The first thing to clarify is that Martha’s Vineyard is most definitely an island, your standard surrounded by water type of island. A fact that is pretty obvious when you live here but may not be on your radar if you don’t, but is a rather critical piece of information if you’re planning a trip here.
The second thing to note is that, despite rumours to the contrary, there really is no tunnel or bridge to the island.
So how does one get to this enchanted isle?
Well there are many ways to arrive and your best choice depends somewhat on from where you are travelling and also whether you wish to bring a car onto the island, which it should be said is not necessary given the awesome bus system and taxis that are tootling around the island.
By car and wish to bring car onto the island
This one is simple as you have a choice of exactly one option.
The only car ferry that runs to the island departs from Woods Hole on Cape Cod. It is operated by the Steamship Authority and runs year-round into beautiful Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard. Seasonally (ie. summer) the ferry also runs into the Martha’s Vineyard town of Oak Bluffs. The trip is 45 minutes in duration and runs pretty much every 90 minutes. If you are bringing the car you MUST make a reservation in advance. Exactly how long in advance is a critical question and depends upon your desired date of travel. If you are travelling off-season then, with the exception of holidays, a week to 10 days before hand is typically fine. However, if you’re looking to travel on a summer weekend or at any time in July & August then you should think about making your reservation as soon as possible after the reservation system opens up for the year in mid-January.
But again do not panic if you find the car ferry is full. You do not need a car on the island. There are 13 different bus loops running year round that cover the whole island and the “down-island” buses between the three main towns of Vineyard Haven, Edgartown & Oak Bluffs run every 20 minutes until after midnight in the summer. There are also many local taxi companies operating year round and in summer Uber and Lyft drivers appear as if by magic on the island.
By ferry and without a car
Coming on foot gives more flexibility as to which ferry to take. The car ferry out of Woods Hole is still an option and travelling by foot means that no prior reservation is required. Simply turn up, buy a ticket and hop on the next departing ferry. There are also seasonal ferries that run into Oak Bluffs from New Bedford (Seastreak – 1 hour duration), Quonset in Rhode Island (Vineyard Fast Ferry – 90 minutes), Hyannis on Cape Cod (Hyline – 1 hour), Falmouth (Island Queen – 40 minute) and on weekends in summer directly from Manhattan (Seastreak – 5 hours ). There is also one seasonal ferry into Edgartown that runs from Falmouth (Falmouth Ferry – 1 hour). If you are flying into Boston or Providence then there are coaches to get you to ferries. From Boston airport there is a direct Peter Pan coach that takes you from the airport arrivals to the Woods Hole ferry terminal. From Providence airport there is a shuttle bus to take you to the Quonset ferry. The least expensive option is the Woods Hole ferry but if you wish to avoid the bridge traffic onto Cape Cod then the other ferries are excellent alternatives.
There is an airport on Martha’s Vineyard, so if your wish is to avoid ferries or stop-go car traffic altogether, you can opt to fly in. Year round there are flights directly into Martha’s Vineyard from Boston (Cape Air, Jet Blue), and from Nantucket (Cape Air) and then seasonally there are flights from New York’s JFK (Jet Blue), La Guardia (Delta) Newark (Jet Blue), Washington DC (American Airlines, Jet Blue), Chicago (American Airlines), Charlotte (American Airlines), Philadelphia (American Airlines), White Plains NY (Tradewinds), Hyannis (Cape Air) and Teterboro, NY (Tradewinds)
If you opt to book our eco-package and forgo bringing a car to enjoy biking the island, we also include pick-up and drop-off at the airport or ferry terminal.