Martha’s Vineyard Travel User Guide
Martha’s Vineyard is a charming island off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, known for its picturesque landscapes, historic lighthouses, pristine beaches, and vibrant arts scene. With its small-town charm, exquisite dining options, and variety of outdoor activities, Martha’s Vineyard is a popular destination for vacationers seeking a relaxing and idyllic getaway. In this comprehensive travel user guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of visiting Martha’s Vineyard, including how to get there, where to stay, what to do, and where to eat.
Getting to Martha’s Vineyard
Martha’s Vineyard is accessible by air and sea. The easiest and most common way to reach the island is by ferry. There are several ferry services that connect Martha’s Vineyard to mainland Massachusetts, including the Steamship Authority, which operates year-round service from Woods Hole, and seasonal services from New Bedford, Falmouth, and Hyannis. The ferry ride from Woods Hole takes approximately 45 minutes and offers both vehicle and passenger transportation.
For those who prefer to fly, Martha’s Vineyard Airport (MVY) offers year-round flights from Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), as well as seasonal flights from other cities in the Northeast. Cape Air, JetBlue, and Delta are among the airlines that service the island.
Getting Around Martha’s Vineyard
Once on the island, there are several transportation options available. Renting a car or moped is a popular choice for visitors who want to explore the island independently. Several rental agencies are located near the ferry terminals and the airport. Keep in mind that parking can be limited in some areas, particularly during peak season.
Martha’s Vineyard also offers an extensive public transportation system, known as the Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA). The VTA operates buses throughout the island, with routes connecting all six towns, popular beaches, and attractions. The service is affordable and convenient, making it an excellent option for those who prefer not to drive.
Biking is another popular mode of transportation on Martha’s Vineyard, as the island boasts over 44 miles of bike paths. Many visitors choose to bring their own bicycles on the ferry or rent them upon arrival.
Where to Stay
Martha’s Vineyard offers a range of accommodation options, from luxury resorts and boutique hotels to charming bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals, and campgrounds. The island is divided into six main towns, each with its unique charm and attractions:
Edgartown: Known for its historic whaling-era homes, upscale boutiques, and fine dining, Edgartown is an excellent option for travelers seeking a sophisticated and picturesque setting. Accommodations in this area include luxury hotels, historic inns, and vacation rentals.
Oak Bluffs: With its vibrant gingerbread cottages, lively waterfront, and family-friendly attractions, Oak Bluffs is a popular choice for families and those seeking a lively atmosphere. Accommodations range from hotels and motels to vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts.
Vineyard Haven: As the primary port of entry for ferries, Vineyard Haven offers a convenient location for visitors arriving on the island. The town features a mix of shops, galleries, and restaurants, as well as a variety of accommodations, including inns, vacation rentals, and campgrounds.
West Tisbury: For a more rural and tranquil setting, consider staying in West Tisbury. This town is home to rolling farmland, art galleries, and the stunning Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary. Accommodations in West Tisbury include vacation rentals, bed and breakfasts, and campgrounds.
Chilmark: Known for its picturesque landscapes, quiet beaches, and the famous Menem sha Clay Cliffs, Chilmark offers a serene and secluded atmosphere for those seeking a peaceful retreat. Accommodations in this area include vacation rentals, cottages, and a few small inns.
Aquinnah: The town of Aquinnah, located at the westernmost point of Martha’s Vineyard, is home to the iconic Gay Head Lighthouse and stunning clay cliffs. Visitors seeking a quiet, off-the-beaten-path experience will enjoy the natural beauty and tranquility of Aquinnah. Accommodations are limited and primarily consist of vacation rentals and cottages.
What to Do
Martha’s Vineyard boasts an array of activities and attractions to suit every traveler’s interests:
Beaches: With over 19 public beaches, Martha’s Vineyard offers plenty of opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing. Popular beaches include South Beach, Joseph Sylvia State Beach, and Menemsha Public Beach.
Lighthouses: The island is home to several historic lighthouses, including the Gay Head Lighthouse, Edgartown Lighthouse, and East Chop Lighthouse. Many of these lighthouses are open to the public for tours during the summer months.
Outdoor Activities: Martha’s Vineyard offers numerous outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, kayaking, and sailing. Explore the island’s many nature preserves and conservation areas, like the Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary or the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest.
Arts and Culture: The island is home to a vibrant arts scene, with galleries, studios, and events showcasing the work of local artists. The Martha’s Vineyard Film Center and the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse offer film screenings, live performances, and other cultural events throughout the year.
Shopping: From upscale boutiques to quirky souvenir shops, Martha’s Vineyard offers a variety of shopping options. Browse the shops in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Vineyard Haven for clothing, jewelry, art, and more.
Dining: With its abundance of fresh seafood and local produce, Martha’s Vineyard is a food lover’s paradise. Enjoy a casual meal at a seafood shack, savor fine dining at a waterfront restaurant, or sample local fare at a farmer’s market.
Festivals and Events: Throughout the year, Martha’s Vineyard hosts a variety of festivals and events, such as the Martha’s Vineyard Food & Wine Festival, the Vineyard Artisans Festivals, and the Oak Bluffs Harbor Festival. Check the island’s event calendar during your visit to experience local culture and festivities.
Where to Eat
Martha’s Vineyard offers an impressive selection of dining options, ranging from casual seafood shacks to upscale waterfront restaurants. Some notable establishments include:
Larsen’s Fish Market (Menemsha): A local favorite, Larsen’s Fish Market offers fresh seafood, including lobster rolls, clam chowder, and fish and chips, in a casual, BYOB setting.
State Road (West Tisbury): For a fine dining experience, visit State Road, which features a seasonally inspired menu utilizing locally sourced ingredients. Reservations are recommended.
The Black Dog Tavern (Vineyard Haven): This iconic Martha’s Vineyard institution is known for its delicious breakfasts, hearty sandwiches, and picturesque waterfront location.
The Red Cat Kitchen (Oak Bluffs): Offering creative, farm-to-table cuisine in a cozy atmosphere, The Red Cat Kitchen is a popular dining option for both locals and visitors.
The Sweet Life Cafe (Edgartown): For a romantic evening, enjoy a meal at The Sweet Life Cafe, which offers French-inspired cuisine in an elegant setting.
Martha’s Vineyard is a captivating island destination that offers a unique blend of natural beauty, historic charm, and modern amenities. With its picturesque towns, pristine beaches, and diverse range of activities and attractions, it’s no wonder that Martha’s Vineyard has become a beloved vacation spot for travelers of all ages and interests.
When planning your visit to Martha’s Vineyard, be sure to consider factors such as transportation, accommodations, and activities that suit your preferences and budget. By exploring the island’s six towns, sampling its delicious cuisine, and immersing yourself in its rich culture, you’ll create unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime.
Whether you’re seeking a relaxing beach getaway, an active outdoor adventure, or a cultural immersion in the island’s vibrant arts scene, Martha’s Vineyard has something to offer everyone. With its welcoming atmosphere and diverse offerings, it’s no surprise that visitors return to this enchanting island year after year.