Get to the ferry early to claim a seat on the upper deck, rummage in your bag for your book and sunglasses, and then let out a deep breath. Your vacation officially starts as soon as the boat pulls away from port. Martha’s Vineyard, an island just off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts is known for its magnificent beaches, picturesque harbors and historic, charming villages. Made up of six distinct towns, the Vineyard is much larger than its sophisticated, nearby rival island of Nantucket. Based in colonial Edgartown, DT365 shares our highlights for a few relaxing days at the beach.
Renting a house…pick up provisions at Morning Glory Farm. In addition to delicious baked goods and beautiful produce they have an impressive array of cut flowers.
Craving some fried clams or a lobster roll…Skip the touristy Seafood Shanty and get fried clams to go at their take away stand, The Quarterdeck.
Way to go…book a ticket on the frequent ferries from Hyannis, (car reservations must be made well in advance) or avoid the summer traffic to the Cape and head to Quonset Point in Rhode Island to board the boat to Oaks Bluffs, an hour and a half fast ferry.
Stay: A short walk into town, check in to the Harbor View Hotel: a waterfront property overlooking the beach, Edgartown Lighthouse, and Chappaquiddick Island. Splurge on one of the cottages or stay in the main building. For those who prefer to be close to the beach, the Winnetu Oceanside Resort in nearby Katama is just a path away from South Beach, a beautiful stretch of sandy beach. Winnetu is great for families, with a kids program and tons of room options to accommodate all. For a quieter, more formal stay, check in to The Charlotte Inn, less beachy and reminiscent of an English country house.
Ride: Harbor View can arrange to have a bike delivered directly to the hotel, or rent a bike in town at Martha’s Bike Rentals or Edgartown Bicycles and Rentals. Make sure to request a basket to hold your towel and refreshments for the beach.
Morning Grub: Grab a coffee and some freshly made baked goods at Espresso Love. Or head to tiny diner Dock Street Coffee Shop, an island institution, for one of their breakfast sandwiches. I liked the shady terrace at Behind the Bookstore Café, located directly behind Edgartown Books with a eclectic, healthy menu and excellent coffees and teas.
Lunch at the Beach: Get a gourmet sandwich or salad to go before leaving Behind the Bookstore and ride your bike to South Beach for the day. Once out of town, follow the 4-mile flat bike path direct to the beach. If you have a car, or choose to take a taxi, Harbor View has beach chairs you can use. (Taxis are plentiful on the island.)
Wander: Spend the late afternoon walking around downtown Edgartown, in and out of the upscale shops, indulging in some fudge at Murdick’s or an ice cream at Mad Martha’s or Vineyard Scoops. Across from the Harbor View, walk out to the Lighthouse and then down the rocky, narrow beach, returning back by the streets and admiring the beautiful oceanfront homes and rows and rows of hydrangeas.
Dinner: I don’t usually order fried foods, but the wok fried whole lobster has quite a reputation at Atria, set in a classic New England house just on the edge of town. The restaurant is divided in two: upstairs is quieter; finer dining while downstairs is a casual cellar bar. Both offer the same menu, with the cellar only offering an extensive burger selection, considered some of the best on the island. And the star of the show—the lobster served whole atop buttery mashed potatoes and island greens—may just be one of the best lobsters I’ve ever had.
Get Moving: Get back on your bike, proceeding cautiously out of town, till you get to the bike path heading towards Oak Bluffs. This is a longer ride, clocking in around 8 flat, easy miles. At the dividing line between the two towns, stop to watch the jumpers at “Jaws Bridge”, (The American Legion Memorial Bridge) made famous in the 1975 blockbuster film. Crowds gather to leap and cheer each other on--in direct defiance of the sign that says no jumping. Kayaking and paddle boarding can be organized right across the road on Sengekontacket Pond. Continue on, arriving at Methodist Campground, a cluster of charming multicolored gingerbread cottages surrounding an open-air Tabernacle dating back to 1879. It is surreal to see the different architecture; in direct contrast to the stately whaling mansions in Edgartown.
Lunch: I know I’m going to crave the Fried Green Tomato BLT for a long time from Slice of Life on Circuit Avenue, in the heart of Oak Bluffs’ main shopping street. Go ahead and order the truffle fries, you’ll burn it off on the bike ride back to Edgartown. Other popular spots in Oak bluffs include Nancy’s for seafood, Giordano’s for fried clams and pizza (take out only), and the Red Cat Kitchen for dinner.
Sweet Tooth: Martha’s Vineyard Gourmet Café & Bakery serves their beloved donuts and apple fritters all day long at their bakery storefront, but the real action takes place starting at 7:30PM –till 1AM where people wait on line at the back door for hot, right out of the oven doughnuts. It’s become so popular that everyone refers to the bakery as Back Door Donuts. Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium has the best ice cream on the Vineyard served in their old fashioned charming store.
Stroll: Oaks Bluffs has a whole different feel than Edgartown, it’s touristy for sure, yet lively, it just feels like a summertime beachside town that could be down the Jersey Shore or at Delaware’s Dewey Beach complete with arcades, harbor side clam bars and old movie theaters. You must stop and watch the kids exuberantly grabbing for gold rings at the Flying Horses, the nations oldest platform carousel, designated a national landmark. Oak Bluffs has its own unique vibe and personality, the fun “cousin” to Edgartown’s elegant “aunt” and it’s worth visiting.
Dinner: The Port Hunter doesn’t take reservations, but it’s well worth the wait. Have one of their specialty cocktails and an appetizer at the bar or communal tables and soon you’ll be trading stories with your neighbors. The creative seasonal menu is locally sourced, and there’s a raw bar for oyster fans. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays starting at 10 pm, half the tables are cleared away to make way for live music sets. Don’t miss dining here!