Martha’s Vineyard, USA

22 May 2012

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I had always dreamt of visiting Martha’s Vineyard, though it never quite occurred to me that an opportunity to actually do so would ever arise. The closest we had come once was when planning our honeymoon which eventually took place on the neighbouring island of Nantucket. But last summer, faced with the choice of returning to the idyllic comfort of Nantucket or visiting Martha’s Vineyard as a new destination, we suddenly found ourselves with a difficult decision on our hands. A Google search on “Nantucket vs Martha’s Vineyard” returned various forums and pages where people hotly debated the pros and cons of each destination. Being rather risk-averse, we made a safe bet in returning to Nantucket, but delighted in the discovery that a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard was possible via a short splash across the waters with Cape Air.

Martha’s Vineyard is not really a vineyard. Actually, I’m not sure if I saw any vineyards when we were there, so don’t expect a vast and sprawling wine region with scenic vineyards at every turn. What you can expect, rather, is an affluent island, home to high-profile personalities and a second home to many more celebrities.

The first thing you notice about Martha’s Vineyard upon arriving is the lush greenery and the expanse of the island. Whilst one could easily ride a bicycle along the relatively flat terrain of one end of Nantucket to the other in a few hours, the same could not be said about its neighbour; a car or scooter is perhaps the preferred mode of transport on Martha’s Vineyard. Our taxi driver happily gave us tips on what to see and do during our day trip, even driving by the major landmarks before dropping us off near Oak Bluffs, one of the main towns on the island.

Upon our taxi driver’s recommendation, we first set off on foot to have a look at the Carpenter-Gothic cottages (or the gingerbread cottage houses) in Oak Bluffs, an area which looked like a movie-set given the many ornately and perfectly decorated small houses. I have to admit that it was a rather eery sight to see grown-ups living in tiny cottages resembling life-sized doll-houses, made somewhat more uncomfortable when we overheard residents sitting on their teeny-tiny porches telling people off for riding their bikes instead of walking them through the area … we quickly sensed that this little village was riddled with rules from everything concerning the facades of the homes to how the gardens should be manicured. But it was fascinating at the same time to see how loyal and passionate the locals were in maintaining their unique little community.

Having spent most of the week on Nantucket where we had gotten around either on foot or by bicycle, Martha’s Vineyard felt like a much busier and traffic-dense town. The place felt like most other seaside beach towns with lots of tourists walking around casually in their swimwear and flip-flops, queuing up at the local ice-cream establishments for a cool treat.

Hubby and I took a short stroll around the main street of Oak Bluffs and, tucked away at one end of Circuit Avenue, we came across the cute and quiet Slice of Life, the perfect place to stop in for a quick coffee and perhaps a late breakfast. We settled for ordering one serving of biscuits with bacon and eggs to share, anticipating that the usual American-sized portions would be too much for us, but were then somewhat disappointed to find that the servings were actually rather small (or normal, depending where you come from). But a second order settled any pangs of hunger and we were then ready to explore the rest of Martha’s Vineyard.

We walked around towards the pier, admiring the luxury yachts before noticing the large tourist buses which were getting ready to leave. An impromptu decision was made and we suddenly found ourselves on a 2 hour trip around the island in an old, large coach with a dozen other tourists. Our driver gave an almost non-stop commentary for the full duration of the tour, providing endless details about the uniqueness of Martha’s Vineyard and why it remains such an exclusive destination, shunning the commercialism associated with the fast food restaurants and fashion chain stores which have populated the rest of the country.

Despite that, most of his commentary revolved around the latest celebrity sightings, filling us in on who lived where, which driveway belonged to whom (many houses are nicely shielded by dense foliage, probably against nosey tourists like us), which US president went where for his favourite ice-cream (Mad Martha’s, we were told), where Jaws was filmed and what other movies had been shot on the island. If our bus driver was any indication of the locals, I think they love their celebrities.

I think my favourite part of Martha’s Vineyard was Edgartown, a picturesque area with charming-looking homes, some old, some very grand. The traffic was quite busy in this area but there are lots of lovely little restaurants and cafés in the area, together with some interesting little boutiques if you are in the mood for some shopping. We stumbled across a store selling various sorts of items made from wood and which was closing down, and I happily selected a bread board made from cherry wood (which hubby carried, not so happily, for the rest of the trip!).

Back in Oak Bluffs, we took a late lunch at Nancy’s, a famous local establishment overlooking the water. Not surprisingly, they specialise in seafood and I always have a soft spot for fish and chips. Hubby settled for the bacon-wrapped scallops as a light lunch which were very tasty.

