Martha’s Vineyard Travel Guide

We love Martha’s Vineyard Vacations and we created this site to share some of the special aspects of vacations on the Vineyard. We’ve included pictures to help “tell the story” and give a deeper understanding of the various towns, beaches, lodging and more. Our journey covers the major towns of Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, Menemsha, and Aquinnah. There is information on lodging (including the Martha’s Vineyard Family Campground), beaches, restaurants, starfish and alpacas (yes!) and more.

edgartown lighthouse
Edgartown Martha’s Vineyard

Menemsha Village, Martha’s Vineyard

Our family had heard about the beautiful Menemsha sunsets, but we also enjoyed so many other unexpected treats in this beautiful village. The biggest treat has to be the live starfish that can be found in the shallow water near the boat docks. This area is like an outdoor, interactive aquarium for the kids! A sheltered strip of shallow water, behind a rock jetty and next to the boat docks, is a perfect place for kids (and adult kids) to find live starfish, crabs, minnows and jellyfish. Our kids played here for hours and found at least 6 live starfish. Other kids were also finding starfish and crabs and small jellyfish. The water is shallow and in a protected area so it’s a great, safe place for kids to explore.

This is a small, quaint fishing village in Chilmark and there are not as many lodging options as there are in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs or Vineyard Haven. However, the Beach Plum Inn is highly regarded as a wonderful destination. The Inn offers spectacular sea views, beautiful gardens as well as a wonderful restaurant.

menemsha beach martha's vineyard
Menemsha Martha’s Vineyard

Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard

Edgartown is likely the most elegant of all towns on Martha’s Vineyard. If you like upscale, charming, nautical communities, you’ll love this town. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon shopping, dining, walking and people watching. The Seafood Shanty is one of the very popular seafood restaurants. It has a tremendous location overlooking the harbor and passing boats. It also has an outdoor seating area for those sunny summer afternoons. The Quarterdeck does not have seating, you walk to the window and order, but it’s great for less expensive, quick food to enjoy while walking around town. The Ice Cream and Candy Bazaar, at 5 Dock St, is very close to the Seafood Shanty and is a fun “step back in time”, offering various types of penny candy in buckets. Select the items you want to satisfy your sweet tooth. They also have great ice cream.

This is also the home to the ferry to Chappaquiddick This is a beautiful island, separated from the Vineyard by a thin stretch of water. Of course, Chappaquiddick is also the site of the bizarre and unfortunate Chappaquiddick incident involving Ted Kennedy and the death of a young woman.

edgartown harbor marthas vineyard
Scenic Edgartown Harbor

Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard

Oak Bluffs is a major destination for many folks visiting Martha’s Vineyard for day trips. The Steamship Authority brings hundreds of people multiple times all day. It’s not surprising, with a fun t-shirt, souvenir, ice cream, and fudge shops, restaurants and arcades – the town has many fun activities. The cottages are located across from the harbor and are cute, little Victorians that are decorated with all sorts of ornate trimmings. They were built to replace tents Methodists had used for meetings in this part of town in the 19th century.

There are many restaurants in town. One of the most popular is Giordano’s Family Restaurant. Located in the heart of downtown, they offer a wide selection of hearty Italian food. Many rave about their pizza. We have eaten there with our family and love the food and atmosphere. There are many restaurants and small stores along the edge of the harbor. There’s a nice sidewalk that runs between the boat docks and these shops…one might say it’s the “local Harborwalk”

Marthas Vineyard
The “Harborwalk” – Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard

Chappaquiddick, Martha’s Vineyard

Chappaquiddick is a small island just barely off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. The chappy ferry transports people, cars and bicycles across the approximate 500 feet from Edgartown. This is a small ferry boat and it only transports 3 vehicles at a time. Fees are reasonable, $12 for a round trip for car and driver and $4 per passenger. If you have rented a moped on the island, it’s $8 for a round trip for you and the moped. The ferries have cute names of “On Time II” and “On Time III”. Chappaquiddick consists primarily of wildlife preserves, beaches, and private homes. Visit for beauty and serenity…do not expect tourist shops, fancy restaurants or a selection of activities.

