Martha's Vineyard is, together with Mount Desert Island and Nantucket, the most famous and evocative island of New England. What landscapes characterize it? Cliffs overlooking the sea (the famous Aquinnah Cliffs), vast expanses of beaches, poetic and remote lighthouses, fascinating fishing towns, unspoiled nature reserves and the constant feeling of being a little out of the world, at least from that of belonging (the States): in this island, in fact, the larger than New England, not only those who love to return to primordial nature will find a home, but also those who want to get away from the great American commercial giants.
So forget McDonalds and the big hotel chains, because Martha's Vineyard is banned in favor of cozy, family-run businesses (have you ever heard of New England Country Inns?), Craft shops and taverns run by renowned chefs. With this article I thought I'd provide a little guide on like visitare Martha's Vineyard, the things to see, how to reach it, the main attractions, how to manage travel etc ... let's start with the first question:
- How to get to Martha's Vineyard?
- Martha's Vineyard from Cape Cod there are 3 possibilities:
- Martha’s Vineyard da Boston
- Martha's Vineyard in Boston and Cape Cod
- How to move around the island?
- Things to do in Martha's Vineyard
- The 3 main cities of the island
- The Up Island area:
- What to see in Martha's Vineyard in one day?
- Where to eat? Recommended restaurants
- Where to sleep? The most welcoming Country Inn ...
- Other useful resources
How to get to Martha's Vineyard?
Being an island, you can go to Martha's Vineyard by ferry (Approximately 45 minutes from Cape Cod) and can be reached from multiple destinations, depending on the New England tour you are on.
Martha's Vineyard da Cape Cod there are 3 possibilities:
- a guided tour with organized transport and hotel pickup and drop-off
- a ferry from Hyannis (see here)
- ferry from Wood's Hole (see here), in the latter case you can also embark the car.
Martha’s Vineyard da Boston
- One day excursion is available which includes hotel pickup in Boston and visit to the island. For more information you can click on the button below:
Info on the excursion
Martha's Vineyard in Boston and Cape Cod
The Cape Air airline connects the island to Boston, Hyannis (Cape Cod) and the island of Nantucket by air, however the cost is much higher, and it is therefore preferable to use the ferry. If you want to get an idea of the prices you can do a search by clicking on the button below.
Martha's Vineyard per Cerca i voli
How to move around the island?
Nobody forbids you to move around the island by car, however, even if it has numerous advantages (first of all the freedom of movement and exploration of the most remote and less touristy areas) it is not the most relaxing choice, especially in high season: small roads, lots of traffic and little relaxation. And then you'll have to pay attention to the Five Corners (Vineyard Haven): a 5-way intersection where it is not yet clear who should have priority ...
The best ways to visitare Martha's Vineyard they are basically 2:
- the bike: the most pleasant way to venture on the island. Martha's Vineyard has many cycle paths and various shops that rent bikes for around $ 20-25 a day, here are those located in the 3 main cities:
- Martha’s Bike Rentals, Lagoon Pond Road, Vineyard Haven
- Anderson’s Bike Rentals, 1 Circuit Ave Extension, Oak Bluffs
- Martha’s Vineyard Bike Rentals, 212 Main Street, Edgartown
- public transport: The bus network connects the main attractions of the city quite well, including some more remote but must-see places (such as Aquinnah Cliffs). Transportation is handled by Martha's Vineyard Regional Transit Authority and if you plan to visit the island in one day it may be convenient to do the 1 Day Pass. For the types of tickets available take a look at this page, for the routes and attractions covered by the service consult this.
Things to do in Martha's Vineyard
Here is a list of attractions to consider at Martha’s Vineyard:
The 3 main cities of the island
Arriving by ferry, you will land either at Vineyard Heaven or Oak Bluffs. The other significant urban center is Edgartown.
the most important town, the main commercial center of the island but not for this reason to be discarded; indeed it is a town where it is decidedly pleasant to walk, with a beautiful harbor and the most valuable lighthouse in all of Martha's Vineyard, West Chop Lighthouse (not visitable inside), located on the western side of the port and connected by bus from line 10A.
Oak Bluffs is known for the oldest active carousel in all of the USA (Flying Horses Carousel) and for a long sandy strip that offers a series of beautiful beaches for sunbathing and swimming, but above all, to distinguish the town, is a unique place in the world: Gingerbread Cottages (also known simply as Campgrounds): an entire neighborhood in fantasy style with colorful houses decorated in the most imaginative and fairytale ways: you will feel like you are suddenly plunged into a children's story.
