The author inspires a visit to Nantucket, a treasure off the coast of Massachusetts

“What other writer has this: I write about Nantucket…and then you can come to Nantucket…and then you can see me in Nantucket.”

Almost all of Elin Hilderbrand’s 28 novels take place on the island where she has lived for almost 30 years. They are popular. His most recent, “The Hotel Nantucket,” was #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list for 4 weeks this summer.

His books are categorized as “Beach Reads”. They are fun, easy to read with interesting plots and compelling characters. I’ve been addicted to Elin’s annual summer books for years. They made me curious about this island off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, but I never really thought about traveling there.

Surprisingly, “The Hotel Nantucket” included something unique hidden at the end of the book: a truly detailed travel guide to Nantucket. In Elin’s novel, the Blue Book of Travel Advice was a bonus brochure that the fictional hotel provided to its guests. After sending the manuscript of the novel to his publisher, author Elin had a brainstorm: why not include a blue book.

Because she is the unofficial spokesperson for the island, people ask her all the time what to do and where to eat. “Part of it is self-preservation. I had it in the book…and I thought, I should write this. I understand that people want my opinion. She hopes she has found a way to avoid d having to answer the same questions over and over again.

Elin Hilderbrand's latest books on display at a Nantucket bookstore.

This spontaneous postscript to his latest novel pushed me over the edge. I booked a fall trip to this island I’ve been reading about for years. Based on his insider tips, I made a list of all the sites I wanted to see. And then I booked a room at the hotel that she admits “The Hotel Nantucket” was inspired by. It’s called the Nantucket Hotel and Resort.

Although you can fly to Nantucket, Elin recommends taking the ferry from Cape Cod. From all the locals I met at the ferry terminal, this seems to be the most popular route. It’s a quick one hour ride.

A driver from the Nantucket hotel met us at the ferry terminal as they do for all of their guests. The hotel is a beautiful place and a true luxury experience with lots of amenities, but I had little time to relax. My agenda called for a diverse collection of stops during my three days there:

Elin’s “must-see” outdoor restaurant by the beach (Sandbar at Jetties Beach) was really fun and really delicious…and even reasonably priced. Why not love a restaurant that features popsicles on its desert menu?

Climbing the stairs to the bell tower of the Congregational Church was a great idea to get a panoramic view of the only town on the island. The church volunteer who was supposed to be on duty that day did not show up. So Steve, the sexton of the church, took it upon himself to welcome visitors. What a gentleman.

Elin’s favorite ice cream parlor (The Juice Bar) was as good as promised. We made several visits. The blackberry and rum and raisin flavors were really addictive.

Wicked Island Bakery’s legendary “morning buns” were always waiting for us mid-morning; apparently a bonus for showing up in October after peak tourist season. Elin’s Blue Book had warned “they sell out very early”. These cinnamon rolls are made from flaky crescent dough. Wow, they were delicious. Elin has the scoop on this one; her secondary-aged daughter works there during the summer.

All of these places were within walking distance of the hotel, but the Bluff Walk Elin raves miles away. We took the city bus to that part of the island known to the locals as ‘Sconset’.

The Bluff Walk is a narrow path that winds behind some of the finest homes on the island. Their backyards face the ocean and the trail takes you through those backyards. A local who gave me directions said, “You’ll feel like an intruder, just keep in mind that you’re not allowed into their liquor cellars.”

We only made it to a small portion of the Blue Book listings, but it was enough to get a taste of the island Elin loves so much. The people there are welcoming and friendly. Just like Elin Hilderbrand. She shared time with this Ventura County travel writer. I let her know that she was the one who inspired our trip.

Elin Hilderbrand (foreground) greets Nantucket visitors who line up every Wednesday morning this summer at Mitchell's Book Corner to meet her and have their books signed.

If you go to Nantucket, you can also meet her. Every Wednesday during the summer season, she lectures at Mitchell’s Book Corner between 11 a.m. and noon. Elin greets her readers and signs books. It’s an unusual accessibility for a leading author.

I was really impressed with Nantucket. Reading Elin’s books gave me a sense of familiarity before I even got off the ferry. Once there, I discovered a neighborhood of locals that was delightful.

Elin is a fascinating woman…full of energy, she talks fast and deals quickly. She tells me that a six-part Netflix series of one of her books will be filmed in the spring. These will probably be upcoming movies too. She described how it all happened: “My intention was to write the great American novel…and I landed here…and I just wrote a book about Nantucket…and it really worked…(but) I didn’t hit number 1 on the New York Times Bestseller list until my 23rd book. It’s long !

He’s a big publishing star now. She hitched this star to a beautiful island and welcoming community. I would recommend a trip like I’ve described, especially if you’re one of its many dedicated readers.

David Loe

David Loe co-owned a travel business in Ventura County for 25 years. His column appears monthly. He welcomes your comments at [email protected]

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