While Chappy, as it’s known to locals, is a wonder of natural beauty, it is likely most renown for the bizarre and unfortunate Ted Kennedy incident back in 1969. The Kennedys had been attending the Edgartown Regatta for years and they were known for throwing celebration parties. Unfortunately, following the party in 1969, Senator Kennedy was driving a young lady home when he took a wrong turn and drove the car off the side of a bridge in the Chappaquiddick incident.

TIP: If you take the ferry to Chappy, be aware that there is only one store, the Chappy Store, on the island.

chappaquiddick ferry martha's vineyard
Chappaquiddick, Martha’s Vineyard

Beach Vacations on Martha’s Vineyard

I love the beach and Martha’s Vineyard has great options for beach vacations on the East coast. Being an island, it has a lot of coastlines and there are beaches that suit families, young singles and romantic couples. If you have not been to the Vineyard before, you are in for a treat. A part of any vacation is feeling like you are getting “away”, and you will absolutely feel that on this island. Although many celebrities, famous musicians and high profile politicians spend time on the island, you will feel a relaxed, casual atmosphere most everywhere. Some of the items that make the Vineyard a great choice for a family beach vacation include:

  • Many beautiful beaches to discover
  • Beach picnics and sunsets – fun for the whole family
  • Live starfish – find them in Menemsha Harbor…a great part of a family beach vacation
  • Black Dog Tavern and Bakery – great food, an island icon
  • Charming downtown areas – fun shopping, great restaurants, yummy ice cream
  • Majestic clay cliffs – fiery red, orange and tan cliffs formed by glaciers
  • Kayak Rentals – Explore the Vineyard’s unique ponds and protected waterways by kayak and discover the teeming wildlife that flourishes along with picturesque landscapes
  • Private Boat Charter – Do something really unique and different this vacation…book your own private charter boat with Captain. Experience Martha’s Vineyard away from the crowds
  • Bike paths – great exercise for all family members
  • Island Alpaca Company – over 50 alpacas, animals similar to llamas in appearance
  • Miniature golf – a classic family vacation activity
  • Have FUN with The Lazy Frog
  • Family campground – the fun of a campfire and smores.
  • Unique and “anything but run-of-the-mill” clothing and other dry goods and coffee house – Beetlebung

martha's vineyard menemsha harbor

Joseph Sylvia State Beach

Great for families. This beach is easy to get to, you can simply pull off the road and park within 50 yards of the water – perfect if you have young children and/or lots of gear. Kids and some older folks line up along the railing and wait their turn to leap into the water below. It’s only about a 15-foot drop but it’s tons of fun…yes my daughters begged me to do the jump and I had to protect my reputation! This is a good beach for swimming. The water remains shallow and calm near the beach. Waves are non-existent, or very small. You’ll likely see kayaks, wind-surfers and wave runners playing offshore.

The sand here is not spectacular, tends to be on the medium brown and rough side as opposed to fine, white sand. However, there are lots of great shells to sift through. Our kids filled buckets and had a great time. This is also a good beach area for cruising on a Waverunner. This beach is located on Beach Road between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown on the northeast side of Martha’s Vineyard. It’s very convenient to both towns.

TIP: The Memorial Bridge at this beach is a popular jumping spot.

menemsha beach martha's vineyard

Menemsha Public Beach

Great for families and romantic couples. Menemsha is a charming fishing village about 20-30 minutes from Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs. The beach here is steps from the parking lot but take note the parking is limited. This is a very picturesque area. The harbor has beautiful boats and there are often sailboats moored offshore. I love the beach but … the waves are calm so one would think the swimming is fun, unfortunately, there are many medium-size rocks as you enter the water, making walking difficult and painful.

Although the water is rocky, the magnificent sunsets, charming boat docks, fresh seafood and starfish and crab hunting area make this a great spot for family beach vacations.

TIPS: For Romance: crowds gather here for the spectacular sunsets. Kids can find starfish, crabs and jellyfish by the boat docks

South Beach Marthas Vineyard
South Beach Marthas Vineyard

South Beach State Park

Popular with teens and college folks. This beach is easily accessed from Edgartown either by car, moped or bicycle. The bike path runs from Edgartown to the beach. This beach reminds me of Nauset Beach on Cape Cod and Plum Island Beach in Newburyport, MA. There are beautiful, large sand dunes and the beach drops off quickly in the surf. The waves here are also larger than those at the Joseph Sylvia State Beach or Menemsha Beach.

