Monday, July 20, 2020

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

We were invited to stay at a friend's house in Martha's Vineyard for just a few days this summer, but it was enough of a taste to learn that we absolutely love it on the Vineyard and will be back again. With six distinct towns, the island is small enough to be completely manageable, yet large enough to keep us occupied and wanting to see more. Even though it's quite pricey to vacation on Martha's Vineyard, everyone we met was friendly and down-to-earth, and we really enjoyed the vibe there.

The most complicated thing about Martha's Vineyard is getting there. There are several ferry companies that service the island, but slots for ferries that will also carry your car book up fast. Fortunately, the friends who invited us to stay had ferried over their minivan, so we didn't have to bring a car. We had no trouble grabbing seats on a passenger-only Seastreak ferry, leaving from New Bedford, CT, and arriving in the town of Oak Bluffs on the island. You can always opt to rent a car on the island instead of bringing yours over.

Where to Stay

We stayed with our friends, who were renting a house through the Winnetu Oceanside Resort. The resort is absolutely gorgeous and immaculate, but it is also quite expensive. I suppose you get what you pay for. There are pools and tennis courts, plus a huge green space featuring classic lawn games and access to the beach. There's a shuttle into the nearby towns and the concierge service is amazing. I highly recommend staying at the Winnetu  if you can stomach the cost.

What to Do

One of the things I love about Martha's Vineyard is how bike-friendly it is. There are bike trails and bike stands everywhere, and this the preferred mode of transportation for many visitors. We rented our bikes over the phone from Martha's Vineyard Bike Rentals in Edgartown and had them delivered to our rental home (then later picked up) for an extra fee. It was a lovely service!

There are dozens of public beaches in Martha's Vineyard, and we spent a day at beautiful State Beach. Approaching the beach after parking on the side of the road, the waving beachgrass gives way to a narrow strip of sand that stretches on for two miles. Beyond that are calm, clear, shallow waters.

There's a small bridge by State beach that connects the towns of Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. It's dubbed Jaws Bridge, as the movie Jaws was filmed in Martha's Vineyard, and people can be seen jumping from the bridge's wooden railing all day long it's sort of a Martha's Vineyard tradition. The 11 year olds in our group were able to make the jump into the salty sea, but my 9-year-old backed out at the last minute.

For a very different beach experience, we drove out to Aquinnah beach (formerly known as Gay Head beach) one evening. After parking in the lot or on the side of the road, you can walk up to an overlook to catch the sunset from a platform situated on a cliff, or hike about 10 minutes down to the beach to enjoy the sunset, with the crashing ocean as the soundtrack. We did the latter and really enjoyed the experience. From this beach, you get a prime view of Aquinnah's famously beautiful clay cliffs.

After the sun disappeared from the horizon, we doubled back and additionally walked up to the overlook to admire the views from there. There's a restaurant there called The Aquinnah Shop, which features a deck that would've been perfect for watching the sunset. Maybe next time we'll manage to get reservations!

For a completely different experience, we strolled through the charming Gingerbread House village in Oak Bluffs, where we saw hundreds of tiny Victorian cottages that are exquisitely decorated and painted. The houses resemble dollhouses and can be rented during the summer. Situated in one of the gingerbread houses is the Cottage Museum, which offers a glimpse of the interior and tells about the history of this adorably quaint section of Martha's Vineyard.

Two things we didn't get to do while we were there, but will try to get to next time, are visiting the alpaca farm Island Alpaca and riding the merry-go-round at Flying Horses Carousel.

Where to Eat

There's so much good seafood to enjoy in Martha's Vineyard. We dined al fresco at The Seafood Shanty in Edgartown one evening, where the ambience and local oysters were out of this world. Another evening we bought hot and cold lobster rolls from the no-frills fish market Edgartown Seafood and ate on the deck in our backyard.

There are many cute little ice cream shops to choose from in Martha's Vineyard, but only Ben & Bill's in Oak Bluffs serves lobster ice cream, which I admit to being too intimidated to try. (The ice cream is butter-flavored, with chunks of real lobster mixed in ... yum?) Also popular is the more traditional homemade ice cream flavors of Mad Martha's, which has three locations in Martha's Vineyard: Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Vineyard Haven.

In Oak Bluffs, we ate our last meal at Nancy's Restaurant (love the name) before climbing aboard our ferry to return to the real world. Famous for being one of President Obama's favorite places to eat on the Vineyard, Nancy's is a no-frills seafood place with a cute indoor area and picnic tables on the outside. My fried shrimp plate was very tasty!

What's Nearby

Just a ferry-ride away from Martha's Vineyard is Cape Cod, which we also love (and is a lot more affordable!). Here's my itinerary for that area.

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