Owning a Martha’s Vineyard Inn has given us the wonderful opportunity to explore this New England vacation spot and discover the hidden gems which only the locals know about. Here are some of our tips for you next getaway to Martha’s Vineyard:
- Beaches after mid-Sept
Many of Martha’s Vineyard’s pristine beaches are open and accessible to all, but it does also have a fair number that are privately owned or have restricted access in the summer (local tip: the wet part of any beach is always accessible if you’re fishing, fowling or bird-watching). However, once we roll past the middle of September, all the beaches become open to the public (technically not true but for all practical purposes there is no longer anyone around who is going to bar your access). So enjoy the water at its warmest in September and head to Lucy Vincent Beach or Lambert’s Cove Beach for a dip.
- Philbin Beach, Aquinnah
Many people believe this is an Aquinnah residents’ only beach. Not true! It is in fact a public beach but with a town parking lot. So you need a town sticker (ie. you must be an Aquinnah resident or guest of a resident or Aquinnah inn) in order to be able to park there. Turn up à pied and the beach is yours for the enjoying. Take the bus or a taxi and treat yourself to a stunning beach and very few tourists.
- Cycling Manuel Correllus State park
Grab your bike and head for the quiet cycle paths through sprawling Manuel Correllus State Park. Created as a haven for the endangered heath hen, this large park area allows you to escape the traffic and crowds. Things didn’t work out as planned for the heath hen with the last one dying in 1932. See if you can track down the Heath Hen statue erected in its honor in the park.
- Grace Church Lobster Roll
Unarguably the best lobster roll to be found on Martha’s Vineyard. There are many that are great (eg. Net Result, Larsen’s Fish Market, Lookout Tavern, Garde East) but the lobster rolls from Grace Church in Vineyard Haven are a master class in the lobster roll arts and a very local experience to boot. Available June-Sept every Friday from 4.30pm to 7.30pm. Join the line and prepare to be delighted.
- Sunset from Wilfred’s Pond
The North coastline is the place to head for stunning sunsets. The popular places such as Menemsha Harbor, Lambert’s Cove Beach, Cedar Tree Neck and Gay Head are all outstanding but be prepared to share the sunset with a throng. For a quiet escape wind your way down the dirt tracks with a bottle of wine to Wilfred’s Pond in Vineyard Haven. You’re guaranteed to have a beautiful sunset all to yourselves.
- Peaked Hill
The highest point on Martha’s Vineyard at a head-spinning height of 311ft! It offers views of both sides of the island and you can take a look at the remains of the old radar station that was used to track pesky U-boats in WW2.
- Orange Peel bakery pizza night
This year round bakery in Aquinnah plays host every Wednesday in summer (thru October) to a very novel dining experience. Bring your own toppings (and booze) and bake your own pizza outdoors with the locals and accompanying live music. Dough and sauce are provided and there is no charge (donations accepted). Locals and visitors mingle together and you may find yourself eating your home-made pizza next to Bill Murray!
- TMVFF in March
Martha’s Vineyard is a mecca for film buffs. The island seems to be hosting one long film festival in the summer with film showings from the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival throughout July & August, the International Film Festival in September, the African-American film festival in August, the Environmental Film Festival in May followed by numerous film events from the MV Film Society throughout the Fall & Winter. But the one at which you can “live like a local” and also get to rub shoulders with film peeps from New York, is the 4-day TMVFF in Chilmark in March. Long before the tourists descend on the island for summer, you have a chance to hang out with the rich and fabulous of Chilmark. Between films meet the directors and stars of the documentaries and films in the “hay-barn” bar set up outside the Community Center.
- Vineyard Artisans’ Thanksgiving Festival
There are several Artisans’ festivals throughout the year but this is the least tourist swamped and the one that the locals will turn out in droves for. All the island artisans and artists will be there to tempt you with their wares.
- Farm Stands
For most people the image that Martha’s Vineyard conjures up is of beaches and sailing (and Kennedys!). But much of Martha’s Vineyard is bucolic countryside with locally owned farms providing scenery not unlike Virginia. These farms have been the source of the growth of so many farm-to-table restaurants and catering options on Martha’s Vineyard. Nearly all these farms operate a Farm Stand where the public can directly purchase fresh produce. Some of our favourites are Grey Barn Farm, Morning Glory Farm, Ghost Island Farm, Allen Sheep Farm, 7A Farm, Mermaid Farm and Bakehouse Farm.
- Vineyard Haven Main Street Shopping
Oak Bluffs has the market on tourist & souvenir stores, Edgartown is where the tourists head for chichi shopping. If it’s true locally owned boutique-style stores that you crave, then Vineyard Haven Main Street wins hands down. The best clothes stores, interior design shops, jewelry shops and art from local artists are to be found in Vineyard Haven. You also may bump into siblings Peter or Carly Simon, both of whom have shops here. Slowly wander the stores knowing that most of the tourists are pulling their hair out searching for parking in Edgartown.
- Great Rock Bight Beach
A gorgeous public beach that is only accessible by hiking through Great Rock Bight nature reserve. Not frequented by many tourists and limited parking.
- Polly Hill Arboretum
Another delight that isn’t what you’d expect to find on Martha’s Vineyard. Open every day of the year, this botanical and horticultural reserve contains rare trees and shrubs from around the world. Many people come to see the magnolias, azaleas, witch hazel, sassafras, camelia, firs and cedar trees. If you look closely you may catch a monkey hanging out in the Monkey Puzzle Tree.
- Granary Art Gallery
Located in the countryside of West Tisbury this is the oldest art gallery on Martha’s Vineyard and houses exhibition worthy art. Collections include Alfred Eisenstaedt photos, Dan Vanlandingham seascapes and Heather Neill contemporary pieces. Regular “first-night” events happen throughout the summer when the locals turn out in force to support our local artists. Open year round.
- Chilmark General Store
A place to grab a pizza, albeit a pricey one, and sit on the porch people watching. On any given day you may spot Ted Dansen, Larry David, Jim Belushi or Michael J. Fox on a pizza run.
- Menemsha Fish Market
Once Larsen’s Fish Market and The Bite have closed for the season there is only one fish place left open at Menemsha Harbor. Menemsha Fish Market is open, pretty much, year-round and is no better place to purchase fresh day-boat scallops in the Winter.