Car Free Journey: Martha’s Vineyard Part 2

Last month, guest columnist David Waight began a two-part series spotlighting Martha’s Vineyard: the popular vacation destination near Cape Cod in Massachusetts. In May, Dave spotlighted Edgartown and Oak Bluffs.

Car Free Journeys – Martha’s Vineyard Island Part 2

Had enough of Winter? – Ready for a getaway? Martha’s Vineyard Island may just be the perfect end of the winter getaway. A popular summer resort, famous for its many beaches, it is also a good choice in the Spring and Fall before the crowds arrive or after they leave.

Temperatures may or may not be warm enough to swim during the Spring or Fall, so if swimming is essential, you should plan your visit in the summer (Memorial Day to Labor Day). If temperatures don’t allow for swimming during your visit, the beaches can still be enjoyable.Walking along the beaches, some stretching for miles, provides spectacular ocean views, abundant nature or the opportunity to just relax. In addition to beaches, activities of all types are plentiful – historic towns, hiking, bicycling, water sports of various types, farms, nature, lighthouses, shopping and spectacularly scenic vistas and these are just some of what you will find.

Most importantly, visiting Martha’s Vineyard doesn’t require driving. The Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA)offers bus service to most of the island. A comprehensive network of bike trails and numerous bike rental shops offer another car-free way to enjoy your visit.

Getting Here

“The Vineyard” is connected to the mainland by numerous ferry services from points in Massachusetts and Rhode Island as well as air service from Hyannis on Cape Cod and other cities in the Northeast.Check each ferry service’s web-site for bus and train connections.

Smart Guide – Car-free travel guide to Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Islands, including bicycle information.

Steamship AuthorityYear round to Vineyard Haven from Woods Hole. Seasonal service to Oak Bluffs. 508-693-9130

HyLine Cruises – To Oak Bluffs seasonally from Hyannis MA.800-492-8082

Seastreak – To Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs during the summer and early fall from New Bedford MA.Operates only to Vineyard Haven during the spring and late fall.To Oak Bluffs summer Fridays from New York City and Highlands NJ.Returns on Sundays.1-800-BOATRIDE (1-800-262-8743)

Martha’s Vineyard Fast Ferry – To Oak Bluffs from Quonset Point RI seasonally .Connection in Quonset Point to Amtrak Shuttle from Kingston RI.: 401-295-4040

Island Queen – Seasonal service from Falmouth MA to Oak Bluffs.508-548-4800

Falmouth Ferry– Seasonal service from Falmouth MA to Edgartown.508-548-9400

Patriot Party Boats– Seasonal service from Falmouth MA to Oak Bluffs. Also operates a 24 hour water taxi service. 508-548-9400

Martha’s Vineyard Airport – Air Service is available to Martha’s Vineyard Airport year round from Hyannis, Boston, New Bedford and Nantucket MA and White Plains NY, and seasonally from Provincetown MA, Providence RI, New York (JFK) and Washington DC (DCA)508-693-7022

Getting Around

Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA)The Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority provides year round transportation to all 6 of the island towns, stopping at or near all the important points of interest.Transfer points around the island provide convenient timed connections with minimal waits in most cases.

Flag stops are allowed on all routes wherever the bus can stop safely.Be sure to pick up a copy of the “Riders Guide” which lists flag stop exceptions.The free “System Route Map” includes maps of all routes, fare and pass information and a town by town guide to routes.Fares are $1.00 per town, each way, including town of origin.Passes are One Day $7.00, Three Day $15.00 and Seven Day $25.00.A pass is your most economical option even for one round trip if you travel in more than three towns.

One day, three day and seven day passes may be purchased on the bus, at the Steamship Authority Terminals, or from Ticket Sellers at the primary Oak Bluffs, Edgartown and Vineyard Haven bus stops from Memorial Day through Labor Day.Persons with disabilities and seniors 65 and over pay ½ fare.Children 6 and under ride free when accompanied by an adult.508-693-9440

Biking – Biking on The Vineyard is popular and becoming more so, both with visitors and island residents.A comprehensive network of paved bike trails in the down-island towns and lighter traffic in the up-island towns make biking easy for riders of all abilities.In additional most of the island is fairly flat with some rolling hills in the up-island towns.

VTA buses are equipped with bike racks making a trip combining both public transportation and biking convenient.Bicycle Rentals are available in shops in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven.Visit for a list of bike rental shops with contacts.For a map of bike routes visit

For more details on biking, visit the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce website.


Tour Martha’s Vineyard Introductory tour (1hour), Full island tour (3 hours) covering all six towns on the island or customized tours.508-939-1359

Trustees of Reservations – Natural History and kayak tours of Cape Pogue, Mytoi and Wasque on Chappaquiddick and Long Point Wildlife Refuge in West Tisbury.508-693-7662

Tisbury Street Fair

Tisbury Street Fair

Vineyard Haven (Tisbury) – Dating to the mid 1600’s, Vineyard Haven is the main port for the Steamship Authority ferry to Woods Hole, the only year round ferry to the island.The town center, while smaller than either Oak Bluffs or Edgartown still has lots to offer.Main St. is lined with boutiques, art galleries, cafes and restaurants.William St, parallel to Main is part of the historical district and home to a number of sea captains homes, a mini version of what you saw or will see in Edgartown.Vineyard Haven is also home to a small beach (Owen Park), two live theaters and a movie theater dating to silent movie days.Information available at the Chamber-of-Commerce office on State Rd between Main and Water Sts.

