If you’re looking for a long weekend getaway with quintessential American charm, then you need to put Martha’s Vineyard on your travel list ASAP. I’ve had my eyes on visiting Martha’s Vineyard for a bit now, and I finally got to visit this past May for a long weekend with my friend Amanda. In this post I’m sharing everything you need to know about visiting Martha’s Vineyard, from how to get there to where to stay and what to do on island.
Despite living in California and enjoying palm trees daily for over 25 years, there really is nothing quite like an east coast summer. My theory is because east coasters know there’s a limited window for summer-like weather, they enjoy it to the fullest and take advantage of summer Fridays and weekend trips in a way that Californians honestly don’t.
Martha’s Vineyard is an island off the coast of Massachusetts, just south of Cape Cod. Although there are year-round residents, much like Cape Cod, the busy season is during the summer. Known for its lighthouses, sailboats, beaches, fresh seafood, and mansions, Martha’s Vineyard really is a snapshot of classic America from years past.
It’s been a retreat for the Kennedy family (along with tragedy), the imaginary setting of Amity Island in Jaws, and most recently the location of former President Obama’s summer home. And although its privacy draws in the wealthy, there are also a ton of tourists and locals that visit the island for the summer, a long weekend, or even for the day.
Long Weekend Martha’s Vineyard Travel Guide
How to Get to Martha’s Vineyard
I have to admit, getting to Martha’s Vineyard can seem confusing and overwhelming, especially during off-season, but it’s really not that bad. You need to arrive by boat or plane because there are no bridges to the island.
Getting to Martha’s Vineyard by Ferry
The most popular and affordable way to travel to Martha’s Vineyard is by ferry. The Steamship Authority ferry runs year-round and is located at Woods Hole in Cape Cod. It’s about a 45-minute ferry ride, which takes you to Vineyard Haven or Oak Bluffs (both on MV). You can buy tickets at the terminal, but I’d recommend buying online tickets ahead of time, especially in the summer when there will be lines and crowds.
If you’re not a local traveler, you’ll need to take a few more travel steps before you get to the Steamship Authority ferry terminal. First, you need to fly or take the train into Boston. Then, you can either take the Peter Pan Bus or hire a car service to get to to the Steamship Authority ferry terminal. (About 2 hours and 15 minutes or 1.5 hours, respectively.)
Amanda and I opted to split the car service and used Cape Car Service to and from the ferry terminal to Boston. This was a recommendation from my friend who lives on Martha’s Vineyard, and we had a great experience for both trips. To book a car, email them here.
During the summer, you can also find ferries that go from NYC, Rhode Island, and other parts of Massachusetts. Click here for more info.
Getting There by Air
Direct commercial flights to Martha’s Vineyard are limited and the only year-round flight service is on Cape Air. However, during the summer, Delta, American Airlines and JetBlue add flights directly to the island from NYC, Boston, and Washington D.C. Click here for more info.
Otherwise, you’ll have to have some big bucks and charter a private plane to Martha’s Vineyard.
Where to Stay in Martha’s Vineyard
I am fortunate to have a friend that lives on Martha’s Vineyard. So when she said “come visit,” I took about zero seconds to say yes to that offer. You can find rentals on Airbnb, but options are limited and full home rentals on other sites are extremely expensive.
Here are a few hotel options:
- Harbor View Hotel – a 4-star hotel just steps away from downtown Edgartown with lighthouse and beach views.
- The Edgartown Collection – A string of different boutique hotels, all with their own distinct style, scattered through downtown Edgartown.
- Summercamp Hotel – Located in Oak Bluffs (near one of the ferry dropoff points), with nostalgic and retro touches.
What to Do
See the Lighthouses of Martha’s Vineyard
Along with beautiful Cape Cod style homes, lighthouses make up that quintessential New England landscape on Martha’s Vineyard. If you’re staying in or near Edgartown, then it’s just a short walk or drive to Edgartown Harbor Light, a picture-perfect white lighthouse you can walk right up to and go inside during open hours. It’s located on a small beach and gives you a beautiful view of Edgartown and waterfront homes.
We also drove to the west side to the island to a town called Aquinnah, to look at the cliffs and lighthouse there. You can take tour the Gay Head Lighthouse, but I really recommend going to the cliffs as a scenic lookout point and to see the lighthouse from afar. It’s really pretty!
Shop Downtown Edgartown
We stayed on Chappaquiddick Island, just a quick barge ride away from Edgartown. Take a drive or walk through the neighborhoods to see the charming homes and perfectly landscaped yards of the town, and then head downtown for some shopping.
Edgartown is small, so the shops are centrally located around the town hall. Here are some of my favorite shops from our visit:
Boneyard Surf Co:
If you forgot your swimsuit or looking for a new one, “The Boneyard” has a huge assortment of men’s and women’s suits. They also carry a bunch of casual surf brands like RVCA, Roxy, and Billabong. If you’re looking for something with local flair, they sell branded swag, from tees and water bottles to towels and beach blankets. (My friend’s boyfriend owns this store, so I’m super excited to share it with you!)
If you’re looking for higher end shopping, be sure to stop at Slate. This bright, airy store stocks contemporary brands like A.L.C, Ganni, Sea New York, and The Great.
