Visiting Martha’s Vineyard doesn’t mean having to break the bank. If you’re vacationing on a tight budget, there’s still plenty of fun things to do without spending a lot of money, whether you’re into sightseeing, exploring local culture, or spending some time with the family!
Some of the best sights on Martha’s Vineyard are open to the public, and don’t cost a thing! If you’re looking to explore the Island, these are some of the best spots to have on your list:
Making the trek out to Aquinnah can take a bit of time, whether you have a car, or are taking the bus. Nevertheless, it is truly worth the trip (expect a 45 minutes drive depending on your starting point). The Gay Head Cliffs are one of the most picturesque locations on Martha’s Vineyard - and maybe even all of New England! Additionally, the location of the Island's iconic Cliffs is also the site of the historic Gay Head Light, the first of the five lighthouses built on the Island, and just a short walk from the best views of the Cliffs over which it presides.
Setting Martha’s Vineyard apart from much of New England's other locales is the Island’s diverse and often rural landscape. The climate of the Island is very similar to that of Japan, which allows a variety of flora that cannot be found anywhere else on the East Coast of the United States to thrive here. If this excites you, it is absolutely worth making the trip to Polly Hill Arboretum. For only $5, you can explore Martha’s Vineyard’s most diverse garden which, in addition to an encyclopedic collection of local plants, features rare species from around the world.
Nestled on the island of Chappaquiddick sits Mytoi Gardens, a secluded and intimate Japanese-style garden flourishing with both native flora and exotic plants. The lush garden is home to a small pond and island, which create a habitat for goldfish, frogs, and turtles. For just $5, you can take a stroll down the easy half-mile Salt Marsh trail and take in breathtaking views of the unique landscape and its inhabitants.
One of the most colorful sights on Martha’s Vineyard is the Gingerbread Cottages of the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association (MVCMA). Located in the heart of Oak Bluffs, “The Campground” is home to several hundred colorful Gingerbread Cottages and the iconic iron Tabernacle. The 34 acre Campground is open to the public year-round, and can be explored free of charge. For just $3 you can visit the MVCMA Museum, open seasonally from Memorial Day Weekend through mid-October. Here, according to the MVCMA, you can view the interior of a typical Campground cottage, complete with period furnishings that offer a glimpse of life on the Campgrounds in the 1800s. Also on display are vintage photographs, a selection of stereoscopic photos of Cottage City and the Campgrounds, and interesting documents relating to the history of the Campground.
When you’re staying on an island the beach is never too far, and Martha’s Vineyard is home to plenty! Many of the local beaches are open to the public free of charge, though some such as Moshup Beach in Aquinnah require a parking fee, while others such as Lambert’s Cove Beach, Lucy Vincent, and Squibnocket require a town resident pass in peak summer season. Learn all about our local beaches and how to access them.
Visit an Art Gallery
Martha’s Vineyard has a wonderful arts scene that encompasses the works of locals and world famous artists alike. If you’re on the hunt for some inspiration, you can find galleries across the Island to fuel your creative juices; entry and browsing are free!
Found in West Tisbury, The Granary Gallery is the oldest and largest gallery on Martha’s Vineyard. Located in an iconic red barn, The Granary is currently home to over eighty artists, including famous photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt and local legend Thomas Hart Benton, to name a few. Exploring the Barn and its spacious courtyard is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.
Head down-Island to explore downtown Vineyard Haven, making sure to stop by Night Heron Gallery, Martha’s Vineyard’s only artist owned and operated cooperative gallery. Featured here are the works of eleven local artists working with vastly different mediums and materials.
On Edgartown Harbor, the Old Sculpin Gallery is a non-profit art gallery which has fostered and showcased Island artists since 1954. Once a boat builder’s workshop, the Old Sculpin Gallery now hosts weekly art shows and features the works of over 50 local artists.
Don’t miss the chance to check out Featherstone Center for the Arts, it’s not only a great place to view art, it is also a great place to create art for the whole family! The Center offers affordable creative skills classes daily through the summer for adults and children, including classes in pottery, drawing, fibers, and so much more.
