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martha’s vineyard guide

by Grace Bonney

i am so excited for today’s city guide, namely because i have so many wonderful family memories from a town in this area. martha’s vineyard is a picturesque island off the coast of massachusetts that is seems to be known these days for celebrities, huge homes and fancy parties. but i grew up knowing it as the place my aunt midge and uncle terry lived. they had a beautiful home in edgartown and i grew up visiting them with my family each summer after what felt like the longest drive ever between va. beach and the ferry at woods hole. i’ll never forget sitting by the water and the smell of the breeze coming from the ocean- it’s a truly heavenly place (and this time of year it’s blissfully free of the hoards of tourists that come each summer). today andrea e. mchugh is walking us through her favorite spots on the island, ranging from great places to stay and eat to places to shop and site-see. whether you’re popping over for a day or staying for vacation, martha’s vineyard is a really spacial place that is definitely worth the ferry ride over. even if you just grab lunch at the black dog and lay on the beach for a few hours, you won’t regret it. (stay tuned for andrea’s nantucket guide soon!)

[image above by christopher bonney (my dad!), via flickr]

CLICK HERE for the full martha’s vineyard guide after the jump!

Martha’s Vineyard

by Andrea E. McHugh

There’s a reason why media moguls, musical icons, politicos and presidents and escape to Martha’s Vineyard to get away from it all (even the Obamas sought the Vineyard’s solitude this past summer, as they have before presidential status). A reluctant celebrity respite birthed from whaling roots, this nearly 100-square-mile island is just seven miles off the southern coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. “The Vineyard,” as it’s simply referred, is effervescent in the warmer months, when the population has known to swell from 15,000 to more than 100,000, but make no mistake: the island is a sanctuary of simple beauty year-round. Made up of six distinct towns—Aquinnah, Chilmark, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and West Tisbury— the Vineyard is what you make of it; a romantic retreat, an adventurous excursion of land and sea, a gourmand getaway, a family vacation or a girls weekend out. It seems every nook and cranny of this fabled island unveils a new perspective of coastal living, one where it’s best to let the roads determine the roadmap of the day. Local Vineyarders and seasoned summer colonists are fiercely passionate (read: verbal) about their favorite haunts, so we expect comments, criticism and personal favs, so here is just a sampling of the best the Vineyard has to offer.


The Vineyard is accessible by air or sea, with a much more robust schedule during the summer months. The majority of Vineyard visitors hop a ferry, departing from a number of ports including Falmouth (via the Falmouth Edgartown Ferry,Island Queen or Patriot Too)and Hyannis on the Cape; the island of Nantucket; New Bedford and Woods Hole on the Massachusetts mainland, Quonset Point in Rhode Island, Conner’s Highlands in New Jersey, Montauk on New York’s Long Island and Pier 11 and East 35th Street in Manhattan. “Fast ferries” are generally passenger-only (bicycles and leashed pets usually welcome) and are the quickest way there by sea. The Steamship Authority, departing from Wood’s Hole and Hyannis (both towns on the Cape) is the only ferry service that carries vehicles. The Vineyard, however, is very foot-traveler friendly and has a reliable shuttle bus in addition to taxis and rental cars. With miles of paths, on- and off-road trails, bicyclists are welcome (and can BYOBike or rent on-island) to show off their pedal power.

You’ll find year-round scheduled service to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport from Boston, Hyannis, Nantucket, New Bedford, Providence and White Plains, New York, mostly by the use of Cape Air. Of course, private charters are aplenty.



With 85 hotels, inns and bed and breakfasts among the plethora of private homes available for rental, everything from luxury locales to sea swept cottages to cabin accommodations aboard a cutter can be found to rest your head on the Vineyard.

The Harbor View Hotel & Resort at the end of North Water Street has overlooked the iconic Edgartown Lighthouse, picturesque harbor and in the distance, Chappaquiddick Island, since 1891. One of the largest hotels on the island, the Harbor View has 114 rooms and private cottages in addition to more quaint accommodations at the nearby Kelley House Hotel,welcoming guests since 1742.

