Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket:
These Summer islands are waiting for
By Max Hartshorne, GoNOMAD
These islands are the jewels of the New England coast, with wonderful
beaches, clean streets, friendly people and are both top notch travel
experiences -- each island has its own inexpensive hostels so you can experience
the community of travel for a very low cost. These Massachusetts islands
are the vacation choice of many of the rich and famous, but their charms
are also easily available to the rest of us.
These are summer islands--the hostels are open from April through October,
so any other time of the year is not recommended. But remember you have
to take ferries to get to both, so check the schedules and bring your
Martha's Vineyard is served by many ferry services, the biggest one being
the MV and Nantucket Steamship Authority, (steamshipauthority.com) departing for MV out of Woods Hole, near Falmouth, and both high speed
and slower ferries out of Hyannis on Cape Cod serve Nantucket. Hyline
Cruises (website) also serves MV from Hyannis and operates an inter-island ferry between
the two islands during the summer months. One secret known mostly to island
working commuters is the Patriot Party Boats, that offers a $6 one-way
between Falmouth and Oak Bluffs on a small boat starting hourly at 3:30
am. (800-734-0088). The MV Quickwater leaves from the Fishing Pier in
Falmouth. Cape Air has daily flights from Hyannis and Boston, 800-352-0714, capeair.com, and Bonanza Bus
lines serves Woods Hole with daily service from Boston. (bonanzabus.com)
The best part of Nantucket are the beaches...they are everywhere, practically
every edge of the small island is a beach, and there are no private ones
despite the evident wealth. Nantucket's Star of the Sea Hostel is literally,
a stone's throw from a beautiful wide-open beach, called Surfside.
are miles and miles of bike trails on both islands, and Nantucket has
a old fashioned downtown with cobblestone streets and perfectly preserved
17th and 18th century houses. There's no tacky fast food nor anything
else that would be considered "eyesores." The views of the yachts
and other boats on Straight Wharf are lovely.
Vineyard, about twice as large, has great waterfront places to hang out,
especially Oak Bluffs Harbor and downtown Edgartown. The Edgartown Town
Wharf has a rooftop deck that affords an pleasing view of the lighthouse,
Cape Pogue and the harbor.
Many fishing vessels tie up here, and you can
also watch the tiny On Time car ferry shuttle back and forth between Edgartown
and Chappaquidick, the island on the other side of the harbor. The Oak
Bluffs harbor side is ringed by tied up fishing, pleasure and sail boats,
and has a few eateries with al fresco bars, Fishbones and Coop de Ville
and the new Menemsha Blues, are the places to check out. The middle of
the 26-mile long island is full of beautiful country vistas, stone walls
and glimpses of the beautiful blue sea.
a small fishing village at the western end of MV, provides the ultimate
seafood lovers' fantasy. Larsen's Seafood offers cooked lobsters and fresh-shucked
Littleneck clams or oysters on the halfshell, and you can enjoy them right
out on the wharf, or better, while the sun sets on the nearby beach. They
also have other hot seafoods you can bring out to the beach to enjoy.
You can take a bus from West Tisbury to Menemsha and Gay Head, where there
are massive red clay cliffs and the island's only nude beach. Go to the
far right end if you want to disrobe.
The libraries in both islands are wonderful, cool oases; Nantucket's Athenaeum
has high ceilings and plenty of computers you can use to check your email.
(Get a CLAMS library card; first, these are good on any island or Cape
Edgartown's library is open late some nights and has a
round reference room that is cozy and a great place to curl up with a
book. Getting time on the Internet terminals in Edgartown is a little
tougher, with less space and only four terminals for patrons to sign up
for. Oak Bluffs library is not open as many hours but has Internet terminals
as well. You can also check email in Edgartown at the Mailroom, Triangle
Plaza, and $6 for 20 minutes.
watching on both islands are one of the most enjoyable things to do, there
is a constant parade of people walking by, and lots of leafy areas with
benches to relax and just watch the passing parade. Main Street in each
town provides good viewing.
