Since moving to Boston my boyfriend and I have been super fortunate to visit Martha’s Vineyard a couple times. Close family friends of my boyfriend have a house on the island and have invited us up and showed us the truly incredible place it is. When I first heard of Martha’s Vineyard I imagined a preppy paradise full of hydrangeas and ultra wealthy people, but in reality the island is so much more. Gorgeous rolling farmland, home to a beautifully rugged coast and a Native American reservation. While tourism is a dominant industry, so is farming and fishing, there are tons of local art galleries, pottery studios and photographers. It reminds me a lot of Brittany in France in all the best possible ways. An gorgeous escape into nature featuring some of the best farm produce and seafood you can find on this coast.
Of course if you are looking for a beach getaway filled with Vineyard Vines ( yes it is from here!) and hydrangeas you were not misled, the island features all that and more!
What to do:
The best thing to do on the island is just enjoy being here. Have slow mornings drinking coffee outside, go for long walks on the beach, cycle beside farmland, chat with local artists and cook whatever you picked up from the market that day! I think enjoying MV is a bit of a mindset but below are some of my favorite specific things to do!
Cycle Up-Island: First you got to get with the lingo. Up Island = Aquinnah, Menemsha, Chillmark and West Tisbury. This part of the island is more rural, featuring lots of incredible farms, and the best beaches in my opinion. Down-Island refers more to the bigger towns on the south side of the island: Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven. There is incredible cycling on the island, for full details see the MV website. If you are looking for bike paths you will need to go down island, biking here is easier but also more crowded. If you are looking to do longer rides not on crowded paths I would really recommend venturing to this side of the island. There are no bike paths but traffic is less and cars are respectful, just bike in a single file and don’t be wearing headphones. My favorite route is West Tisbury to Aquinnah and back, but going to Menemsha is also a great option. There are hills but make a point at stopping in at farm stand( see below) to make it all worth it.
Walk around and take photos in Edgartown: Edgartown is what most people think of when they think of Martha’s Vineyard. It is a gorgeous town full of stunning, white washed coastal houses with blooming gardens and so many flags. This is where most of the fancy boutiques are too (for my favorite keep reading). I just love to walk around town with my camera taking photos of everything and soaking in the atmosphere. Make sure to make to walk down to Lighthouse Beach.
Go farm stand hopping! Like I said above, most of the island is actually farmland which leads itself nicely to having tons of farm stands. Some of these are stand alone stores while many are tiny stands on the side of the road with an honor payment system. Here are my favorites. Grey Barn– a full store and farm. Must have baked goods, beautiful farm property with animals and great produce and dairy products. Mermaid: the best dairy on the island!! Need to try their feta. This is a small and adorable farmstand across the street from another gorgeous farm property. Morning Glory Farm this is one of the bigger farms on the island and conveniently located just outside Edgartown. They have a great farm stand, flower arrangements and also have space to eat on the property to eat their fresh baked goods! Katama Farm: this place is a Trustee owned farm that is open to visitors to walk around the property, they do a lot of tours and family focused activities and have a store where you can also purchase meat and other products from their farm.
Spend a day at the beach. You really can’t come here and not do this. In fact you could spend you whole vacation just doing this! There are tons of beaches to choose from but make sure to read up about resident restrictions and parking information. We found ourselves frequenting Menemsha beach the most this summer as there was lots of space to spread out, it has incredible sunsets and is beside two great food options! Lot’s of people say Lucy Vincent is the prettiest beach but it is permit only, I found that Aquinnah Public beach was stunning (just the parking can get confusing).Joseph Sylvia State Beach is one of the most popular with families and close to the main towns. Norton Point beach is the place to go for the infamous oversand experience. Beaches can get busy here so plan to go in the morning or wait until after lunch to snag and afternoon spot once some people have left. I also love going for dinner time/sunset time.
Get out in a boat. There is no better feeling than being on the water and there are tons of options here. We went kayaking last summer in Great Pond area which was incredible, and there are tons of rental places to rent everything from SUPs and kayaks to power boats or chartered boats.
