I’ve wanted to check out Martha’s Vineyard since we moved to Massachusetts five years ago, but it just didn’t happen. During the school year, I often have to work on Saturdays and in the summer, I’m in France. In addition, I had no idea of the best way to get there, where to stay, or what we would do once we were there. Finally, everything aligned over Columbus Day weekend. We had such a lovely time, that I wanted to share my discoveries with you in case you, too, have been planning a visit.
Comment y aller? (How to get there?)
The only two commercial options are to fly or take a ferry. Since we’re in driving distance, we opted for the ferry from Wood’s Hole to Oak Bluffs, but there are many companies offering a variety of destinations, both from the mainland and on the island, at a variety of prices. It’s very expensive to take a car – about ten times the passenger rate each way – so we parked our car at one of their lots and took the shuttle bus to the dock. Parking was $13 a day when we went, but the rates vary depending on whether or not it is high season. Shuttles are free and frequent. The tickets for the ferry were $8.50 each person, each way. The trip lasted 45 minutes and was smooth. We were really lucky; just a few days earlier, the ferry had been shut down for two and a half days due to a Nor’easter.
Où rester? (Where to stay?)
There are two larger towns on the island – Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. Since we were arriving at Oak Bluffs, I looked for a hotel there. I chose Summercamp because it was well-rated by other travelers, and I liked the Victorian exterior and the retro, camp-themed fully-renovated interior. It’s just a short walk from the ferry dock. We really liked it. The bed was comfortable and the room was quiet, even though it’s right in the center of Oak Bluffs.
Que faire? (What to do?)
We aren’t beach people, and it was mid-October, but we love to wander and look and look at architecture. In Oak Bluffs, the most interesting part of town was right next to our hotel. In the mid-1800s, the Methodists established camp meetings, first in simple tents, then in wooden cottages with high pitched roofs and double doors, reminiscent of tent flaps. Then they began to adorn them with wooden gingerbread trim and cheerful colors. Most have porches to extend their tiny footprints. Today, there are about 300 of these storybook cottages; most of them are summer homes, but a few have been winterized as year-round tiny houses. Exploring them made me ridiculously happy.
There is a decent public bus system on the island. We took the bus to Edgartown for $2.50 each (have small bills on hand to feed into the machine on the bus). Even through a misty rain was falling for most of the morning, we thoroughly enjoyed wandering the streets among the beautiful homes of former ship captains. The gardens were lush and brilliant with flowers. In the afternoon, we did a walking tour with a guide from the Vineyard Trust. It was the last one of the season! The tour started from The Carnegie building, the former library and home of the Historical Society. The most interesting stop was the Old Whaling Church, a real marvel of engineering decorated with beautiful trompe l’œil painting.
Où manger? (Where to eat?)
A number of the restaurants had closed for the season, but we did just fine. The restaurants where we ate were all very casual – no tiara required. I had a scallop sandwich at Coop de Ville (Oak Bluffs), a lobster roll at Lookout Tavern (Oak Bluffs), and salmon at The News From America (Edgartown). Our breakfasts were both in Oak Bluffs at Biscuits (Cod Cake Benedict ) and Linda Jean’s (apple cinnamon pancakes).
If you get the chance to go to Martha’s Vineyard, I’d highly recommend it. It’s a magical escape.