Martha’s Vineyard is a fantastic summer vacation destination in New England, and is perfect if you’re looking for a beach getaway. Located less than hour from the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, it’s packed to the brim with charm, stunning coastline, and amazing activities for both couples and families.
I’ve been to the island so many times for both day trips and getaways, and I’m here today to share all the absolute best things to do on Martha’s Vineyard to help you plan your perfect trip. Are you ready? Let’s start planning!
Best Things To Do On Martha’s Vineyard
1. Explore The Beaches, Of Course!
One of the best things about the island is the beaches, and man, are they gorgeous. Most of the beaches on Martha’s Vineyard have soft sand and stretch for miles. This is truly a wonderful destination if you’re planning a beach getaway.
Here are the best beaches on Martha’s Vineyard that are open to the public:
- South/Katama Beach (Edgartown)
- Joseph Sylvia State Beach (Edgartown/Oak Bluffs)
- Oak Bluffs Town Beach (Oak Bluffs)
- Lobsterville Beach (Aquinnah)
- Fuller Street Beach (Edgartown)
- Eastville Beach (Oak Bluffs/Vineyard Haven)
There are some other beaches on the island that are also beautiful, but many of them are for town residents only. If you happen to rent a vacation home on the island that comes with town beach access, you’ll definitely want to have these beaches on your radar:
- Lucy Vincent Beach (Chilmark)
- Lambert’s Cove Beach (West Tisbury)
- Squibnocket Beach (Chilmark)
2. But If You Only Visit One Beach, Let It Be South Beach!
So, the first beach mentioned above is South/Katama Beach, and it really deserves its own section on this list!
South/Katama Beach is widely regarded as the best and most beautiful on the island, and it just so happens to be my personal favorite as well. Referred to by both names, this beach is really breathtaking, and a must if you’re on the island.
This 3-mile long barrier beach has gorgeous, Atlantic coastline on one side, and a protected salt pond with calm water on the other. I prefer the Atlantic side because I enjoy the bigger waves and coastal views of the sand dunes, but pretty much everything about South Beach is really picturesque.
Pro Tip: Parking for this beach is free along the street, but you’ll want to get there early in the summer season to snatch up a spot. You can also take a bike path from downtown Edgartown, and arrive on South Beach in just 4 miles to avoid parking.
3. See The Aquinnah Cliffs
One of the most iconic landscapes in all of Martha’s Vineyard is the cliffs in Aquinnah. This is probably an image you’ve seen while researching things to do on Martha’s Vineyard because it really is one of the most beautiful parts of the island.
At the cliffs, there’s an easy-to-access overlook that provides stunning panoramic views of the cliffs, lighthouse and beach, and there’s also a little cluster of shops and eateries. From here, you can walk down to the beach and visit the lighthouse, but more on those next!
Aquinnah is located on the opposite side of the island from popular towns like Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven and Edgartown, and while public buses and Ubers can bring you there, the easiest way to get there is by driving yourself, or by tour.
If you’re on the island for a few days and have time, you can easily use the bus system. I don’t recommend it, however, if you’re on the island for a day trip because you’ll have to hop on 2-3 different buses (depending on where you’re coming from), and the journey takes over 2 hours one-way.
If you rent a car, you can easily drive out there in 45 minutes or less.
A great option without a car is a tour, and there are two great options:
- Island Tour, which includes a stop at the Aquinnah Cliffs
- Private, Customized Tour (perfect for groups, and you can decide how long to stay at the cliffs!)
4. Visit Gay Head Lighthouse
While you’re at the Aquinnah Cliffs, you’ll also want to visit Gay Head Lighthouse. The cliffs overlook provides a sweeping panoramic view that includes the lighthouse, but it’s also very easy to walk right up to it.
When you arrive at the cliffs, you’ll want to look for signs pointing you toward the lighthouse. The grounds are open year-round, and they also offers tours inside the lighthouse in the summer season.
Pro Tip: As of 2023, tours to go inside Gay Head Lighthouse are only $6 per person, which is really affordable for such a cool experience!
5. Walk The Shore At Moshup Beach
The beach that sits under the stunning Aquinnah Cliffs is Moshup Beach, and if you have the time to walk the shore during your visit, I highly recommend it!
Not only are the cliffs super impressive once you get down to the shoreline, and really get a sense of their height, the beach is insanely gorgeous, and makes for a very picturesque walk.
Parking: If you visit in the summer season, there is a $20 beach parking fee, which you must pay even if you just want to walk. If you get lucky and are able to snatch up a spot in front of the shops (with the 1-hour limit), and are able to do everything in an hour, you can park there.
