5 Things To Do On Martha's Vineyard
I've heard of the folk who "summer" on Martha's Vineyard, but I never quite understood the mystique. That is until a business trip quickly turned into a two-day-too-quick-but-somehow-just-right jaunt to the storied vacation spot an hour or so and a ferry ride away from Boston. It only took minutes for me to see how this place can get into your system and stay there forever. Indeed, Martha's Vineyard with all of her charm, history and reserved elegance has imprinted on my soul.
Although I was only there for two nights and two days, the island became a fast friend. If you are curious about the goings-on on the island, or if you - like me - are making a plan to add Martha's Vineyard to your list of "places where I summer," here are a few of the must-sees and must-dos on the island in order to become acquainted:
1) Ride the oldest carousel in the country. Since 1884, the Flying Horses carousel has brought entertainment to the Oak Bluffs area of the Vineyard. This historic platformed carousel has been designated as a national landmark by the Department of the Interior. Throughout the summer months, expect to see droves of (often unchaperoned) kids running to get in line to ride the carousel and grab the famous Brass Ring!
2) Visit the Up island. The western side of Martha's Vineyard is what locals call "up-island", and it is not to be missed. Stunningly beautiful, the up-island cities including Chilmark (where the Obamas summer), Menemsha and Aquinnah are the polar opposite of the more tourist-friendly towns of Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, and Vineyard Haven. The mostly rural up-island towns are known for agriculture and fishing, and once formed the hub for the booming whaling trade. In addition, the town of Aquinnah is home to the federally recognized Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head. A stop over in Mnemsha for a cup of fresh clam chowder is a must, as is a visit to the Gay Head Cliffs and Lighthouse. The up-island is best visited by car, but also consider seeing this, and all other parts of the island, via a guided bus tour.
3) Eat the best scallops of your life. If you are in the mood for fresh seafood, you can pretty much flip a coin and find a great joint anywhere on the island. But if you are wanting scallops specifically, you must RUN to Nancy's in Oak Bluffs and order the baked sea scallops. Nancy's is known as a great gathering place and is hard to miss if you are walking along the marina side of Oak Bluffs. In addition to the baked scallops offered in the upstairs restaurant, you can also grab a fantastic snack of fried seafood goodness on the popular downstairs snack bar patio. The patio is connected to Donovan's Reef, the equally popular frozen drink stand manned by the real life Donovan who is as much a connoisseur of frozen daiquiris as he is of the reggae beats that welcome you to stay and 'sip' a while.
4) Get lost in Oak Bluffs. The mystery, magic and history of Oak Bluffs is almost too good to handle! Known by the locals as the most "bohemian" of the cities on the island, it is also the vacation hub for many families who have made the trek to Martha's Vineyard year after year. A main access point for the ferries that bring locals, tourists, and delivery vehicles to Martha's Vineyard several times each day, Oak Bluffs enjoys a storied history, and is best visited on foot. Aside from the many shops and restaurants that pepper the main drags throughout the seaside town, spending a part of your day at the Inkwell - a city beach made popular by African-Americans who began visiting the island in the early nineteenth century - is a must. Take a wander through the Campground to see the colorful gingerbread cottages before grabbing a scoop (or three) of ice cream from any of the worthy ice creameries in town. Don't think too hard about it - they are all great!
5) Jump off the Jaws bridge. OK- I'm deathly afraid of sharks, but I do love a cult classic! In 1975 Spielberg and his team rolled into Martha's Vineyard with a robotic shark and a catchy story and what we got was cinematic gold! One of the most iconic scenes from the movie is the attack under the bridge when Michael goes into shock and Brody runs to save his life. The bridge is still standing in Edgartown and it's definitely worth a visit even if (like me) you are a little too chicken to make the plunge. Every summer kids ignore the sign on the bridge prohibiting jumping and make a go of it. If you've got the guts, you should too!
Have you been to the Vineyard? What other spots are must-sees?