At entrancing South Beach in the Katama section of Edgartown, the

Winnetu Oceanside Resort

appeals to family clientele with a ton of free kids activities including day programs, mini-golf, volleyball, basketball, swimming pools and more. The whole family can partake in a lively life-size game of chess on the lawn, while refined palates should reserve a table at Lure, the on-site restaurant with a notable wine list. Catch the complimentary sunset water taxi from Edgartown Harbor (reservations required).

The four-story Colonial Inn

is nestled in the heart of Edgartown’s bustling waterfront amid the Nevins Square shops, myriad galleries and restaurants. Not every room has a view but a communal rocking chair dotted veranda and rooftop deck ensures nary a missed sunset. Oh– and two suites welcome your four-legged friends.

Blending seamlessly into the neighboring nineteenth-century Gothic Revivals, many one-time residences of prestigious whaling captains, the plush Hob Knob Inn on postcard perfect Main Street has established itself as the island’s premier eco-boutique hotel. It will be hard to crawl out from your luxury linen queen bed if it weren’t for the alluring scent of a gourmet breakfast wafting through the inn.

Oak Bluffs

As one of the two ferry ports on the island, Oak Bluffs is perhaps the most energetic towns on Martha’s Vineyard with a host of inns, restaurants, bars, shops and of course, an active harbor. Home to the iconic campground gingerbread cottages surrounding Trinity Park Tabernacle and the Flying Horses Carousel, the oldest continuously operating carousel in the country (brass rings and all), Oak Bluffs has attracted visitors for more than a century.

With cozy rooms and easy access to the beach, shops and restaurants, the

Oak Bluffs Inn serves a memorable homemade breakfast while the front porch boasts welcoming rocking chairs so you can breath in the sea air with comfort.

If seeking just the basics, the Surfside Motel, just steps from the ferry dock, has reasonable rates and is in the heart of the action. Pets are welcome and the modest motel, with a few suites, and is open year-round.

Nestled among the charming gingerbread cottages, the Pequot Hotel has an inviting porch that encourages guests to relax and watch the world go by. Afternoon tea and cookies makes you feel right at home.

Merging family friendly with classic charm, the

Dockside Inn on bustling Circuit Avenue has 17 regular guest rooms and five apartment suites, one with a coveted roof deck.

With rates comparable to a hotel or better bed and breakfast, why not opt for a unique stay aboard the MS Resolute,

A Bed and Breakfast Afloat, a 40-ft. Islander Cutter sailboat docked in Oak Bluffs Harbor. Guests reserve the whole vessel and awake to a continental breakfast and the sea outside the “front door.”

Menemsha (in Chilmark)

The mystique of this laid-back fishing village, working the sea for hundreds of years, lures visitor year-round. It also caught the eye of a young Steven Spielberg, who made the bight the fictional beach town of Amityville while he filmed a little movie called Jaws. Tiny, cedar-shingled fish shacks dot famed Squid Row, known for freshly caught offerings from creamy clam chowder to fried whole belly clams, proffering some of the tastiest eats on the island.

What was once built from salvaged schooner wood following an 1898 squall has emerged into one of the most luxurious stays on the Vineyard. The Beach Plum Inn overlooks the sea from seven spectacular acres and arguably boasts the best sunset views on the island. More on the inn’s award-winning fine dining below.

Spread across 14 acres, the Menemsha Inn & Cottages compound offers a variety of accommodations from private cottages to ocean view suites to a whole house with amenities ranging from fireplaces to sundecks to outside showers to full kitchen facilities.

Vineyard Haven

A departure from other coastline clamoring inns, Lambert’s Cove Inn & Restaurant is nestled in the tranquil woods of West Tisbury but a short stroll to Lambert’s Cove Private Beach. The English-country appointed Main House has seven guest rooms and the remaining eight rooms are found in the Carriage and Guest Houses. All are welcome at the inn’s lauded fine dining restaurant.

