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A Brief History of Nantucket Boat Basin

Post by Becky at Dockwa - Published on 4/27/18 1:31 PM
Nantucket Boat Basin is known throughout New England and beyond for its excellent hospitality, boater facilities, and location. The island of Nantucket itself is known throughout the country as the host to gorgeous scenery, beautiful homes, quaint businesses, and, of course, the tendency to provide boaters some of their most idyllic summer days year after year.

Nantucket Boat Basin is celebrating their 50th season this summer, and they're doing it in style! Marina guests will be treated to throwback events, weekend specials, and a giveaway valued at $3300. Read on for a brief history of this New England gem, and enter to win a free stay at NBB this summer.


Jump to: Nantucket Boat Basin History or NBB 50th Rates and Events

Nantucket Boat Basin - View from the Sail Loft
Nantucket Boat Basin 50

Needless to say, building a magical destination like Nantucket Boat Basin takes some time. Here are some of the early highlights: 

  • 1723 - 1762: Straight Wharf and South Wharf are built

  • 1819: The infamous whaling ship, the Essex, leaves Nantucket Harbor

  • 1831: The whaling era begins to decline; oil is discovered on land

  • 1846: The Great Fire burns the downtown area, including the waterfront

  • 1850: Obed Swain, a retired whaling captain, renames Commercial Wharf, and Swain’s Wharf is born

  • 1917: Henry Lang purchases Old South Wharf from the Swain family

  • 1939 - July 26 - Wauwinet Yerxas Boat Shop Straight Wharf-1.jpg
    Wauwinet Yerxas Boat Shop Straight Wharf, July 26 1939
  • 1950s Aerial Straight.jpg
    Aerial view of Nantucket Boat Basin during the 1950s
  • Early to mid-1900s: Nantucket transforms from a whaling economy to a tourism economy

  • By 1920, Nantucket's new era of tourism is in full swing, with travelers arriving in droves by steamboat from ports across the Northeast.

  • 1960s Nantucket Boat Basin aerial-1.jpg
    Aerial View of Nantucket Boat Basin in the 1960s
  • 1960s OSW.jpg
    Nantucket Boat Basin – 1960s
  • 1960s Construction at NBB.jpg
    NBB docks under construction – 1960s
  • 1960s OSW during renovations.jpg
    Renovatins underway at OSW – 1960s
  • 1960s Scallop Boats.jpg
    Scallop Boats – 1960s
  • 1960s Sail Loft (CRU).jpg
    The Sail Loft in the 1960s – now known as CRU
  • 1965: Walter Beinecke, Jr. leads the waterfront redevelopment

  • 1968 - 1969: Renovations begin with plans for boat slips and finger piers, along with Harbor Square, and its Tavern and Gazebo

  • The award-winning Nantucket Boat Basin as we know it today officially opened for business in May 1968.

  • 1968 - September - New Whale Street at Nantucket BOat Basin.jpg
  • 1968 Straight Wharf walkway.jpg
  • 1969 August OSW Cottages .jpg
  • 1969 - August - OSW from Commercial at Nantucket Boat Basin.jpg
  • 1969 August - New Anglers Club at Nantucket Boat Basin.jpg
  • 1969 Harbor Square.jpg
  • 1969 OSW.jpg

As the flow of visitors to Nantucket continued to rise, long-time resident Walter Beinecke Jr. co-founded the Nantucket Historical Trust in 1971, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the historical integrity of the island. As part of these efforts, Beinecke purchased “Zero Main Street” – a project that would lead the waterfront development and later become known as the Nantucket Boat Basin.

Colorized Docks
  • 1985: First Winthrop Corp. purchases the harborfront property

  • 1991: The “Perfect Storm” hits the island, destroying wharves, buildings and boats

  • 1998-Present: Winthrop Corp. sells the Boat Basin and Wharves, Harbor House, and White Elephant to Jill and Stephen Karp. Under the ownership of the Karps, Nantucket Boat Basin achieves global status as one of the top marinas in the world.

Nantucket Boat Basin - present day

Nantucket Boat Basin: A Modern-Day Resort Destination

Much has changed since serving as a key port since the island’s whaling days in the early 1700s. Today Nantucket Boat Basin is part of Nantucket Island Resorts, a collection of waterfront restaurants and historic hotels, including The Cottages at Nantucket Boat Basin.

Named Sailing Today’s Best Overseas Marina, and a recipient of Marinas.com’s Boaters’ Choice Award, the Boat Basin is open year-round and hosts seasonal events, including Figawi Race Weekend and Nantucket Race Week.

Following in the footsteps of Nantucket conservationist Walter Beinecke, Jr., Nantucket Island Resorts current owners Jill and Stephen Karp have made preserving Nantucket Boat Basin and its wharves a priority.

NBB 50

To celebrate their golden anniversary, Nantucket Boat Basin is offering special rates, amenities, and activities for its guests!

NBB Throwback Weekend Rates

The marina will celebrate ‘Throwback Weekend at Nantucket Boat Basin’ by honoring the nightly docking rates from 1968. From June 1-3, 2018, boats docking for one night at today’s standard rate will receive their second night at the 1968 rate of $.30 per foot with a minimum charge of $10. Current nightly rates in June range between $1.95 - $3.75 per foot, based on the total length of the yacht.

nantucket fishing

Go Fish for a New Tradition

The marina will host its inaugural Father’s Day Fishing Tournament on June 15 & 16, 2018. The inaugural tournament kicks off Friday evening with a Captain’s Welcome Reception on Old South Wharf. The next morning, teams will compete for the top title in categories such as heaviest fish and most fish caught.


Toast to NBB!

Nantucket Boat Basin has teamed up with Cisco Brewers to create a limited-edition bottle of Cisco’s popular Cranberry Pinot Gris. Aged for one year in stainless steel barrels, the wine is infused with cranberries harvested from Nantucket cranberry bogs giving it a slightly tart and refreshing taste. Wrapped in Nantucket Boat Basin 50th Anniversary labels, the bottles will be offered as a special welcome amenity for Nantucket Boat Basin guests.

Nantucket docks

Get Closer to Maritime History

The Boat Basin will host “Touch-a-Boat Day” on June 9, 2018, inviting families to tour the marina and participating vessels such as the Revolution, a commercial lobster boat, and a United States Coast Guard vessel. Complimentary crafts and snacks will be offered to all participants.


Take a Deeper Dive into Nantucket History

On the first Saturday of every month, the Nantucket Boat Basin team will host a complimentary historic walking tour of the marina and its surrounding area. With coffee and pastries in hand, guests will visit stops such as Swain’s Wharf, named after John Swain, one of the original settlers on Nantucket; and Old South Wharf, built in 1770 and the epicenter for the Nantucket Whaling Industry.

Click here for more detail about the Nantucket Boat Basin 50th Anniversary events




Do you have photos or stories of your time at Nantucket Boat Basin? Now’s the time to share them! Tag Dockwa and NBB on Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag #NBB50.

Post by Becky Pineo

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