To find out what's going on, you can pick
up a free copy of the weekly Martha's
Vineyard Times, inside all the goings on are listed as well as
a vigorous letters to the editor section with islanders squaring off on
all the important issues like the Steamship Authority, the latest golf
course development, or the ongoing battle over a smoking ban in Oak Bluffs.
Nantucket's staid Inquirer and Mirror is another good source, or
on Martha's Vineyard, consult the Vineyard
Gazette, equally old and wide as the Mirror. Good websites about
the islands are listed at right. The Best Guides you can pick up anywhere
have a lot of basic information for the traveler.
are the kinds of places where it is best to hope that a relative or an
old school chum is going to rent a house. And hopefully you can get an
invite. Otherwise, here are the options for those not connected with folks
they can visit.
The Star of the Sea Youth Hostel, on Nantucket, is located a stone's throw
from a gorgeous beach, and is a great place to meet people and enjoy cheap
lodgings. Sure, it isn't fancy, you have to sleep in single-sex dorms,
and the bunk beds aren't the most comfy, but this is Nantucket-and the
price here is only $22 per night. Splurge on lobster that you can cook
yourself in the communal kitchen.
Mail Address: 31 Western Avenue
Nantucket, Massachusetts 02554
In Martha's Vineyard, there is a bigger hostel that is located smack in
the center of the island, in West Tisbury. Edgartown-West Tisbury Road,
Mail Address: Box 3158 West, Tisbury, Massachusetts 02575
hostel is another great place where you get Spartan quarters in return
for very low prices and a chance to meet and mingle with international
guests, families, and other great travelers. You can make a meal in their
spacious kitchen, and share a cab into town to have some beers. Just remember
to get back before they lock the place for the night!
If the hostels
aren't your thing, there are some inexpensive lodging options but these
are rare. Try the Nantucket Inn at the airport or a smaller B&B in town.
Haven, on Martha's Vineyard, one reasonable motel option is the Harbor
Landing, with room rates from $120-150 during the season, near the water.
PO Box 1935
Vineyard Haven, MA 02568
low priced hotel right on the water is the MV Surfside Motel, where clean
comfortable rooms are about $150 nightly, located right across from the
ferry terminal in Oak Bluffs. 508-693-2500. Pets are also welcome. Great website!. This hotel has amazing water views for very low prices.
a lot of diversions on the islands; Nantucket is famous for the Muse,
with live music, as well as music at the "World Famous Chicken Box,"
out on Chins Way near the Stop and Shop. The Vineyard has the Atlantic
Connection for 20-something dance scene, and the Hot Tin Roof, where national
acts perform in a huge hangar-like bar next to the MV Airport. Call ahead
for the shows, or check them in the local MV Times newspaper.
One of our
favorite spots in Nantucket is an Irish bar frequented by all of the locals,
mostly Irish workers. It is called the Bamboo Supper Club. It's a fun
place to hang out. In Edgartown, there is the Boathouse Bar, right on
the harbor, for high priced drinks but wonderfully woody, nautical atmo.
In Oak Bluffs, nothing is finer than a cold beer at the Lookout Tavern,
with a wooden railed porch with a killer ocean view of the passing steamships,
yachts and fishing vessels.
The Vineyard Playhouse has some top notch theatrical presentations throughout
the season. Visit their website vineyardplayhouse.org for schedules and show information.
Nantucket's other fun spot used to be the Atlantic Café, the "dean"
of island restaurants and a friendly place to have a burger and beer at
the bar. Both islands have movie theaters with first run films, and the
people watching at any hour of the day in Nantucket town or Oak Bluffs
is always a hoot. It's now under new management and will reopen with a new name in 2009.
you either breakfast at the Hen House, on Chins Way, or at the Downyflake Restaurant, on Sparks Ave. At the Hen House, they have filling offerings
and newspapers. At the 'Flake, they make their own heavenly donuts, and
give Krispy Kreme a run for the money. Breakfast and lunch at either one
of these places will be relatively cheap.
the locals come to the Dockside Coffee Shop. It's a hole in the wall right
across from the Navigator, and it seems like the kind of place, with its
counter and small no frills menu, that fishermen would frequent. Up island,
the locals come to the Woodland Variety and Grilll, near the Black Dog restaurant on State Road.
