Quiz question…what do the following people have in common? James Taylor, David McCullough, John Belushi, Ulysses S. Grant, Carly Simon, Bill Clinton, The Kennedy family, and President Obama. They have all been residents or huge fans of Martha’s Vineyard. Now you can join this elite list!
7 years ago I started visiting the beautiful island of Martha’s Vineyard with my wife & her family. At first I didn’t know what to think about all the expensive homes and golf shirts, but now it’s one of my favorite destinations in the world! And our kids are loving it too.
How to Get to Martha’s Vineyard?
If you want to take your car to “The Vineyard” during the summer, you’ll have to reserve a spot months in advance. If you don’t mind riding the bus while on the island (great option), you can usually get a last-minute seat on the ferry. Click here to see more about ferry reservations.
We usually park our car on the ferry and walk to the top deck to get an amazing sunset view. Our kids love watching the water speed past the boat.
You can arrive in Vineyard Haven or Oak Bluffs. Vineyard Haven is my favorite port because of the stunning harbor views:
You can also fly into Edgartown’s small airport, via Cape Air from Boston (weather often delays flights):
Where to Stay on Martha’s Vineyard?
If visiting in the summer, make sure that you also book your accommodations several months in advance, as they fill up fast.
We love staying in the main city of Edgartown, but anywhere on the island is beautiful. Renting a house ranges anywhere from a few hundred dollars per week (off season) to $50,000 per week (for the rich & famous). If you’re single & on a budget, I’ve heard that you can rent a room in a local home. There are many rental agencies, but here’s one popular agency that you can check out by clicking here.
If you’re on a tight budget, camping is an affordable option. Click here for more information on campgrounds on Martha’s Vineyard. On the occasions that we’ve arrived a day before our rental begins, we’ve spent the night camping in our friend’s back yard. My wife and I loved it, but we weren’t so sure about our toddler!
Where to Eat on Martha’s Vineyard?
We’ve eaten all over the island, so I can recommend some of my favorite places to get a bite to eat. The Harbor View Hotel & Resort (right next to the Edgartown lighthouse) has an amazing breakfast buffet with very high-quality food.
The Wharf Pub & Restaurant sits right next to the Edgartown harbor and is great for dinner. Mad Martha’s is an excellent place to get ice cream. The Right Fork Diner at Katama Airfield is a fantastic place for breakfast, and you can watch the old-time airplanes take off and land while you eat! Here’s an online Martha’s Vineyard Restaurant Guide.
During my first trip to Martha’s Vineyard, I was wondering why so many people were walking around in T-shirts with a black dog on the front. I later learned that a clothing company called The Black Dog emerged from the tasty Black Dog Tavern. The tavern was the first restaurant on the island (1969) , started by a sailor whose dream it was to settle on Martha’s Vineyard. His black Labrador greeted visiting sailors and restaurant patrons for years, and became a symbol of the island. You can read the interesting story here.
If you travel to Martha’s Vineyard, you simply must eat at The Black Dog Tavern and get a T-shirt from one of several The Black Dog stores. If you can’t travel to the Vineyard, this popular brand is available online by clicking here.
What to Do in Martha’s Vineyard?
I’ve created a top 10 list of my favorite activities that you can partake of during your visit to Martha’s Vineyard:
#1: Sun Soak on the Beaches
You wouldn’t think that you could find nice beaches off the coast of Massachusetts, but it’s true! The water temperature is very nice in the summer, and the soft sand feels great on your feet.
Here are some of my beach recommendations: “State Beach” is great for swimming & jumping off bridges into the water, “Fuller Street Beach” (affectionately referred to as “Josh’s Beach” by my family) is fantastic for serenity and snorkeling, and “South Beach” waves are perfect for Boogie Boarding.
And pretty much any of the beaches works well for suntanning…or getting buried alive.
#2: Ride the Flying Horses
Head over to Oak Bluffs to ride one of the most historical carousels in the United States. The Flying Horses carousel was built in 1876, and has been preserved by the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust. As an adult I find this carousel entertaining because riders can grab small metal rings from a hanging dispenser. The one lucky rider who grabs a gold ring will get a free ride!
#3: Kayak in Sengekontacket Pond
Sengekontacket Pond is a tidally influenced coastal pond located just next to State Beach. This peaceful and shallow pond is perfect for kayaking, windsurfing, and shell fish hunting.
#4: Walk around Edgartown
One of my favorite activities on Martha’s Vineyard is to walk around Edgartown to look at the art galleries, the marina, the shops, and especially the beautiful historical homes. As you may have already guessed, I love architecture.
Here is one of my favorite homes on the island, that sits right next to Fuller Street Beach:
Take a walk down to the Edgartown marina, and stroll along the docks
I love watching the posh boats that pull up to the many docks of Martha’s Vineyard, especially the sail boats. You’ll see everything from small wooden boats to extravagant yachts.
#5: Charter a Fishing Boat
Another of my favorite things to do on Martha’s Vineyard is to charter a small fishing boat to take us fishing for Blue Fish. Contact Coops Bait and Tackle to charter a fishing trip. The last time that we chartered a boat, I caught 7 blue fish! Here are some photos from the fishing trip:
#6: Photograph the Lighthouses
Martha’s Vineyard has at least 5 beautiful lighthouses, that I know of. A walk down to the Edgartown lighthouse is an annual highlight for me.
I’ll share a really cool tip that not many people know. If you walk to the Edgartown lighthouse at night, you’ll see glow-in-the-dark jelly fish swimming all along both sides of the trail. If you move a small net or stick around in the water, the jelly fish will light up even more!
Gay Head Lighthouse, near the town of Aquinnah, is probably my favorite lighthouse to visit, because of the dramatic sunsets and colorful cliffs.
My wife is so stinkin’ sweet…she always takes photos of me, instead of the lighthouses!
#7: Visit the Vineyard Haven Marina
Vineyard Haven marina is such a picturesque spot, and more so at sunrise. So if you can get your toosh out of bed while it’s still dark, you’ll be richly rewarded with amazing photographs.
#8: Visit West Tisbury Farms
I was quite surprised to see how much of the island of Martha’s Vineyard is covered with beautiful farms. A friend of ours, Jim Powell, invited us over to his farm in West Tisbury.
Even if you don’t know someone who owns a farm, there are fun farm tours around the island.
In mid August, the Agricultural Society holds a county fair, with rides, games, shucking, fiddle contests, skillet tosses, horse pulls, woodsmen competitions, fine art exhibits, and animal & produce contests. This is one of my favorite events to attend every year! You can find more details here.
#9: Build a Lantern for Illumination Night
“Traditional Chinese paper lanterns are ornately hung outside of the delightful gingerbread cottages that line the Oak Bluffs campground (not really a campground). Lanterns are lit at sun down and burn through the night making for a truly special scene in town. Originally marking the close of the summer season for campground visitors, Illumination Night has become one of the most popular summer spectacles on the island.” (more info).
#10: Watch the Menemsha Sunset
Have you ever heard applause at sunset? If not, then you need to join the crowds at Menemsha to watch the stunning sunset display. People bring picnic baskets and sip on wine glasses as they await one of the most popular events on the island. I love to setup my large format camera to capture the silhouettes of sailboats against the descending sun.
This is the sunset of my article on Martha’s Vineyard, so please comment below with any questions or suggestions!
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