Martha’s Vineyard is not only a popular summer destination for New Englanders but tourists from all over the United States and the world. The popular magazine Town and Country magazine said it perfectly, “It’s not Nantucket—and that’s the point.” Sister islands off the coast of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard’s and Nantucket certainly have different personalities. Martha’s Vineyard is a bit more accessible and affordable. It’s about twice the size of Nantucket but still has all the beauty New England has to offer.
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How to get to Martha’s Vineyard
There are two major ports located on Martha’s Vineyard; Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven. It would make sense that one is located on one side of the island and the other on the other side, but they are actually quite close to each other. The Woods Hole terminal on Cape Cod is where you can board a ship to get to either of these ports on the Vineyard. You also have the option of bringing your car on board with you, but keep in mind this option is quite expensive and reservations are required well in advance to your departure date.
Need to know information for first-time visitors
Even though it may be a bit confusing on how to get to this island, I promise it’s worth it! Even though it’s an island off the coast of Massachusetts, in the summertime it feels like it could be straight out of the Caribbean or the English countryside. The main and most obvious reason to travel to Martha’s Vineyard especially in the summer is the beaches. You really can’t go wrong with any of the beaches, but here’s a list from Frommers to get you started.
It will really depend on where you’re staying as to what beach you want to venture to. Even though this island seems small, there are certain denser pockets on the island that can seem quite spread out from one another. The two more populated areas of Martha’s Vineyard are Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. Since one of the ferry terminals is right in Oak Bluffs, this area is more catered for tourists and visitors, and you can find multiple options for hotels and rentals. A bit farther down the island is Edgartown, where you will find more locals and more of a quintessential Marth’s Vineyard feel. Airbnbs and weekly rentals through VRBOs are also available, but these will most likely be spread across the entire island and most accessible by car.
How to get around Martha’s Vineyard
Even though it’s not necessary to have a car when traveling to Oak Bluffs or even Edgartown, it is easiest to travel around the island by car. Depending on where you’re traveling around the island, you can also travel by bike as there are numerous bike trails. The bike ride from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown isn’t too far, and completely doable for a day trip. There is a bus route that encompasses the entire island, you can check out the schedule here. Keep in mind that if you’re planning to bring your car to the island with you, depending on where you’re saying some beaches are for residents only.
Some Airbnb’s or VRBOs will offer a beach pass included in your rental property for the weekend or week, but don’t count on it. Biking is another great option as there are always bike racks at the stores you bike to. Biking would also avoid having to deal with parking, as you may also need to have a residential sticker to park at some beaches. You also need to keep in mind whatever parking lot you’re traveling to they will get quite busy in the summer, and the earlier you get there the better.
What to do on Marth’s Vineyard
Besides soaking up the sun at the beach, a trip to a New England island wouldn’t be complete without visiting a lighthouse. The two most popular lighthouses on the island are Edgartown Lighthouse and Gay Head Lighthouse. These lighthouses are on completely opposite sides of the island, but both have very different views. Edgartown Lighthouse overlooks the marina and vast ocean, and Gay Head Lighthouse sits along the sandy and stunning Aquinnah Cliffs. The two other lighthouses on the island are West Chop Lighthouse located in Vineyard Haven, East Chop Lighthouse located on Telegraph Hill in Oak Bluffs, and Cape Pogue Lighthouse which is actually on the very small island of Chappaquiddick, which is part of Edgartown.
If you’re traveling to the iconic Martha’s Vineyard, you can’t miss the ‘Gingerbread Cottages.’ Initially built for a Methodist religious camp, these colorful cottages in the gothic revival architecture are truly unique. It won’t take you long to walk around the neighborhood, which is located right near Oak Bluffs.
Where to stay on Martha’s Vineyard
When researching where to stay on the island, as mentioned before there are concentrated areas to search for hotels or bed and breakfasts, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. Oak Bluffs is a bit more touristy but will be more budget-friendly, Edgartown is quintessential Martha’s Vineyard and the more popular area to stay for the overall quintessential Martha’s Vineyard experience. Anywhere else on the island may be reached by bus depending on the location, but a car would be the best method of transportation.
- Summercamp – A historic Vineyard hotel located right off the water with stunning ocean views. It is highly rated but will cost around $300-$350/night.
- Oak Bluffs Inn – Voted best of Boston in 2020, this idyllic inn is right down the street from the ferry terminal. They offer are types of rooms that range between $200-$350/night.
- Narragansett House – Want to stay in an iconic Martha’s Vineyard Gingerbread House? Steps to Main Street, the harbor and Inkwell Beach you will find multiple rooms between $175-$415/night
- Ascend Hotel – Located right on Main Street in Edgartown, offers free private parking and is less than a mile from the beach. Most rooms will cost around $400/night
- The Richard – A chic and boutique-style hotel located right in the heart of Edgartown, it offers beautiful indoor and outdoor common spaces for around $450-$500/night.
- Ashley Inn – With feels of more like a bed and breakfast, this spot is only a mile from Edgartown Lighthouse. This will also cost you around $400/night.
You can also book holiday homes through booking. Keep in mind most of these homes will have a weekly minimum stay and need to be booked well in advance due to availability.
Where to Eat on Martha’s Vineyard
Looking for a restaurant with great seafood, ocean views, and won’t break the bank? The Seafood Shanty has one of the best locations in Edgartown. Located right on the water overlooking Chappaquiddick Island and the Edgartown marina, this restaurant offers delicious seafood and a large second-floor patio. It can get quite busy in the summer, so try to make a reservation or be prepared to wait for your table, especially if you have a larger party.
Another Edgartown favorite is L’étoile. An elegant dining experience that is located in a restored historic whaling captain’s house, this restaurant is chef-owned & operated. Make sure to try and make a reservation for the outdoor, garden patio. Adorned with lights and a romantic ambiance, it’s the perfect spot for a special night out.
The Atlantic is an Edgartown favorite. This spot is perfect if you’re looking for something a bit more upscale. They have an extensive seafood and steak menu and are located right on the water.
One of the Obama family favorites is State Road restaurant. This restaurant is located right in the middle of the island in the small town of West Tisbury. Not only is it an Obama family favorite, but you may just be able to spot other famous summer residents like Meg Ryan.
The Terrace is one of the chicest dining experiences on Martha’s Vineyard. Located in the charming Charlotte Inn, this spot is very Europeanesque and will make you feel like you’ve been transported somewhere across the world. You can choose to either eat inside or out, I’m sure the dining experience won’t disappoint either way.
Another popular spot on the island is Back Door Donuts. Just like its name, you will wait in a line behind the restaurant to put your order in and head to the pickup window when your name’s called. It’s quite a popular spot during certain hours of the day, so be prepared to wait.
Guest Author: Melissa from Meliss Meets World is a Wisconsin native. She moved to Boston, Massachusetts on a whim about six years ago and has loved every minute.