A picturesque island of Martha’s Vineyard located south of Cape Cod in Massachusetts is well known for being a popular summer destination. During high season tourism causes the population of the island to increase by an astounding 750%. No surprise, this is just a perfect place to escape the stressful life of New York City and beyond. Moreover, the island has so much to offer from the amazing super fresh seafood, through beautiful colonial mansions and farmhouse hotels, to calm nature and charming beaches. There is a reason why so many famous people live there – you never know who you’ll run into while on your trip. Another interesting fact about the island is that Steven Spielberg filmed his iconic movie Jaws there in 1974. I guess you are already convinced to visit the island so lets get into details about how to properly plan your trip. Check this ultimate guide to Martha’s Vineyard.
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The best time to visit Martha’s Vineyard
The best time to visit Martha’s Vineyard is from May until September, when the temperatures are around low 70s and rarely above 90 degrees. We went there in the middle of May and it was perfect time for exploring the island. Although sometimes we needed long sleeves or jackets, especially in the evening. May was not the best for swimming since the water was still cold. In the Fall the temperatures stay pleasantly moderate and the ocean is warm enough for swimming or surfing. Also, in the off-season you will avoid the crowds although some businesses might start shutting down around that time.
How to get there
There are actually a few ways to get to Martha’s Vineyard especially when coming from New York City like we did.
Drive your car to Woods Hole, MA if you want to use it on the island. Only the ferry from Woods Hole allows car transportation. You can also park your car at ferry terminal if you want to leave it behind and save some money. It will take you approximately 4.5hrs to get to Woods Hole from New York City and another 45 minutes on the ferry. Make sure to be at the terminal at least 30 minutes before departure. You can find more information at https://www.steamshipauthority.com/ including a detailed fee schedule.
Drive your car to New Bedford and then hop onto the 1h ferry to Martha’s Vineyard (runs 6 times per week). New Bedford is 40 miles closer to New York City. Remember that the ferry from here is passenger only. The cost of round trip can be up to $70 per passenger so it is significantly more expensive than Woods Hole ferry which is around $20.
If you have a bigger budget you can also take a plane from either Newark (EWR) or New York City (JFK). It will take a little more than 1h. You can occasionally find a deal for $150 but during high season a flight can cost hundreds of dollars.
Finally, there is a Seastreak ferry from Manhattan at E 35th St. It will drop you off at Oak Bluffs in a little over 5hrs. The round trip cost ranges from $240 (regular) to $310 (holiday).
Where to stay at Martha’s Vineyard
It’s not a secret that Martha’s Vineyard can be expensive to stay at. Depending on your budget you can consider these options:
If you want to be frugal take a look at the popular Mansion House Inn where you can stay for under $120 per night in low season. This accommodation has elegant rooms with huge windows and beautiful terrace overlooking the bay.
Pequot Hotel is another option. It is a bit more expensive and is conveniently located (Oak Bluffs) close to the harbor. Choose this hotel especially if you are looking for a calm spot away from the main street’s buzz. There is a short and very picturesque walk to the Circuit Avenue where you will find many shops, restaurants and bars.
Take a look at a stunning Harbor View Hotel located in the heart of Edgartown. The hotel is just steps away form Fuller and Lighthouse Beaches, shopping in the village and the natural habitat of Chappaquiddick Island. For the prices navigate to the hotel’s website.
You can also check out booking.com to find a nice apartment with a full kitchen. It is a great option for families and can save you a significant amount of money.
How to get around
It totally depends on personal preferences and how ambitious your plans are. If you want to explore just one part of the island, get a bike. It’s a perfect way to get some exercise while covering a decent amount of area. We biked from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown and back and were totally fine (about 24 miles). The only unintended consequence was sun burnt forearms so don’t forget to apply sunscreen. The rental is about 25 dollars per day so quite reasonable.
We got our bikes from http://andersonsbikerentals.com/ and the overall experience was great.
Going further into the island? Consider getting either a stylish convertible or an adventurous jeep. The convertible will be great to drive around and admire beautiful views. The jeep will take you to any part of the island that’s publicly accessible. We rented the Wrangler and had to drive through some rough terrain to get to Menemsha Hills Reservation Beach.
Where to eat
Martha’s Vineyard is famous for its fresh seafood. It is a real heaven for those who are seeking the best lobster rolls or super fresh oysters. Although there are plenty of different restaurant options on the island I will highlight the places that we visited and had the best experience. You can still explore Circuit Avenue or find many great places in Edgartown.
Our absolutely top picks are:
The Seafood Shanty in Edgartown – it is indoor and outdoor seafood spot with an incredible view of the harbor. The lobster rolls are huge and drinks are delicious. Simply, beautiful location and amazing food in one place. Couldn’t dream about anything better until we checked out the place below.
Larsen’s Fish Market in Menemsha – totally our favorite place that we visited a couple of times during our short stay on Martha’s Vineyard. We had oysters, lobster rolls and even the entire fresh lobster each. The prices are awesome and the quality of the food is above expectations. The place was opened in 1969 by Larsen family and it’s still going strong. During its existence the fish market was many times awarded for its extraordinary food made to perfection. Also, it is a popular place among the locals and you can meet some famous politicians there (like we did, ha!).
What to do
- Ride a bike to enjoy the unspoiled nature of Martha’s Vineyard island.
- Sail a boat either around the island or just far away enough to change the perspective on the beauty of Martha’s Vineyard.
- Visit local farm Chilmark Allen Farm Sheep & Wool and rescue some poor sheep that might get trapped into a fence, like we did (it actually made my day!).
- Explore beautiful streets of Edgartown, the island’s first colonial settlement. There you will find upscale shops, art galleries, fine restaurants and bars.
- Fly over the island and see the Martha’s Vineyard from above. You can purchase a flight at Katama Airpark.
- Visit the scenic lighthouse in Aquinnah and admire beautiful vistas from Cliffs Overlook. Other lighthouses you might want to visit are Edgartown Lighthouse and West Chop Lighthouse
- Relax on a sandy beach or the rocky one like Lucy Vincent Beach.
- Take a ride on the iconic Flying Horse Carousel built in 1876 and located in Oak Bluffs.
- Bring camera and take countless incredible shots of this super photogenic island.