Mihir and Pragnya, software engineers from New Jersey, recently caught a flight from New York to exclusive and elusive Martha’s Vineyard, an island accessible only by boat or plane.
It isn’t the easiest island to get to.
“It is a 30 minute flight,” said Pragnya.
“We wanted to maximize our time on the island and not mess with driving and ferry and all that,” added Mihir.
Martha’s Vineyard lies about seven miles off the coast of Cape Cod and consists of six towns: Aquinnah, Chilmark, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, and West Tisbury. Each town has its own unique storybook character, from the historic whaling village of Edgartown, to the Victorian Gingerbread cottages of Oak Bluffs.
Mihir picked the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown to celebrate his wife’s milestone 30th birthday. The recently renovated inn has been a treasured icon for 128 years, and, according to the Galavante Weekly, a vacation destination for Oprah Winfrey. President Obama owns a beautiful home on the coastal perimeter of Edgartown, where the inn stands with views of a barrier beach and the ocean beyond.
“I found out that the Harbor View Hotel has the most spectacular view of the lighthouse,” said Mihir, who wanted to treat his wife of two years to one of the ritziest towns on Martha’s Vineyard.
The couple grew up by the ocean – Mihir in Mumbai and Pragnya in Chennai. They met at UMass Dartmouth, and married on December 2020. As students they could not afford Martha’s Vineyard.
A Romantic Birthday Treat at Harbor View Hotel
“I was looking to take her somewhere special on her 30th birthday,” says Mihir who celebrated a candlelit dinner with his wife at Harbor View Hotel’s acclaimed restaurant Bettini.
From Silicon Valley to Vineyard Haven
A vegetarian diner sopped up the sauce around the bowl of his soft doughy gnocchi with warm focaccia bread. He was an Indian American from Silicon Valley, California.
Rajiv, who was on business in New York, had driven from New York to Providence for the celebration that marked his nephew’s entry into medicine. Their nephew, Joshua Smithsreen had his white coat ceremony at Brown University earlier that day. After the ceremony Rajiv and his wife Ritu made their way to Falmouth to take the ferry for Vineyard Haven the next morning. Once there they Ubered to Edgartown.
Ferried Across To Vineyard Haven
Most travel to the almost 100-square-mile island by ferry. Both The Steamship Authority and Hy-Line Cruises run year-round ferries. They leave from Woods Hole, Falmouth, Hyannis or any number of other great towns on the mainland and arrive in either Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, Edgartown or another port of entry on the island.
“Thirty percent of our clientele is from New York, ” say Billy Brown and Tom Von Zabern, owners of Palmer House Inn in Falmouth. “Ten percent from the west coast, and the rest from surrounding New England, Connecticut etc.”
Historic Falmouth village, where the Palmer House Inn is located has traditionally been bypassed by the travelers who are catching the Steamship ferry from Woods Hole. “The people heading to Martha’s Vineyard come over the Bourne bridge, stay on Hwy 28 and head to Woods Hole to catch the ferry. They didn’t know of this hidden gem that is Falmouth village,” says Brown. “They have recently discovered us, in the last twenty years. Now visitors spend the night in Falmouth Village, catching a shuttle to the ferry station at Woods Hole which is a 15 minutes bus ride away.” Palmer House Inn is happy to sell them ferry tickets. The ferry ride takes 45 minutes and costs $20 round trip.
Some travelers prefer to take their car on to the boat and the Vineyard. They make sure to book their car on to the ferry in advance. These bookings tend to fill up. The day summer car ferry tickets go on sale is January 19th.
The Cape Cod Marathon
Aruna and Jay made it to Martha’s Vineyard from Lexington near Boston. The first weekend of October was the Cape Cod marathon that starts at the Falmouth Village green. It heads down the road to Woods Hole, down surf drive, and along the water. It makes for a very picturesque run. The Cape Cod marathon is a qualifier for the Boston marathon.
They took a day trip to the Vineyard with their daughter and Labradoodle Ziggy. Catching the ferry from Woods Hole for Oak Bluff they packed a picnic to make the ferry ride more fun. Oak Bluffs is a nice area to walk around. At Oak Bluffs they spent the day at the beach. “Ziggy enjoys his day at the beach and so we did not wander too far from it. We got some of that Ben & Bills ice cream, which is so fabulous,” said Aruna.
Sweets and Treats
Mocha Mott’s coffee shop in Vineyard Haven has nice sweet treats, said the girls at the bookshop next door. Brooklyn-bred film icon Spike Lee frequents the coffee shop in Oak Bluffs, reported Essence.com in “Celebrities in Marthas Vineyard”. White House adviser and longtime friend of the Obama’s, Valerie Jarrett, dined with them at the Sweet Life Cafe in Oak Bluffs, reported Essence.
Jill Nelson in her book “Finding Martha’s Vineyard: African Americans at Home on an Island” talks about the history of Oak Bluffs as a favorite destination for the African-American leisure class.
Talking to NPR Nelson is asked, “What about, ..the idea that there is some sense of elitism that leaks into, you know, the island and island lore and what portion of the island you live on.” To which Nelson responded, “Right. You know, it’s funny. Bebe Moore Campbell, the writer who’s interviewed in the book, says, you know, you are elite if you come here.”
How To Get There
Direct flights depart from:
- Boston, Hyannis, Nantucket and New Bedford, MA
- JFK, Laguardia and Westchester, New York
- Washington DC
- Philadelphia, PA
- Charlotte, NC
Ferries depart from:
- Falmouth, Woods Hole, Hyannis, New Bedford and Nantucket, MA
- New York, NY
- North Kingston, RI
- Highlands, NJ
Here is an easy to read table of all the flights and ferries to get you there.
Travel on the Island
In each town restaurants, shopping, and beaches are within walking distance.
In order to travel from one town to another, travelers who do not take their car to the Vineyard, can use a car service, ride sharing apps, taxis, or the local bus. The bus runs through the island and a day pass is for $6 ($5 for seniors). To buy tickets on the bus, travelers must carry the exact number of bills (the bus doesn’t give change) or they can buy the pass at the ticket center.
Harbor View Hotel can shuttle their guests within the town on golf carts or the guests can borrow a Mercedes-Benz from them. The hotel’s partnership with Mercedes-Benz offers Harbor View guests access to several vehicles to explore the island.
Edgartown restaurants recommended by staff at The Bookstore of Vineyard Haven
Atlantic. Here a fine meal awaits you. They do not take reservations.The manager at the Harbor View Hotel recommended the restaurant highly and we second his recommendation. The lobster croissant and the Kale salad at the Atlantic was wonderfully fresh and delicately flavored.
Behind the Bookstore “Don’t miss the Lavender coffee, the chef makes it himself,” gushed the girls.
Rosewater Market “They have so many things in their window that one wants to try. The Cauliflower sandwich is awesome,” said the girls. Unfortunately the cauliflower sandwich is available only on Wednesday and so we settled for the hash brown bfast meal. Perfect.
Atria Brick Cellar for dinner. “It is an honored sanctuary for Vineyard regulars and a familiar getaway for the many notables who frequent the Island.”
Images provided by Ritu Marwah