Tourism On Nantucket Has Reached Critical Mass. Here's What To Do Next

Alan Rubinstein •

To the editor:  It should be abundantly obvious to even the most casual observer that tourism on Nantucket has reached critical mass. Traffic on Old South Road is routinely backed up for miles heading to the rotary. Milestone Road is more of the same. Pleasant Street to the Five Corners – gridlock. Elin Hilderbrand could write a new novel while stuck in traffic on Nobadeer Farm Road. Finding a parking space at the Stop and Shop is like winning the lottery. The Sconset Bluff Walk is at a standstill. Noise from short-term renters shatters the quiet of our residential neigborhoods. Tourists in town fill the sidewalks like Fifth Avenue at Christmastime. And less visibly, but even more significant, is the enormous stress on Nantucket’s fragile ecosystems and the ability to provide essential services.

But let’s not rest on our laurels. We need to attract more tourists. Let’s turn 75,000 tourists in July and August into 150,000 and beyond. It will take some work, but I’m confident that we can and will make it happen.

How? With sweeping regulatory changes, infrastructure improvements and exciting new attractions. And with the help of a town government that clearly favors real estate and investment interests over the needs of the community and the long-term quality of life on Nantucket.

The Plan:


1. Permit full-time commercial short-term rental businesses anywhere and everywhere throughout the Island. Let’s continue to make it easy for deep-pocketed outside investors to gobble up houses in Nantucket’s residential neighborhoods and convert them into full-time commercial short-term rental properties. And make no mistake, their appetite for money is insatiable. So, with the blessing of a town government that caters to the real estate industrial complex, short-term rental businesses can take over our residential neighborhoods. Raucous parties, loud music – bring it on. It’s about time we livened up our boringly quiet neighborhoods. Watch out Daytona Beach, here comes Nantucket. It’s really a beautiful thing. The town government can effectively circumvent fundamental residential zoning principles by permitting short-term commercial rental businesses (mini-hotels) in our residential neighborhoods.

2. Allow commercial short-term rental businesses to permit hourly stays to cater to those visitors who desire brief, but hopefully memorable and magical romantic encounters. This will enable investors in short-term rental businesses to maintain a steady revenue stream in between longer-term rentals.

Full disclosure: The buying up and conversion of houses into commercial short-term rental businesses will deplete the housing supply for all year-round residents. It will make it even more difficult for essential workers such as healthcare professionals, firefighters, law enforcement personnel, and teachers to find affordable housing.

But hey, let’s stick to our plan.


1. Substantially widen the impracticably narrow streets in the downtown historic district to increase traffic capacity.

2. Pave over those pesky cobblestones, annoying remnants from a bygone era, to speed up the flow of traffic.

3. Transform both Milestone and Old South Roads into four-lane highways (two lanes in each direction). Install concrete Jersey barriers as a divider on both highways and increase the speed limit to 60 mph. Replace the outdated Milestone rotary with a cloverleaf interchange to accommodate the intersection of the two highways.

4. Substantially widen the Sconset Bluff Walk path to enable the installation of a moving walkway. This will efficiently accommodate substantially more tourists and solve the problem of annoying dawdlers gawking at the ocean views. Change the name to the Sconset Bluff Ride.


1. Transform the Sconset Casino into a full-service 24-hour licensed gambling casino with state-of-the-art slot machines and gaming equipment. Fortuitously and with a nod to historical continuity, the name can remain the same. Let’s face it, to take Nantucket to the next level as a tourist attraction, it’s imperative that we find a way to attract heavy hitters and high rollers. With any luck, we can make Nantucket a first-class gambling destination.

2. Build a massive boardwalk along the beach in Madaket with electronic gaming arcades and old-school touches. After all, who could resist a killer sunset, cotton candy and an exciting game of Skee-ball?

3. Replace the stairs leading to Steps Beach with a funicular (preferably Swiss-built). I have countless ideas for additional attractions to lure more tourists to Nantucket, but I’ll leave that for another day. Hint: think a huge ferris wheel at Children’s Beach and jet ski rentals in Polpis for starters. The possibilities are endless.

I trust that you have found my proposal compelling. Together, and with the help of a town government that is willing to commercialize the entire island, we can make Nantucket a tourist destination that rivals Coney Island, Daytona Beach, and Seaside Heights at the Jersey shore, or…dare I dream…….Atlantic City.

Alan Rubinstein

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