Martha’s Vineyard is an idyllic Island escape located approximately seven miles from the southern tip of Cape Cod and about 30 miles from Nantucket. Once you’re here you’ll feel like you’re a world away, and it’s a refreshing change from the bustle and bustle of the mainland. While there’s more than enough to keep you entertained on-Island there’s also various day trips that you can take to explore nearby lands, quickly and conveniently, and without a car. Here’s a round up of some of our favorite travel trips for getting you “off the rock” (but we won’t blame you if you just want to stay put).
Woods Hole Village
Distance from Martha’s Vineyard: approx. 7 miles
Getting there: Via the Steamship Authority ferry, year round, 45 mins travel time, $8.50 for a passenger ferry ticket each way
About: Woods Hole is a quaint fishing village located in Falmouth, Massachusetts on Cape Cod, and it’s home to the year round Steamship Authority ferry. Most visitors travel through Woods Hole to get to Martha’s Vineyard but Woods Hole is a destination in itself and often overlooked by those travelling to Martha’s Vineyard.
Things to do: In addition to great shopping and delectable dining (the pop overs at Pie in the Sky and the fried chicken at Water Street Kitchen are a must) Woods Hole is home to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), a global leader in ocean science and exploration. The WHOI operates a small, public science aquarium (admission is free, but donations are gladly accepted) that displays approximately 140 species of marine animals found in Northeast and Middle Atlantic waters. Nerby, the Woods Hole Historical Museum is a lively but small museum with changing exhibits and diverse programs. You can’t miss the Nobska Point Lighthouse, which you’ll see from the ferry as you’re approaching Woods Hole. This stately 40-foot tower was built in 1876 and recently began offering seasonal tours.
For the cycling enthusiasts you’ll want to bring a bike on board the ferry (an additional $4 fee) and explore the Shining Seas Bikeway (SSB), a paved 10.7 mile bikepath that begins in Woods Hole and continues 10.7 miles north along the west coast of Falmouth. The Shining Sea Bikeway (SSB) was named for a line in the song America The Beautiful, written by Falmouth native Katharine Lee Bates. It follows the original route of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad that used to run from Buzzards Bay, through North and West Falmouth, around Woods Hole and into Falmouth Station.
Distance from Martha’s Vineyard: approx. 11 miles
Getting there: Via the Steamship Authority ferry, year round, 45 mins travel time, $8.50 for a passenger ferry ticket each way. Take the complimentary shuttle to the Palmer lot and walk to Main Street Falmouth. You can also take the Patriot Party Boat year round ($12 each way), or the Island Queen ferry in the summer months ($14 one way, $22 round trip), which both depart from Oak Bluffs harbor and arrive into Falmouth harbor. It’s a short walk to Main Street from there.
About: Falmouth Village offers shopping, dining, and playing all within steps of Falmouth’s beautiful beaches. Stroll Falmouth Village’s tree-lined Main Street and you’ll find locally-owned shops filled with unique gifts, apparel, artworks, books and more. From day spas to night life there’s more than enough to explore in one day.
Things to do:
Highfield Hall and Gardens is one of Cape Cod’s premier historic sites located in downtown Falmouth. This 19th century estate and cultural center is open to the public from April 15 – October 31 and boasts spectacular gardens, 400 acres of nature trails, fun special events and high-quality programming for all ages. Nearby is Falmouth Museums on the Gree, a two-acre campus across from the historic downtown Village Green. Admission is only $5 and visitors can enjoy tours of the 1790 Dr. Francis Wicks House, the 1730 Conant House, the Hallett Barn Visitors Center, the Cultural Center, and the colonial gardens. Historic walking tours of Falmouth also take place Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Bowling and gaming enthusiasts can enjoy Ryan Family Amusements for some fun for the whole family while foodies can eat their way down Main Street and choose from a variety of fare including Italian, Mexican, Thai, Indian, Greek, New American cuisine, and of course, seafood!
Distance from Martha’s Vineyard: approx. 16 miles
Getting there: Via Hyline Cruises, seasonally, approximately one hour travel time, $29.50 each way, $59 round trip
About: Hyannis is located in the mid-Cape area and is the closest thing you’ll find to a city on Cape Cod. It is the commercial and transportation hub of Cape Cod and was designated an urban area in 1990. Islanders flock to Hyannis for its shopping which includes the Cape Cod Mall, Trader Joe’s Christmas Tree Shops, Cost Plus World Market, Old Navy, and more. While those destinations require a cab or car to travel to from the boat, there are several small shops, boutiques and restaurants located on Main Street, just a short walk from where the ferry arrives. Historically, Hyannis has been known for the private Kennedy Compound at nearby Hyannis Port and the family’s legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of locals.
Things to do:
Located on the inner harbor in Hyannis, the Cape Cod Maritime Museum is a devoted to maritime culture on Cape Cod. The museum houses a rotating collection of maritime art steps from the ferry dock. The John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum is one of the most popular attractions in downtown Hyannis, and includes a multimedia exhibit designed to open a window on the days JFK spent on Cape Cod. The Museum's exhibits features videos and photographs spanning the years from 1934 to 1963. For a true taste of Hyannis walk up and down Main Street exploring the various shops, and admiring the work of local artists and designers.
Distance from Martha’s Vineyard: approx. 25 miles
Getting there: Via Hy-line Cruises InterIsland ferry, seasonally, approximately 70 minute travel time, $36 each way, $65 round trip
About: When it comes to comparing Martha’s Vineyard to Nantucket each Island has its own distinct charm. While Martha’s Vineyard measures approximately 100 square miles, our smaller sister Island to the southeast is about half the size. Martha’s Vineyard boasts six different towns while Nantucket has one, aptly named Town. The wharves and picturesque cobblestoned streets of the Town are lined with restaurants, high-end boutiques and steepled churches, and the island’s rich whaling history is celebrated throughout. The National Park Service cites Nantucket, as being the "finest surviving architectural and environmental example of a late 18th- and early 19th-century New England seaport town." It’s old New England charm is appreciated and admired by thousands of visitors each year.
Things to do: No stay in Nantucket is complete without a visit to the Nantucket Whaling Museum which showcases Nantucket’s rich history and significance in the whaling industry. One of the museum’s most impressive sites is the forty-six-foot-long sperm whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling, as well as the fresnel lens from the Sankaty Head Light that is proudly on display in the lobby. Step outside the museum and discover a plethora of shops, restaurants and galleries along the cobblestone streets.
Beer lovers can hop a complimentary shuttle to Cisco Brewing Company from downtown, located about 2.5 miles inland. Explore the brewery, distillery, and winery, which offers food and live music along with sips of their house made beverages.
For lighthouse aficionados the Great Point Light can’t be missed. Towering more than 60 feet, this historic lighthouse was established in 1784, destroyed in 1984 and rebuilt in 1986. Located on the Coskata Coatue Wildlife Refuge, you can get a tour of the lighthouse depending on the time of year and access to the lighthouse.
For the best view of the Island make sure to climb atop the tower of the First Congregational Church and be rewarded with a panoramic look from above.
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