Illustration by Lindsay Lorente for vineyardloveknots.com
Growing up, my husband Ted spent his summers on Martha's Vineyard and since meeting him I have been lucky to visit several times throughout the year. You'll find us there every July Fourth, Labor Day and in between as often as possible. We were married on the Vineyard in September, one of my favorite times to visit. (Fun fact: We actually had two marriage ceremonies. For the first time as cast extras on ABC Family's short lived series The Vineyard followed a few months later by a legal ceremony with our family and friends at the Harbor View Hotel.) We return in October for fishing - the annual Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby and deals at the shops.
There is always something new to explore, so this guide will be continuously evolving. I've listed below some basic information on traveling to the island and my favorite things to do, primarily focused around Edgartown. Please leave your tips in the comments section below!
MARTHA'S VINEYARD TRAVEL GUIDE
OVERVIEW //TRAVEL INFORMATION // GETTING AROUND
EAT // SEE & DO // SHOP // STAY
WEDDING // RESOURCES // MY BUCKET LISTOVERVIEW
Martha's Vineyard is located off the southern coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It is 100 square miles and has six towns. "Down-island" (East) includes Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven (also called Tisbury). "Up-island" (West) includes Aquinnah, Chilmark and West Tisbury.
From Woods Hole, MA - The Steamship Authority (Directions, Parking Information)
From Hyannis, MA - Hy-Line Cruises
From Falmouth, MA - Island Queen
From North Kingston, RI - Martha's Vineyard Fast Ferry
From Harrison, New Jersey/New York City/Boston & New Bedford, MA - Seastreak
Martha's Vineyard Airport Code=MVY
From Boston - Cape Air
From New York City - Delta, JetBlue, (Cape Air Partners)
From Washington, DC - US Airways
From Boston Logan Airport and South Station to Woods Hole by Bus - Peter Pan
The Steamship Authority is the most popular way to get to Martha's Vineyard. If you are driving to the Woods Hole ferry, you will park in a nearby lot and a bus will transport you to the ferry. There is no charge to take the bus. The Palmer Lot is the closest to the ferry and may be full. On your way, you will see signs along Route 28 directing you to an open lot. You can also check their mobile site for up-to-date parking information. Allow at least 30 minutes to park, take the bus and buy your ticket to ensure you do not miss your boat. The ferry ride is approximately 45 minutes. Keep in mind that the ferry departs from both Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs depending on the time.
On the Steamship Authority, we will typically sit on the deck if it's a nice day but make our way toward the exit 10 minutes prior to arrival. Otherwise, you can be waiting to disembark for a long time. Place your larger bags on the luggage cart before boarding. Although I've never had an issue with stolen items or heard of it firsthand, I would recommend you keep anything valuable with you since the cart is left unattended. Finally, as strange as this sounds the New England Clam Chowder on the Steamship is must. Even if we're sitting out on the deck on a scorching hot day, you'll find Ted with a piping hot chowder.
The Seastreak has a cash bar only for drinks and snacks. It's a long ride from NYC... you will
It is not necessary for you to bring a car on the island. Taxis meet all arriving ferries and flights. If you want to see more of the island on your own, it’s easy to rent bicycles, a car, take a taxi or ride the bus. The bus (VTA) is cash only so have singles and quarters handy. Fares are $1.25 per town, each way, including town of origin. If you do bring your car on the island during peak season make ferry car reservations as soon as possible.
ALCHEMY BISTRO AND BAR (Edgartown): Hands down my favorite restaurant on the island. Don't miss out on the risotto balls. Highly recommend that you make reservations in advance for prime time, especially holiday weekends. I'd also like to add that they were very accommodating for my friend with dietary restrictions on a recent visit. (I'm partial since this is where Ted and I dined after his Vineyard proposal.)
ATRIA: Like Alchemy, it's on the expensive side but delicious and can't go wrong. I had my rehearsal dinner here and everyone loved it. They have an amazing burger deal in the off season.
ESPRESSO LOVE (Edgartown): If you love everything bagels, be sure to get there early because it's a morning hot spot and the best go first. Scout out your table and don't be shocked when you hear the employees running around yelling the order names. It's chaos, but once you have your sandwich you'll know why it's crowded. The best place for a "quick" breakfast.
ART CLIFF DINER (Vineyard Haven): The blueberry pancakes are worth the wait.
THE RIGHT FORK DINER (Edgartown): My recommendation is the Mattakesett Scramble (eggs, lobster, corn, green onion pesto and chevre) or the french toast. I can't say which is better because they are so different!
CHILMARK TAVERN: Depending on where you are staying, it can be a trek but it's well worth it to visit this up island "rural American bistro". BYOB.
THE NEWES FROM AMERICA PUB (Edgartown): Know as the "The Newes". Fish & Chips. New England Clam Chowder. You can't go wrong here for the classics. Sit outside, wear your shades and people watch.
STATE ROAD (West Tisbury): A popular restaurant up-island. The ocean/farm to table menu is created daily.
PORT HUNTER (Edgartown): This is my favorite night spot... great bands and beer selection.
SEAFOOD SHANTY (Edgartown): Drinks, apps and the prime view of Edgartown Harbor.
MAD MARTHA'S (Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven): What's a beach vacation without ice cream?! Oreo cookies and cream on a sugar cone is my go to.
