New England Island Vacation – Martha’s Vineyard

Martha's Vineyard

As Summer approaches, our thoughts turn to vacation time.  And what better way to spend your vacation than on an island.

Most people think of islands as a tropical getaway –  warm seas, miles of soft white sand and palm trees moving gently in the balmy breezes. But there is another kind of island vacation that’s very much a part of American culture: a New England Island vacation.

Martha’s Vineyard is one of the most famous – primarily a summer colony, it’s accessible only by boat or air. The island is the vacation choice of many high-profile residents, movie stars, politicians, writers and artists, such as Bill and Hillary Clinton, Quincey Jones, Ted Danson and Diane Sawyer

Although The Vineyard is sometimes referred to “Hollywood East”, the island is very low-key and quiet; celebrities come here to relax and locals tend to be protective of their privacy.

There are six towns on the island, classified as up-island or down-island.

Aquinnah,( formerly known as Gay Head) Chilmark, and West Tisbury are all up-island;   Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown and down-island. The terms “up” and “down” are nautical and refer to longitude on a map.

What to do on The Vineyard:

Vacationers, day-trippers and weekend visitors gravitate to Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven and Edgartown. Each town has its own particular charms, from secluded cliff walks to busy shopping areas with quaint antique stores to historic lighthouses.

Best Beaches on Martha’s Vineyard:

Some of the beaches are open to residents only and some require a member’s permit, but there are several excellent public beaches.

Bend in the Road: An excellent beach for families, Bend in the Road boasts two miles of calm beach along Beach Road between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. Due to its popularity, it can get crowded so parking can be tough. Lifeguards are on duty in season.

Katama Beach:  Here you will find three miles of barrier beach on the South Shore at the end of Katama Road. The surf is usually rough, but it’s a beautiful setting. Lifeguards are on duty in season.

Oak Bluffs Town Beach:  A very popular beach with calm, shallow water close to the town wharf.  Also known as Inkwell Beach continues again about one mile southeast of the small inlet flowing into Sengekontacket Pond and ends at the Joseph Sylvia State Beach.

High Season starts April 1st and lasts till October 31st.

How to Get There:

Drive:  From Boston –  Take Route 3 to the Sagamore Bridge. To Hyannis – Follow Route 6 East. To Falmouth and Woods Hole – Take Route 6 West to Buzzards Bay (Bourne), cross the Bourne Bridge, and follow Route 28 South.


Cape Air

Ocean Wings
(508) 693-4646

Desert and Island Air
(800) 835-9135


Falmouth Ferry Service


Vineyard Express Ferry
(617) 748-1425

Hy-Line Cruises (May-Oct)
(508) 693-0112

The Steamship Authority (year-round)
(508) 693-0125


Image credit m01229 used under Creative Commons license


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