Pro Tip: There is a nude beach section on Moshup Beach, it’s good to be aware and prepare to be respectful before you head out for your beach walk.
6. Meander Through The Gingerbread Cottages
Martha’s Vineyard is also famous for its adorable and storybook-inspired gingerbread cottages, which can be found in Oak Bluffs.
The best place to see the gingerbread cottages is at the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association. This is where you’ll find an entire community of the cottages that’s perfect for taking photos and feeling like you’ve been transported into a fairy tale.
You can also find more opulent versions of the cottages around the rest of Oak Bluffs, and a great place to look for them is along Seaview Avenue, heading toward Edgartown.
7. But Before You Do, Grab An Apple Fritter From Back Door Donuts
A great little stop to make before making your way over to the gingerbread cottages is Back Door Donuts for an apple fritter the size of your head (no, seriously, these things are huge).
But they have more than apple fritters here, and it’s become quite a popular place on the island. Grab your daily coffee here, as well as donuts, muffins, danishes, croissants – they have it all.
So, how did it gets its name? Well, from 7-11pm every day (except Tuesdays), they serve their donuts from their back door, which is perfect for late-night cravings.
8. Grab A Local Beer (And Lobster Roll!) From Offshore Ale
Offshore Ale Company in Oak Bluffs is a great brew pub that makes their own craft brews and serves up a pretty awesome lobster roll. But, you’ll find way more on their menu than just the lobster roll, and it’s all really good.
This is a great place for lunch or dinner when you’re in Oak Bluffs, and all their beers are brewed on-site. If you’re a beer-lover, definitely stop by to get one fresh off the tap, and they also offer their beers to go in cans and growlers.
9. Dine With A View At Nancy’s
One of the most famous restaurants on Martha’s Vineyard is Nancy’s, and that might have a little something to do with the Obama family. Not only did they frequent this restaurant during their summer visits during his presidency, Sasha Obama also reportedly worked here for a summer.
All that aside, the food and drinks here are awesome. I personally haven’t tried their lobster roll yet, but I’ve heard it’s amazing. They have a really great cocktail list, and all their seafood dishes are absolutely wonderful. They also have a really nice outdoor waterfront seating area.
10. Get Ice Cream At Mad Martha’s
It’s not summer without ice cream, right? And Mad Martha’s is the place to go for your summer craving! With locations in Edgartown, Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs, it’s easy to swing by, too.
Mad Martha’s makes their own ice cream with premium ingredients, and they have everything from basic flavors to crazy sundaes. If you’re into banana splits, you’ll want to get their Banana Ferry Sundae. Remember the cone head sundaes from Friendly’s? Well, they make a perfect clown sundae replica here. Did you love your apple fritter from Back Door Donuts? Well, you’ll want to get a cone of their apple fritter ice cream for the ultimate indulgence!
11. Enjoy Edgartown’s Charm
My personal favorite town on the island is Edgartown, and that’s because it really has everything, including beaches, shops, restaurants, a lighthouse, and tons and tons of charm at every turn. You’ll find gorgeous hydrangea gardens, beautiful and historic homes and a really fun downtown atmosphere.
If you’re looking to do a little shopping on your trip, this is the place I recommend. This is also where you’ll find Chappaquiddick, lots of restaurants, and charming streets to stroll that are completely postcard-ready.
12. Walk Out To Edgartown Lighthouse
A quick 10-minute walk along N. Water Street from downtown Edgartown brings you to Edgartown Lighthouse, which is a really beautiful and fun place to visit. This New England lighthouse stands over Edgartown Harbor, and you can easily admire it at the end of N. Water Street, or walk out to see it up close (I definitely recommend the latter, of course!).
Once you reach the end of N. Water Street, you’ll head down the path toward the lighthouse, and be able to walk right up to it. There are so many beautiful viewpoints along the way, so be sure to take your time, and enjoy the stroll to get there.
Once you arrive at the lighthouse, you’ll be walking around the sandy beach, so plan to wear appropriate footwear. This is also a great place to sit, relax, and watch the boats go by.
13. Visit East & West Chop Lighthouses
In additiona to Gay Head out in Aquiannah, and Edgartown Lighthouse, you can also visit two other lighthouses on Martha’s Vineyard: East and West Chop Lights.
East Chop Lighthouse can be found bordering Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven, and overlooks the harbor and Vineyard Sound. This lighthouse is owned by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, and is usually only open in the summer season on Sunday evenings. However, it can easily be seen from the road.
