Once you decide to book a trip to Cape Cod and the Islands, you’ve likely figured out that Martha’s Vineyard is bigger than you may have realized, right? I definitely did when I was planning my first ever trip to the island! So, you may be wondering if you can navigate Martha’s Vineyard without a car.
I’ve visited Martha’s Vineyard several times both with a car, and without, I’ve learned a lot about getting around the island over the years! In this post, I’m sharing all my tips for you about visiting, whether or not having a car is the right decision for you, and what to do if you decide to not have a car to explore Martha’s Vineyard (spoiler alert – it can be done!). So, let’s start planning!
Is Martha’s Vineyard Worth Visiting Without A Car?
Absolutely! Definitely don’t let not having a car deter you from visiting Martha’s Vineyard, and it’s absolutely worth seeing even if you don’t explore with a car. Most ferries will drop you off in Oak Bluffs, which has plenty to do in the way of beautiful attractions, restaurants and beaches.
The other popular towns are also not too far away from one another, and there are options like public buses and Uber to get you around this part of the island.
That said, if you’re looking to see as much of the island as possible, exploring without a car definitely requires a bit more planning than just showing up and hoping for the best. You’ll want to do your research, decide what you’d like to see, and come up with a plan. But that’s why I’m here to help you 🙂
Can You Get Around Martha’s Vineyard Without A Car?
Yes, you absolute can! It just requires a bit of planning, and some expert knowledge, which I’m more than happy to share 🙂 Here’s a general breakdown to help you decide.
Pros to having a car on Martha’s Vineyard:
- The freedom to explore what you want, when you want.
- Ability to take your own excursion to the Aquinnah Cliffs, one of the top attractions on the island.
- Freedom to go from town to town without worrying about Uber wait times or public transit.
- Flexibility to visit a variety of beaches.
Cons to having a car on Martha’s Vineyard:
- Bringing your car over on the ferry, or renting one when you’re there, can be pretty expensive.
- Parking in popular towns like Oak Bluffs, Edgartown and Vineyard Haven can be challenging in the peak summer season.
I’m personally 50/50, and love having a car for the freedom to explore on my own schedule if I want to pack a lot in, and see a lot of the attractions, beaches, etc. But for some of my trips, I choose to not have a car to not deal with parking, and to save money because the costs can really add up.
Which option is best for you?
My general recommendation is: Bring your car over on the ferry or rent a car once on the island if you’re coming for the day and want to see as much as possible. Having a car, and not worrying about bus schedules or waiting for Ubers might make your day a bit more stress-free. If you choose this option, I recommend researching where to park in the towns you plans to visit to make things easier once you arrive.
Alternatively, see Martha’s Vineyard without a car if you’re up for doing some fun tours that take you out to the parts of the island that are hard to get to with public transit. Then, you can pick one of the towns (or a beach!) to spend the rest of your day. If you’re planning a multi-day stay, you can certainly rely on public transportation and Uber to get you around, and more on that later in the post.
How To Get From Boston To Martha’s Vineyard Without A Car
Lots of people ask me about getting to Martha’s Vineyard without a car from Boston, and good news! It can be done if you book a tour! This tour takes you from locations throughout Boston to the ferry terminal by car, and then you have the option to add on an extra island tour once you’re there to really tailor it to your preferences and needs.
Highlights of this tour:
- Free pick-up locations in Boston
- Ferry tickets already included
- Transportation in an air-conditioned mini coach bus to the Falmouth ferry terminal (no need to worry about parking at the terminal!)
- Option to add on a 3-hour island tours, which includes the cliffs at Aquinnah.
- Option to just book the transportation from Boston and the ferry ride to the island for those who want to explore at their own pace.
Best Tours Around Martha’s Island
If you don’t have a car for your trip to Martha’s Vineyard, I highly recommend you book a tour that includes an excursion to the Aquinnah Cliffs and Gay Head Lighthouse, one of the most scenic parts of the island.
These are the 2 best tours of Martha’s Vineyard that include Aquinnah:
- 2-Hour Tour To Aquinnah – Best for those who want to explore the main towns at their own pace, but need transportation to get out to the Aquinnah Cliffs, and want more time to explore this area.
- 3-Hour Island Tour – Best for those looking for an overview tour of the island and top attractions, but don’t need a long time at the Aquinnah Cliffs overlook.
So, why do I recommend a tour out to Aquinnah?
Aquinnah is located on the opposite side of the island from the most popular towns like Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, and public transportation getting there isn’t easy or fast. These cliffs and overlooks are some of the most stunning parts of the island, and the views are likely what you see in stock photos and post cards of Martha’s Vineyard. Without a car, a tour is an amazing option.
- 4.5/5 Star Rating
- Air-conditioned transportation around the island.
- Visit or drive by top sites like the gingerbread cottages, the Jaws bridge and Edgartown lighthouse.