If you ever need to consider summer holiday destinations on the east coast of the US, Martha’s Vineyard is certainly worth a visit. But if you had to choose between Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard? Without any hesitation, I would recommend … Nantucket.

For us, Nantucket is the ideal destination if you want to visit a small, secluded island where there are less people and almost everything is within walking distance. It is much smaller than Martha’s Vineyard, which is great if you don’t have a car or want a break from driving. What says holiday more than peddling a bicycle down to the beach with a beach towel and a packed lunch in the woven basket attached to the handlebars?

Martha’s Vineyard is much bigger and much busier. Although it is still a fun and relaxing place to visit, the sight of the many over-bearing SUVs makes you feel like you haven’t quite gotten away from the city. And because of that, Martha’s Vineyard doesn’t ooze that island-get-away feeling that Nantucket does so well.

But there are pros and cons to both islands. Martha’s Vineyard is by far the more popular island and there are certainly good reasons why. But if I had to be selfish, I wouldn’t mind if Nantucket remained the lesser-known island …

Has anyone been to either Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard, or both? Do you have a preference?

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Sophie 22 May 2012 at 10:52 pm

It looks like a beautiful place to visit. I’m off to America next Friday but sadly won’t be able to add this to my trip. x

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eat, little bird 22 May 2012 at 10:56 pm

Oh I love visiting the US! Have a safe and fun trip!!

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Jennifer (Delicieux) 23 May 2012 at 1:01 am

I’ve always heard people talk about how beautiful Martha’s Vineyard is but I never realised just how beautiful. Thanks for sharing Thanh! My fiance and I are going to the US next year for our honeymoon and this would be a wonderful place to visit. And those little “gingerbread” cottages are just SO adorable and immaculately maintained!!

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eat, little bird 23 May 2012 at 12:17 pm

If you get a chance to visit Martha’s Vineyard, it’s definitely worth it. There’s much to see, even if you are only there for 1 day. Have fun planning your honeymoon!

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manu 23 May 2012 at 8:06 am

Beautiful!!!!
I’ve been there too and I ate an ice cream exactly like yours!!!
I had fun…
Have a nice day

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eat, little bird 23 May 2012 at 12:19 pm

There’s something about the ice-cream on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket … for some reason it tastes so good when you are near the beach :-)

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Julia Levy 23 May 2012 at 9:29 am

As you know my heart is in P-Town but Nantucket is next on my list to visit. I had always wanted to spend time in MV but actually now I’ve read your blog I’m not so fussed. Maybe a day trip as you did but not to stay as I always like the quiet foot and pedal led existence of the other places.

Gorgeous pics, as always :o)

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eat, little bird 23 May 2012 at 12:22 pm

I must visit P-town the next time we are in the area – I’m sure it would be well worth checking out upon your suggestion :-) I’m not sure if our experience of Martha’s Vineyard felt busy because we were only there for a day trip, but Nantucket is certainly much quieter and more relaxing, I think. That said, Martha’s Vineyard is still a really fun place to visit.

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Kristin 23 May 2012 at 10:54 am

I’d never heard about those cottages on Martha’s Vineyard – thank you for sharing your gorgeous photos from your trip! I have serious vacation envy now.

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eat, little bird 23 May 2012 at 12:25 pm

I always find taxi drivers to be very resourceful when it comes to touristy tips! I was in Luxembourg once for work just for the day and wanted to go downtown to look around before heading to the airport, and the taxi driver ended up giving me a sightseeing trip with great recommendations on shops and restaurants for the little time I had. He dropped me off and even agreed to meet me after a few hours to take me to the airport!

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Saffron 23 May 2012 at 2:08 pm

Lovely pictures, Thann. I am loving the little cottages, Its a shame I haven’t been there as I stay just 4 hours away from this lovely destination. You have inspired me to plan a vacation to Martha’s vineyard & Nantucket. I’ll take a note from your blog before my trip!! Thanks for sharing your experience and gorgeous pictures of your trip.

Saffron

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eat, little bird 23 May 2012 at 6:28 pm

Oh you won’t be disappointed with either Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket! They are such wonderful holiday destinations … I hope we will have a chance to go back again soon :-)

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Paula 23 May 2012 at 2:45 pm

What a photos!! Nice place!! Thanks for share with us! ;)
And… yeah, when I saw the title I thought on vineyards :P
And what about that houses??? They’re soooooooo cute!! When you are there, I imagine you want to go into one of them and see they are real!! I love them!!

