In the age old debate of which is better, Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard, I had always been a Nantucket guy, mostly because that’s where I have vacationed for the last 20 years. In the last few years, however, I have come to appreciate and love the Vineyard as well and found it to be a perfect weekend retreat. It has a similar, yet very different character from Nantucket and it also has one of my favorite places to stay…anywhere.
A short seven miles from the Cape Cod coast and bounded by the Vineyard Sound, Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic Ocean sits the beautiful ‘Vineyard’ as it is called by regulars. 20 miles long and 9 miles wide at its widest point, the island is the summer home or vacation spot for a host of celebrities including singer Carly Simon, Diane Sawyer and former President and First Lady Bill and Hillary Clinton.
The island has a year round population of about 14,000 which swells to 85,000-100,000 at the height of the season in July and August. Most activity revolves around the three primary towns each of which has a character of its own. Vineyard Haven, the main port into which most of the ferries arrive, sits on the edge of Vineyard Haven Harbor and is home to a collection of shops and restaurants. It is about 2.5 miles from Oak Bluff and 8 miles from Edgartown; Oak Bluffs is a kind of honky tonk boardwalk town with gingerbread style homes, a carousel, an arcade, ice cream shops and a waterfront promenade. It has some very good restaurants, is the place for renting boats, kayaks and jet skis and is the nightspot capital of the island. Edgartown is an elegant seaport with narrow streets, beautiful old whaling captain’s homes, fashionable boutiques, wonderful restaurants and exceptional accommodations.
What makes the island particularly interesting is that its geography changes depending upon where you are on the island. In the west are the cliffs of clay, the north, rocky boulders, the south, small ponds and in the center, dense forests.
The season here is relatively short. Most restaurants are only open weekends until mid-May and many close after mid-October. The short season also means that everyone has to make their money in a short period of time, so things are expensive, think $25 for the 8 mile trip from the ferry to Edgartown or a 1/2 lb of chicken salad and a Pellegrino for $12. Be prepared!