- Time to explore the Aquinnah Cliffs overlook and Gay Head Lighthouse (the main reason to book a tour!).
- Departs from: Oak Bluffs.
- Perfect for first-timer’s to Martha’s Vineyard to get a feel for the island.
- 4.5/5 Star Rating
- Transportation directly to Aquinnah Cliffs and Gay Head Lighthouse.
- Time to explore the cliffs overlook, lighthouse and cute little shops there.
- Departs from: Vineyard Haven (be sure to take note if arriving in Oak Bluffs!)
- Perfect for those who just need round-trip transportation out to the cliffs!
After your tour, I recommend spending the rest of your day in Edgartown if you don’t have a car. I have a breakdown of all the towns a bit further down in the post, so be sure to keep reading! But in general, Edgartown offers the most to do on foot, and has an amazing shopping and dining scene that’s also walkable to Edgartown Lighthouse.
From Edgartown, you can take either an Uber or the bus back to Oak Bluffs to catch your ferry (unless you took the Edgartown Ferry, of course!). If you didn’t see the gingerbread cottages in Oak Bluffs as part of your day trip, I would recommend arriving 1-2 hours early for your ferry to see them before you leave the island.
Best Places To Stay On Martha’s Vineyard Without A Car
In the next section, I talk about the best towns to visit on Martha’s Vineyard if you don’t have a car, but first, let’s look at the best places to stay if you’re planning a multi-night trip without a car!
The Winnetu Resort in Edgartown: This is my favorite hotel on the island, and while it’s a bit pricey in the summer, it’s worth every single penny. I’ve stayed here a few times, and others I’ve recommended it to have come back raving about their stay.
Highlights of The Winnetu:
- 5-minute walk to Katama Beach – the best on the island (and also has a great sunset!)
- Beautiful rooms
- Awesome kid’s programs, but still romantic for couples
- Free and convenient shuttle into downtown Edgartown if you don’t have a car!
- Outdoor pools, tennis courts & fitness center
- S’mores nights
- On-site dining
The Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown: This is the best hotel on the island for a luxury stay, and it’s packed with incredible amenities, and amazing views of Edgartown Lighthouse.
Highlights of Harbor View Hotel:
- Walkable to downtown Edgartown, making it easy to explore without a car
- Complimentary bicycles to explore the island
- Complimentary use of the hotel’s Mercedes-Benz cars for 3 hours!
- Private pool cabanas
- Lawn games
- Gorgeous rooms
- On-site dining
Oak Bluffs Inn: A stunning Victorian mansion that’s centrally-located to everything in Oak Bluffs.
Highlights of Oak Bluffs Inn:
- Walkable to everything in Oak Bluffs, including beaches!
- Complimentary continental breakfast in-season.
- Daily refreshments like freshly-based cookies and lemonade.
- The cutest little front porch for relaxing.
- A fire pit for guests to enjoy.
Mansion House Inn in Vineyard Haven: Perfect for those wanting to stay in Vineyard Haven because of the awesome location!
Highlights of the Mansion House Inn:
- Walkable to everything in Vineyard Haven, including the ferry terminal!
- On-site health club & spa.
- Some rooms have views of the harbor.
- Rooftop terrace with water views for guests to enjoy.
Best Towns To Visit On Martha’s Vineyard Without A Car
Even though Martha’s Vineyard is bigger than most people realize, the great thing about it is that the 3 best towns to visit are relatively close to one another, and they are:
- Oak Bluffs
- Vineyard Haven
Getting between these three towns with the public bus system or Uber is fairly easy. Here’s a breakdown of the towns to help you decide which will fit best into your itinerary:
This is the most popular town for ferry arrivals, and also where you’ll find the gingerbread cottages, the famous Nancy’s Restaurant, the Flying Horses Carousel and a few family-friendly beaches. Everything is very walkable in Oak Bluffs.
I always recommend everyone visits Oaks Bluffs because it’s got some iconic attractions worth visiting (like the gingerbread cottages!), but I don’t think you need more than 1-2 hours here because it’s also a bit more touristy than Edgartown and Vineyard Haven. That’s just my opinion, though.
My personal favorite town on Martha’s Vineyard! I think it’s the most charming and beautiful, and has lots of shops, restaurants, access to Chappaquiddick and Edgartown Lighthouse. Edgartown is also very walkable.
You can easily spend the whole day in Edgartown without a car, and if you take the Edgartown Ferry from Falmouth, it drops you off right in Edgartown!
An adorable little village that was very quiet when I first visited almost 10 years ago, and has since developed a bit more to offer some beautiful shops and restaurants that make for a lovely few hours! Some ferries also arrive and depart from Vineyard Haven, and I love strolling through this area. It’s very walkable without a car.