See the gingerbread cottages in Oak Bluffs. Oak Bluffs is home to probably the most historic town in my opinion on the island. It has a really interesting history, particularly amongst African American history and has Underground Railroad connections. The Gingerbread Cottages, a collection of adorable painted houses around a courtyard, started as a religious camp that grew more and more permanent each year. While these cottages are still people’s homes the area to open to walk around and respectfully take pictures. Oak Bluffs is also home to a bunch of fun restaurants and shops so I would recommend reading up on some history, checking out the cottages and making an afternoon out of it!
What to eat:
I am going to be honest and say really never go out to eat when we are here but what we do instead is typically pick up food from our favorite farmers, fish markets and local shops and make meals from that! The produce in Martha’s Vineyard is second to none and in my mind the best way to fully appreciate that is to cook it yourself. Of course I am hoping to visit more restaurants in the future but every time the thrill of cooking with such great food is too tempting.
Larsen’s Fish Market. If you have heard of one place on this list it is probably Larsen’s. This tiny fish market in Menemsha is famous for the best seafood you can get on the island. We love picking up lobster here, oysters, clams or whatever is on special! They also do meals like chowder or lobster rolls you can pick up and take with you to Menemsha beach.
Menemsha Fish Market. We found that with COVID and online ordering Larsen’s was always a long line and therefore one night at the beach we decided to switch it up and order form Menemsha Fish Market right next door. One thing I love about this place is they do a series of Sunset Specials where you get a cooked lobster, stuffed clam, chowder all for a great price. We grabbed this and some oysters and parked ourselves along the beach to watch the sunset. This entire experience ranks highly on my ‘Must Do’ in MV list now.
Grace Church Lobster Rolls. This is one of the best kept (not so) secrets on the island. Every Friday Grace Church in Vineyard Haven does a lobster roll fundraiser with the proceeds going to a number of local charities. For $20 you get a lobster roll and chips, and to be honest you could easily share these! They are huge! We got the lobster and buns to go and prepared them at home and even splitting three orders amongst four of us we still had leftovers for lunch the next day. It is such a fun experience picking up at the church, such a great deal and the lobster itself is incredible.
Grey Barn Croissants. Grey Barn is probably my favorite place on the entire island, we go there so much they likely offered my boyfriend a job the last time we were there because he knew the whole history of the farm. While we love the daily bread, cheese and produce what really keeps my coming back is the weekend croissants. These come out of the oven at 10am sharp and the line usually starts before then but OMG they are worth it. This is a splurge in terms of calories and money but one I happily make every trip. The people here are also so kind and friendly and their raw milk is incredible.
West Tisbury Farmer’s Market: If you can’t tell by this post yet I love a good farm/farm stand and farmer’s market! I actually worked at a farm/farmer’s market for four years so I think I just feel at home amongst local food providers. West Tisbury has a great market every Wednesday and Saturday, featuring tons of great vendors. Some of our favorites include: Chillmark Coffee Company for all the coffee, North Tabor farm for their arugula and Katama Kombucha.
Where to shop:
The shopping on Martha’s Vineyard can range from kitschy shirts to local art to upscale boutiques. There is something for everyone here. And despite the fact that shopping is never my priority when I come up here it is something I always end up doing.
Black Dog General Store. The Black Dog is a very famous MV brand. It is a Tavern turned North American clothing line and is starting to rival Vineyard Vines in terms of ubiquity on the island( to be honest I now see way more BD than VV worn on Island). I picked up a shirt when I was here last as they are SO soft and feel like a great balance of getting something to commemorate the trip without printing Martha’s Vineyard right across your shirt. They have great kids clothes, comfy attire for adults and even treats for your fluffy friends!
Slate & Salte. These are probably my two favorite aspirational stores on the island. Slate is a women’s wear boutique featuring a lot of female run brands and Salte is their home focused spin off which features incredible decor for a beachy, California aesthetic. I always make a point of visiting, and have even ventured to their new store in Charlestown. It is expensive but this is where to go for socially conscious, well curated style.
Field Art Gallery. This is my favorite art gallery on the island ( though I am biased as they carry our friends work sometimes). I love the owners, I think it is a well curated space and they always have art that I would love to buy. There is a fun sculpture garden, it is beside the incredible West Tisbury library and across the street from a great sandwich shop so I find this is always worth the stop.
I also love the Granary Gallery which is the oldest and largest gallery on the island!
I hope this helps you plan a little (even if only in you head) trip to paradise!
Have you been to Martha’s Vineyard, if so what is your favorite part?