Every few minutes or so during my visit on Martha’s Vineyard, the word quaint came to mind. It’s so overused, but quaint feels like the right word to describe the place. This island seven miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is indeed charming. You’re never far from a lighthouse or a shingled cottage. The beaches are pristine. Boats of all sizes bob in the harbor.
What makes Martha’s Vineyard so delightfully prepossessing, despite hosting vacationing Kennedys and Obamas, is more about what isn’t there than what is there. There are no billboards, traffic lights, or highways. There are no chain restaurants or big box stores (gasp).
Martha’s Vineyard is home to about 15,000 year-round residents. The population swells to more than 100,000 in the summer.
There are six townships on the island. Each has its own personality. The harbors on the west side of the Vineyard, or up-island as the area is called locally, had a more working-class vibe. There we found trawlers and lobster traps, and burly fishermen in wading boots. The harbors on the east side seemed to be ritzier with yachts bearing names like the “Aqua-holic” and the “Unsinkable 2” (which leads one to wonder what happened to the “Unsinkable 1”).
Martha’s Vineyard has five remaining lighthouses. The Edgartown Lighthouse is the most popular, though I don’t think they allow visitors inside.
The Gay Head Lighthouse was the first one on the Vineyard. It is in danger of toppling over the nearby cliffs due to beach erosion. The beach is eroding at a rate of two feet per year. It’s estimated that within the next two years there won’t be enough beach left to allow the heavy machinery access to move the tower.
The cliffs rise about 100 feet from the beach and are made of clay. On a clear day, the sunset can’t be beat.
On an island with a storied seafaring history like Martha’s Vineyard, you’re probably expecting some gratuitous food shots of lobster rolls and clams. Instead let me tell you about the best thing we ate:
Hidden at the back entrance to the Martha’s Vineyard Gourmet Cafe and Bakery is the business-within-a-business known as Back Door Donuts. They open at 7:30 p.m., and there is usually a line gathered for piping hot doughnuts as they come out of the fryer. This place has more five-star reviews than some Michelin restaurants. The menu is pretty simple.
We decided to order an “old-fashioned”—a plain doughnut with sugar glaze. I wish I could share a photo, but I ate it within seconds. It melted in my mouth on contact. In order to get a fair assessment of the place, it was only right that we should sample more offerings. Enter their signature selection. The apple fritter. Worth. Every. Calorie.
Hope you enjoyed the tour around Martha’s Vineyard.
Have a great weekend, everyone!