A restored Victorian gingerbread home, the Tivoli Inn charms guests with rocking chairs on the wrap-aound porch and close proximity to Vineyard Haven’s restaurants, shops, beaches, hiking trails, public transportation and ferry terminals.


High above the clay cliffs at Gay Head, the Outermost Inn is surrounded by 20 unaffected acres on the western tip of the island. With seven spacious guest rooms and views of Vineyard Sound and the Elizabeth Island, the inn is as memorable as it is welcoming.


Clam shacks to classic fare to coffee cafés, the Vineyard’s cadre of culinary talent is palpable. Most of the towns are dry so check ahead of time to see if BYOB is offered. As with any summertime hot spot, some restaurants shutter during the off-season while others serve year-round. Put the dining ball in your court by making reservations wherever possible, arriving during off-peak times, and by stashing an extra dash of patience in your purse.


An authentic peek into Vineyard life, the Dock Street Coffee Shop on Main Street is your go-to greasy spoon for no frills food served hot and fast. Stools line the lunch counter and housekeepers and hedge fund managers are on equal standing once walking through the door.

Stylish décor, seasonal offerings and a memorable wine list have landed Detente,tucked away in Edgartown’s tony Nevin Square, a loyal following. Named from the French word for relaxation and good relations, dine inside, at the inviting bar or outside on the flower-covered verandah.

Inspired by locally grown, organic and off the boat ingredients, the Mediterranean/Asian-inspired menu at Atria seems a perfect fit inside this 19th century captain’s house. The basement Brick Cellar Bar is a casual, warm space with hints from its past evident in the brick walls but live music keeping things modern.

Though their traditional Italian dishes are nothing to bark at, Lattanzi’s wood-fired pizza is the show stopper at the Old Post Office Square eatery.

With a local, casual feel downstairs and more refined atmosphere upstairs, David Ryan’s appeals to diverse dining sets. If going informal at the street level pub, try the colossal beer battered onion rings; they’re everything you’ve heard about.

Vineyard Haven

A small tavern turned international symbol of the simple life,

href=”http://www.theblackdog.com/”>The Black Dog is synonymous Martha’s Vineyard. An island legacy since 1971, the once tiny tavern is today a compound including the original restaurant, an indulgent bakery and two gear shops touting the iconic black lab logo on everything from baby bibs to blankets; fleece to foodstuffs. An island institution (some might call a tourist trap) that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, opt for non-peak times for shorter (in-season) wait times.

Long lines are de rigueur at the ArtCliff Diner with little over a dozen tables, but locals know the breakfast hot spot is worth the wait. Down home cooking and condiments (I’m talking to you, homemade apple butter) start the day off right. Their just launched mobile food truck is a hit doling out tried and true cheeseburgers, tacos and more eclectic delights, like the lamb burger.

With early ferry rides coming and going not long after daybreak, coffee flows liberally across the island, perhaps no where more so than two Vineyard Haven java joints: Beetlebung Coffee House and Mocha Mott’s (the latter with a second location in Oak Bluffs where locals gather for morning sustenance and engaging company– neighbors and landlubbers alike).

The cure for cranky kids waiting on a ferry is easily remedied at Vineyard Haven’s Mad Martha’s ice cream shop just steps from the docks. Former President Clinton has been known to pop in for a scoop or two here.

At the helm for more than 25 years, Chef Jean Dupon’s Le Grenier, an upstairs restaurant with traditional French fare sans the stuffy atmosphere, proves that authentic dishes done right win loyal fans. It may not be Provence, but the soft glow of candlelight, experienced staff and your own wine (another BYOB), makes this decidedly untrendy eatery c’est magnifique.

Cupcake cafés may be all the rage, but with cakes comprised of vanilla buttermilk and chocolate buttermilk, even the most discerning sweet tooth will swoon over Sweet E’s Cupcakes in Vineyard Haven.

