Martha's vineyard is one of those magical places that so many hear about, but few actually visit. growing up on the west coast, i thought that only the rich, famous and snobby planned vacations to martha's vineyard - while yes, it is where obama spends his holidays - the winnetu oceanside resort and martha's vineyard quickly became one of my favorite travel destinations in new england. let me take you on my journey through an island full of history, charm, beauty and hospitality.
Obviously you have to take a ferry over to the island, but there's a few things you'll want to keep in mind as you plan your visit. Most people travel by the Steamship Authority from the Woods Hole harbor to either Oak Bluff or Vineyard Haven. The cost is $17 per person, roundtrip (an additional $100 for a vehicle) and the journey takes about 45 minutes, depending on which port you are going into. Keep in mind that you also have to pay for daily parking if you leave your vehicle at the Woods Hole parking lot. Timing is especially important because you cannot park your car at the ferry terminal, you have to park it in the designated lot, then board a bus which takes about 15 minutes to get to the dock. So I suggest getting to the parking area at least 45 minutes prior to your timed departure. Once you arrive into Martha's Vineyard there are plenty of taxis available to take you where you need to go.
Winnetu Oceanside Resort
As the only resort set on picturesque South Beach in Edgartown, The Winnetu Oceanside Resort is the perfect destination for a stay on Martha's Vineyard. The resort is made up of recently renovated, large luxury suites, private cottages and vacation homes for every size group and family. This is one of the most family friendly resorts I've probably ever been to with every amenity a family would want for a fun vacation; however, we visited in late fall after the island had said goodbye to the majority of its tourists so it was rather peaceful and romantic. Even though it was the end of the season, we were provided with top notch customer service and simply treated like family. I wholeheartedly believe that it's the people who make a place, no matter how many luxuries you stuff in it, and I was completely blown away by the warmth and care that each of the Winnetu staff showed their guests. From the down to earth, kind owners and general manager to the incredible ladies who greeted us each day at the front desk and the gift shop, and the driver who took us into town several times a day; this is a spot where you truly fall in love with the people as much as the place.
The sprawling hotel grounds are immaculate. On this peaceful and secluded part of the island, you have all of the amenities needed for both kids and adults to have a fantastic vacation without ever leaving the comfort of the resort. From the colorful adirondack chairs overlooking the turtle pond where kids can catch turtles to play with, to the swimming pool filled with floaties; the expansive library of books and movies and the life size chess board; not to forget the ping pong and foosball tables, corn hole and frisbee golf or evening s'more roast by the fire; this place truly has it all. When you are here, you feel like home (well, probably more like a really, really upgraded version of home).
The newly renovated, extra large suites are perfectly decorated in beach chic simplicity and purposely thought through to provide guests with well appointed necessities for a comfortable stay. The Chop Suites are equipped with a living room area with a television, couch and coffee table, a kitchen with full fridge, sink and stovetop and stocked with all of the basics for cooking light meals. The bedroom has an extra large television, small table and chairs, children's books on the bookshelf for those bedtime stories and even a hideaway bed that comes out of the wall if you need some extra space for stowaways. One of my favorite amenities had to be the complimentary, reusable water bottles they provide all of the guests with. Since the Martha's Vineyard tap water is actually exceptional, filtered drinking water, the resort asks guests to partner with them in doing their part to keep plastic water bottles out of landfills (and I still use it at home daily!). If you step onto your private balcony, you'll even find a set of folding lawn chairs to take out to the beach with you. It's all of these little details that make The Winnetu Resort so special.
breakfast & The Dunes
The resort offers a delicious hot breakfast with fruit, pancakes, french toast and a made-to-order omelet bar (breakfast not included in the cost of the stay during peak summer months). One of the greatest parts of the resort is that they truly cater to families, hosting a separate area for kids to eat and play with trained staff who entertain your little ones while you enjoy your meal.
The Dunes is the resort's highly acclaimed restaurant, which has been named the top foodie destination on the island. With complimentary water taxis taking guests to and from Edgartown, it's a popular hot spot so you'll want to make reservations ahead of time. I must admit that it was not open on a night we were there, so I cannot give a full review since I did not try it myself. I was told by several locals that it was spectacular and overall reviews are excellent, so you'll just have to take their word for it!
The resort also has a poolside grill and cafe to fulfill all of your meal needs.