You can also find a ton of cute women’s clothing at Sea Legs. Although there are higher priced brands like LoveShackFancy here, this store also sells more affordable brand like Pistola Denim and ASTR, along with cute graphic tees. Although it’s small, it’s filled with a ton of great items.
Nell is another women’s boutique with a great selection! You can find a little bit of everything here, from shoes and accessories to clothing and gifts.
Designer scarves from Louis Vuitton, Hermes, and Gucci are given new lives as shoes at Respoke. If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind, special purchase, you can’t miss this store. We were lucky enough to meet the owner as the store had just opened, and he was one of the most fascinating people I have ever met.
The Black Dog Tavern Company:
Okay, I know I can’t talk about shopping on Martha’s Vineyard without mentioning The Black Dog Tavern Company. Although there are multiple locations along the New England coast and in the south, this is the original location. Their shirts boast the silhouette of a – you guessed it – black dog. Although these dog-motif items personally aren’t for me, this store is a Martha’s Vineyard staple and icon.
Visit The Grey Barn and Farm
Grey Barn is a working organic farm, creamery, and bakery located in Chilmark on Martha’s Vineyard. You can find everything from eggs and award-winning cheese to bread at their farm stand (along with a handful of of beautiful mercantile pieces. They also offer summer cheese tastings.
We got to to take a tour to learn about the farm, see the milking and cheesemaking rooms, and enjoy a private tasting. We enjoyed fresh baked bread, cheeses, and pastries, all produced by hand on the farm. It was truly a farm-to-table experience and eating amongst the garden really made you appreciate where everything came from.
If you’re looking for a tasting for a group, you can see open dates or reserve one here. However, if you want something a bit more casual, the friendly team at Grey Barn encourages anyone to BYOB, pick up a few items at the farm stand, and hang out at their picnic tables. It’s a fun way to see a real, working farm in action, and depending on the time of day you can even see the cows getting milked and cheese being made. (We got the chance to pet baby calves – with the guidance of someone working at the farm – and it was one of my favorite parts of our trip.)
Drive to the Fishing Village of Menemsha
If you want a lobster roll, you can’t get one fresher than in Menemsha. This fishing village is lobster city, with boat after boat and fresh catches.
We went before Memorial Day (and on a colder day), so it was a little slower. But I’m told by my friend who lives on island that it is PACKED in the summer and filled with people eating their catch of the day outside.
Hire a Boat Charter
Take a half day or full day to see Martha’s Vineyard by boat! It wasn’t warm enough to take a boat out I visited (in fact, it rained half the time I was there), so I don’t have personal experience with a specific company. However, Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce recommends these boat charter companies.
Of course, if boats aren’t your thing, you can always spend a day at the beach instead!
Where to Eat in Martha’s Vineyard
Behind the Bookstore (Breakfast)
Behind the Bookstore is cute little outdoor spot is literally behind the bookstore, tucked away in the back. It’s casual; order at the counter then find a seat. We came her a couple of time during our visit to Martha’s Vineyard. They have everything here from coffee and fresh juice to pastries, and avocado toast.
PRO TIP: I highly recommend the pistachio croissant if they have it.
We came here for breakfast only, but they do serve lunch and dinner, and have a full bar.
Rosewater is a picture-perfect bakery and takeout spot with a small market of home goods and pottery. (Think white marble counters and slate blue accents.) We stopped here for coffee, tea, and pastries before we went out for the day. They also serve lunch and pre-made to-go options, but no dinner. Be sure to check store hours, as they close early.
We didn’t actually get to eat at 7a, but I am told that this place has the best breakfast sandwiches on the Vineyard. Clearly, I need to go back to confirm this for you, ASAP.
(This is close to the Grey Barn and Farm, so stop by here before or after your visit.)
I can say with full certainty that I did not like oysters until I ate oysters at 19Raw. The freshness blew. my. mind. I’m super sensitive to anything fishy, even in the slightest, and didn’t have a problem eating three oysters.
If seafood isn’t your thing, don’t fret. Just flip over the menu for 19Prime, AKA the steak menu. I ordered the filet, and then we split jalapeño creamed corn and Brussels sprouts for the table. Everyone left their plates clean.
FYI, they do not take reservations, so plan on a wait during the busy summer season.
Artia’s website honestly says it best: sometimes you feel like a burger and sometimes you feel like a 4-pound stuffed lobster.
Do not sleep on the burgers at this restaurant. I got the Atria Classic burger, and Amanda and Annette got the French burger. We all left happy and I can confidently say this puts some NYC burgers up for stiff competition.
If you’re looking for a fancy date night or dressed up girl’s night, then go to L’etoile. This definitely felt fancier than our other meals; most women were in dresses and men were in a button up or a polo and nice pants.
For my appetizer I ordered a spring asparagus and pea soup (YUMMO) and split the gnocchi and short ribs. Both were equally delicious. Although the serving sizes here are smaller and a little more frou frou, I don’t think you’ll leave starving (if you order an appetizer). They’re seasonally inspired, so the menu changes.
I really loved my long weekend on Martha’s Vineyard. There’s enough to do on the island, but I didn’t feel like I had to wake up early to fit everything in. It was a great balance of sightseeing and relaxation. I’m already trying to figure out how to get back out there this summer.
Have you been to Martha’s Vineyard before? I’d love to know in the comments.