Blame the New York Times for exposing arguably the best May through September lobster roll deal on the island from an unsuspecting source. Vineyard Haven’s Grace Church transforms their surroundings to picnic grounds on Friday evenings in the summertime to dole out their hearty $13 lobster rolls with proceeds benefitting the church.


Named for the bucolic winding road it is nestled on, State Road is gaining much attention for its breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes featuring organic, locally-grown greens, vegetables and more. A cracking hearth anchors the farm-fresh feel of this warm space down the road from The Polly Hill Arboretum, a Vineyard horticultural and botanical landmark, as the new restaurant quickly builds a loyal following.


The Home Port Restaurant, a Menemsha institution, is known for serving up the spoils for the sea. Can’t get reservations? Go ‘round the Back Door, the restaurant’s take out, or order before you hit the shore and take advantage of Bike Beach Delivery, where your delivery guy or gal will pull up to the lifeguard and toot their horn to let you know, “order up.”

Whole belly clams fried to perfection is the signature of The Bite which is what has kept the tiny shack’s long time customers coming back for more year after year. Our advice? Get the order to-go and chow down at nearby Menemsha Beach.

Since their quintessential New England menu arrives, quite literally, from the fishing boats along Menemsha’s Squid Row out the back door, Larsen’s Fish Market

is straightforward sea fare: lobster, clam chowder, steamers, scallops and cooked to order fish; speaks for itself. Don’t expect linens tablecloths and fine china, the lobster traps outside are about as close you’re gonna get to a tabletop.

Possibly the hardest reservation to snag on a summer night, the Beach Plum Inn Restaurant is fine dining with a million dollar view. With a heavenly vista of the fishing boats coming in Menemsha Harbor or sailing off into the sunset, a memorable menu and wine of your choice (thanks to BYOB), one could easily be distracted by trying to freeze time.


Word of mouth among friends, neighbors and visitors is what has made Pizza Night at the Orange Peel Bakery in Aquinnah a far-reaching feast. Bring-You-Own, well, toppings, booze, chairs (for when the communal table fills up), $10 donation and any preferred creature comforts as baker Juli Vanderhoop cooks each pie to perfection her stone-hearth bread oven.

Oak Bluffs

Sharky’s Cantina is an island favorite for fresco Mexican favorites and cold margaritas, which will come in handy if you opt for the restaurant’s homemade “shark bit sweet heat” hot sauce.

Contemporary French-American cuisine can be difficult to master, but considering the praise bestowed upon The Sweet Life Cafe and its high profile clientele (the Obamas dined here during a 2007 visit and returned this past summer), the landmark does it right. The warm ambiance of the meticulously restored Victorian combined with a menu partially dictated by in-season offerings makes for a winning and rewarding reputation.

Peanut shells littering the floor, better-than-most pub grub on the table and from-scratch cold brew flowing from the many taps render the Offshore Ale Co. a must-visit. Beach, beers and burgers– for many, the trifecta of a perfect summer day.

Eschewing the ubiquitous seaside fare for Southwestern flavor, Zapotec Restaurant is a refreshing culinary departure that is both colorful and comforting. Fresh Mexican favorites combined with house-made sangria? Can’t go wrong.

You may have been dropped on a New England island, but Deon’s Restaurant will trick you into thinking you’re much further south with their contemporary American Caribbean fusion lunch and dinner. Yes, you can find the consummate clam chowder here, but seek their authentic specialties like Caribbean Conch Soup or any of the jerk-spiced dishes to best appreciate the chef’s talents.

Delight in every worthwhile calorie at Martha’s Vineyard Gourmet Café & Bakery, where you’ll find superb cream puffs, éclairs and cannoli, but bona fide Vineyarders are in-the-know about the café’s “backdoor donuts,” served piping hot after 9 p.m. from their Post Office Square locale (second location North Water Street in Edgartown).

