Wooden buildings on the port with a fiery sunset in the background

Is there a ferry from Rhode Island to Nantucket?

Published by Pat Dorri on December 12 2023

Nantucket is an island on the Atlantic Coast of Massachusetts, which sits around 30 miles south of Cape Cod. It's been a popular place to escape the city heat since the mid-20th century but its history stretches back much further and you'll find plenty of historic streets and stunning views to explore on the island.

Nantucket is around 170 miles east of Rhode Island's capital, Providence, separated by the Nantucket Sound. There are no bridges to Nantucket but you can take ferries from Rhode Island via Martha's Vineyard or Hyannis, MA, to explore this beautiful island.

Whether you want to escape the city heat or walk or visit the beach, Nantucket is a fantastic destination that's just a few hours away from Rhode Island. Since you can't drive there, your trip to Nantucket will take a little planning, but we've put together all the information you need to get started.

Is there a ferry from Rhode Island to Nantucket?

Sitting in the Atlantic Ocean south of Cape Cod, you must cross the Nantucket Sound to reach Nantucket from Rhode Island. There are no direct ferries from Rhode Island to the attractive vacation destination of Nantucket, so you'll have to choose from a range of different options when you're traveling to Nantucket.

The closest ferry to Providence, RI, starts from Quonset Point but only sails as far as Martha's Vineyard. From there, you'll have to take a second ferry across to Nantucket to complete your trip.

Ferry passing by Brant Point lighthouse on a sunny day
Even though you cannot take a direct ferry from Rhode Island to Nantucket, you can still take the ferry from Martha's Vineyard to reach the island.
Allan Wood Photography/Shutterstock.com

Alternatively, it's possible to drive to Hyannis on Cape Cod and take a direct ferry from there. The downside of this route is that it's a much longer drive to reach the ferry, and you might find yourself navigating holiday traffic on Cape Cod along the way.

There are no bridges or tunnels between Rhode Island and Nantucket, so it's not possible to drive all the way. You either have to fly or take a ferry service.

If you want to drive once you arrive on the island, then it's possible to rent a car on Nantucket, but most visitors skip this and enjoy getting around the island at a slower pace.

Taking the ferry via Martha's Vineyard

To get started on your journey from Rhode Island to Nantucket, you'll first need to drive to the ferry terminal at Quonset Point. This 22-minute drive takes around 30 minutes, first heading south along I-95 and Colonel Rodman Highway before joining RI-403 East which takes you to your destination.

Both of the ferries you'll take on this route are for passengers only, so you'll have to park up near the ferry terminal before boarding.

Ferries from Martha's Vineyard arrive at Nantucket Dock, which is just a short walk to the Nantucket Downtown Historic District and the Whaling Museum. You'll also find Salt Marsh Way Beach and Brant Point Lighthouse nearby.

The ferry from Rhode Island to Martha's Vineyard operates between mid-June and late September, whilst the onward ferry from Martha's Vineyard to Nantucket sails starts in late May and continues into the fall. You can only make the trip when both ferries are running, which limits this journey to the main summer season.

There are usually two departures per day between Rhode Island and Martha's Vineyard, depending on the day of the week.

From May to September there are usually three departures per day from Martha's Vineyard to Nantucket. Times shift slightly in early fall before dropping down to a single crossing a day by the end of October.

For the smoothest journey from Rhode Island, we'd suggest taking the 8:30 departure from Quonset Point then the 12:05 crossing between Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts with views of the Gay Head cliffs of clay and the calm sea below taken on a clear sunny day.
The fastest way to travel from Rhode Island to Nantucket is to take the ferry from the mainland to Martha's vineyard, and then to take another ferry.
Joaquin Ossorio Castillo/Shutterstock.com

Traveling to Nantucket from Hyannis

If you don't mind trading the indirect ferry crossing for a longer drive, you can take a direct ferry to Nantucket from Hyannis. This is also a passenger-only ferry, so you'll need to park in Hyannis before embarking on the ferry on foot.

To reach Hyannis, leave Providence on I-195 then join the Blue Star Memorial Highway to connect up with US-6 and cross the Sagamore Bridge onto Cape Cod. Follow the Mid-Cape Highway towards Barnstaple, then turn off onto MA-132, which leads to Hyannis. Ferries depart from Hyannis Inner Harbor.

How long does it take to reach Nantucket from Rhode Island?

If you're traveling to Nantucket via Rhode Island, aim to arrive at the ferry port 30 to 45 minutes before departure after making the 30-minute drive from Providence. Loading on the ferry to Martha's Vineyard begins around 15 minutes before departure, but you'll need to allow a little longer if you're parking before getting onto the ferry.

It takes 95 minutes to travel between Rhode Island and Martha's Vineyard on the ferry, followed by a recommended 30 to 45-minute wait before the 70-minute onward ferry to Nantucket.

This means that, with fair weather and a good ferry connection, you'll arrive on Nantucket around 4 hours 45 minutes after leaving Providence, RI. In most cases though, you'll have to wait a couple of hours before embarking your second ferry, which pushes up the travel time.

A harbor at Hyannis,Massachusetts with boats docked during daytime.
Another option is to drive from Rhode Island to Hyannis and then take the ferry from there to Nantucket.

The ferry crossing from Hyannis to Nantucket is a little quicker, coming in at around 1 hour in normal conditions. You'll also need to arrive at least 45 minutes before boarding commences and leave about 15 minutes to disembark the ferry.

On top of the time for the ferry crossing, it's a 1 hour 30-minute drive from Providence to Hyannis. This makes a total travel time of 3 hours 30 minutes for a one-way journey from Rhode Island to Nantucket via Hyannis.