A charming village overlooking a beautiful natural harbor, Edgartown boasts a history of whaling and whaling of some importance, well documented by the interesting Martha's Vineyard museum. In the surroundings, as well as primeval beaches such as Katama Beach, find the nature reserve of Felix Neck, a paradise for bird watchers.
The Up Island area:
The towns we have talked about so far, despite having their charm, do not differ too much from many other villages and small urban centers that you can also find along Cape Cod. The Up Island area (western side of the island) is instead a different area: you will find characteristic and timeless villages, an oasis of tranquility where it seems to relive the maritime past of the island; at the same time the pristine beaches, the numerous protected areas and the steep cliffs of Aquinnah will make you return to a wild and primeval nature. In short, Up Island is an area of the past. Here's what you shouldn't miss:
The cliffs of Aquinnah Cliffs and the Gay Head lighthouse
The typical imagery of Martha's Vineyard is associated with the romantic and suggestive cliff of Aquinnah (Aquinnah Cliffs), dominated by the equally poetic lonely lighthouse, the Gay Head Lighthouse, which boasts the best panoramic position on the island (in the summer it can also be visited inside, paying a ticket of 5 dollars).
Along the cliff (called National Historic Landmark) extends a very long stretch of sand, which includes the beaches of Moshop Beach and Aquinnah Public Beach, a much more than pleasant walk, which offers splendid views of the sea. To reach the Gay Head lighthouse by public transport you will need to take line 5.
The country village of West Tisbury
A rural and traditional village that thrives on agriculture and a lifestyle of yesteryear, with the inevitable church with a whitewashed and pointed bell tower typical of New England and a period shop (Alley’s General Store) which in itself constitutes an attraction (it seems to have been open since 1858!). At first glance it might seem that there isn't much to do in this place, but West Tisbury hides a surprising artistic vitality, as evidenced by the bizarre Field Gallery, a green lawn populated by a series of sculptures of white human figures, and the workshop of the glass blowers (Martha’s Vineyard Glassworks).
In the area, nature lovers and bird watchers can have fun exploring the protected areas of the place, characterized by 3 natural reserves (Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary, Long Point Wildlife Refuge and Polly Hill Arboretum), where you will encounter swamps, cliffs and desolate beaches, fascinating animal species, wooded areas and wild flowers.
The fishing village of Menemsha
The port of Menemsha, which stands in a fascinating natural position, has been made famous by the movie The shark from 1975 and is still identical to how the film portrayed him. This is the ideal place to get a close look at the life of the village fishermen and buy fresh fish on the dock. On one side and the other of the marina there are beautiful beaches, from which to enjoy breathtaking sunsets. You can also say that you have bathed in shark waters!
What to see in Martha's Vineyard in one day?
How to see all these places of interest in just 1 day? It's possible? How to get by with public transport? On this page you will find an itinerary developed by Martha's Vineyard Regional Transit Authority that will allow you to organize yourself in this sense.
Where to eat? Recommended restaurants
We are on an island and a fish discovery seems to me the least! Here are 3 places that are right for us:
- Larsen's Fish Market (56 Basin Road, Chilmark, Menemsha): eating fresh fish on the pier of a fishing village (where they may have also filmed the movie The Shark) is priceless!
- Right Fork Diner (12 Mattakesett Way, Edgartown): right next to an airstrip you will find one of the most popular places for a typical American breakfast, all to be enjoyed while watching the planes take off.
- The Port Hunter (55 Main St, Edgartown): Edgartown is known for its excellent culinary offerings and this place is one of the best for those looking for sophisticated dishes.
Where to sleep? The most welcoming Country Inn ...
In most cases we just visit Martha's Vineyard in 1 day, but nothing prevents you from staying longer and finding accommodation on the island. However, be careful: the number of available accommodations is limited and in high season it is literally stormed!
If you search early (and well in advance) you can find accommodation in one of the country inns on Martha's Vineyard, in the most authentic and traditional spirit of New England. Alternative structures to this type of accommodation are in fact (essentially) banned from the island and, given the efficient network of public connections, you can choose accommodation in any of the cities mentioned. For a list of country inns available on the island click on the button below:
Martha's Vineyard accommodations
Other useful resources
If you are thinking of embarking on a New England itinerary, I would like to point out some resources that may be useful for planning your trip.
- Our guide on how to plan a tour of New England.
- Our tips on Country Inn: the best Bed & Breakfasts in the region.
- All you need to know about Acadia National Park, New England's most fascinating natural park.
- Our advice on the city of Boston, a reference point for visiting the region.
- Our section with all the recommended itineraries in New England.