Gay Head Light & the Cliffs in Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard
So you are thinking of a vacation to Martha’s Vineyard this summer. Here is a little information to help you out as you plan your trip.
How To Get There
While some do fly to Martha’s Vineyard, the most common way to get to the Island is by ferry. And of all of the ferry services to the Island, the boats of the Steamship Authority carry the most passengers to and from the Vineyard. During the summer they run boats to and from both Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs. The Steamship Authority is the only year-round service to the Vineyard. They are also the only way to get a car back and forth.
Other seasonal ferries running to the Island include:
Do You Need to Bring a Car?
The next question you need to answer is whether or not to bring your car. Keep in mind when making this decision that Martha’s Vineyard has excellent bus service making it relatively easy to reach most points on the Island. In addition, taxi service is plentiful. Bikes are also an excellent way to get around on the island. Cars can also be rented on-Island.
For me, if I were going over for a weekend or long weekend (2 to 4 days) I would definitely not take my car. Between the bus service and the taxis you can typically get anywhere you need to go, including the beach.
For a vacation of a week or two it would probably be nice to have a car. Plan your car reservation well in advance though, it gets harder to book car passage during the high season…
Where to Stay?
View from the Porch of the Harbor View Hotel
The answer of where to stay is probably driven the most by how long you intend to stay. For trips of a week or more it is probably best to think about renting a house.
For trips of a week or less you probably want to think of one of the Islands hotels or a nice Inn or Bed and Breakfast. The three largest hotels on the Island are the Mansion House in Vineyard Haven, the Wesley Hotel in Oak Bluffs, and the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown. Staying in one of these hotels puts your right in the middle of where the action is as these are the Island’s three most populous towns offering the greatest variety of things to do.
Both the Mansion House and Harbor View are open year-round. The Wesley is seasonal. There are also numerous quaint inns and B&B on island that provide wonderful accommodations.
For more lodging options see our Martha’s Vineyard lodging page.
As for physically where you want to be on island… Down-island has the largest towns (Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown) and the most to do. So if you want to be right in the “thick of things” you probably want to stay down-island. Up-island (West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah) is for those looking to get away from it all including at least some of the summer crowd. Up-island is more serene and quite but still beautiful and lots of fun.
When to Go?
So many different things happen during the summer on Martha’s Vineyard that it can be hard to decide when to go. There really is not a bad time to go but think about the following when trying to decide.
Want to Miss the Crowds?
For those of you without kids who may wish to miss the peak crowds, Memorial Day Weekend or Labor Day Weekend can be great for long weekend getaways to the Vineyard. If you want a week-long stay the period between Memorial Day and the weekend before the Fourth of July can be a great time to go – not very crowded, the weather and the water are warming up, and everything is open. Similarly, the weeks after Labor Day can be a great time to to get to the Island. The weather is still warm, the water is at its warmest, and the crowds are gone.
Taking In the Peak Season’s Big Events
4th of July Parade in Edgartown
For families with school-age children the season compresses somewhat and it is pretty difficult to miss peak season. But not to worry, peak season is very manageable and some truly great things happen during the summer that you will not want to miss. Some particularly good weeks to mark in your calendar include:
- Fourth of July Week – Try coming the week of the 4th of July. If you do you can take in the wonderful small-town 4th of July Parade in Edgartown and enjoy the fireworks over Edgartown Harbor. This is great fun for the whole family.
Grand Illumination in Oak Bluffs
Tisbury Street Fair Week – On July 8 the Town of Tisbury (Vineyard Haven) throws itself a birthday party known as the Tisbury Street Fair. Main Street is blocked off to traffic and vendors, food merchants, and entertainment fill the street. A great family event.
- The Middle of August – The biggest events, the biggest crowds, and the most fun all packed into one week. Typically the second full week of August you get three major events: Grand Illumination in Oak Bluffs, the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair in West Tisbury, and Fireworks at Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs. You want to take in this week at least once…
What to Do on Martha’s Vineyard
You’re on an island! Go to the beach. Enjoy all kinds of ocean-based water sports. There is plenty of fine dining. If you are looking for some Summer Island traditions then try out a few of these:
- For families with small children (10 and under) check out the Saturday morning plays put on by the Fabulists at the outdoor Vineyard Haven Amphitheater.
- Check out the annual Summer Artisans Festivals in West Tisbury that run all summer long.
- Take in the West Tisbury Farmers Market which happens every Saturday and Wednesday from 9 AM to noon all summer long.
- Enjoy some live theater at the Vineyard Playhouse in Vineyard Haven.
- Get down with the Vineyard Haven Band as they perform live band concerts on Sunday evenings alternating between Owen Park in Vineyard Haven and Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs.
- Participate in the community sing that happens every Wednesday evening in July and August at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs.
- Take in an event at the Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs.
- Ride the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs. It is the oldest platform carousel in the United States.
If you run out of things to do on Martha’s Vineyard your are not trying very hard… For more things to do see Martha’s Vineyard Things to Do.