Forty-five minutes by ferry. That’s all that it takes to get to Martha’s Vineyard, the largest of the islands off the coast of Massachusetts. It’s a short journey for such a big trip.
Martha’s Vineyard is justly famed for its great beaches, quaint towns and bevy of celebrity residents, from Carly Simon to former President Bill Clinton. President Obama has stayed here, on an island that was long the summer haven of both Jacqueline Onassis and Walter Cronkite. And yes, that’s Ted Danson in line for ice cream at the Galley and sure, you might spot Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. in Oak Bluffs.
Head to one of the beaches.
But the Vineyard wears its celebrity lightly. Few people gawk, everyone is dressed down (most of the time) and you come here to slow down and relax on one of the beautiful spots on the East Coast. That ferry ride from Cape Cod is what begins to put you in a laid-back mood. You came for the beach but you’ll stay for the lush island, the locals, the sea breezes, the touches of Old New England everywhere. You’re here for lobster rolls, ice cream cones and polished beach glass.
Hydrangeas and a Martha’s Vineyard home.
The beaches are wondrous, but so are the meadows, the carefully tilled farms, the stone walls and the shingled houses flanked by hydrangeas. You can smell the beach roses as you head down the road. Join the locals at Morning Glory Farm or the West Tisbury Farmers Market, pick up some beach reading at Edgartown Books, and kick back for a week or so.
When the spirit to explore moves you, go out to the cliffs in Aquinnah—better known as Gay Head—on the western end of the island. Visit the Vineyard’s nature reserves and beaches. Have a lobster on the beach in the fishing village of Menemsha (where the famous opening scene of Jaws was filmed). And stop in Oak Bluffs, a former Methodist retreat known for its gingerbread cottages. Then travel on to Edgartown, the most formal spot on the island, a place of white clapboard sea captains’ homes, shops and inns. From there, take the Chappy Ferry on a three-minute ride across to Chappaquiddick Island and spend an afternoon at the beach at Cape Poge.
For me, a surf rod is essential, the better to stalk the bluefish and the striped bass that make the Vineyard one of the best fishing spots in the Northeast. So are decent binoculars – for birds, not celebs. Take along your bicycle as well, because a bike is the ideal way to explore the island. You’ll find that the roads are quiet, no hill is more than 300 feet high, and the views across the fields, the ponds and the ocean provide some of most scenic rides along the Atlantic coast.
The island is ideal for biking.
Lodging is not inexpensive on this island, but consider staying at The Edgartown Inn (doubles from $175 in summer) or The Harborside Inn (doubles from $240), on the water in Edgartown’s historic district. Rates – and the celebrity presence – drop off after Labor Day, and fall is one of the most glorious ties to visit this extraordinary island.