While Nantucket is only about 30 miles away from the Cape Cod coast, there are no bridges or tunnels to drive there from mainland Massachusetts.
The only option is to get on the Steamship Authority Car ferry from the Hyannis harbor on Cape Cod to reach the island through the Nantucket Sound. The ferry ride is about 2.5 hours, but beware that the prices for taking your own car to the island can be pretty steep.
There are faster passenger-only ferries which are more affordable and will get you to Nantucket for about an hour. Then you can rent a car or bike once you get there.
Still, if you are determined to take a road trip to Nantucket and want to drive there, you can read on to find out everything you need to know about planning and executing your trip with your own car.
To get an idea of the drive, you should expect - here is the driving distance from the nearest two large cities – Boston and New York. Your drive from NYC will take about 6 hours, and driving from Boston will take about 3 hours, depending on the traffic. The end-point is Hyannis, where you can get on a ferry to Nantucket.
Once you land on the island, the roads there are easy to navigate and get around, so you shouldn’t have a problem driving in Nantucket.
How to get to the island of Nantucket from the mainland of Massachusetts?
While you can reach Nantucket by air, ferry, or boat, the only way to reach the island with your own car is to catch the Steamship Authority ferries at Hyannis. They are the only ones that allow cars to ride to the island and are quite expensive.
If you prefer, you can fly into the island with a commercial or a private aircraft. You will land at the Nantucket Memorial Airport via the aircraft of your choice. In the summer, the airport is very busy with all the private and lux aircrafts flying in and out of Nantucket.
Another option to go to Nantucket carless is to get on a passenger-only catamaran from Cape Cod’s Hyannis, and you will be setting foot on the island in just one hour.
Once you are in Nantucket, you can get settled in your rental home or the residence you will be staying at, and then rent a car or bike, take a cab or walk.
Still, taking a road trip to Cape Cod and then to Nantucket will allow you to explore the areas and the island as you please.
Getting to the ferry from Boston or NYC
If you are traveling from Boston, MA, your drive should take about 1 hour and 30 minutes on the I-93, then on Route 3, and then to Hyannis.
Driving from New York City is long but well worth it.
The route is 250 miles, so you can expect to have to drive for about six hours from the Big Apple to Hyannis. You can pick the more scenic but slower I-95 along the coastline or choose the faster and less congested I-495 for this trip.
Avoid taking the Bourne Bridge on Cape Cod when you reach the destination. Instead, keep driving east and take the Sagamore Bridge and the Mid-Cape Highway. This is a much faster route to get to the coast.
At Hyannis, you can get on one of the two types of ferries to the island. If you want to take your car with you, you will need to get on the Steamship Authority ferry. It is the only one authorized to take cars to Nantucket. It takes about two and half hours to reach Nantucket.
The faster Hy-Line Cruise catamarans are for passengers only and get to Nantucket in just one hour.
How long will the drive be to Nantucket?
The only way to get to Nantucket with your car is to drive to Hyannis and then take the ferry.
The closest largest cities are NYC and Boston. The drive will take about two hours from Boston to Hyannis and a minimum of four hours from New York City to Hyannis, MA.
After you get to Hyannis, you will need to get on the ferry and take a 30 mile trip to Nantucket.
The car ferry is much slower and will take about two and half hours to get you and your car to the island.
If you choose to go without your car, you can take the faster passenger-only ferry which will take you to Nantucket for just one hour.
So, in total, your journey from NYC to Nantucket by car will take about seven hours, and a minimum of four hours if you will be driving from Boston to Nantucket.
Keep in mind that in the high season which is from May to October, the traffic can be quite heavy.
So, plan accordingly, if you will be driving to Nantucket during the peak of the heavy season, and make sure to add a few hours to the planned driving time.
Useful tips for driving to Nantucket
While it is possible to drive from mainland USA to Nantucket, you will need to get your car on the Steamship Authority ferry, which departs from
It is possible to drive to Nantucket from mainland USA, but you will need to transport your car to the island on the car ferry from Hyannis, Cape Cod, MA. The ferry service is available all year round.
The Steamship Authority ferry ride is the only one that you can use to get your car to Nantucket and has a cruise time of about 2 and ½ hours.
There is on-site and off-site parking if you decide to leave your car and take the passenger-only ferry instead.
During the summer season, there are some other ferry lines offered by Freedom Cruise and Seastreak from New Bedford, NYC, and Highland, NJ to Nantucket, and cruises to and from Martha’s Vineyard, but they are passenger-only too.
Including the ferry cruise, it will take you about 7 hours to drive from NYC to the island of Nantucket. During the high season, the drive can reach 8-9 hours.
The drive and ferry cruise from Boston, MA, is faster and will take about 4 hours or 6 when the traffic is heavy during the summer.
Before you head off on your road trip to Nantucket, keep in mind that you will need to buy a ferry ticket in advance. Also, it is recommended to calculate some added time for waiting, boarding, and disembarking from the ferry.
The cost for getting your car on the ferry to Nantucket starts from $246 for a one-way ticket and $275 for a weekend ticket for cars under 17 feet long. The tickets for vehicles from 17-20 ft. cost $271 for one-way and $300 for the weekend. Taking your bicycle on the ferry costs $7 for a one-way ticket. The tickets for adults are $19.50, and for kids aged 5-12, they are $10. Younger children travel for free.
There are several steamship ferries traveling every day, so that you can choose one in the morning from 9:15 a.m., one in the early afternoon departing at 2:45 p.m., and one which leaves Hyannis at 8 p.m.
Keep in mind that during extreme weather conditions, especially in the winter, the ferry services to and from Nantucket can be canceled.
If you want to experience the beauty of the island of Nantucket, it is a good idea to visit it in the spring or after the end of the high season in October.
Once you get to the island with your car, you can park and drive for free to the beaches or other parts of Nantucket. There is even a way to get a beach permit and enjoy some fun beach driving on certain beaches and in certain hours and days.