Day Trip to Martha's Vineyard
Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard
Question: We have our cottage already booked in Yarmouth Port. We are planning a day trip to Martha's Vineyard. What is the most economical way to get there from where we are staying and is there plenty to do there for the day??
My husband keeps asking me what we are going to do there. Our 2 girls, ages 7 and 11, will be with us as well.
Dee's Reply: Hi Melitsa - Please tell your husband I said not to worry. It's virtually impossible to be bored on a day trip to Martha's Vineyard!
First, let me answer your travel question ...
The Least Expensive Way to Get to Martha's Vineyard
Purely in terms of ticket cost, the cheapest way to get there is on Steamship Authority's ferry that leaves from Woods Hole, a village in the town of Falmouth. This season's (2015) ticket prices are $17/adult and $9/child ages 5-12, round trip. Add in $15 for parking, and that comes to $67 for you, your hubby, and your girls.
Next is HyLine's traditional ferry from Hyannis. Adult round-trip fares are $45 each. Kids aged 12 and under ride free.
Since your girls would qualify for free fare, you'd only need two adult tickets. You can usually find free parking within walking distance from the ferry pier. Otherwise, there's $15/day parking at Hyannis Transportation Center. So you'd be looking at about $100 for ferry tickets and parking if you leave from Hyannis.
It might seem like a no-brainer to take the ferry from Woods Hole because it costs less. But, there's something else to think about: driving distances.
From Yarmouth Port to Woods Hole is about 30 miles. From Yarmouth Port to Hyannis is only about 7 miles.
Is it worth paying a little extra to avoid driving all the way to Falmouth and back? That's something to consider.
Okay. Now on to ...
Things to Do on Your Martha's Vineyard Day Trip
Part of the fun of a trip to Martha's Vineyard is the boat ride itself. Relax, enjoy the scenery, and snap some gorgeous photos!
For your day on the Vineyard, you have a couple options: Guided Tours
A number of companies offer guided tours of the highlights of Martha's Vineyard.
Guided tours aren't cheap. They run from around $35 per person for a 2-3 hour group tour to $80+ per hour for a private tour. But when you're somewhere you've never been before, and you only have a limited time there, it's really nice to have a local guide to show you around.DIY Sightseeing
The most economical way to see the island is by using the public transportation system.
Vineyard Transit Authority's shuttle buses are top-notch, easy to use, and very inexpensive. For just $8 per person, you can ride around the island, stopping in whatever town you'd like for a little sightseeing, shopping, a bite to eat, or a dip in the ocean.
Don't worry, you won't get lost. The bus drivers are great about answering questions and pointing you in the right direction!
FYI: Vineyard Transit Authority's Self-Guided Tour Itinerary
My Suggestions for Your Day Trip
If you take an early ferry over and stay until late afternoon, you'll have enough time to see and do quite a bit without totally exhausting yourselves.
Here are a few of our family's favorite places to visit and things to do on Martha's Vineyard. Oak Bluffs
If you take a ferry into the port of Oak Bluffs, you'll arrive in the busiest (and some would say "most touristy") town on MV.
Personally, I love OB! It's an active town with tons of history, amazing architecture, and a great variety of shops and restaurants.
A couple things to put on your "Must See" list for Oak Bluffs are the Martha's Vineyard Campmeeting Association and the Flying Horses Carousel.
The Campmeeting Association is a neighborhood of several hundred little Victorian cottages that date back to the 1800s. They're sooooo adorable, all decked out in gingerbread trim and painted in the most glorious pastel colors.
One of the cottages has been turned into a museum where, for just a few dollars, you can go inside and learn about "cottage life" back in the day.
Here's a link to the MVCMA's website: Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association
The Flying Horses is another historic attraction that's a "must see" - and a must ride
! It's the oldest still-working Platform Carousel in the country, built in 1876.
One of the really cool things about the carousel is its brass ring mechanism. If you're lucky enough to catch a brass ring as you ride around, you win a free ride.