Best Read Guide Walking Tour – Vineyard Haven

VineyardPlayhouse – Built in 1833 as a church, this property, since 1982, has been the home of the Vineyard Playhouse, a year-round non-profit theater company.

Old Schoolhouse/MV Sea Faring Center & Old Seamen’s Bethel – Historic buildings now serving as museums.VTA Route 10A, short walk from 1,2,3,10 and 13

West Chop – Walk or take VTA Rt. 10A bus two miles past impressive homes with spectacular ocean views to the wooden West Chop Lighthouse built in 1817.

William Street – Spared from a devastating fire that destroyed a large part of Vineyard Haven, this historic district contains many impressive sea captains homes.VTA Rt. 10A

Vineyard Haven is served by VTA routes 1 (Edgartown), 2 (West Tisbury), 3 (West Tisbury), 10 (Tisbury P&R), 10A (West Chop) and 13 (Oak Bluffs and Edgartown).The primary bus stop is next to the Steamship Authority Dock.

West Tisbury – Unlike the down-island towns with large bustling town centers and busy harbors, West Tisbury has an agricultural feel with many small working farms scattered around the town and home to the island’s annual agricultural fair.Its small town center is a typical rural New England village – a Congregational Church, Grange Hall, Town Hall and General Store.West Tisbury is a popular hangout for writers and artists.

Grange Hall – Built in 1859, this historic building is now used to host the seasonal farmers market, fairs, art shows and other community events.VTA Routes 2,3,4,5 and 6.

Alley’s General Store – In business since the mid 19th century, the motto “Dealers in almost everything” describes this business perfectly.Selling groceries, hardware, souvenirs and toys, it also serves as a post office and coffee shop where you can buy your coffee or lemonade and enjoy them on the picnic tables outside or the chairs or hammock on the front porch.VTA Routes 2,3,4,5 and 6.

Field Gallery – Since 1971, the Field Gallery has presented local as well as nationally know artists and boasts an outdoor sculpture garden.Artists receptions are held from 5-7pm on summer Sundays.Located across the street from Alley’s General Store.VTA Routes 2,3,4,5 and 6.

Music St. – One of the few up-island areas containing whaling era mansions.The street was named for the fact that whaling profits allowed all the residents to own pianos.VTA Routes 2,3,4,5 and 6.

Christiantown – A small chapel dating to 1828 and a burial ground memorialize theWampanoag Tribe conversion to Christianity during a missionary campaign by Thomas Mayhew, the original non-native settler on the Vineyard.One mile from VTA Rtes 3 or 4.

Polly Hill Arboretum – Home to 1700 different plants, this property, created in 1958 is open year round and includes acres of walking trails and woodlands.VTA Routes 3 and 4.508-693-9426

West Tisbury is served by VTA routes 2 (Vineyard Haven), 3 (Vineyard Haven), 4 (Menemsha), 5 (Chilmark and Aquinnah), and 6 (Edgartown and the Airport),



Chilmark – Rolling hills, stone walls and beautiful ocean vistas define Chilmark and remind many of Ireland, the perfect town for those who want a break from the larger down-island towns.Enjoy scenic panoramas, woodlands, hiking or just a relaxing respite.The small town center at Beetlebung Corner consists of a community center, post office, library and general store.Beetlebung is a Vineyard coined name, referring to the Tupelo tree which was used to make bungs (barrel stoppers) and beetles (mallets) used for whale oil production.

Menemsha, politically part of Chilmark, has the feel of a separate town.On the ocean, Menemsha is a picturesque, working fishing village where fresh seafood can be purchased.The adjacent beach is popular with families and the sunset is a must-see.It is one of only a few points in New England where the sun sets over the ocean.VTA Rt. 4

Chilmark is served by VTA routes 4 (Menemsha) and 5 (West Tisbury and Aquinnah)

Aquinnah – Formerly called Gay Head, Aquinnah is home to the Wapanoag Tribe of Gay Head, descendants of the original peoples and the same tribe the Pilgrims met at Plymouth.

Aquinnah Cultural Center – Museum in a 19th century farm house, depicting the life of the Wampanoag Tribe. Open Wed., Frid., and Sat 11am-4pm 508-64507900 VTA Route 5

Gay Head Cliffs – Deposited by glaciers at the end of the last ice age, the colorful clay cliffs at the westernmost tip of the island are the most reconized attraction on Martha’s Vineyard.View the cliffs from above at the observation area, or take the trail to Moshup Beach to view them from below.The perspective is quite different, so I recommend enjoying both views.VTA Route 5.

