Martha’s Vineyard is comprised of six separate towns, each with its own distinct feel and appeal. In Oak Bluffs, one of the three “Down-Island” towns, you get Cottage City, the historic “Flying Horses” carousel, and other fun family attractions. Edgartown is decidedly tonier with designer shopping, immaculately kept and historic captains’ houses, and an active, bustling harbor. Vineyard Haven (in the town of Tisbury) is the year-round center of action for the Island with ferries coming and going throughout the day, 365 days a year. The other three “Up-Island” towns – Aquinnah, Chilmark, and West Tisbury – are more rural with farms, rolling hills, and miles of white sand beaches.
The village of West Tisbury, however, is a bit of a hidden gem. It is a charming destination for a visit. Here are just a few of its attractions:
1. Alley’s General Store: This classic country store first opened in 1858 to serve the needs of the Up-Island residents. Today it has a wide range of merchandise including penny candy, toys, hardware, cards, and more. If you’re missing an ingredient for a recipe, Alley’s likely has it, and you can skip a trip to the supermarket. You can even rent a P.O. box at Alley’s. Kids love to visit Alley’s, and adults will be immediately transported back to their own childhoods. Alley’s tagline “dealers in almost everything” certainly rings true.
Photo courtesy of the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust.
2. West Tisbury Farmers Market at Grange Hall: Held weekly on Saturdays (and on both Wednesdays and Saturdays during July and August), the West Tisbury Farmers Market brings farmers and craftspeople from around the Island. In addition to fresh Island-grown produce, you will find local honey, soaps, cut flowers, baked goods, and more. The Farmers Market helps you keep a finger on the pulse of the seasons: delicate spring greens give way to an abundance of juicy tomatoes in August to myriad root vegetables as fall approaches. A trip to the Vineyard is not complete without stopping by the Farmers Market, which has been going since 1974. Grange Hall also hosts other events throughout the year including Vineyard Artisans festivals.
Photo courtesy of the West Tisbury Farmers Market Instagram page.
3. Field Gallery and Sculpture Garden: You may notice the outside sculptures before you see the gallery building. Whimsical, larger-than-life sculptures capture the imagination and are well worth a stroll around the property. Interesting exhibitions are scheduled all summer long. The Field Gallery is affiliated with two other art galleries on the Island (nearby Granary Gallery and North Water Gallery in Edgartown), and all three are worth a visit.
Photo courtesy of the Field Gallery.
4. West Tisbury Free Public Library: Each town on the Vineyard has its own library, but West Tisbury’s is arguably the best on the island! The town’s first library was established in 1892, the same year the town itself was incorporated. That tells you everything you need to know about how important libraries are to the residents of West Tisbury. The new library building opened in 2014 thanks to generous support from seasonal residents such as author David McCullough and architect Graham Gund (both have spaces in the library dedicated to them). In addition to lending books, DVDs, and other materials, there is meeting space and an active year-round calendar of events. Tip: Did you know that Massachusetts residents can apply for a free library card at any library in Mass, regardless of the town they live in? And for out-of-staters, you can get a library card for a fee of only $10.
5. 7a Foods: Finally, if all of your exploring around West Tisbury has you feeling hungry, there is no better place to stop than 7a Foods, behind Alley’s. Owned by a husband and wife team, this spot consistently wins Best of the Vineyard for “Best breakfast sandwich” and “Best sandwich overall.” They also have fresh baked goodies like scones and cookies and a great selection of hot and iced coffee. The menu changes seasonally, but their Liz Lemon sandwich (named after Tina Fey’s character on the TV show 30 Rock) is a perennial favorite – a savory combination of housemade pastrami, turkey, swiss, coleslaw, Russian dressing, and potato chips on rye. Bonus trivia: 7a Foods is named after 7a, the USDA Plant Hardiness region in which the Vineyard is located.
Photo courtesy of 7afoods Facebook page.
You can drive to West Tisbury, park your car, and easily walk to all five of these attractions. On summer Saturdays, the area is buzzing with visitors, so do your best to channel the Vineyard’s chill vibe, and go with the flow. For an even easier and more relaxing trip, take the Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) bus service. The #2, #3, #4, #5, and #6 bus lines serve West Tisbury year-round. Most lines stop at or near the West Tisbury Town Hall.
So, on your next Vineyard vacation, be sure to venture off the beaten path and explore the charms of West Tisbury town center – it truly has something for everyone.
Guest Blog post by Pam Boiros: Pam is a part-time resident of West Tisbury. Her home is available for weekly rental: WeNeedAVacation.com, property ID 29123 – the perfect home base for a Vineyard vacation.