Similar to Block Island, even though I’ve called New England my home for the past 27 years, my trip this past weekend to Martha’s Vineyard was an entirely new adventure (if I went when I was younger, I don’t remember it!). Of course, because I had such an amazing time, I tried to document my trip as well as I could for y’all to use as a guide when you hopefully visit one day.
To start, most people head to Martha’s Vineyard during the summer, but I found that the “shoulder season” is a much less stressful time to travel there. Not as many tourists, no long lines to get on the ferries, hotels are a bit cheaper & the overall island is a bit more relaxed.
As I’m sure most of you know (or maybe not), there’s no way to get to Martha’s Vineyard by land….because, yes, it’s an island. The easiest way to get there is via ferry from Wood’s Hole. Leading up to Friday afternoon, when my fiance and I were planning our departure, I kept on checking the Steamship Authority website to see how to buy tickets in advance. Unless you’re planning on bringing a car, you actually can’t buy tickets until you get there (which did not help my Type A travel personality).
Another thing I wasn’t aware of before planning my trip… you can’t park in Wood’s Hole for the weekend since all parking spots are metered. Therefore, the Steamship Authority website becomes your favorite travel tool. Little did I know that you actually have to park about 15-20 minutes way from the terminal in one of the 4 parking lots created specifically for the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. Not sure which lot is open? Hop on the Steamship website and on the right side column, you’ll see which lot has open spots. Easy as that!
Next dilemma… how to get from the parking lot to the ferry! Luckily, the Steamship Authority already has that figured out. I’m not quite sure how often they leave (I’d assume about every 15-20 minutes), but free buses are set up to bring you back and forth from where you’re parked. As Jeff and I hopped on the bus with our bags, we noticed it was filled with other folks our age, all ready for an amazing weekend away.
From there, it was quite easy. Hop off the bus, skip on over to the ticket booth, buy a round trip ticket (only $16) and then frolick on over to the ferry (it leaves about every hour). Once you’re on board, you can grab some food & even a beer and lo and behold, 45 minutes later, you’re stepping onto Martha’s Vineyard!
For those wondering which port the ferry heads to, the one from Wood’s Hole lets people off in Vineyard Haven. Rather than stay in a hotel, Jeff and I chose to stay in the cutest bed & breakfast, The Look Inn. I absolutely loved this place. It’s about a five minute walk from the port…no need to get a taxi. Once you arrive, a chalk board is set up with your name & the room you’re staying in (there’s only 3 rooms for guests). Once we carried our belongings up the stairs (I was loving the nautical charts that adorned all the walls), we flopped on the beds and passed out after a long day of work and travel.
The next morning, I found myself waking up at the crack of dawn. When peeking out the window, the backdrop behind the backyard forest was a deep red, as the sun started to rise. Immediately, Jeff and I woke up to get ready for a long day of exploring the island.
First stop? Black Dog Tavern.
I know, I know… I thought it would be touristy, but surprisingly, it wasn’t at all. On the main road, locals and tourists can find The Black Dog Bakery, where you can pick up coffees & other breakfast pastries to go. I wasn’t interested in that though… I was looking for a full on breakfast feast. Just around the corner and down a path, you’ll find The Black Dog Tavern, situated right on the water. We stepped in & thankfully, only had about a 5-minute wait. After sitting down, we were presented our menus, where I was able to learn the story behind The Black Dog Tavern (I’m a history nerd, so yes, this interests me).
For those also interested… on a desperately cold night day in 1969, Captain Robert Douglas was dining on a bitter cup of coffee and a dry, packaged, store-bough donut. He realized he had had enough & was looking for a much better meal that was available year-round – something that didn’t exist on the Vineyard. With what started as a sketch on a napkin, and then sketches on a bunch of napkins, the small building started to take shape. The Captain’s excitement was contagious and other locals start to help build the restaurant. Locals shared recipes & eventually, the name was determined – The Black Dog Tavern – named after the Captain’s canine companion, “Black Dog.” Now, The Captain serves breakfast, lunch and dinner to locals and travelers… all who obviously love it and continuously come back for more.
