Try the Vineyard for perfect autumn travel: long walks on empty beaches, biking along country lanes, bird watching on protected reservations- and all without crowds, and kayaking on pristine waters.
For relaxation and sports like kayaking, bicycling and walking, a short ride on a fast ferry can change your world. From the stress of the business world in Boston, Hartford or New York it’s a short ride to Woods Hole, New Bedford or Hyannis and a decompressing ride across Buzzards Bay to Vineyard Haven or Oak Bluffs and a world where the pace is a world away. The island has all of the charm and mystique and a size that make it easy to explore in a short time.
Edgartown, the main town of the island, is a classic seaside town, snuggled onto the shore of a small protected bay and filled with 18th and 19th century homes and mansions of the people who settled here. New England colonials, Georgian, Federal and even some Greek Revival styles line the narrow streets.
Vineyard Haven, while somewhat similar to Edgartown, is a smaller version. Part of the town of Tisbury, it’s ferry terminal is an important entry point and most resorts will pick up guests at the terminal. A good and reliable bus service is also available. Murdick’s Fudge is a popular destination here. Tisbury offers beaches and a pair of ponds to explore.
The other entry point is Oak Bluffs, originally the site of Methodist summer camp revivals. The tent settlement was around the edges of a large field where preachers in tents exhorted the faithful to greater devotion. Summer tents gave way to small exquisite decorated two story houses, some of the finest Victorian gingerbread houses in America. They now surround an exceptional large 19th century pavilion where events and programs still take place. It is said that the island’s tourism industry began right here.
A Beach Suggestion
One of the most highly thought of and largest resorts on the island, Winnetu Resort, is a short three miles from Edgartown and close to South Beach. It is only a short five minute walk through a scrub forest and over a dune to the beach which offers three miles of golden sand for contemplative walks. Another short bike ride away is an island treasure, The Farm Institute, a fledgling institution that is both a producing farm and an important educational resource for islanders and visitors both young and old. Check them out for locally produced products.
A Wildlife Suggestion
But, beach walking is not the only thing to do here. The Trustee’s of Reservations, a private preservation society that controls more than 100 properties throughout the state, has wonderful lands to explore in the Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge and the Wasque Reserve on Chappaquiddick, an island accessible by a two minute ferry ride ($4 round trip) from Edgartown. The Trustees offer several tours –including a nature tour and a lighthouse tour- or you can explore on your own. While you can take a car on the ferry only properly equipped 4 wheel drive vehicles can be taken on the sand tracks. Or, see the Mytoi Japanese Gardens that fit so perfectly into the landscape of the island.
Thrills in the Air
For excitement, it’s a blast to go out to Katama Airfield and Conservation Area just outside Edgartown. One of the few remaining grass airfields left in the US, it’s the home of Classic Aviators Ltd. They fly a pair of 1940s WACO bi-plane aircraft originally designed for sport and aerobatics. Have a placid sightseeing flight or something with more of a spin – your option.
The Bicycle and Bus Options and car rental
Bringing a car to the island on the ferry can be expensive and it pays to think about other options for local transportation. The island is not all that big and bikes are a good option. Essentially flat, the island is a great place for bicyclists, especially in the fall when traffic nearly disappears. Signed bike paths connect from Aquinnah (formerly Gay Head) to Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown and rentals are available in all three towns. The Island also has a good public bus system that makes a good alternative to cars. If a car is what you want, consider rentals. They are available at Oak Bluffs and both Hertz and Budget have outlets in Vineyardhaven and at the airport in Edgartown. Even in fall there is lots to do on Martha’s Vineyard.