Falmouth to Martha’s Vineyard – Island Hopping New England Style

Genie Davis February 16, 2011 2 Comments

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Many people think of island vacations as always including palm trees, little grass shacks, coconuts, and tropical sunshine. But there are other island vacations that can offer a great deal of relaxing fun for you and your family…in the island communities of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, Massachusetts just off the coast of Cape Cod. Summer brings crowds of family friendly vacationers but there is plenty of space on sand and sea to enjoy. Fall and spring offer coastal waters that are a bit cooler than those on a tropical isle, but there are still plenty of great activities on and off the water in a family friendly environment. We love these islands perhaps best of all in the stormy winter, when bed and breakfasts offer cozy fireplaces and brisk walks along the coast line are rewarded with cups of hot cocoa. But whatever season you go, you’ll find a small town ambiance and the beauty of nature with plenty of accommodations and dining options to choose from. 

Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard

We loved the quiet marshland near Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard.

 

Both Nantucket and the Vineyard are reached via ferries from the Cape Cod coast or Boston harbor. We’ve reached both islands via Falmouth, on the upper cape, spending a night in Falmouth at the very pleasant Inn On The Sound, located on a bluff with a view of the Vineyard island and south. The ocean view and the easy step-out-your-door beach access makes this a special place. The rooms are large and sleek, and families are gladly accommodated. The breakfasts were indulgent; our unit featured a kitchenette which we used for snacks and creating one fresh-fish dinner, fixings purchased from a near by market. The Cape Cod National Sea Shore is a beauty of a beach, long, white, soft and sandy. Great for walks and castle building; and in the summer months the water is balmy. There’s a bike trail too. Our kids love the kitsch in and around Falmouth – mini-golf emporiums, soft serve ice cream, and ZooQuarium’s sea lion extravaganza. Okay, so it was a little hokey. It had an old-fashioned vibe and the sea creatures seemed content, the staff friendly. Best of all was a trip to the near-by Wellfleet Drive In Theater to see Toy Story 3. There’s something nearly perfect about sitting under a warm, starry sky on the roof of a rental car, watching a movie. The kids were enchanted, and I was nostalgic. 

Does any one else miss a time when drive ins were commonplace? I do, but then, piling the kids in the back seat or up on the roof with our own salt-free popcorn wouldn’t be as much of an adventure. 

In the morning we were ready to head for the islands. Hy-Line Cruises offers high speed rides that were pleasantly void of any encounters with sea sickness. We enjoyed the view and the crisp salt air and made it to Martha’s Vineyard in just under forty five minutes. 

The Vineyard has uniformly lovely beaches and several sights that wowed our family. For one, the beautifully colorful gingerbread cottages built mid-nineteenth century. For another, the enormous Aquinnah Cliffs, at the western edge of the island, which is a great spot to watch the sun set. The cliffs multi-colored striations are lovely. There are also five lighthouses to explore, arguably the most famous and certainly the most photographed, is Gay Head located adjacent to the cliffs. Our kids particularly enjoyed the Flying Horses Carousel in the town of Oak Bluffs. The oldest working merri-go-around in the U.S., it was built in 1876, and the hand carved critters are still enchanting after all these years. If you catch the brass ring, you get a free ride. One caveat: it’s open early spring through late fall only. Nearby you’ll find Mad Martha’s ice cream, which has branches in Edgartown and Vineyard Haven too. This means that when your kids get hooked on the huge cones, you can have the freshly made sweet treat all across the island. 

No trip to the Vineyard is complete without getting some muffins or a meal at the Black Dog Tavern in Vineyard Haven. This landmark has hearty food and comfortable dining; we particularly liked the vegetable soup. Our kids just had to have a hat with the famous black lab logo on it, too. 

Aquinnah cliffs and lighthouse

A great afternoon walk led us to the colorful Aquinnah cliffs and lighthouse.

 

One last well known Vineyard food stop: Murdicks Fudge. Like Mad Martha’s the rich deserts here are available in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven. Our kids loved the pecan fudge, and we all enjoyed watching the confectioners stir up their sweet magic, mixing and carving the fudge. 

After consuming all these sugary treats, we needed to walk off the calories and let the kids burn off some steam. Great beach walks are everywhere; we found town strolls are most enjoyable in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. We enjoyed browsing shops selling tee shirts, blown glass, fishing gear, and fine art. If walking’s not your thing, you can rent a 4 x 4 and ride along the dunes near Katama at the southern end of the island. Or, you can rent a multi-person kayak to explore Edgartown Harbor, or reedy Sengecontacket Pond. We’d intended to do both, but got sidetracked by watching a herd of alpaca at Island Alpaca. Besides an alpaca viewing area there’s a gift store with hats and blankets made of course from alpaca fur. Alpacas look like diminutive llamas and even the adults on our trip enjoyed watching the babies nuzzle their mommas. 

We were side tracked again by some great conversation and afternoon tea and lemonade on the comfortable porch at our bed and breakfast, the Crocker House Inn. Located in a residential neighborhood in Vineyard Haven, this ferry-convenient spot also had an excellent breakfast the next morning, and cozy, quiet rooms. Our room had a king bed and a sleeper sofa along with a lovely harbor view. 

Even without a palm tree in sight, our island stay at Martha’s Vineyard was an unmitigated delight.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

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2 Comments to “Falmouth to Martha’s Vineyard – Island Hopping New England Style”
  1. avatar Nantucket Massachusetts - Island Hopping New England Style says:

    [...] to the more frequented Martha’s Vineyard. Confession time: as much as my family and I enjoy Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket is our favorite New England isle. There’s more open space, less people. Longer [...]

  2. avatar Barbara Ronchetti says:

    So glad you could visit our Alpaca Farm. I do hope you can visit again!
    We will have our shearing day this April on the 23rd– A fun event for family and friends!! Best greetings, Barbara