Fun for the Whole Family
Traveling with little ones? Martha’s Vineyard is a superb vacation destination for families, and for good reason! There are many family-friendly activities that can be found across the Island in every season, with options for children of all ages:
Does your family love a bit of competition? Challenge them to a round of mini golf at The Cove Golf and Grill in Vineyard Haven! This miniature golf course is an adventure-themed course, featuring a lush garden, streams, waterfalls, ponds, and famous cave. It is open seasonally May to October. Make sure to keep track of your score - if anyone in your party scores a hole-in-one, they'll have the chance to win a free round! After you’re all tuckered out from mini golf, you can cool off with some Mad Martha’s Ice Cream and, if you’re really hungry, the course has a grill which offers affordable burgers, hot dogs, popcorn, and more!
If you’re in Oak Bluffs, a must-visit for families is the Flying Horses Carousel, which happens to be the oldest continuously operating platform carousel in the country. Originally constructed in 1876, the Carousel operated as an attraction on Coney Island until it was moved to Oak Bluffs in 1884. During the summer season, you can ride the antique horses and take a chance at catching the brass ring for a free ride!
Have some avid readers in the family? Spend an afternoon exploring the Island’s six town libraries in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, Chilmark, West Tisbury, and Aquinnah. Each library is open to the public year-round, and offers special programs and events on a regular basis, such as Afternoon Lego Club, Children’s Story Time, live music, and more!
A family favorite for visitors and locals alike is stopping by Island Alpaca Company in Oak Bluffs. Open year-round, this barn is home to over 50 colorful alpacas which visitors can view, pet, and walk! If you’re lucky, you may even be able to see baby alpacas roaming the property at certain points in the year. When you’re done ogling and commenting on how adorable the alpaca herd is, step into the gift shop which features incredibly soft stuffed animals, hats, vests, and so much more, all fashioned from alpaca fleece. Island Alpaca is generally open free to the public in the cooler months and $5 per person in the summer.
If you have a vehicle during your stay on Martha’s Vineyard, it’s worth heading to the YMCA for the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival Drive-In! Throughout the summer, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival features classics such as Jaws alongside the latest family-friendly movies on Fridays and Saturdays. Just tune in on your car’s radio, bring your own snacks, sit back, and enjoy the show! The Vineyard's Drive-In at the YMCA is a pay-what-you-can event and advance reservations are required.
Learn and experience Island history when visiting the Martha’s Vineyard Museum in Vineyard Haven. This beautiful, newly renovated and repurposed historic property overlooking Lagoon Pond is home to some of Martha’s Vineyard most iconic historic artifacts, including the magnificent first-order Fresnel Lens, which was first installed in the Gay Head Light in 1854 and remained in operation until its removal in 1952. An interactive exhibit for children encourages hands-on learning about the history and ecosystems of Martha’s Vineyard. Admission for adults is $18, children 7-17 are $5, and children 6 and under are free.
Still on the hunt for more Martha’s Vineyard history? Make a trip to The Carnegie Heritage Center in Edgartown. The town library for over one hundred years, The Carnegie now exists as an island Heritage Center which offers a reading library, heritage shop, and a dynamic revolving exhibit, Living Landmarks, which illustrates the historical development of Martha’s Vineyard. Admission is free and open to the public though there is a $5 suggested donation to view the Living Landmarks exhibition.
No matter your budget, no matter the season, Martha’s Vineyard has a variety of fun, affordable options for everyone in your party to enjoy without breaking the bank.
Martha’s Vineyard has so many great restaurants its hard to choose where to go next! This summer, we’ve been seeing some seriously tasty new additions popping up across the Island, and these five unique eats are worth making the trip.
S & S Kitchenette. New to Vineyard Haven, S & S Kitchenette is a provisions, retail, and event space now open at 48 Main Street. Created by local chef Spring Sheldon, this adorable space creates a sense of community with its large family-style table, karaoke nights, and motherhood circle discussions. You can also find Island made preserved products, locally-crafted ceramics and kitchen ware and even fresh produce and flowers from Land Ho! Farm.
