As you approach The Wauwinet on Wauwinet Road, the land tapers as the bumptious ocean on the right meets the calm bay on the left. Think of a lobster tail, as it's one of the dishes for which the hotel is known. Things taper at the top and The Wauwinet is no exception: You're arriving at one of Nantucket's top luxury enclaves (the island's only Relais & Châteaux property).
The 33-room hotel and its four free-standing guest cottages occupy a cluster of 19th-century shingled buildings that face an unnamed private beach. Across the road—on the ocean side—is Great Point Beach, and just outside that is the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge (so bring your binoculars). People drive all this way—the 17-minute drive from the airport, where Tradewind flights touch down at the center of the island, is lengthy by Nantucket standards—to dine at TOPPER’S, the hotel's lauded-to-the-moon restaurant named for the owners' Welsh Terrier. (Ever had a Nantucket lobster, leek, and basil frittata for breakfast? Didn't think so.)
In hotel terms, The Wauwinet is a moon shot: a boutique hotel, on a short-season island, with the polish of New England and personality of Provence. Think: rooms with character (antique pine, wicker, and tasteful chintz reign), luxe accessories (Pratesi bed linen), excellent service, a 1,000-label wine list, that unnamed private beach, two clay tennis courts, and locally sourced seafood and produce at TOPPER’S just downstairs (lobster navarin for dinner).
When you're here, you've arrived, and in the best tradition of luxury boutique hotels, you may not want to go anywhere else. Which is one reason to taxi to the hotel from the airport and figure out the rest. (Guests who book the three-bedroom Anchorage House, a stand-alone bungalow, are offered a BMW gratis.)
Not that staying at The Wauwinet means you’re stranded. The hotel shuttle makes the nine-mile trip to and from Nantucket Town almost hourly in-season, and the hotel has a boat that offers a tour of the harbor—Captain Rob McMullen knows these waters like the back of his hand.
The catch is that most of the rooms are small. Top-floor rooms have the best bay views, and if you're looking for a honeymoon feel, then book one of the four freestanding cottages (cozy gas fireplaces and sundecks). At the end of the day, though, there's an equalizer: that sunset over the bay on the hotel's private beach.
The only rule?
Come as you are.
*All photos courtesy of The Wauwinet.