After Jeff and I chowed down on eggs Benedict and threw back a few coffees, we made our way across the street & found a car to rent. 10 minutes later, we were on our way.
Next stop? The alpaca farm!
Yes, I’m a sucker for farm animals & when I heard an alpaca farm existed on Martha’s Vineyard, there was no way I wasn’t stopping by.
Just five minutes from Vineyard Haven, Jeff and I found ourselves pulling up to the Island Alpaca Co. For $5, you’re allowed entrance on to the farm, where you can roam the barn and check out their pack of alpacas! Yippieee! Some things I learned…. alpacas have to live in packs (or they get lonely, duh!), they are sheared once a year, they’re super friendly and their fur makes for very soft blankets, hats, gloves, etc… Of course, I couldn’t leave without getting a quick photo alongside one of them.
After petting some fluffy alpacas, Jeff and I hopped back in the car and started to cruise on over to find the historic lighthouses. Along the way, we came across this fence made of skis! I screamed at Jeff to pull over… photo opp, obvi. Now that I’m back at my computer, I’ve been able to do a quick Google search to see WHY this even exists. Long story short – a winter ski instructor who lives on the island just decided to turn his hobby into a quirky decorative fence that surrounds his house. Of course, because of its out-of-placeness (is that even a word?), in an article with the MV Times, the owner’s daughter mentions she just tells people to “come to the house with skis” and folks know where that is.
Now, back to our original purpose… finding a light house!
Once back in the car, we drove around some twists and turns through out the suburban streets and found ourselves at the East Chop Light, right on Telegraph Hill. It rests atop the highest point of Martha’s Vineyard and is one of the five light houses on the island. Unfortunately, you can’t climb up the light house, but you will get some stunning views of the ocean.
At that point, we were ready to make our way to Edgartown, an old whaling port on the east side of the island. As we entered the area, we came across Bad Martha, a brewery which opened recently in 2014. When you pull into the parking lot, you come across Donaroma’s Nursery, making you think you’re not in the right place. But, lo and behold, the brewery is situated on the nursery’s grounds and the outdoor patio is edged right up next to the growing plants.
Because we couldn’t just pick one beer to try, Jeff and I both ordered a flight of 5 beers. All were super delish, but my favorite part of Bad Martha is their mermaid mascot. I’m obsessed with mermaids & this one is pretty bad ass.
Now, you know how I love my stories 🙂 As legends go… In 1602, mischievous winds drove Bartholomew Gosnold’s ship to Martha’s Vineyard. He scoured the island for ingredients to brew ale for his crew. Alas, he found none and he fell asleep on the shore. Under the light of the moon, he awoke to a sensuous mermaid with jet black hair and a devilish grin. Sitting at the water’s edge, she beckoned to Gosnold. The closer he got, the further she swam away – tempting him to follow. So he did. Finally, he found himself in a field brimming with lush island grapes. These would be perfect for wine he thought. But nay, he was a good Englishman, so these grapes became the secret ingredient for a robust, refreshing beer. Gosnold never saw the mermaid again but went to his grave wondering if he ever saw her at all.
By now, Jeff & I were craving some lunch. As we walked around the absolutely beautiful Edgartown (seriously, I’m obsessed), we decided not to find a full-service restaurant, as it would take up too much time from our island adventure. Therefore, when we stumbled across The Black Sheep, a formage and charcuterie shop, I grabbed some house made crostinis, some sliced prosciutto and a few chunks of cheese. We then skipped (well, I did) outside, grabbed a table & feasted on our makeshift cheese & meat platter.
At this point, it was only about 2pm, and since we were both still on a travel high, we knew there was much more we had to see on the island before heading back to our bed & breakfast. As we departed Edgartown, we popped back on the main road and stumbled across Morning Glory Farm. Luckily for us – the farm was celebrating their 40th anniversary with a huge autumn festival, filled with pumpkins, apple cider tastings, live music, grilled corn, etc… Woohoo!
