variety of affordably priced lunch and dinner items, as well as take-out and ice-cream. They also have a fully stocked bar, and serve a delicious cocktail called the Madaket Mystery. What’s inside is the bartender’s secret!
Basic provisions can be purchased a Millie’s Market, which carries basic items such as eggs, cheese, milk, beer, wine and soda, plus T-shirts, souveniers and, of course, postcards of Fred Rogers and Millie Jewett.
What Madaket lacks in restaurants and shops it makes up for in natural attractions. As mentioned, the harbor itself is well protected and features sprawling sand flats that are perfect for curious kids to explore and splash around on at low tide. This is also an ideal area for kayaking and paddleboarding. Madaket’s Atlantic shore is bordered by a long, sandy beach, and is a good spot for surfcasting, swimming and body surfing.
FISHING IN MADAKET
Nantucket is sort of a lost world among Northeast fishing destinations; things happen around this island that have no bearing on the action along the mainland, and word of these events doesn’t often filter back to the fishing community at large. Which only makes the island more alluring!
Stripers and bluefish are the top draw for surfcasters and inshore fishermen from May through October. The turbulent waters of the Bonito Bar, Great Point Rip, Old Man Rip, Bass Rip and Miacomet Rip can produce awesome casting and trolling action for big stripers, as well as bluefish, throughout the season. You’ll often see both species holding in the first wave of the rip line, waiting for baitfish and squid to wash past. Dance a pencil popper on the surface and you are in for a show! If the fish are holding deep, break out a parachute jig and troll it on 150 to 200 feet of wire line, depending on water depth. The rocky bottom off Sankaty Head is a dependable spot to troll wire all summer.
Bluefish can be trolled up throughout the summer and early fall anywhere along the 40-foot contour line that runs from Nantucket Harbor to Great Point. A Rapala CD-16, Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow, Bomber Long-A or similar swimming plug trolled at three or four knots should do the trick. Keep an eye out for packs of surface- cruising blues as you troll in open water, and be ready to throw them a popper.
Fluke are another popular recreational species, and the sand shoals and channels surrounding the island hold some real whoppers. Set up a slow drift over uneven bottom then send down a jig sweetened with a squid strip, fish-belly strip or small live bait.
The famous Bonito Bar off Smiths Point typically attracts a crowd of anglers who fish for the hard-fighting—and good- eating—“bones” starting in August and running through mid-October. The drill here is to anchor on the ocean side of the bar and blind-cast or wait for a school to pop up within range. Running-and-gunning is definitely frowned upon. The Bonito Bar also holds big stripers and blues. Many anglers anchor above the bar and fish chunk baits on the bottom for stripers while waiting for bonito to pop up within casting range.
Another late-summer and fall option is false albacore. The tiny tuna typically tear things up around Tuckernuck and Muskeget Islands, as well as off Great Point, but could really pop up anywhere. Use ¼-ounce metal or epoxy jigs, or small soft-plastic Zoom Flukes or Slug-Go’s.
BAIT & TACKLE
Capt. Shawn Bristow (203) 962-8867
Capt. Tom Mlecsko (508) 717-3186
Cross Rip Outfitters (508) 221-1201
Capt. Bill Toelstedt (917) 584-5270
MADAKET AT A GLANCE
(508) 2 28-7261
DOCKAGE, MOORINGS & SERVICE
Madaket Marine (508) 228-1163
Full-service marina and boatyard offering fuel dock, rack storage and service. No transient slips or moorings available.
WHERE TO EAT
Millie’s (508) 228-8435
Casual restaurant and bar serving a wide range of delicious lunch and dinner items.
Millie’s Market (202) 87-3142