Now, I’m going to see the post you published last year about Nantucket, I’m sure it will be also a nice place ;)

Sorry again for my english! And this is the last time I regret, I think you’ll notice alwasy my mistakes, no need I say nothing :P

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eat, little bird 23 May 2012 at 6:27 pm

Thanks, Paula! The gingerbread houses were quite cute, though some of them looked a bit over-the-top for me! I imagine they would be teeny tiny inside but, as real people actually live in these cottages, we unfortunately couldn’t look inside.

And like I said before, no need to apologise for your English :-) Goodness, if I were to write in French or German, it would be riddled with mistakes!

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Jo Blogs Jo Bakes 23 May 2012 at 3:39 pm

Thanh, I feel the disappointment in your voice reading this review of MV compared to Nantucket (that post of yours on Nantucket – wow!). Sure, you are positive about the place and enjoyed your trip there but I can see your heart belongs to Nantucket. One day I shall travel the USA and look to you for tips on where to go! You really should have your own travel and food magazine Thanh – you’re so fabulous at travel writing, cooking and the food photography goes without saying :) x

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eat, little bird 23 May 2012 at 6:32 pm

I wouldn’t say that Martha’s Vineyard disappointed me, more that I was relieved that we chose Nantucket :-) But maybe Nantucket holds a special place in my heart anyway because we took our honeymoon there? Regardless, I’m quite happy that we got a chance to visit Martha’s Vineyard and although my preference would be Nantucket, I would still highly recommend Martha’s Vineyard. Perhaps the experience would have been different if we had stayed longer?

I actually dream of having my own foodie magazine! And a travel section would mean that I get to travel to destinations of my choice for the sake of research ;-) We can only dream, can’t we? ;-)

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Jo Blogs Jo Bakes 23 May 2012 at 7:07 pm

Exactamundo – now we just need someone to fund your travel “research” Thanh ;)

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eat, little bird 23 May 2012 at 7:12 pm

I’m open to all offers!! Hopefully I can bring a foodie buddy on such important trips – one person can’t sample everything on the menu ;-)

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Jo Blogs Jo Bakes 23 May 2012 at 7:33 pm

Lol – you’ll have to rotate us all, especially us lasses with our own blogs – we need the inspiration to keep our ideas fresh ;)

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Heather 23 May 2012 at 5:42 pm

Oh wow, this place looks dreamy.

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eat, little bird 23 May 2012 at 6:32 pm

Oh it is! I just love the east coast of the US :-)

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Anita Menon 23 May 2012 at 10:30 pm

Looks like a beautiful, scenic place to visit. Love the photos. I want to go for a vacation NOW

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eat, little bird 24 May 2012 at 10:20 pm

You will definitely feel like you are on vacation on Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket :-)

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Reem | Simply Reem 24 May 2012 at 9:36 pm

I am so looking forward to visiting Martha vineyards this summer..
This look spectacular!!!
East coast is really beautiful…

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eat, little bird 24 May 2012 at 10:22 pm

Oh you are going to Martha’s Vineyard this summer? Lucky you!! Have a great time!

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Anna @The Littlest Anchovy 25 May 2012 at 4:17 am

I am visiting the east coast of America in September but sadly I wont get to go here. I am glad I was able to read about it here though!

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eat, little bird 25 May 2012 at 10:47 am

Ah but how wonderful that you will be travelling to such a beautiful part of America! Whereabouts are you travelling? Will you have a special blog post for this trip?? :-)

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Liz Headon 27 May 2012 at 10:41 pm

It looks very pretty, but perhaps a bit too much of the film set about it for it to feel real, would you say ? It certainly strikes me as an “only in America…” kind of place.

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eat, little bird 27 May 2012 at 10:46 pm

The gingerbread cottages are certainly an “only in America” experience! But the rest of the island is quite beautiful with lots of greenery. The only developed areas we saw were the big, fancy homes which obviously belong to wealthy owners and/or celebrities. You don’t see the same mansions and palaces on Nantucket and, furthermore, Nantucket seems to be stricter in enforcing that all homes have to have the same grey shingles. This certainly adds to the look and feel of Nantucket which is much more unique compared to Martha’s Vineyard.

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Char-in-sydney 26 February 2013 at 9:54 am

so happy to stumble across your wonderful site, Thanh!
another beautiful place is added on my wish list and so inspired with the wonderful and exciting photos here….
can’t wait to keep reading more stuff here…..

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eat, little bird 27 February 2013 at 3:30 pm

Thank you for popping by! I hope you will enjoy browsing my blog.

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Jane 4 March 2013 at 8:11 pm

Hi Thanh,
My name is Jane and I’m with Dwellable.
I was looking for blogs about Martha’s Vineyard to share on our site and I came across your post…If you’re open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
Hope to hear from you soon!
Jane

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