By day, find prepared grab-and-go meal kits; such as fresh flower pastas, salads, and enchiladas. By night, the Kitchenette transforms into a shared space, where chefs from around the Island and beyond host pop-up dinners. A few notable pop-ups so far have been with Stoney Hill Pizza, Epicure, and Little Trúc of Easthampton, Massachusetts. The space is also available for chef tastings, private events, cooking classes, and has oh, so much potential! Though small, this new space has a lot of personality that promises a lot of great things to come!
Aalia’s Coffee. Since opening in mid-May of this year, Aalia’s Coffee has seemingly become a new favorite spot for many Islanders and visitors in Oak Bluffs. Located at 16 Kennebec Ave, the inviting bright and sunny space is hard to miss. The coffee shop serves unique lattes, such as its Purple Sweet Potato Latte and Iced Raspberry Matcha Latte - both of which have been huge hits!
If you’re not an early-bird type, this spot is definitely for you. On top of keeping you caffeinated, it is also are one of the few restaurants on Martha’s Vineyard that serve breakfast all day. Even if you sleep in, you can enjoy breakfast sandwiches, acai bowls, large Lebanese breakfasts, and more anytime between 7am - 6pm (or until 4pm on Mondays).
,Morning Glory Food Wagon. If you do happen to be an early bird, the food wagon at Morning Glory Farm should be on the top of your bucket list! This stationary food truck starts serving breakfast bright and early at 6am, and wraps up the day by 11am.
The menu currently consists of breakfast sandwiches, toasts, shrimp & grits, biscuits & gravy, and baked goods, such as scones, fried bread pudding, and, fan-favorite, fresh donuts. Every other Sunday, Chef Doug hosts themed pop-up dinners from 4:30pm - 7pm; Tandoor Night and Egg Roll Madness being two recent examples of the innovative offerings!
Mo’s Lunch. If you haven’t checked out Mo’s Lunch yet, you’re missing out! Not only do they serve a variety of delicious sandwiches at an affordable price, they also have lots of tasty baked goods.
During the week, you can often find colossal cookies on the menu, such as the Big Chocolate Chip Cookie, the Big Lemon Sugar Cookie, and the Big Vegan Fudge Cookie. Also offered are cake and pie slices that often rotate throughout the week. On Saturday mornings, come in for a taste of the homemade donuts! But make sure to come early - these donuts sell out fast!
Copper Anchor. Enjoy seafood, sushi, and Pan Asian cuisine at Copper Anchor in Vineyard Haven. Once known as Copper Wok, the newly conceived Copper Anchor has been inspired by its sister location in Oak Bluffs, the MV Chowder Company, to expand its original menu to incorporate more fresh seafood. The new menu at Copper Anchor offers something for everyone, including award-winning chowder and lobster rolls, egg rolls, sushi, noodle dishes, and so much more!
For a comprehensive guide to all of the dining destinations on Martha’s Vineyard check out the Martha’s Vineyard Dining Sourcebook
Whether you’re a seasoned Islander, or a first-time visitor to Martha’s Vineyard, it’s important to step off the beaten path every once in a while. These five unique Vineyard experiences will have you tasting, experiencing, and exploring diverse and distinctive offerings making for a truly unforgettable Martha’s Vineyard vacation or staycation!
Signature Oyster Farm Tour. Get an authentic account of Martha’s Vineyard history while enjoying an unlimited amount of some of the freshest oysters the Island has to offer when taking the Signature Oyster Farm Tour. Enjoy an afternoon out on the tranquil waters of Katama Bay, experience the area’s varied wildlife, and learn about oyster farming from a coast guard licensed captain with over 15 years of experience.