These factors make this beach a bit more dangerous for young children. There are lifeguards at this beach, but if you have average or weak swimmers, you’ll need to be much more vigilant in watching them here. Many 13 – 25-year-olds prefer this beach for their Martha’s Vineyard beach vacations. As the name suggests, this beach is located on the southern part of the island, just south of Edgartown.

TIP: If you have a 4 x 4 vehicle, you can drive into the sand dunes here and venture into less crowded areas

Wasque Beach Marthas Vineyard
Wasque Beach Marthas Vineyard

Wasque Beach – Cape Poge

This is a very remote beach, located on Chappaquiddick, which requires a ride on the Chappy Ferry…but it’s worth it. The beach stretches and stretches in both directions and you will likely see a few other people…this is not a beach where folks sit right next to your towel. The area is extremely scenic, situated in 250 acres of conservation land, and is also the location of the famous Chappaquiddick incident

Moshup Beach – Aquinnah

This is another remote beach, located on the westernmost edge of the Vineyard in Aquinnah. Surf here can be heavy so it may not be the best beach for kids for swimming (try Joseph Sylvia State Beach). However, this is where the famous clay cliffs are so it’s a very scenic and unique beach. You’re also likely to find stone towers, stacks of beach stones balanced on one another. This is a very unique beach and worth the drive.

Moshup Beach is unique from other Vineyard beaches in that you can sit at the base of the clay cliffs and you’ll likely see small stone towers built by previous visitors. These towers, like cairns, are about two to five feet high and are stacks of beach stones folks have carefully balanced in cool sculptures.

Martha’s Vineyard Attractions and Activities

Top 10 Things to Do.

Most folks know about the Black Dog Tavern and clay cliffs in Aquinnah (Gay Head), here are other lesser-known attractions and activities on Marthas Vineyard.

Rent Bicycles and Bike from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown

Martha’s Vineyard is a great place for riding bikes. The island is fairly flat, especially around Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, and Vineyard Haven, there are some gently rolling hills as you head west from Edgartown or Vineyard Haven.

marthas vineyard bike rental
a ride from Oak Bluffs down Beach Road to Joseph Sylvia State Beach.

You can take in some great scenery, and enjoy the fresh air, if you rent bikes in Oak Bluffs and ride along Seaview Ave and Beach Rd towards Edgartown. This route follows the shore and there are many opportunities to stop and walk on the beach.

Get some Takeout Seafood and go to Menemsha for Sunset

The sunsets at Menemsha are beautiful! The beach faces northwest so you can watch the sun dip into the water, seeing brilliant orange, red and yellow colors across the sky and the water. Many folks bring snacks, sandwiches and drinks and set up an hour or so before sunset. We recommend getting some quality seafood at either The Bite (right in Menemsha), or The Net Result (in Vineyard Haven).

Rent a 4×4 and Explore the Beach near South Beach

South Beach in Katama is a classic New England beach with scenic grassy sand dunes and large waves. For some unique fun, take a 4 x 4 into the dunes and along parts of the beach most folks do not explore.

Rent Kayaks and Explore Sengekontacket Pond

You really get to experience the beauty and scenery of Martha’s Vineyard if you explore some of the ponds or harbors in a kayak. Island Spirit offers kayak rentals and trips for Edgartown Harbor, Katama Bay, Sengekontacket Pond, and up-island and Chappaquiddick locations.

japanese garden picture
Mytoi Gardens

Enjoy Serenity in Mytoi Gardens

Many folks don’t know Martha’s Vineyard has Japanese Gardens, let alone make the effort to enjoy them. However, the Mytoi Gardens on Chappaquiddick are definitely worth a visit (unless you are a pure adrenaline-seeking type or shopaholic ! ). You will need to ride the Chappy Ferry and have either a car or bike to travel into Chappaquiddick and get to the gardens. Please enjoy our Japanese garden pictures

See the Gang at Murdick’s Fudge Make Fudge

Murdick’s Fudge has stores in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven and is a huge favorite with our kids. These folks really know how to make fudge! They have top quality fudge and if you go early in the morning you might be able to actually watch them making the fudge from scratch! This is an impressive and entertaining process. The employees work like sculptors…molding, forming and carving the fudge.