You’ll sometimes see Vineyard Haven referred to as Tisbury. Technically, Vineyard Haven is the town center of Tisbury, so hopefully that helps you when looking at things to do.
The other 3 towns on Martha’s Vineyard are: Chilmark, West Tisbury and Aquinnah. I’ve already covered why Aquinnah is worth visiting, so that leaves Chilmark and West Tisbury. These towns are also more remote, and don’t have as many things to do. They’re also a bit harder to get to without a car.
Chilmark is home to Menemsha, which I highly recommend for an amazing sunset and awesome seafood! But Oak Bluffs, Edgartown and Vineyard Haven are the best towns to explore on the island if you don’t have a car.
Best Things To Do On Martha’s Vineyard Without A Car
Explore Oak Bluffs, Edgartown & Vineyard
The easiest thing to do on Martha’s Vineyard when you don’t have a car is to stick to the three main towns – Oak Bluffs, Edgartown and Vineyard Haven. Most ferries drop you off right in Oak Bluffs, and here, you can spend some time visiting the gingerbread cottages, the Flying Horses Carousel, Ocean Park, trying out the awesome restaurants, getting donuts from Back Door Donuts, beaches and more.
From Oak Bluffs, you can take the public bus to Edgartown (the bus departs right at Ocean Park), and it only takes about 15 minutes to get to Edgartown. Here, you’ll want to checkout the awesome shops and restaurants in downtown Edgartown, explore Edgartown Lighthouse and maybe head over to Katama Beach.
In Edgartown, you can also walk to the Chappaquiddick Ferry. A great option without a car is to rent bikes in town, and take the ferry over to explore the island. Alternatively, you can also book this tour, which takes you around the island, including out to the remote Cape Poge lighthouse.
You can also take a bus to Vineyard Haven and cover all 3 of the main towns in one day (or over the course of your trip). Vineyard Haven is a bit smaller than Edgartown and Oak Bluffs, but equally as cute. Here, you can enjoy the beautiful shops and restaurants along Main Street, and also visit the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.
These 3 towns are reason enough to visit Martha’s Vineyard without a car!
Pro Tip: Some ferries depart from Vineyard Haven, so for a day trip, you could plan to arrive in Oak Bluffs, and depart from Vineyard Haven to make it a bit easier for you without a car.
See The Beaches
Without a car, you could also plan a gorgeous beach day. The #8 bus takes visitors to Katama/South Beach, which is the prettiest beach on the island (in my opinion). And the great thing about visiting without a car is that you won’t have to worry about parking!
If you wanted to visit Katama Beach, and then spend time in downtown Edgartown, the same bus runs to Church Street in Edgartown.
Lambert’s Cove is another beautiful beach on the island that you can get to via the public bus. Bus route #2 takes you from the Vineyard Haven ferry terminal to that beach, which is a great option without a car.
See The Famous Jaws Bridge
The #13 bus makes a stop at the Jaws Bridge, which is famous from the movie, and for people jumping off of it into the water. If you’re a fan of the movie, this is a really fun stop to make (especially if you jump off!).
Public Transportation On Martha’s Vineyard
If you don’t have a car, I definitely recommend looking into the public bus system on the island, as it’s pretty easy to get around the 3 main towns this way. Click here for the Martha’s Vineyard public bus website.
The only time I wouldn’t suggest you rely on the bus system is if you only have a day, and you’re looking to get out to Aquinnah and Menemsha. The buses will take over an hour, and will require transfers, making it tough to squeeze into a day trip. This is why I suggest the tour options to see this part of the island.
If you’re on the island for multiple days, then you can absolutely take the public buses out to the western parts of Martha’s Vineyard, as time won’t be as big of an issue.
Pro Tip: You can actually purchase bus passes online, and use your phone to get on the bus. If you’d like to pay per ride, you’ll need cash, and exact change. Click here for more information!
Is There A Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus On Martha’s Vineyard?
No, unfortunately, this service isn’t offered on Martha’s Vineyard, which is why booking a tour to see the top sites is a great alternative!
You may also find these posts helpful:
- Best Time To Visit Cape Cod & The Islands
- The Ultimate Martha’s Vineyard Day Trip Guide
- Best Things To Do On Martha’s Vineyard
- Best Beaches On Martha’s Vineyard
- Deciding Between Nantucket & Martha’s Vineyard For A Day Trip
- What To Pack For Cape Cod & The Islands
- Best Towns To Stay In On Cape Cod
- Summer In New England: Best Places To Go & Things To Do!
- Best Beach Towns In New England
That’s A Wrap On Visiting Martha’s Vineyard Without A Car
Now you’re an expert on exploring Martha’s Vineyard without a car, and hopefully you see that it absolutely can be done. Whether you choose to take one of the awesome tours, or rely on the public transit system to get around, the island makes for a memorable trip regardless of how you choose to see it.