West Chop Lighthouse is located in Tisbury, and is closed to the public, but again, you can see it from the road. For West Chop, you won’t get the greatest views from the road, so this one is really best if you’re already in the area, and may not worth a special trip for everyone. I personally love seeing lighthouses, so I will always go out of my way to catch a glimpse. But, if you’re indifferent on them, I would skip West Chop and see Gay Head and East Chop instead.
14. Support Local Farming At Morning Glory
Martha’s Vineyard is actually full of rural farming land, and the agriculture on the island is outstanding. You’ll find fresh produce all over, and one of the best and most fun stands to check out is Morning Glory Farm.
Located in Edgartown, Morning Glory has a big building that welcomes visitors to shop for local produce, flowers, local speciality foods, local cheeses, artisan goods, breads, baked goods and so much more. This is the perfect place to pick up ingredients if you’re staying on the island, or to stock up on fresh foods before you leave for the day!
I’m especially fond of their baked goods, so you’ll definitely want to throw some cookies and other sweet treats into your cart while browsing 🙂 They also often have a food truck on the grounds selling awesome food, so you can easily grab lunch while here.
Bonus: Explore All The Other Awesome Farm Stands
Like I said, Martha’s Vineyard has an incredible farming culture and community, and while you drive around the island, you’ll see signs for all kinds of little farm stands. In fact, one of my favorite things to do is just drive around, and pull over for the ones I happen upon.
So, be sure to keep your eyes peeled during your drive, and definitely pull over when you find them!
15. Tour Chappaquiddick Island
Chappaquiddick is now synonymous with the famous Kennedy car crash, but this island is really worth exploring for its natural beauty.
Located in Edgartown, visitors can take the ferry from downtown Edgartown to Chappaquiddick, and from there, explore beaches, Cape Poge Lighthouse and Mytoi Gardens.
If you’re visiting Martha’s Vineyard for a few days, I highly suggest booking a tour out to Cape Poge Lighthouse. This is the best way to get there because it requires driving through sand, as well as a permit, and also includes access inside the lighthouse. You’ll also tour parts of the wildlife refuge.
East Beach is another awesome location to explore on Chappy, and it’s never crowded with gorgeous shoreline to explore.
Pro Tip: The Chappaquiddick ferry is very affordable, and as of 2023, only costs $5 PP round trip, and $15 per car, round trip.
16. Get Fresh Seafood In Menemsha
For amazing and fresh seafood, one of the best things to do on Martha’s Vineyard is head to Menemsha, which is a small fishing village in Chilmark. Here, you’ll find the best seafood shacks on the island!
My favorite is Larsen’s Fish Market, which serves up cooked to order lobster, chowders, steamers, and mussels, and also has a great raw bar. There are picnic tables right along the harbor where you can sit and enjoy your food, or bring it over to Menemsha Beach for sunset.
Equally as awesome in this area are Menemsha Fish Market and Menemsha Galley, and you honestly can’t go wrong with any of ’em. Menemsha is pretty small, and the fish markets are all pretty close to one another. So really – take your pick, or try them all!
17. Watch The Stunning Menemsha Beach Sunset
Speaking of Menemsha, staying for a sunset on the beach is always a good idea. In fact, this location is regarded as the best sunset spot on the island. And as mentioned above, one of my favorite things to do is pick up dinner at a fish market and take it to the beach for the best sunset picnic.
Since this is a popular sunset spot, parking can fill up fast around this time. My suggestion is to get there in the late afternoon (between 3-4:30pm) when the beach crowds start to leave for the day, and then snatch up your spot then. The beach is walkable to Larsen’s Fish Market, too, making it easy to send someone over for food!
18. Take In The Views From Ocean Park
In Oak Bluffs, Ocean Park is a really fun little place to hang out for a bit. With a cute gazebo and gingerbread cottages nearby, the park is more or less a great lawn with walking paths, and also sits along Seaview Avenue, where the bus stop is. It’s also close to the Oak Bluffs ferry terminal, making super easy to visit at the start or end of your time on the island.
While there’s not much else to do at Ocean Park, the open scenery and location make it a nice little stop during your trip.
19. Explore Vineyard Haven
A really lovely little town to explore when you’re visiting the island is Vineyard Haven. And depending on which ferry you take, you may actually arrive here, which is a great place to start your trip.
Vineyard Haven is a bit smaller with fewer things to do than Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, but it’s most definitely worth checking out. There’s a great Main Street with beautiful shops and restaurants/cafés, and a nice harbor area that’s fun to check out.