Gay Head Lighthouse– The original wood lighthouse, authorized by John Quincy Adams was replaced in 1844 by the red-brick lighthouse you see today. In 1856, a Fresnel Lens was installed after being exhibited at the Paris World’s Fair.It was one of the first such uses in a lighthouse and the lens is now on display at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum in Edgartown.VTA Route 5

Aquinnah is served by VTA route 5 (Chilmark and West Tisbury).

Beaches – Beaches of all types are scattered around the island, from small pocket beaches to those you can walk along for miles, from calm surf suitable for families to those with roaring surf popular with surfers.A few of the most popular are:

Menemsha Beach – Chilmark – Next to Menemsha Fishing Village.Lifeguard on dutyin roped off area.Safe for kids.Restrooms and showers available.Known for spectacular sunsets.VTA Rt. 4

Moshup Beach – Aquinnah – Spectacularly scenic, at the foot of the colored cliffs. you can walk for miles along this beach.Accessed by short trail from parking lot and bus stop.Rest room (fee) located on the circle between the parking lot and the bus stop.VTA Rt. 5

Joseph A Sylvia State Beach – Edgartown/Oak Bluffs – Calm waves, popular with families.Public changing rooms at the Oak Bluffs end of the beach.Lifeguards on duty in season at Edgartown end of the beach (know as Bend-in-the-Road Beach).VTA Rt. 13.

South Beach – Edgartown – Heavy surf with strong undertow.Lifeguard on duty during season.Changing rooms at Left and Right fork.VTA Route 8

East Beach (Dike Beach) – Edgartown (Chappaquiddick) – Long and relatively empty beach with beautiful beach vegetation.Thee mile bike ride from Chappy Ferry.Public restrooms available.

Sunset at Edgartown Beach Lighthouse

Sunset at Edgartown Beach Lighthouse

Lighthouse Beach – Edgartown – Calm waves, beautiful views of Edgartown and Chappaquiddick.Less crowded than some of the more popular beaches.VTA – 10 minute walk from Rt. 11 Mayhew Lane stop – 20 minute walk from Rts. 1,6,8 and 13 Church St. Stop.

For more information on beaches visit Martha’s Vineyard Online – Beaches

Hiking and Nature – Hiking opportunities abound in all parts of the island, from short easy trails that can be enjoyed by just about everyone to longer more, difficult trails that require fitness and stamina. A few of the most popular include:

Moshup Beach – Spectacular walk along the ocean and below the clay cliffs.Climbing on the cliffs is not permitted.VTA Rt. 5

Menemsha Hills Reservation – 3 miles of trails lead to a scenic overlook of Menemsha, Aquinnah and the Elizabeth Islands.Steep terrain.VTA Rt. 4

Sheriff’s Meadow Reservation – Walking trail around an old ice pond.Close to Edgartown Center, but with a wildness that belies that closeness.Short walk from VTA Church St. stop.

Cape Pogue and Wasque – See above under Edgartown-Chappaquidick for details.

FelixNeckWildlife Sanctuary – A Massachusetts Audubon property with 4 miles of hiking trails and abundant wildlife.VTA Route 1 – ½ mile walk to entrance.

Three organizations, Sheriff’s Meadow Reservation, Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commision and Trustees of Reservations, own and/or maintain numerous properties scattered around the island with a multitude of hiking opportunities.

For more hiking possibilities visit: Martha’s Vineyard Onlineand Martha’s

Water Activities – Swimming, kayaking, fishing or sailing, are just some of what you can enjoy during your visit.Being an island, just about any water activities you can imagine is available.

Trustees of Reservations – Natural History and kayak tours of Cape Pogue, Mytoi and Wasque on Chappaquiddick and Long Point Wildlife Refuge in West Tisbury.508-693-7662

For a list of boating, sailing and motor boat charter companies visit Martha’s Vineyard Online (Boating).For other water activities visit Martha’s Vineyard Online (Watersports)

Other Outdoor Activities

Many other outdoor activitiessuch asgolf, tennis and horseback ridingare available to visitors.Visit – for information.

In The Evening – Nightlife is not the major reason people visit “The Vineyard and many visit primarily for this reason.That being said, entertainment venues are available throughout the island for those interested.Nightclubs (Oak Bluffs and Edgartown are the only “wet” towns), live theater, band concerts, classical music and movie theaters are just some of the options.For more information, visit- MVOL-Nightlife or MVTimes

For more information on live music, theater and performance arts visit MVOL-Entertainment

Where To Stay (See Part 1, last month for more places to stay.)

Up Island

Youth Hostel – Edgartown Rd. West Tisbury.VTA Route 6

For more accommodation options visit Best Read Guide

What I have talked about here is only a sample of what you will find on Martha’s Vineyard. Visit the following web-sites for more details.

Marthas Vineyard Travel Guide

Best Read Guide

Martha’s Vineyard Chamber-of-Commerce

Steve Atlas spotlights where to visit or live without depending on a private automobile. View past Car Free Journey columns, and special reports about good places to live without a car at Send your comments or ideas for future columns at­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­


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