A stone’s throw from the Oak Bluffs ferry docks, the Lookout Tavern looks more watering hole than sushi and raw bar enclave but good things come in unexpected packages. The Lookout is one of the few spots to find late night eats and is an ideal spot to catch a Sox game while waiting for your ferry departure time.

Slow-cooked, smoked, dry-rubbed or slathered in sauce, the down n’ dirty dishes at both Oak Bluffs locations of Smoke’n Bones is the culmination of a carnivore’s dream.

With Italian favorites served hot, bubbly and still in the pan, it’s no wonder there is a perpetual line streaming from Jimmy Seas Pan Pasta in Oak Bluffs in the summertime. No reservations so get there early and come hungry– the portions are borderline obscene.

Dinner at the Sidecar Cafe & Bar is cozy, upscale casual and eclectic, attracting a local following and ever-growing off-island fan club. It is more than just the fresh food; it’s also the fresh ideas with a well-rounded small plates selection and reinvented entrées (like the house-made lobster mac and cheese) that make this relative newbie a standout.

Presidential paparazzi got their coveted shots of the POTUS when he stopped by Nancy’s Restaurant in for take-out. Too bad President Obama couldn’t stay there a while; with outside upper deck’s 108-degree views of Oak Bluff’s harbor fishing boat rush hour, there’s no better place to sip an umbrella festooned cocktail and watch the sun paint the town pink (shirts and shoes not required). Inside, two levels of dining offer a quieter but relaxed experience.

Whether for a morning rise n’ dine, lunch salad or dinner special, there’s something delightful about the simple stylings of the Slice of Life café on Oak Bluff’s bustling Circuit Avenue.

A Vineyard institution for more than 70 years, entrées at the family-friendly Giordano’s Restaurant & Clam come with a cup of soup or chowder and a scoop of ice cream to finish off the night right. If just going for the pizza, trade long lines for a short wait when you order from the take-out window.

Chances are you’ll run into someone you saw during your stay at Linda Jean’s in Oak Bluffs, a casual eatery that serves all day but is best known for breakfast (and it’s no secret– waits can exceed an hour during summer weekends). Trade standard egg dishes for something from the griddle to experience the restaurant at its best.

You’ll find less than a dozen tables at the intimate Park Corner Bistro, but you’ll also French flair and well-crafted cocktails– both worth considering when pairing for a leisurely meal in this no-rush restaurant.

Burgers, beer, karaoke, live music, wide-screen TVs showing the game…this is Season’s Eatery & Pub. Seafood, sandwiches and salad do the job, kids menu available, epicureans need not apply.

Family recipes, whole ingredients and service with a smile harkens back to simpler times at Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium, a string of chocolate and ice cream shops found throughout Massachusetts and Maine, and here, in Oak Bluffs.


Even amateur shutterbugs think they’ve struck photographic gold afforded by the Vineyard’s seemingly endless postcard perfect milieus. From nationally recognized fishing tournaments to humble community events, experiencing Martha’s Vineyard is a choose-your-own adventure island.

The clay cliffs of Aquinnah, with optimal views of historic Aquinnah Lighthouse, (a.k.a Gay Head/Gay Head Lighthouse) and the refluent Vineyard Sound below, are exquisite any time of day; but morning, when the landscape is absorbing early light, and evening, when the sun casts its amber and crimson hues on the ever-eroding bluffs, are when they are in their glory.

The colorful “gingerbread” cottages that comprise Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Grounds are as delightful as they are unique. Built between 1859-1880 as part of a Methodist religious revival site, many of these vivid abodes have remained in the same families that built them long ago. The epicenter of the grounds is the Trinity Park Tabernacle, an open-air amphitheater dating back to 1873 that once welcomed worshippers for community sings, a tradition that continues every Wednesday night throughout July and August. The camp grounds take center stage on the annual Illumination Night in August, when hundreds of Japanese lanterns glow on the porches of the cottages and across the grounds.

With just a few years under its belt, the Martha’s Vineyard Food & Wine Festival has enticed big names in the culinary clique each October with fabulous foodie events held throughout Edgartown.