Once Jeff and I got our fair share of cheese and apple cider samples, we again, hopped in our car to find the Gay Head Lighthouse… allllll the way on the other side of the island. This was definitely the longest drive of the day, taking us about 30 minutes to get there. With the top down on the car though & it being a ridiculously nice day, it made for a great cruise through the island’s farm land and eventually, coast line.
A half hour later and we finally were ready to hit the beach adjacent to the Gay Head Lighthouse. After the long day of bopping around the island, Jeff and I were ready to chill for a moment & check out the beach. To get down there, you’ll have to go on about a 15 minute walk through the dunes before finally hitting the sand. Similar to Block Island, the beach is lined with huge cliffs that range in colors. There weren’t many people on the beach (since it’s late September), but one brave soul was splish-splashing in the waves, while others were bundled up in sweatshirts on picnic blankets, enjoying the last few hours of sunlight.
Once we got in some rest and relaxation on the beach, it was time for my almost-birthday meal. My entree of choice? Lobster rolls. We cruised on down the street to Menemsha, a small fishing village on the west side of the island. Historically, it’s a hub for local fishermen… so therefore, you could expect very fresh seafood.
To start, we stopped in Larsen’s Fish Market where I ordered a hot buttered lobster roll. Jeff got the same, but paired his with their seafood chowder. While I only want to say nice things on The New England Life, I’ll say that the lobster roll was great. As for the service, I’ll leave you with a ‘no comment.’
Unfortunately, I was still hungry after finishing up the first lobster roll (hey! we had a long day!) and I spotted another seafood shack round the corner. The Galley is a very friendly, family owned spot that also serves lobster rolls, but in the style I prefer: fresh, cold lobster meat on a hot buttered bun 🙂 yum, yum, yum! I enjoyed it on their back porch, overlooking the small inlet.
By then, Jeff and I were utterly exhausted and knew it was time to head back to Vineyard Haven. BUT, since I didn’t want the day to end early, I suggested an end-of-day drink at a local bar. Interesting fact though – Martha’s Vineyard used to be a dry island…. which means, at least for Vineyard Haven, no bars! Ugh, buzz kill. For anyone going to Oak Bluffs or Edgartown, that’s not the case, but at this point, I realized I was ready for bed anyways.
The next day, I woke up & ka-blammy (!)… I remembered that I was now a year older. While Jeff was packing up all his things, I skipped outside to get in a few minutes on the hammock. My dream one day is to have a wooded backyard where I can set up my own hammock like this. Really, there’s nothing more relaxing, especially on a quiet Sunday morning.
After a few minutes of alone time, where I ponder the meaning of my life (jk, but not really), Jeff lets me know he’s ready to hit the road again. We only had a few more hours left of our car rental, so of course, we were trying to make the most use of it.
The previous day, we quickly drove through Oak Bluffs since we knew we’d explore more today. For those that don’t know, Oak Bluffs is actually where one of the famous JAWS scenes was filmed back in 1975, when Steven Spielberg was just getting his start in the film biz. But, the area isn’t only known for that. While they have some great beaches, I was on the hunt for the historic gingerbread cottages. At first, Jeff and I drove around, trying to find them on our own. Eventually, I did a quick Google search and found that most were located on Clinton Ave. Once we pulled up and parked near the neighborhood, we made our way down the walking path to check ’em out.
And, wow. It was like we were looking at oversized doll houses. The gingerbread cottages look like just that – brightly colored fairy tale houses. Seriously, the architecture was like nothing I had seen before. From hot pink to mint green to dusty blue… it was like a rainbow of pastel colored homes. Surprisingly, most are occupied & not for tourists just to ooh & aah… so don’t hop up the stairs & saunter through the front door.
As you can see, by this point, we had seen & done 234982398 things on the island. Sadly, our trip had to come to an end and after dropping off our rental car, stopped by The Black Dog Bakery for an iced coffee and then walked back on to the ferry to return home. Of course, there’s still much more to do on the island, especially during the summer. Now that I know how easy it is to get a taste of New England island life, I can’t wait to make my way back once the warm weather returns.
For anyone that actually read this entire recap of my trip, have you been to Martha’s Vineyard? Where did you stay? What did I miss that I need to do when I return? What’s your favorite part of the island?