If you’re planning a vacation to the Cape Cod island of Nantucket, you don’t want to miss the Whaling Museum, operated by the Nantucket Historical Association. Find out why it is listed as one of the top 45 things to do in Massachusetts. 

Whaling Museum 

Whale Skeleton in New Bedford Whaling Museum

Photos courtesy New Bedford Whaling Museum

Originally a historic candle factory, The Whaling Museum was completely restored and eventually turned into an extensive collection of whaling artifacts. It contains over 23 galleries; Each one tells a story of human interaction with whales throughout time, and of the impact whaling has had. Whales are important to the eco-system because they help regulate ocean waters and stabilize the food chain. Also, they make sure certain species don’t overpopulate. 

The museum is not only beautiful but educational as well. It’s the perfect place to go on a rainy, or sunny day. 

Getting There

Nantucket is easily accessible by boat or plane. Ferries depart from Hyannis, Harwich Port, and New Bedford, MA, as well as New York City. Seasonally, flights are available from Boston, New York City, Newark, N.J. and Washington D.C. Year-round, Cape Air provides service from Boston, Hyannis, New Bedford, and Martha’s Vineyard.


From April 2 to December 31st, the museum is open daily from 10am-5pm and tickets are $20 for adults and $5 for youth ages 6-17, with student and senior discounts. From February 1-April 2, it’s open Thursday-Sunday from 10am-4pm. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youth ages 6-17.

Things to Do 


Painting of a "Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage"

Photos courtesy New Bedford Whaling Museum

Walk around the multimedia exhibits; They tell the story of Nantucket’s rich past as a whaling hub. The museum includes a rooftop observation deck with spectacular views of the harbor, a sperm whale skeleton, and America’s largest painting, the 1848 Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round The World”, by Benjamin Russell and Caleb Purrington. It is an impressive 1,275 feet long! 


Exhibit inside of the New Bedford Whaling Museum

Photos courtesy New Bedford Whaling Museum

Learn about the technology used to study marine life. Next, go on one of the daily gallery tours, and get a peek into the history of local pieces, as well as artifacts, film footage, and images. Or, climb on to the world’s largest ship model, Lagoda, a 19th-century whaling vessel. Families: Stop by the Discovery Room, a dedicated family area that offers a variety of enriching activities and craft projects to keep little ones engaged for a while. 

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