Alpaca farms
Alpaca farms

Visit Island Alpaca

Alpaca are curious, interesting animals. Sort of a cross between a sheep and a camel, these creatures are fun to watch. You might not expect to find alpaca farms on the Vineyard, but, Island Alpaca has a large herd, often including baby alpaca, and a great viewing barn. They also have unique products (hats, scarves, blankets etc) made from the soft fleece. Another plus…these are “green” products. Alpaca farms can be a great place to spend an afternoon. The Island Alpaca Company has over 50 alpaca and is a nice break from the beaches or shops in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven.  The farm is located about halfway between Vineyard Haven and Edgartown.

Jump Off the Bridge at Joseph Sylvia State Beach

If the Mytoi Japanese gardens sound too tranquil for you, get your adrenaline fix jumping off the bridge into the water where JAWs was filmed! Folks of all ages balance on the railings of this bridge and make the leap. It’s only about 10-15 feet to the water and there have not been any *recent* great white shark sightings!

Go for a ride on Mad Max

Another activity for adrenaline or scenery junkies, this performance catamaran sails in Edgartown Harbor and is a great opportunity to enjoy the sun and fresh air and see Martha’s Vineyard from the water.

Create Unique Jewelry at Beadniks

Take a break from the beach and sun and check out Beadniks bead store in Vineyard Haven. It’s really more of an experience than a store. They have hundreds of unique and exotic beads from around the world, displayed in various trays so you can select them and create custom bracelets or necklaces. They also have silver and gold pieces for more luxurious creations. This is a great mother and daughter activity…and…for the guys…they built a mini putting area in the parking lot… brilliant!

Any list of attractions and activities on Martha’s Vineyard would also have to include these more well-known attractions

The Black Dog

Go to get the t-shirt, or the hat, or the delicious muffins or blackout cake. The Black Dog Tavern is famous for its black lab logo…possibly the most recognizable image for Martha’s Vineyard. The food is wonderful and you can buy a variety of products sporting the famous black lab.

Flying Horses Carousel

Kids and their parents love the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs. It’s very entertaining and possibly the best bang for the buck on the Vineyard (only $1.50 per ride). Although it thrills like a typical merry-go-round, this is no ordinary carousel…it is the nation’s oldest operating platform carousel and a National Historic Landmark.

Cliffs at Aquinnah

The clay cliffs at Aquinnah (Gay Head) have beautiful orange, red, yellow and brown colors and drop sharply into the water at the western edge of the Vineyard. This is a great spot for photos and is an opportunity to see a sunset over the water on the East Coast.

Mad Marthas Ice Cream

Mad Martha’s ice cream has satisfied tourists for years. They serve up huge cones in Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, and Vineyard Haven. President Clinton and President Obama were customers during their Vineyard vacations.

martha's vineyard hotel
Martha’s Vineyard Hotels

Martha’s Vineyard Hotels

Martha’s Vineyard hotels have a charming, nautical theme and are very warm and inviting. The Vineyard has a large selection of hotels and lodging but you will not find as many franchise or chain hotels as you might elsewhere. Vineyard hotels offer the features and amenities of “city” or “suburb” hotels as well as the service and charm of a bed and breakfast.

Hotels are generally located in or near Edgartown, Oak Bluffs or Vineyard Haven. Edgartown is generally more expensive than the other towns. Ferry service to Cape Cod is available in all 3 towns although Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs offer service on larger boats as well as many more departure times.

When choosing any hotel, you likely will want to consider the price and the quality of the hotel. On Martha’s Vineyard, you will also want to consider

  1. the services available near the hotel (restaurants, shops, beaches)
  2. the convenience to ferry or airport transportation

The Vineyard offers a range of pricing for hotels, although they are definitely in the mid to high range when compared to most other places.