Long, pristine expanses of beachfront are just a 3 minute stroll from the resort, through a gorgeous walkway between the trees. Because of the exclusive location on Martha's Vineyard, it's a much less crowded compared to other beaches during the peak summer months, making it that much more valuable (but don't get me wrong, it does get busy).
Sights and Activities
Although it's a small island, it's best seen with a car or scooter so that you can get to all the most beautiful locations and discover sights that will never show up on a map or quick Google search. It also embodies the true New England, countryside dream that still looks strikingly similar to the scenes in Jaws, even though it was filmed here over forty years ago. The small town, humble farmland feel was something I wasn't expecting when I envisioned the place where celebrities and presidents vacation, but it truly is a quiet place to retreat. We took an entire day to drive around exploring (plan to give yourself at least 4 hours), so here are all of my favorite stops around Martha's Vineyard.
markets and stores
There are a slew of knick knack stores and touristy shops in Wood's Hole, but with a little more effort you will find real gems hidden throughout the towns and winding country roads. As we were driving, we randomly came across Mermaid Farm, this tiny little stand on the side of the road which was easily my favorite of all of them. It seriously belongs in a country magazine - with nothing but a blackboard sign with some prices, shelves and a fridge with fresh produce and a cash box where you put your money on the honor system (no one is there to man the stand), it's an photographers dream find. Morning Glory Farm is also a wonderful local farm stand and country store that creates incredible home baked goods daily and a delicious menu of fresh, hot lunch items. We grabbed a bag of yumminess for our car ride including some berry bars and fresh made lemonade. In addition, Alley's General Store is an eclectic Vineyard staple and a fun photo op for two reasons: 1) It's one of the locations in the movie Jaws and 2) It hasn't changed much since it was filmed in Jaws! It's random to the point where you can get food, hardware and even pick up your mail; it's a bit of a cluttered mess, but also full of small town charm.
Oaks Bluff is famously known for the community of tiny, colorful gingerbread houses with a rich religious history on Martha's Vineyard. Dozens of adult sized doll houses frame the streets of this area, with various themes and decorations to catch your eye. It's a great way to pass an afternoon, walking through the tree lined streets and photographing these adorable homes.
There are a handful of unique lighthouses located all around the island with some of the best ocean views. Some even allow you to walk up them, asking for a nominal donation to continue to restore these historic landmarks. The Telegraph Hill lighthouse is my favorite for the colors and the weathered sign just outside its gate.
interesting stops along the way
You just never know what you'll find driving around. We randomly discovered a turkey farm, docks to nowhere, family roadside shops, historical sights and more that I could have never planned on. I suggest opening a map and stopping whenever you find something interesting to make it a true adventure. You can't get too lost, it's a small island after all, so don't be scared and go explore!
Martha's Vineyard has a plethora of foodie options for every taste and budget. I personally prefer the food in Edgartown, especially because of the small town feel, but no matter where you are just be sure to skip the mediocre, overpriced tourist traps along the way. Here are my personal favorites.
Atria is one of Edgartown's highest rated fine dining restaurants, set inside an old victorian style home. This is the place to go for excellent steak and candlelit dinners. During the summer, enjoy lunch out on the patio in one of the many adirondack chairs as glowing lanterns sway above your head. If you're in the mood for something more casual, head down the stairs to the Brick Cellar for a beer and burger (touted as the best burgers on the island).
The Winnetu Oceanside Resort's highly acclaimed restaurant, which has been named the top foodie destination on the island. With complimentary water taxis taking guests to and from Edgartown, it's a popular hot spot so you'll want to make reservations ahead of time. I must admit that it was not open on a night we were there, so I cannot give a full review since I did not try it myself. I was told by several locals that it was spectacular and overall reviews are excellent, so you'll just have to take their word for it!
This pub is set in one of the oldest buildings no the island and is also where you'll find locals sharing a beer and watching a game. This is a hot spot and gets busy fast, so make sure to get there early or be prepared to wait to snag a seat.
This is one of my favorite restaurants that we ate at, known for their seasonal, fresh sushi and recommended over and over again by locals on the island.
This is the place for fresh seafood right from the docks. Order a lobster cooked to your liking or grab a cup of chowder and watch the fisherman come in on their boats. Larsen's continues to be an iconic Martha's Vineyard spot for casual, delicious dining.
Get all of the recommendations above in one cool, downloadable map!