This makes the route through Hyannis the quickest way to travel from Rhode Island to Nantucket. However, you'll also need to navigate the busy traffic on Cape Cod along the way, so many travelers might prefer to stick with the two-ferry route via Martha's Vineyard.

Whichever route you take, it's wise to give yourself enough time to navigate unexpected traffic delays. Be sure to double-check minimum boarding times directly with the ferry operator, as these can change. The ferry won't wait if you miss your boarding slot!

How much does it cost to travel from Rhode Island to Nantucket?

As you've already seen, you have a choice of ferry routes to Nantucket, each of which comes with a different price tag.

We've summarized the cost of different ferry routes below. If you're making the trip from Rhode Island via Martha's Vineyard, you'll need to book two separate tickets, making the total cost of the one-way journey $103 off-peak or $113 during peak season.

Fuel costs aren't included in our summary, so if you're driving to Hyannis to take the direct ferry, you'll also need to add on the cost of driving the extra distance to the ferry port. However, even with the extra fuel, the Hyannis to Nantucket ferry is usually the best value route from Rhode Island.

Comparison of the costs to travel to Nantucket
Rhode Island-Martha's VineyardRhode Island Fast Ferry$71
Martha's Vineyard-NantucketHy-Line Cruises$42
Hyannis-NantucketHy-Line Cruises$48

*Prices are for a single journey, calculated at the time of writing. It's usually a little cheaper to book a round trip than two single ferry tickets.

Things you need to know about traveling from Rhode Island to Nantucket

It's a fairly straightforward journey between Rhode Island and Nantucket, but here are a few things to keep in mind when you're planning your trip.

  • Ferries to Nantucket get booked up during the main vacation season and beyond, so we'd recommend advance reservations where possible.
  • The same applies to accommodation once you arrive in Nantucket - book ahead so that you're not disappointed when you arrive.
  • You can't take your car on the ferries between Rhode Island and Nantucket via Martha's Vineyard.
  • Parking is available near the terminal in Quonset Point and costs $15 per day at the time of writing. Parking is safe and secure, and is locked overnight, and the lot is within walking distance of the departure point.
  • You can also park in Hyannis if you're taking the direct ferry.
  • Visitors to Nantucket usually don't need a car since it's possible to get around the island on foot or bike.
  • If you want to visit other parts of Nantucket, for example Sconset Bluff or Madaket Beach, you can use the shuttle service. Uber also operates on the island.
  • You can take your own bicycle on the ferry from Rhode Island if you pay a $7-each-way fee.
  • There's a small chance of delays or cancellations due to bad weather, though fortunately this very rarely happens.
  • Martha's Vineyard is another beautiful destination, so consider stopping along the way to explore before you complete your journey to Nantucket.

Best time to visit Nantucket

Thanks to its location on the Atlantic coast, it's impossible to hide from the weather on Nantucket. It's possible to visit at any time of year, but you'll have a very different experience depending on when you travel.

As you might expect, summer is the most popular time to visit Nantucket, with warm weather inviting visitors to enjoy outdoor activities and days at the beach. Across Nantucket, flowers will be in bloom and the Sconset Bluff Walk is vibrant and full of color.

Most of Nantucket's annual events take place in summer too, including the Nantucket Book, Film, Dance and Comedy Festivals which are held in June and July.

Lighthouse with a big wreath hanging from the front of the facade on a sunny day
Ferries run few and in-between during the winter months to Nantucket, but that doesn't stop the island from going festive!
Shackleford Photography/Shutterstock.com

In August, you can sit out and enjoy the long-running Boston Pops on Nantucket concert, while Nantucket Race Week is held in the middle of the month.

Spring and fall are cheaper, with off-peak prices on ferries and cheaper accommodation. It probably won't be warm enough to sunbathe, but come in April to see the beautiful Nantucket Daffodil Festival or head to town in May for the Nantucket Wine & Food Festival.

Ferries from Rhode Island to Nantucket via Martha's Vineyard stop operating during winter. There are some services on the route between Hyannis and Nantucket through Christmas, but this also stops between January and March.

Winter is by far the quietest time to visit Nantucket, which is perfect if you're looking for some peace and quiet or atmospheric beach walks. Wrap up warm and be prepared for some wind, rain and a little snow.

Things to see once you reach Nantucket

Nantucket is a charming and historic destination with plenty to see and do during your trip. Here are some of our top picks to help you plan your visit:

  1. Brant Point Lighthouse - This iconic lighthouse is the second-oldest in the entire USA, and sits among calming views across the Nantucket harbor.
  2. Cisco Brewers - Kickback at Cisco Brewers. Here, you can indulge in local craft beer, wines, and spirits. Furthermore, there's food and live music to enjoy.
  3. Nantucket Whaling Museum - Explore the maritime history of Nantucket at this fascinating museum located in an 1846 candle factory. You can see artifacts and learn more about the island's whaling history.
  4. Beaches - There are plenty of beach choices on the island. The sunset at Madaket Beach on the western end of the island is picture-perfect and the ideal setting for a splendid evening.
  5. Sconset Bluff Walk - Stroll through the charming streets of Sconset Village, where you'll see rose-covered cottages and ocean views offering a glimpse into Nantucket's quaint coastal life.
Model replica of a ship at an museum exhibition indoors
Nantucket Whaling Museum is a must-visit for maritime enthusiasts and history buffs.

As you've seen, you have two fantastic options for traveling from Rhode Island to Nantucket without having to drive to Boston and boarding a plane.

Whether you opt for the more direct route of driving to Hyannis before embarking your ferry, or whether you prefer to turn your trip into an adventure of its own by stopping on Martha's Vineyard along the way, sit back and enjoy the fresh sea air as you hop across the ocean to visit the beautiful destination of Nantucket.