But more and more of the locals on MV are from
Brazil. Thousands of landscapers, carpenters, waitresses, dishwashers,
chambermaids and other workers come to the island and are eagerly snapped
up for the many service jobs. Because of this, there are many stores offering
Brazilian foods, goods and wire services.
In Nantucket there are many
Jamaicans working in the same way, enough of a population to make a real
difference. Both the Jamaicans and the Brazilians add a needed diversity
that is sorely lacking in these old New England islands.
A stellar restaurant with a reputation that makes New Yorkers and locals
still flock there each night is Bittersweet, in West Tisbury. Make a
reservation, bring a lot of cash and a few bottles of wine to this BYOB
temple of dining. 688 State Rd, 508-696-3966.
For a fun summer memory in Nantucket, head out west to Madaket to the West End. This beachy cool joint has a second floor dining room and bar with a magnificent view of the sunset each night. You'll bask in the glow of the beautiful people as you sample the local ale, wine or even vodka, all made on Nantucket by Cisco Brewers.
Nantucket Regional Transit Authority
The Nantucket Regional Transit Authority Shuttle provides seasonal shuttle service on Nantucket. The Shuttle makes it even easier to leave your car at home when you visit the island and is a safe and convenient mode of transportation that helps control traffic congestion.
Shuttle service runs from the end of May to the end of September, from 7 A.M. to 11:30 P.M. Dates and times may vary depending on route. All Shuttle buses are handicap-accessible and equipped with bicycle racks that carry two bikes. Paratransit service is available with 48 hour notice by calling 508-325-7516. For general information and great maps to the bike trails, bus routes and schedules, visit wheelsheelsandpedals.com
Park and Ride areas are available along the routes. Designated Shuttle stops are conveniently located along each route; look for the grey posts with red and maroon stripes. Pass options are available. Elderly and disabled van service is also available, call 508.325.7516.
Visit the NRTA's website for more information at shuttlenantucket.com.
Both islands are ideal for biking: Lots of flat land, and miles of paved
bike paths. In Nantucket, you can rent a bike at Young's Cycle on Steamship
Wharf, or at Wheel Happy in Edgartown on MV, or at one of the many shops
in Vineyard Haven near the ferry terminal.
If you do bring your car (call for reservations ahead of time--$55 for
car $5.50 for people, one way) and own a four-wheel drive, permits for
driving on the marked beach paths of the Nantucket Conservation Foundation
properties (Coatue Wildlife Refuge, The Trustee's of the Reservation's
Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services
National Wildlife Refuge at Great Point) are obtained from the NCF at
228-2884 or the Refuge Reception Station in Wauwinet from June to September,
Four-wheel Drive Vehicle Permits for driving on town-owned beaches
(Cisco, Dionis, Madaket, Siasconset, Smith's Point, Surfside) are obtained
at the Police Department, 20 South Water Street, 228-1212. On MV, consult
the Trustees of Reservations for permits 508-693-7662.
Money and Communications
everywhere, and credit cards are also pretty much universally accepted.
For Internet and email, visit the library, or on MV, go to the Mailroom
at Edgartown, Triangle Plaza, 508-627-7704. On Nantucket, visit Internet
Café, 2 Union St., 508-228-6777. Don't forget your cell phone charger!
the possibility that those fears about sharks portrayed in the movie "Jaws"
come true, these islands are pretty darn safe. Hitchhiking can also be
recommended, even women pick you up. There is a generally accepted belief
that it is an ok way to get around, so give it a try! There is a small
but good hospital on both islands.
Max Hartshorne, shown here with his grandson Nathan, is the editor of GoNOMAD. His last trip was to Cyprus, his next will be to Austria. He writes his blog Readuponit every day in South Deerfield, MA.
Visit our Max Hartshorne Page with links to all his stories.
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