The summer season kicks off each year in early June with the annual HarborFest featuring live music, food, arts, crafts and activities at Oak Bluffs Harbor. Often falling the day after, the Summer Solstice, with much of the same fanfare and concluding with fireworks, makes for a fn0filled weekend. Locals and visitors often convene in Oak bluff’s Ocean Park, surrounded by grand Victorians and Gothic Revivals, to take in the spectacle in the sky. Every other Sunday night in Ocean Park throughout July and August, you’ll find band concerts starting at 8 p.m. The park is also home to August’s Martha’s Vineyard Festival with well-known headliners performing under the stars.

Celebrating the arts is a part of Oak Bluffs history, so you’ll find plenty of events here including the Arts District Stroll in July and August with music, refreshments and open gallery doors. In early August, the All Island Art Show comes to the Tabernacle for a day-long sale and exhibit.

There’s a reason Spielberg saw the Vineyard as the fictional setting for Jaws– the annual Monster Shark Fishing Tournament, held each July at Oak Bluffs harbor, is the largest offshore sport fishing event held in New England. Also for anglers, the annual five-week Martha’a Vineyard Striped Bass & Bluefish Derby, a legendary tourney started shortly after WWII attracts hundreds of onlookers who gather ‘round the Edgartown docks to see the spoils of the sea. At the conclusion, the committee doles out awards in several classes of fish.

For one weekend in July, the Portuguese Holy Ghost Feast takes over Oak Bluffs with a parade, music and dancing, but truth be told, it’s the flavor of famed Portuguese cooking: chouriço sandwiches, liguica soup, and kale and cabbage, that live in the spotlight.

Travel down Chappaquiddick’s Tom’s Neck Lane and for the love on bonsai, you’ll come across the unexpected Mytoi Japanese garden with exotic plants, a peaceful stone garden, winding footpaths and a serene pond.

Having just celebrated their 35th season, the Saturday morning West Tisbury Farmers Market at Grange Hall is so well-known on the island that customers can hardly wait for vendors to set up their stands before snagging their favorite produce, vegetables, artisan breads, wildflowers and homemade foodstuffs including jam, jellies, chocolates and candies. Also boasting island grown pride in West Tisbury, the annual four-day Agricultural Society Fair, not much changed from when it began nearly 150 years ago with the harvest taking center stage and a Mid-Way to thrill the young and young at heart.

Any other day of the week, you check out Fiddlehead Farm, also in West Tisbury, and tour the growing grounds or shop the store chock full of organic offerings, baked goods, flowers and more.

Clinton, Obama, Prince Andrew, all three (and many others) have graced the rolling green at Farm Neck Golf Club an 18-hole par 72 course in Oak Bluffs. Resplendent with towering oaks dancing in the ocean breeze, links lovers book tee times as early in the season as possible.

Peppered with shops, galleries and eateries, Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs is the heartbeat of the otherwise tranquil island.

There’s a reason you’ll see so many bicycles on the ferry to and fro–the Vineyard has miles of bucolic, tree-shaded paths to beach trails. Or see the island by sea. Don’t feel pressured to dust of the ‘ol beach cruiser and wrangle it on the back of the car or mount the basement-banished boat on the roof; bike and kayak rentals are easy to find.

If you are disappointed to find your Vineyard vacation lacked the chance to rub elbows with famed resident Carly Simon, checkout the Vineyard Haven shop she co-owns, Midnight Farm, a boutique meets bedroom meets bookstore must-see. Not far from there you’ll find Bowl & Board, a family-owned treasure trove of unique finds from furniture to frames, some from well-known manufacturers, others from craftspeople around the world. Fans of NPR’s All Things Considered have come to know the store through a series of reports. If the little ones are getting antsy, bring them over to Riley’s Reads, a children’s bookstore that looks more like a mythical cottage that will ignite their imagination.