Signature Oyster Farm works year-round to create the best shaped, easiest to open, and tastiest oysters available. In the busy summer season its tours are the only way to get a taste of these delicious bi-valves and the experience does not disappoint. Not only will you get to enjoy the oysters, you’ll be treated to a ride aboard the Farm’s custom built tour boat and might even get a chance to hand-feed the its pet striped bass ~ even fish love Signature Oyster Farm oysters!
Tours are one and a half hours, are BYOB and are offered for groups up to six from May through September.
Chappaquiddick Wood Company Bowl Turning Demo. Spend an afternoon on the peaceful island of Chappaquiddick and experience all that Chappaquiddick Wood Company has to offer! Tour one of the Island’s oldest standing properties, Whale Jaw Farm, once famous for its entrance demarcated by giant whale jaw bones. Meet local creative and craftsman Zach Pinerio, who guides you and your group through a wood-turning demonstration that showcases the process of transforming roughly milled blanks on the lathe into beautiful hand-crafted bowls.
This custom tour ends in the gift shop, where you can find beautiful bowls, boards, and coasters available for purchase. All of Chappaquiddick Wood Company’s products are crafted from trees harvested across the Island of Martha’s Vineyard, When you leave the studio you truly can take a piece of Martha’s Vineyard home with you to enjoy for years to come!
MV Sharks Baseball Game. Show some spirit for the Martha’s Vineyard’s collegiate summer baseball team, the MV Sharks! Sport lovers and families can indulge in a true American pastime while cheering on the MV Sharks at the Vineyard Baseball Park, otherwise known as “The Shark Tank” in Oak Bluffs.
Enjoy traditional game day eats as well as the occasional El Gato Grande taco truck. Treat yourself to a Mad Martha’s sundae in the stands. New this year is the Offshore Ale beer garden where you can sip on award-winning brews while taking in the game day action.
Tickets are available at an affordable price, and children under the age of 13 get in for free!
Cape Poge Lighthouse Tour. Escape the crowds and experience the natural beauty of the Island of Chappaquiddick (home to almost 1,000 acres of preserved land.) when booking a Cape Poge Lighthouse Tour! Open to all ages, this over-sand vehicle tour will take you to some of the most remote parts of the Island, with unforgettable views of Cape Poge Bay and Nantucket Sound.
Trek through several miles along the beach, bay, and sandy dunes, while learning all about Chappaquiddick's unique history, plants, and wildlife. The tour brings you to the wooden Cape Poge Lighthouse, first built in 1801 to help guide ships through the shallow waters of Muskeget Channel into Edgartown Harbor. The tour concludes with a climb to the top of the lighthouse, where you can experience breathtaking views that are unlike any other Vineyard experience.
MV Film Festival Drive-In. Looking for a fun night out with the whole family? You don’t even have to break the bank! The Vineyard’s Drive-In at the YMCA is a pay-what-you-can event that runs on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the summer. This year, view classics such as JAWS, Star Wars, and Jurassic Park, alongside newer family-friendly films like Soul, Encanto, and Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Attendees are encouraged to bring their own drinks, snacks, and meals, however, the Food Truck located at the MV Ice Rink will also be open most nights serving sandwiches, salads, drinks, and popcorn. Make sure to put your order in early - the Food Truck stops taking orders 30 minutes before the film begins! Check out the drive-in’s 2022 lineup here.
Kayak Glow Tour. If you’re on the hunt for a truly spectacular experience during your stay on Martha’s Vineyard, the Kayak Glow Tours guided by Island Spirit Kayak are a great way to spend a summer evening, whether solo, with friends, or the whole family. Open to kayakers with any level of experience and anyone above the age of six, this unique opportunity starts at sunset at Little Bridge in Oak Bluffs.
Participants may choose between a solo or double kayak which features a glass bottom and lights on the sides, enabling kayakers to observe wildlife beneath the boat and experience aquatic life in a unique and exciting way. This will surely be a highlight of your next trip to Martha’s Vineyard!
No matter how you spend your days and nights on Martha’s Vineyard your time here is sure to be magical. No matter the season, no matter the reason, no matter your budget - there's a Vineyard experience awaiting you!
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