With miles of sandy beaches and plenty of unspoiled green spaces, Martha’s Vineyard is the idyllic New England summer getaway.
Bursting with traditional seafood shacks, trendy restaurants, general stores and artisan boutiques, this hotspot can easily be a day trip.
The Vineyard is known for its celebrity and presidential visitors, but you don’t need a lot of money to have a wonderful time. In fact, you don’t even need a car. Clocking in at about 96 mostly flat square miles, the layout of the island makes everything easily accessible by foot, bike or moped. (And if you do suddenly need a car, Uber has come to the island to get you where you need to go.)
We recommend making the town of Oak Bluffs your base. Of the Vineyard towns — Edgartown, Vineyard Haven, Acquinnah, Chilmark and West Tisbury — Oak Bluffs (the primary ferry landing site) has the easiest access to beaches, shops, bars, restaurants and quintessential Vineyard history.
Miles of Beaches, Colorful Cottages
Take the Steamship Authority ferry from Woods Hole, Mass. As you exit the ferry, the Oak Bluffs Town Beach is to your left. Bike or take a shuttle bus down Seaview Avenue, which turns into Beach Road, to find the ideal spot for sunning, swimming and picnicking.
You’ll pass the Joseph Sylvia State Beach, where Steven Spielberg shot scenes for Jaws and you’ll see kids jumping off the American Legion Memorial Bridge — known as the “Jaws Bridge.”
If you don’t mind ignoring the signs saying not to do it, jump in at high tide.
When you’re ready to head back into Oak Bluffs, cut through Ocean Park and make your way toward one of the most iconic Vineyard sights, the colorful and charming Victorian gingerbread cottages known as the Campground, a community that dates back to the 1800s.
The Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association (mvcma.org) is a private foundation dedicated to preserving the campgrounds and the Tabernacle, which were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Lunch and Liveliness
If your stomach is rumbling, head to Nancy’s, which overlooks Oak Bluffs Harbor. Enjoy a perfect Martha’s Vineyard lunch of a lobster roll, skinny onion rings and a cold beverage. (Last year, former first daughter Sasha Obama worked the takeout window.)
If you’re feeling a bit more formal, head to the upstairs dining room for succulent lobster ravioli, crab-and-corn-crusted cod and seared salmon.
For a lively afternoon, head up the road to the Flying Horses Carousel, the oldest operating platform carousel in the country. The attached arcade features vintage games like pinball and whack-a-mole.
Walk along Circuit Avenue and check out the many small shops and boutiques. Among the treats are island-made fudge, handmade jewelry and a variety of other handmade items in addition to the traditional souvenirs — including the popular black-and-white “MV” badge for your car.
Black Dog and desserts
All those brightly colored T-shirts with the black dogs on them are souvenirs from the island’s popular The Black Dog Tavern. The original sandwich shop and restaurant are in Vineyard Haven, a 10-minute shuttle bus ride from Oak Bluffs.
The biggest crowds are around the gift shop, which stocks clothing for everyone — including your dog. In Oak Bluffs, hop in line at Martha’s Vineyard Gourmet Cafe & Bakery (mvbakery.com), which serves hot, fresh apple fritters, cinnamon rolls, doughnuts and croissants at the “back door” from 7 p.m. to 12:58 a.m. Walk to the beach or Ocean Park to listen to the waves and gaze up at the amazing array of stars.
After dinner, it’s time to think about getting back to the mainland. The last bus back to Boston and points north leaves Woods Hole at 8 p.m., but check the schedule for any changes or updates.
If you’re coming from Boston, drive or take the bus from Boston Logan International Airport or Copley Place in Boston’s Back Bay. Because car reservations on the ferry can be difficult to get (reserve several months in advance), leaving your vehicle behind is easiest.
Park in one of the many marked lots that provide shuttle service to the Steamship Authority ferry in Woods Hole. Free shuttle buses meet both ferries heading to the island’s major towns, including Oak Bluffs. The ferry runs several times a day; check website for pricing and hours.