Built by whaling captains in 1843, Edgartown’s Old Whaling Church is a celebration of mid-19th century Greek Revival architecture that continues a religions tradition today with wedding ceremonies as a community meeting house. It is maintained and operated by the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust. In Oak Bluffs, the architecturally intriguing Union Chapel, dating back to 1870, is also maintained by the Trust and in known for extraordinary acoustics, making it ideal for concerts and performances.


Don’t be distressed to learn many of the Vineyard’s “up-island” beaches are privately owned– you’ll be hard-pressed to find a beach you can’t fall in love with on the Vineyard. Some are open to the public, others are on preserved lands, and some are restricted to residents and beach permit holders. Do yourself a favor and check ahead of time about fees, accessibility and lifeguard at the beach you’re eyeing. In some cases, weekly or seasonal stickers and permits can be purchased at the local town hall. Here are just a few beautiful beaches; try more than one before declaring your favorite.

Oak Bluffs Town Beach, adjacent to the ferry docks, is the perfect place to catch some rays while waiting for, quite literally, your ship to come in.

On the outer harbor side of Vineyard Haven, just after crossing the drawbridge into Oak Bluffs, Eastville Point Beach affords views of the nearby harbor and Vineyard Sound.

Also in Vineyard Haven, at the end of Herring Creek Road, is Lake Tashmoo Beach, a lovely expanse a bit more excluded and ideal for swimming.

Parking is for residents only, but you can access the two-mile long Lobsterville Beach on Menemsha Pond at Vineyard Sound by bicycle and enjoy its calm waters. Popular with bird watchers thanks in part to the preserved nesting areas nearby.

Adjacent to Dutcher’s Dock in Menemsha Harbor and dotted with families all summer long, Menensha Beach is open to the public and is known for colorful sunsets (most evening crowds will applaud the sun’s final decent). Nearby clam shacks quench hunger pangs and then some.

Joseph A. Sylvia State Beach, or simply, “State Beach,” is found along Beach Road between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, is accessible by shuttle bus, car and bike trail, and with calm waves, makes for a great family beach.

The three-mile stretch of pristine sand and ride-worthy waves that makes up Katama Beach, better known as South Beach, is found nearly four miles south of Edgartown. Easily reached by foot and bicycle trail, not much but Mother Nature provides here, so pack provisions accordingly.

Drive your car on Chappaquiddick’s expansive Wasque Point, part of conserved lands, or park and walk to enjoy this half-mile beach complete with lifeguards, amenities and minus massive crowds. Hop the ferry (do yourself a favor and leave the car behind), bring some cash for fees (that go toward the local land-preservation organization) and enjoy this peaceful expanse. East Beach, also on the Wasque Reservation, is another must-see with few beachgoers and serene environs.

Lighthouse Beach, also known as Norton’s Point in Edgartown, is the harbor beach at picturesque Starbuck’s Neck.

Lucy Vincent Beach in Chilmark is one of those restricted resident-only beaches but if renting a vacation home there, you can obtain a pass from town hall to gain access…oh, and you may find a few nudists at the far end of the beach…

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  • I had to catch my breath when I saw that photo. I live in OB (or have a house there) and the Vineyard is the most amazing and magical place. I had my last really good kiss there, too! (TMI) But mostly it’s just gorgeous. I miss it so. And now I will pack up the car and head out. One of the luxuries of owning a home is being able to go in the off season and have Linda Jean’s all to yourself.

  • Wow this is quite an amazing list. I am a New Englander, and I grew up in Massachusetts/VT. I think you did quite a job with this. The Vineyard will always have a special place in my heart – when I was training for my pilots license, (got my wings in 2000), my first cross country flight was to 1B2/Katama airpark grass strip. Of my many happy Vineyard memories, flying the UMass Cessna into Edgartown on this pretty, is my favorite. The Vineyard has two great airports, and at Katama in Edgartown you can go for a scenic ride in a red biplane. Very cool experience ! Thanks for the list Grace… I will check out some of the new-to-me suggestions on my next trip out :)xo

  • The photograph brings back happy memories. as we were married in West Tisbury last year. Don’t forget the lobster dip at the Net Result, Mrs. Blake’s pies, she makes them out of her home, the wares at MV Glassworks, yumminesses at Morning Glory Farms and Chilmark Chocolates, home grown flowers by Krishana Collins, and flights via Jet Blue and Cape Air.

