Martha's Vinyard, Massachusetts
Nicknamed "The Jewel of New England," the island of Martha's Vineyard is located off the east coast of the United States, in Duke County, Massachusetts, just south of Cape Cod. Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard form part of the archipelago known as the "Outer Lands."
Martha's Vineyard is distinguished for being New England's largest resort island, the 57th largest island in the U.S., and the third largest island on the eastern seaboard - with its land area measuring approximately 231.75 square kilometers. It is also distinguished for having one of the earliest documented deaf communities in the United States and, accordingly, its own unique, homegrown dialect of sign language - "Martha's Vineyard Sign Language."
There are six towns on the island: three "up-island" towns - Aquinnah (or Gay Head), Chilmark, and West Tisbury; and three "down island" towns - Vineyard Haven (or Tisbury), Oak Bluffs and Edgartown.
Things To Do
Martha's Vineyard is known, among many things, for its celebrity visitors and/or residents: Bill and Hillary Clinton, for example, David Letterman, Bill Murray, Ted Danson and wife Mary Steenburgen, Meg Ryan, Carly Simon, James Taylor, author Judy Blume, Walter Cronkite, Spike Lee, Dan Akroyd, Diane Sawyer, Paul McCartney, and many more. Although celebrities abound - did we mention Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal were spotted there recently? - the island remains quaint and a wonderfully private place to vacation.
The island is rich in history, culture, marvelous beaches (both public and private), lighthouses, gardens, museums, cottages, breathtaking fields, forests, first-class art galleries, shopping, dining and more.
Among the island's five fully functioning lighthouses, The Gay Head Lighthouse recently celebrated its 150th anniversary and the East Chop Lighthouse its 130th. Be sure to book tours at these historical landmarks.
When in Martha's Vineyard, you must visit the Flying Horses Carousel. It's the oldest operating carousel in the United States. The carousel was first built in 1876 in Coney Island and sent to Martha's Vineyard (as a major tourist attraction) in 1884.
Also, take a nature walk in the beautiful Japanese-Style garden called Mytoi Garden - located amidst the enchanting Chappaquiddick pine forest. Polly Hill Arboretum is another lovely destination, 20-acres large, with 1700 various kinds of plants - among which is the famous "North Tisbury Azalea."
For some adventure, try horseback riding on the beach at dusk, go for a scuba dive and search for sunken ships, surf, fish, take an aerial tour, bike, kayak, canoe and much more.
For a cultural expedition, visit the Martha's Vineyard Museum, the Aquinnah Cultural Centre, or one of the many local art galleries.
Finally, for a fun, affordable Mexican meal, check out Sharky's Cantina. And, just across the street from Sharky's, you'll find the superb Slice of Life café.
Access to the Island and Accomodations
Martha's Vineyard is only accessible by boat or air. There are no land routes, tunnels or bridges linking to the mainland. Most visitors arrive by ferry, or to the Martha's Vineyard airport via Cape Air, chartered or private plane. There are vehicle ferries and car rentals for those inclined to drive around the island.
When looking for a place to stay, do check out the "Tabernacle House" in the Martha's Vineyard Camp-Meeting Campground. This more affordable accommodation (relative to the more pricey MVCMC cottages) is available for rent from mid-May to mid-October. Each unit features bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, cable TV, phone, common picnic area, and designated parking. Otherwise, the MVCMC offers 180 gingerbread cottages that have been preserved since early Methodist tent-camp days by private owners and the Martha's Vineyard Camp-Meeting Association.
Other accommodations from the very affordable to more lavish include bed and breakfasts, inns, hotels, cottages, campgrounds, one-room cabins, hostels and resorts.