October 17, 2012

Martha's Vineyard

During Pattie’s visit we also visited Martha’s Vineyard. To reach the island we had to take an hour long ferry. Monday, when we made the voyage from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven (one of the six towns on the island), the ocean was really choppy and the ferry rocked back and forth on the waves. On the way out there I entertained myself by watching for lighthouses off of the back deck. We spotted the Nobska lighthouse, the West Chop and the East Chop lighthouses, as well as several fishing boats.

The ferry to Martha's Vineyard from Wood's Hole to Vineyard Haven
The ferry to Martha's Vineyard
View of Nobska lighthouse off of the Martha's Vineyard ferry
Nobska lighthouse
View of West Chop lighthouse off of the Martha's Vineyard ferry
West Chop lighthouse
The view of Vineyard Haven's harbor from the Martha's Vineyard ferry
Pulling into Vineyard Haven's harbor
Vineyard Haven turned out to be a harbor town overrun with touristy attractions. There was a main shopping street with lots of import shops, cafes and ice cream parlors. We strolled the shops for a bit and then stopped in at the waterside Black Dog Tavern for lunch. Most the island’s attractions were closed for the season, including public restrooms. We even had a hard time finding a place to eat for lunch, as most cafes and restaurants were either closed or operating under limited hours.

Main Street in Vineyard Haven on Martha's Vineyard
Walking on Main St. in Vineyard Haven
After our very filling lunch of fish and chips and chowda’, we caught the local bus to Oak Bluffs, the next town over. There was a boardwalk along the harbor there and we decided to check that our first. On our way there we walked along the ocean on the retaining wall. Among the massive clumps of dried up seaweed we spotted collections of sea shells. These sea shells were nothing to write home about, but at least they were there. Most of the other beaches we’d visited in New England had either very little sea shells or all the shells were cracked and broken. Pattie had had a dream of collecting some sea shells to take home, so we all took turns looking for the best and most interesting shells.

Cup of Chowda at the Black Dog Tavern
Cup of Chowda at the Black Dog Tavern
Huge plate of fish and chips at the Black Dog Tavern
Pattie and a huge plate of fish and chips at the Black Dog Tavern 
Walking on the ocean retaining wall in Oak Bluffs
Walking on the seawall in Oak Bluffs
Sea shells on the beach in Oak Bluffs
Oak Bluffs also had a main street for shopping, Circuit Avenue. We explored some of the stores, but mostly it was nicknack items that we were not interested in buying.  We did find some funny coffee cups that had the famous Martha’s Vineyard Black Dog picture, but instead of Black Dog the cups had Bad Dog inscribed on them. We almost got one, but then realized it was only an 8oz cup…Who drinks only 8oz of coffee in the morning? We prefer the hearty 12oz mugs, if not 16oz. Might as well start the day with a bang, right?

The one redeeming factor that Oak Bluffs had going for it was the super cute village of colorful gingerbread homes at the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association, also known as the Campground. The 34 acre oak grove was developed as a Methodist summer campground just after the Civil War. At the center is a church tabernacle, surrounded by very colorful and ornate tiny homes. They are known to the locals as the gingerbread homes. We had fun walking around and picking our favorites out of the many homes on the lot. I would bet that there is not a single house alike to another one in the group.

Gingerbread homes in Oak Bluffs
Gingerbread homes in Oak Bluffs 
Gingerbread homes in Oak Bluffs
Colorful, tiny homes!
Overall I found Martha’s Vineyard to be lacking in authenticity. I had pictured large manicured estates, exclusive restaurants and gorgeous sprawling beaches, something akin to what we’d seen on the shores of Orange County, or maybe in Santa Barbara. What we found instead was touristy shopping districts overrun with tourists just like us, even in the off season. I imagine that my experiences would have been quiet different if I had come to the island to visit someone who owned a summer home, and who had access to the behind the scenes attractions. But since we were just tourists, and because we came in the off season, we only saw the lackluster side of the Vineyard.

Maybe next time we’ll come by private yacht (or seaplane…I’m not picky) and we’ll be staying at someone’s villa. Know anyone like that that I could reach out to? :o)

To see more pictures of Martha's Vineyard, click here.

Happy Vineyard wondering,


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