  • Spent my honeymoon in Vineyard Haven, circa 1994. Martha’s Vineyard will always hold a special place in my heart. Thank you for a wonderful guide (and a beautiful–no, gorgeous!–photo!) All the best to you and your family.

  • Love your photograph and post about my favorite place in the world.
    I’ve been going to the Vineyard all my life. My mother was raised there and I spent every summer of my childhood there. I get to MV a couple of times a year… never often enough though.

  • Love Martha’s Vineyard! What a great guide! I would include Humphrey’s to your list! Their sandwiches (like the Turkey Gobbler made with homemade stuffing and cranberry sauce) are tremendous! Wish I was there right now!

  • thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this! as a child my family and I used to go out to visit close family friends and reading about these wonderful places brought me right back to those lazy summer afternoons. I’ve been meaning to return and this list just reminded me how much I missed the vineyard.

  • Martha’s Vineyard has a special spot in my heart- growing up in Falmouth I used to take the Island Queen every summer for 18 years… I remember riding the ‘Flying Horses” and gathering golden rings to try to win another free ride– irreplaceable memories…. :)

  • Yes- we go every summer and i start longing for it once may comes! funny about jimmy seas. my husband and i always have this debate. i enjoyed it when it first opened but it has definitely gone down hill. but i still drag whitney because like everything on the vineyard its nostalgic.

  • Another one with great childhood memories of the Vineyard. My brother just had his wedding there, at The Field Gallery, and it was wonderful. Dinner/reception was at the Lambert’s Cove Inn which I would personally recommend as well – food was delicious.

  • Wow, as a former summer resident and now a year round Vineyarder I was so happy to see this guide in my favorite computer habit, Design Sponge. Love your choices, it is a magical place and best in the fall if you can swing it. The water is warmest and all the people are gone. Thanks for making me appreciate (even more) my very special home.

  • Love this guide! Poster “cait,” Jimmy Seas is mention in the DINE section under Oak Bluffs, just no link (I don’t think they have a web site…)

  • Oh man! I am so happy to see this! I studied music at Martha’s vineyard for only a semester and played at a lot of these places! This post fills me with nostalgia and eagerness to go back. A lovely guide, only I wish there were more photos!

  • I’ve never been to Martha’s Vineyard and it’s a shame, because it looks like such a beautiful part of the country.

  • We came over from the UK to Martha’s Vineyard for a holiday many moons ago. Such a lovely part of the world, thank you for bringing back the memories!

  • Great article, Grace. And thanks for plug re our “beautiful home” in Edgartown. Traded it for another, this time with a pool, in another “E’ton.” Cheers!

  • Wow! This is such a great and indepth review and low down on Martha’s Vineyard. Martha is well, nothing but smiles reading this!

    Keep up the great work!

    ~Martha & Crew

  • Good news for Hillary- all mainland Bowl & Boards have closed, but the Vineyard Haven shop is alive and kicking.

  • I am getting married in Chilmark in the fall. I have grown up going to the vineyard every summer since I was 8yrs. old. It is a place very near and dear to my heart. Thank you for the wonderful guide, I will send this link to my guests!

  • I’ve been cycling from NYC toMV for the last 25 years.I am now touring into an organized tour.Would be nice if you would post it! Have a look

  • Thanks for the share! My family and I are rented one of those classic Martha’s Vineyard Rentals for next summer and I couldn’t be more excited. Any tips on some places to take the kids to eat that are family friendly? I plan on cooking most of the nights but I thought that one night out for some sea food would be really nice. Any help?