Oh, and the horses are gorgeous. They have real horsehair manes, tails, and forelocks. You don't see that at modern-day amusement parks!
Have a look here: Flying Horses Carousel
You'll also want to spend some time traipsing up and down Circuit Avenue. That's the town's main shopping, dining, and people-watching street.
It's all right there for you when you get off the ferry in Oak Bluffs. No cab required, everything I've mentioned is within easy walking distance.
Here's more about the town: Oak BluffsEdgartown
To see an entirely different aspect of Martha's Vineyard, hop on the bus or grab a cab and head to Edgartown. It's the most elegant town on the island - an entirely different atmosphere from Oak Bluffs.
Edgartown is full of beautiful old sea captains' homes that date back to the days when this was one of the most important whaling ports in the US. It's still an important port in the 21st century ... for wealthy vacationers who bring their pleasure yachts to the Vineyard for the summer. (Another great photo op!)
In Edgartown, the Martha's Vineyard Museum is a great place to learn about the history of the island. It's not a huge commitment of time to go
through the museum's buildings and exhibits. An hour should be plenty.
Here's a link to: Martha's Vineyard Museum's Permanent Exhibits
There are also some lovely shops, boutiques, galleries, and restaurants in downtown Edgartown, too. Just be prepared: Edgartown is considerably more upscale than Oak Bluffs, with prices to match.
That's not to say you can't find a moderately priced lunch or souvenir in Edgartown. You can. It's just easier to do in Oak Bluffs. ;-)Aquinnah
In the town of Aquinnah (formerly called "Gay Head"), way out on the western end of the island, is one of the most breathtaking sights you'll see anywhere - the clay cliffs of Gay Head.
It's a bit of a jaunt out to Aquinnah - 45 minutes or more from Oak Bluffs - but it's well worth the trip if you have time to do it!
The cliffs are a geological marvel created over 10,000 years ago when the glaciers receded in this part of the world at the end of the Ice Age.
From the top of the cliffs, you can see Gay Head Lighthouse and have a panoramic view out to sea.
If you take the 10-15 minute walk down the boardwalk to the beach and look back at the cliffs, you'll see layers of sediment and clay that were deposited over thousands of years. It's absolutely fascinating! And yes ... another wonderful photo op!!
BTW: This is sacred land for Martha's Vineyard's native Wampanoag tribe. They own the cliffs, and they're the only ones who are allowed to remove any clay from the cliffs.
As tempting as it might be, don't take even a tiny bit as a souvenir. This national landmark is eroding, year after year, from wind and waves. We have to continue protecting it - and give due respect to the tribe!
Here's more about: Gay Head Cliffs
and The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head
A Few More Things About Martha's VineyardBeaches
Unlike Cape Cod where most public beaches are open to everyone, many beaches on Martha's Vineyard are open only to town residents and visitors who are staying in the town.
If you do want to visit a beach while you're there, one that I'd recommend is Joseph Sylvia State Beach. It's a large, pretty beach with nice sand and relatively warm water. It spans from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown. You can get there by cab or by bus from either town. The "Jaws Bridge"
I know this was well before your kids' time, but I wonder if you and your hubby are fans of the old classic movie Jaws
? If so, then you might get a kick out of seeing one of the most famous locations on the island - the American Legion Memorial Bridge, fondly known in these parts as the "Jaws Bridge".
For many visitors to the island (and many locals, too!) it's a big deal to see where the movie was filmed ... and to jump off Jaws Bridge into the waters below. Additional Martha's Vineyard Information
As far as I know, the new edition of the official Martha's Vineyard Travel Guide isn't out yet. You can see the most recent edition here
It's an excellent resource for learning about Martha's Vineyard!
So ... that's just a smattering of my thoughts and ideas for your day trip to Martha's Vineyard.
If you have any other questions about the island, or about your visit to Cape Cod, please don't hesitate to ask!!