Located only seven miles off the Massachusetts coastline, Martha’s Vineyard is a
45-minute ferry ride from Woods Hole, a half hour from our
Cape Cod rentals in Falmouth, or an hour and a half from Hyannis. Outside
of the bustling harbors and busy villages lie huge tracts of undeveloped land and
miles of coastline. Much of the land is wild and natural, with numerous farms and
A day trip to Martha’s Vineyard will allow to you experience the many distinctive
towns and areas this island offers.
Martha’s Vineyard transit authority runs buses, so there’s no need for a
car. For $7, a day pass will take you throughout the island on varying routes, and
you can hop on and off as you please.
Cottage City, Oak Bluffs
Originally known as Wesleyan Grove, Oak Bluffs back in the 1830s was the site of
annual Methodist Church camp meetings. When attendees decided to stay all summer,
tents evolved into cottages, and residents tried to outdo each other in elaborately
decorating the façades. Today there are over 300 colorful and brightly decorated
"gingerbread cottages." Chances are the ferry will land at Vineyard Haven, where
you can stroll through the village with its many shops and restaurants. The Old School
House Museum on Main Street dates back to 1828. Off Main Street, past the shopping
district, is Owens Park and beach, which offers a great spot to relax and watch
the bustle of the harbor.
The harbor is protected by East Chop and West Chop and each has a lighthouse. Take
the West Chop Loop bus to visit West Chop light – it’s only 15 minutes round trip!
From Vineyard Haven, you can proceed to Oak Bluffs and Edgartown along scenic Beach
Road. Keep an eye out for the East Chop light.
Flying Horses Carousel
In Oak Bluffs you’ll find the Flying Horses Carousel, the oldest continuously operated
carousel in the country, along with a games arcade, movie theater, and public beaches.
There are lovely shops and boutiques on Circuit Street, and the Arts District just
beyond offers galleries representing local as well as internationally known artists.
Oak Bluffs is one of only two towns on the island where alcohol may be purchased,
the other being Edgartown.
In Edgartown, you’ll feel as if you have stepped back into the 19th century, as
the streets are lined with carefully preserved and stately Greek Revival whaling
captains’ homes. The best way to appreciate Edgartown is on foot. Along the winding
lanes are boutiques, where you can find scrimshaw and local arts and crafts, as
well as restaurants and ice cream shops. Edgartown also has a picturesque harbor
and waterfront, a wonderful place to stroll.
Gay Head Cliffs, Martha's Vineyard
From Edgartown you’ll go across the island to scenic South Road. A stop at the Chilmark
Overlook will be rewarded with panoramic views of blue water and an array of boats.
Then continue on to Aquinnah to see the magnificent, 130 foot tall, multi-colored
clay Gay Head Cliffs. The Gay Head Cliffs are a National Landmark and for years
were a favorite for those wanting a challenging climb from the beach at the bottom.
Today, however, climbing is off limits due to the toll this was taking on the face
of the cliffs.
At the top of the cliffs stands Gay Head Light. A 47-foot (57 feet to the top of
the lantern), octagonal wooden lighthouse was erected on a stone base, along with
a wood-frame keeper's house, barn, and oil vault. The light went into service in
Aquinnah is celebrated as a center of Wampanoag Indian culture and a source of pride
and tradition among members of the tribe. You’ll find some Indian craft shops at
the top of the cliffs.
Your tour will next take you back along South Road to the gentle hills and picturesque
coast of Chilmark. This is a serene section of the island with sheep grazing on
the green pastures that slope down to the ocean. In the heart of Chilmark is the
fishing village of Menemsha, and, if it looks familiar, it is with good reason.
Menemsha was the setting for the movie Jaws. Next to the harbor is Menemsha Beach
and open to the public. Also located in Chilmark is The Yard, a performing artists'
Throughout the western side of the island are its many working farms. Farming on
the island is not limited to vegetables. At Allen Farm Sheep and Wool, for example,
you can purchase wool products and grass fed lamb, and at Grey Barn Farm you can select locally produced organic cheese, pork, beef and eggs. View a list of the working farms
(PDF) which are open to the public.
The last leg of your tour will take you through the western side of Chilmark to
West Tisbury, a picture postcard New England town. A pretty little church, general
store, and some art and antique galleries make it worth the stop.
Your ferry is waiting back in Vineyard Haven, so climb aboard your bus and enjoy
the final part of your drive through pastoral farmlands and then along Vineyard
Sound past Lambert’s Cove Beach.
While this day trip is designed to give you an overview of Martha’s Vineyard, there
are many stops you might add. See our
Vacation Planner for dining, shopping, and activities.