Martha’s Vineyard is a day trip away from Boston and has been on our list of places to explore. We never seem to find the time to take the trip. There have been the usual excuses that the traffic to the Cape is insane to brave the crowds on the island for a 1 day trip is too short to justify the long round trip, etc. Finally, on a beautiful Saturday in June, my husband and I decided it was now or never and went for it.
Martha’s Vineyard is a beautiful pristine island off the coast of Cape Cod. The white houses with shutters and colorful hydrangeas lining the street look exactly like the images in the magazines and movies (probably because these are the houses they filmed!). The island is dotted with sandy beaches along the coastline and serene vistas.
Martha’s Vineyard has different areas to explore: Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, Chappaquiddick, Katama, Chilmark, Aquinnah, and Menemsha. You can drive around the entire island in one day!
GETTING TO MARTHA’S VINEYARD:
There are several ways to get to Martha’s Vineyard from Boston. This website http://www.mvy.com/get-here/index.aspx provides more information on the transportation options from Boston.
The most economical and easiest option was to drive down to Woods Hole (Cape Cod) and take the Steamship Authority (ferry) to Martha’s Vineyard.
The drive from Boston to Woods Hole takes approximately 1.5 hours and the ferry ride over is approximately 45 minutes. A lesson learned for us was to call the Steamship Authority ahead and verify where the car parking lot for the day trip is located. You need to be really explicit if you are going for a day trip, bringing a bicycle or even a dog. The Steamship Authority has several lots that can be up to 10 miles from the ferry port. We called in advance and were told to go to a parking lot closer to the ferry port, but that lot is only for overnight stay. We drove to the farthest lot away (for day trip) from the ferry port to park our car and then took the shuttle. This mistake delayed us by 30 minutes. We subsequently missed our ferry and had to wait over an hour for the next one.
It is also important to be at the ferry 20 minutes in advance to purchase your tickets. It can take longer if the busy season is in full swing.
We grab seats with a great view of the ocean and the ferry trip flew by relatively quickly.
We made our second mistake by getting off at Vineyard Haven (first stop) instead of Oak Bluffs (second stop). For those who are planning to go to Oak Bluffs, you will need to listen to the announcement carefully.
After getting off the ferry at Vineyard Haven, we decided to rent a moped as an economical and efficient way to explore the island. There are moped rental locations around the island and especially in Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs where there are ferry stops. Taking a taxi is very expensive and could cost $30-$50 per ride from town to town. Other options are to bring your bike or take the local bus. The bus does not come as frequent and for day trippers, this could limit the ability to explore the island.
We headed to Adventure Rentals (http://www.islandadventuresmv.com/19 Beach Rd./08-693-1959) to rent our moped for the day.
They have a drop off center at Kings Rentals (http://www.kingsrentalsmv.com) in Oak Bluffs. This is perfect as we were planning to take the ferry back in Oak Bluffs. The rental rates are $75 for 4 hours or $99 up to 6pm. The rental included an instruction video, 2 helmets, gas and a demonstration with their instructor on how to use the moped. They have a speed cap on their moped at 25 miles per hour so beginners can drive the moped right away. Instructions included driving the moped in the lot, making turns, and stopping. This took approximately 10 minutes and off we went.
We decided that our itinerary for the day is to get acquainted with the entire island and stopping at our must “eat” areas. We ended up circling the entire island starting off at Vineyard Haven, down to Menemsha for lunch, drove across to Edgartown and ended back in Oak Bluffs to drop off the moped and take the ferry back to the mainland.
The best seafood on the island was at Menemsha (sleepy fishing town) and that was where we headed next. We took the only main road (2 lanes) and enjoyed the picturesque ride to Menemsha. A tip on moped driving on the main road is to stay close to the break down lane as possible so cars can pass you. You will also need to be aggressive when trying to turn or risk waiting a very long time before a car will let you pass.
The drive from Vineyard Haven to Menemsha took 30 minutes on our moped (at 25 mph). This was the farthest distance that we traveled without stopping.
11AM: Larsen’s Fish Market, Menemsha (http://www.larsensfishmarket.com/ 56 Basin Rd, Chilmark, MA 02535): We headed straight to this fish market located at the dock in Menemsha.