SEE & DO
BEACH IT: Read about all the beaches here.
State Beach in Oak Bluffs and South Beach in Edgartown are the most accessible and popular.
You can bring your SUV on the beach, but it will cost you! The non-resident annual permit for Norton Point (next to South Beach) is $140 or $300 to include East Beach on Chappy. Day permits are available only for Norton Point to non-residients for $60. More info here.
EDGARTOWN LIGHTHOUSE: Stroll down Water Street and admire the picture perfect white homes then make your way down to the beach and lighthouse for a photo op. Afterward, sit on the turquoise rocking chairs on the front porch of the Harbor View Hotel overlooking the water. It's one of my favorite spots to be.
CHAPPY: Take bikes over on the ferry across Edgartown Harbor to Chappaquiddick, known as Chappy, and ride to East Beach. It's my favorite beach. The Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge offers kayak and paddle board rentals as well as tours. One summer Ted and I went on the Wildlife Discovery Kayak Tour with another couple to change things up and had a great time (minus the crab that my friend threw in my kayak).
MENEMSHA: Relax at the beach and have a lobster roll from the Galley. Visit for sunset and get a lobster dinner at Larsen's Fish Market (seating = crates on the dock).
AQUINNAH CLIFFS (AKA GAY HEAD): Up island, breathtaking views.
OAK BLUFFS CAMPGROUND: Take yourself on a walking tour of the gingerbread cottages and follow with a Dirty Banana (mudslide) from Nancy's or a meal at Lookout Tavern or Offshore Ale House. See my favorite pink gingerbread cottage here.
BAD MARTHA BREWERY (Edgartown): Opened recently and has become a favorite spot to end a long day at the beach with a brew or start out the night before heading downtown.
FISHING: Ted highly recommends Fishing The Vineyard for the best charters. Ted's tips also include fishing the beaches of Lobsterville in early June for striped bass and late September for bonita and albacore.
AGRICULTURAL FAIR (West Tisbury): Held annually every August. Read about my visit here.
BLACK DOG TALL SHIPS (Vineyard Haven): Sunset sail. First came the tall ships, then the iconic tavern and merchandise. Read more about it here.
MORNING GLORY FARM (Edgartown): I adore this market and bakery. I would have never thought produce could be displayed so beautifully. Pick up some fresh corn for the grill.
YOGA: Yoga is my exercise of choice when I travel because it's easy to pack (sneakerless) and a way to unwind. I will rent a mat at the studio and cover it with a Manduka Mat Towel. I would recommend a class at yoga haven followed by a post-workout iced coffee at The Black Dog Cafe next door. You can see a complete list of all yoga classes on the island here.
Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven all offer shopping. Depending on the length of your trip and what you can fit in, consider taking the ferry in/out with a combination of Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven for the chance to see both towns.
Fashionistas should head straight to Main Street Edgartown where you'll find several boutiques (20 Main, NRO, Slate are a few favorites) and staples like Lilly Pulitzer and Vineyard Vines. Don't miss the side streets for hidden shops. If you love to cook and entertain, Vineyard Haven has some great stores including Juliska. Be sure to stop in Sanctuary in Oak Bluffs if you are looking for a Martha's Vineyard themed sign or frame, they have plenty of options that will fit in your suitcase.
In my opinion, one of the best souvenirs you can buy is a basic t-shirt or sweatshirt with VINEYARD in block letters.
PORTOBELLO ROAD (Edgartown): This is the place to buy a special piece to display in your home. I have a print from this store that I love and it always makes me think of this cute shop. There is always something new to uncover, see my post here.
CHILMARK CHOCOLATES (Chilmark): If you head up island, add this stop to your itinerary. Best of luck parking in their small lot (I get anxiety thinking about it) and don't be surprised if the line is out the door since they can only fit a few inside. Have a Tashmoo Truffle for me. Tip: You may want to call before making the trip because they have been known to close down over holiday weekends.
VINEYARD BATH CO. (Edgartown): These paraben free products make great souvenirs to bring home. Each scent is named after an area of the Vineyard.
I've stayed at the Harbor View Hotel and Kelley House (at the time under the same ownership) so my experience with accommodations is limited. The Kelley House is in the middle of downtown and was an overall positive experience for my family. If your budget allows, an ocean view stay in the main building at the Harbor View is lovely. They also have cottages to rent that are amazing. For family friendly accommodations, also check out the Winnetu.
You may find a great last minute deal on Priceline Martha's Vineyard Hotels. Otherwise, I would research depending on your desired town to stay in and call for the best rates. Check out HomeAway, Airbnb and Trip Advisor for rentals.
For my wedding, guests stayed at several different inns across Edgartown. Edgartown Commons, conveniently located downtown, offered the best rates and filled up first.
Planning a Vineyard wedding? See a recap of my wedding and vendors here.
New York Times 36 Hours on Martha's Vineyard
Lilly Pulitzer's Martha's Vineyard Travel Guide
Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce
MY VINEYARD BUCKET LIST
Take a yoga class on the beach.
Reel in a striper by myself.
Stay at the Beach Plum Inn in Menemsha.
Spot my "hall pass" Vineyarder Jake Gyllenhaal... sorry Ted!