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Volume 37 Issue 12 • July 12-18, 2007
now in our 37th season

Family Day at the Beach

by Zoë Kirsch

Picking a beach on Nantucket that best suits your family can be pretty complicated…there are so many options!  During your quest for the right beach, you might be looking for the answers to a series of questions.  Which beaches are the most kid friendly?  Which ones are dangerous?  Once I decide which beach to take my kids to, what should I bring on the outing to be prepared?  What if my family and I are here for a day on the beautiful island of Nantucket… and it rains?  We did some investigation and found the answers to these key inquires.  Furthermore, we discovered some fun activities that your child can do at the beach (with or without your participation!)   

While some Nantucket beaches have mild-mannered waves, just as many are home to dynamically dangerous currents.  Here’s a quick overview of Nantucket beaches so that you can steer yourself and your kids clear of unsafe situations, have fun, and overall have fantastic beach experiences on this island. 

Jetties Beach, Children’s Beach, and Dionis Beach are ideal for families with very small children. As well as all having very gentle waves, these beaches boast lifeguards, bathroom facilities, parking, and (in the case of Jetties and Children’s) food!  Jeffrey Allen of the Nantucket Fire Dept, a man who really knows about water safety, verifies that, “those beaches are great for kids young and old.” 

For families with older children who are interested in larger waves, ‘Sconset, Surfside, Miacomet, Cisco, and Madaket beaches, all of which have lifeguards too, might be preferable.  But be warned…these beaches can have heavy surf!  If you choose to go to these beaches with young kids, watch them very carefully.  Beaches to avoid include those that have strong currents and no lifeguards such as Brant Point and Tom Nevers.  

Having decided which beach best suits you and your family, it’s time to gear up for the excursion.  In order to fully enjoy a beautiful beach day on Nantucket, it’s essential that you avoid dehydration, hunger, and sunburn.  Luckily, this isn’t too difficult, as long as you are prepared. Unless you’re headed to a beach with access to food, it’s a great idea to pack a bag with hydrating drinks and some sort of sustenance.  If you’re looking for spectacular sandwiches, Provisions has just what you need.  The popular store in Harbor Square has every kind of sandwich you could ask for:  from my personal favorite (their famous Turkey Terrific) to that well-known classic, peanut butter and jelly.   Once you figure out your lunch plan, remember to bring sun protective gear.  This includes hats, sunglasses, and plenty of sunscreen.  Finally, towels are a must for comfort.  Once you and your family arrive at the beach, it’s a good idea to remind your children of beach safety rules. 

Then you’re ready to enjoy the beach! 

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, sign up for one of the Maria Mitchell Aquarium’s Marine Ecology Field Trips (Monday-Saturday at 10 am) or Beachcombing Trips (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 2 pm).  These are fun and educational guided beach activities for all ages.  Some of the animals collected may be taken to the Aquarium at 28 Washington Street for display before being released back into their original habitats. For dates and times, call the Aquarium at 508-228-5387.  The Maria Mitchell Aquarium sells A Field Guide to the Marine Life of Nantucket for those who’d like to try some marine identification on their own.

For ages twelve and up, fishing is an enjoyable beach hobby to try with parent supervision. Rent some rods and fishing tackle (also available at Barry Thurston’s), head out to Dionis beach, and you’re ready to go!  Try your luck catching those elusive striper and bluefish!

Last, but definitely not least, your kids can swim around in the water…just keep your eye on them!  Jetties Beach, Chidren’s Beach, and Dionis are great if younger children want to kickboard in shallow water.  At beaches with more wave action like Sconset, Surfside, Miacomet, Cisco and Madaket, older kids can try to catch a wave by bodysurfing.

If you want to relax instead as your kids play, building sandcastles is the perfect safe activity for children of all ages.  These sandy creations can be made with or without tools (if you need shovels and buckets, find them at Dan’s Good Neighbor Pharmacy at 5 Bayberry Court.)  Kids can use creativity and cooperation by working in teams.  What's more, decorative shells, great additions to any sandcastle, are easily available on any Nantucket beach.  If you want, propose a contest and ask one child to be the judge.  Who knows?  If your family has lots of fun sandcastle building, you might all decide to participate in the Annual Sandcastle and Sculpture contest, held on Jetties beach on August 18th!   

If you’re looking forward to the Nantucket beach day and it starts to rain as you set out, don’t give up all hope!  Have a go at a walk down the beach; you might be surprised at how fun it is to get drenched by the rain on a warm summer day.  If you prefer to stay dry, bring an umbrella, a rain jacket, and a towel.  Spread the towel out so that you and your companions can sit down.  Watch the waves crash upon the shore while you all stay cozily dry under the umbrella.  Keep an eye out for seals or interesting shells that wash up on the beach! 

Now that you’re prepared to have a safe, one-of-a-kind, and entertaining beach expedition (rain or shine!), get out there and enjoy Nantucket!

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