We ordered lobster rolls, baked clams, and raw oysters and then headed outside to grab 2 lobster crates to sit on. In 10 minutes, we made our way back to the kitchen and grab our orders. It was a fabulous way to enjoy lunch.
We also placed our orders for the best fried clams on the island at The Bite, Menemsha (29 Basin Rd, Menemsha, MA 02552). The fried clams had a crunchy exterior yet maintain their juiciness on the inside!
1PM: After enjoying the wonderful natural surroundings in Menemsha, we drove to the bustling town of Edgartown to explore the “city” life. Edgartown is the largest town on Martha’s Vineyard.
It’s dotted with old, historical houses, trees lined streets and white picket fences.
It has a bunch of accommodations, cafes, restaurants, ice cream parlors, art galleries and high end shopping. The town is best seen by foot.
We parked our moped on the street and explored the town by foot. Here are our notable mentions:
Mad Martha’s Homemade Ice Cream, Oak Bluffs (7 N Water St, Edgartown, MA 02539): Locally made ice cream since 1971. They have several locations on the island. We stopped by for the ice cream cones. The really packed the waffle cones to the hilt!
Among the Flowers Café, Edgartown (http://amongtheflowersmv.com / Mayhew Ln, Edgartown, MA 02539): After a long day of walking around, we headed to this pretty café for coffee and light afternoon snacks. They have a small outdoor area to people watch. Another plus is that they have a bathroom. We did not see any public bathrooms in Menemsha or Edgartown.
Eisenhauer Gallery (http://www.eisenhauergallery.com/ 38 North Water St. Edgartown, MA; 508.627.7003): This art gallery caught our eyes as we were strolling past it with an intriguing statue featured outside. The gallery featured unique, local artists and paintings that we have not encountered before. They also have a great front porch with rocking chairs to contemplate the artwork and to rest our weary feet.
4PM: We decided that it was time to say goodbye to Edgartown and make our way back up to Oak Bluffs. Along the way, we stopped by one of the beaches lining the coast to enjoy the tall grass blowing in the wind, the numerous sand dunes and the gentle waves coming on shore.
The experience made me wish I had worn my white shorts, striped shirt, straw hat and red lipstick to further embody the New England vibes.
5PM: We made our way back to Oak Bluffs and dropped our moped off at Kings Rentals (http://www.kingsrentalsmv.com/ 1 Circuit Ave, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568).
Oak Bluffs is the less fancy version of Edgartown, which is filled with well-preserved cottages from the mid-to late-nineteenth-century. The shops, cafes and restaurants in town are more casual and generally geared toward a younger crowd. This is also a major port of arrival from the mainland so the town is generally crowded. After an hour of walking around, we decided to have dinner on the ferry back to the mainland so we stopped at the following best “eats” to grab our dinner to go.
Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Company, Oak Bluffs (http://www.mvchowder.com/ordereze/default.aspx / 9 Oak Bluffs Ave, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557): We ordered their famous clam chowder and fried oysters to go. The clam chowder was filled with freshly shucked clams and cooked with the right consistency. Their fried oysters were also phenomenal.
Martha’s Vineyard Gourmet Café and Bakery’s Back Door Donuts, Oak Bluff (http://www.mvbakery.com/ 5 Post Office Square, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557/ 508.693.3688): For desserts, we headed to Back Door Donuts to order their famous donuts and apple fritters. This little bakery is located next to the Oak Bluffs Post Office.
We’ve learned that they only bake in the morning and again at 7PM. We came at 6PM and were offered discounted donuts and apple fritters. Our original plan was to stop there in the early morning but we got off at the wrong ferry stop. The sweet treats taste as if they were straight out of the oven.
We headed to the Steamship Authority’s ferry port and grabbed a table outside. We ordered beer and wine and had an impromptu dinner on our ride back and watched the sunset over the ocean. I saw other ferry riders eyeing our spread and wondered why they didn’t think of this idea.
Martha’s Vineyard was a great day trip. It was also the most economical way to enjoy the island as accommodations, transportation and food can easily cost over $2,000 for 2 people for the weekend.
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Author: Thai-Anh Hoang
Featured photo: http://www.flickr.com by Xavler