June 15, 2019
The ferry to Martha’s Vineyard brochure reads this way, “ Sail away to the storybook island of Martha’s Vineyard “ that is not only eye catching but spot on. This was top on our day trips destinations, so we got up really early (you know how much I love getting up early) for an hour’s drive to Falmouth, MA on the southern coast of the Cape Cod peninsula. Here we bought our tickets on the Island Queen Ferry at $22 per person for a round trip, which I thought was very reasonable. The sail is one half hour to the Oak Bluffs port town of Martha’s Vineyard and the day was picture perfect with calm seas and not a cloud in the sky, just as I dreamed it.
The concierge at our Normandy Farms RV campground (yes they provide that service at this RV park) prepared a package for places of interest to tour while at Martha’s Vineyard. I need to pause here and mention how lovely this campground is. Situated in the city of Foxborough (home of the New England Patriots) it is within easy driving distance of Boston and Cape Cod. We were very happy to use the concierge service for our visit to Martha’s Vineyard as this island is very large with three major towns and many notable beaches. A day visit has to be carefully planned in order to hit the highlights.
The locals call the island “The Vineyard”. Nobody really knows how it got it’s name. The most popular version is that the island was named by a British explorer Bartholomew Gosnold after his infant daughter Martha. Gosnold built a small fort and trading post there in 1602. The “Vineyard” part of the name has nothing to do with Martha and most people believe that originally there were wild grapes growing on the island, and people just associated Martha and vineyard and thus, the name as it stands today.
There is no need to bring a car into the island. There are many ways to get around, bike, cars and moped rentals. But the most convenient and inexpensive way is the VTA (Vineyard Transit Authority). These buses crisscross the island and makes it an easy way to get around. You need to plan at least 8 hours in order to see the highlights, it is a big island as you can see on the map bellow. A day pass on the bus is $8 ($5 for seniors… we made it) which is a great deal in my opinion.
We decided to go to the furthest destination first and then make our way back to Oak Bluffs by the end of the day to catch the ferry back to Falmouth. The Cliffs of Aquinnah (the area is also referred to as Gay Head) are beautiful clay formations that tumble down to peaceful beaches and a must see if you go to the island. The bus ride is approximately an hour from Oak Bluffs so if you are determined to see this as we were, you will need to invest at least three hours of your day. It is well worth it to walk the grassy paths to the Gay Head lighthouse for a great view of the colorful cliffs, and meander down to the beach. This area is part of the Wampanoag people, so respect for their land and traditions is upmost as you wonder about and enjoy the beauty of these beaches.
By the time we completed our cliff walks we were famished and looking forward to a nice lunch in Edgartown. This small village is beyond adorable with a historic district on the waterfront that reminded me of Key West. There are beautiful stately homes and churches from their great whaling era. Charming side streets, with homes I wished I owned. One house in particular had a plaque which explained the very large tree in front. “The Giant Pagoda Tree was brought from China in a flower pot in 1837 by Captain Thomas Milton to grace his new home then being built. This is believed to be the largest of it’s kind on the continent”. The tree now dominates the street and if that’s not charm, I don’t know what is. I had one prerequisite for a restaurant , a view and there are plenty of views to be had. We had a wonderful lunch at the The Atlantic restaurant, great food and great views.
After lunch we hopped right back on the bus headed for Oak Bluff where we went for a much needed walk to take in the town. If you have seen the movie Jaws, Oak Bluffs will remind you of that town and in fact the famous “Jaws bridge” from the movie is right at the edge of town on the way in from Edgartown. I will refresh your memory here, the police chief tells the kids to play in the pond across the bridge because it is “safe” there, but Jaws finds it’s way there, going under the bridge, as the townspeople watch in horror the bloody outcome. We of course had to get off the bus to take a picture of this bridge. The movie ruined the beach for me for years, now I have to see it again, such a classic. Oak Bluff is the most touristy and livelier of all the Martha Vineyard towns. It’s probably this way because it is the port for most of the ferry lines from the mainland. Oak Bluff is bursting with restaurants, bars and shops but there are some off the main road attractions that are just delightful. One of these is the Gingerbread House Neighborhood called Wesleyan Grove. These super adorable technicolor gingerbread houses (over 300) are in a maze like layout all converging on a village green that is a living postcard. These homes all date back to the 1870’s. After the civil war this area was developed as a Methodist summer campground. Many of these cottages have been owned by the same families for generations. They are just beautifully kept and gorgeous to behold.
As the day wound down we made our way back to the Island Queen for a thrilling ride back to the mainland as the seas had become a “bit” rough, complete with a few rouge waves that completely soaked our side of the ferry and accomplished a great salt water soaking of my brand new white jeans plus most of Leo, all in all a great day at the “Vineyard”.