A few places I suggest checking out in Vineyard Haven are the Waterside Market for a casual lunch, Magnetic North for unique shopping, and Bunch Of Grapes Bookstore.
20. See (Or Jump Off!) The Jaws Bridge
If you’ve been planning your trip to Martha’s Vineyard for a bit, you may be wondering if there are any Jaws filming locations you can visit, and this bridge is one of them!
Between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, the Jaws Bridge is an iconic site on the island, and you’ll even find shirts in the local shops that say, “I jumped off the Jaws bridge!” If you’re looking to recreate a famous movie moment, you can easily visit this area for free during your trip.
When you arrive, there’s only street parking, so in the busy summer season, you’ll want to keep that in mind.
Once you walk onto the bridge, you’ll see signs that say “No Jumping” but after talking to some locals, the signs are just there for liability reasons, and no one will ever stop you from jumping off the bridge. In fact, I’ve seen policemen watching tourists jump off the bridge and not say a word. I think it’s kind of expected.
So, do it at your own risk, but it’s really not a high bridge, and fans of the movie will enjoy the experience.
21. See The Oldest Operating Carousel In The Country
In Oak Bluffs, the Flying Horses carousel is the oldest operating one of its kind in the U.S.! Built in 1876, its original home was actually in Coney Island, NY, and was then moved to Martha’s Vineyard in the 1880s. This is a great activity for the kids (or adults, no judgement from me!), and is worth stopping by just to see it if you’re in the area.
In fact, it’s pretty close to the Oak Bluffs ferry terminal, so you’re likely to see it if docking at this port.
Pro Tip: The carousel is open for rides from April through the summer season. And be sure to ask about the ring game, where if you’re able to grab a brass ring during your ride, you get another go-around for free.
22. Take A Sailing Tour
You’re on an island, so of course you’ll want to head out onto the water! There are some really great companies that offer sailing tours around Martha’s Vineyard, including sunset cruises and site seeing. Here are a few you should consider for your next trip:
- Catboat Charters
- Plan Sea Adventure Charters
- Sail The Vineyard
23. Book A Treasure Hunt Pirate Tour For The Kids
If you’re looking for a fun boat tour for the kids, then you’ll definitely want to check out Martha’s Vineyard Pirate Adventure. This awesome experience actually built a custom pirate boat that was designed with kids’ adventures in mind!
During tours and sailings, kids are invited to dress like pirates (accessories included in the tour), face painting, interactive stories, treasure hunts and cannon firings. The tour encourages kids to use their imaginations while creating a story that feels like an authentic and fun experience.
24. Shop At The Original Vineyard Vines Store
The famous brand that you now see in malls and shopping plazas all over the country was created right here on the island. In fact, you can shop at the very first Vineyard Vines store location in Edgartown.
Not familiar with Vineyard Vines? Well, it’s an upscale, preppy clothing and accessories brand that’s perfect if you’re looking for the quintessential coastal New England look. You’ll find a lot of bright colors, stripes and timeless style, and of course, their signature pink whale logo.
This location also does styling appointments, so if you’re looking to put together a few outfits for your Martha’s Vineyard trip, you can make a shopping appointment online.
25. Learn The Local History At The Martha’s Vineyard Museum
Located in Vineyard Haven, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum is an awesome place to learn about the island’s history. Not only are the grounds and interior spaces beautiful, they have such a great mix of exhibits that include rotating and special exhibits throughout the year, to permanent features on local history.
This is also the property that owns East Chop Lighthouse, and also offers your best chance at seeing the lighthouse up close.
26. Explore The Island By Kayak
There are some great places around the island where you can explore by kayak and paddle board, and many of the rental companies offer tours, too.
The best company on the island to consider for both rentals and tours is Island Spirit Kayak. Not only do they have a great selection of equipment to choose from, they also offer the most fun tour options. Ranging from night glow tours with glass-bottomed kayaks, to special sunset adventures and more traditional tours around the island (some of which include jumping off the Jaws Bridge!), this is your best bet for a truly exciting adventure.
27. Visit Island Alpaca
Definitely one of the more unique things to do on Martha’s Vineyard is a visit to Island Alpaca. Fun for both kids and adults, a visit to the farm includes seeing the alpacas and strolling through the really cool gift shop, where they sell handmade hats, gloves, sweaters and more, all made with alpaca wool.
If you schedule your visit in advance, you can also do Alpaca Yoga, and an Alpaca Walk for more interactive experiences.
Pro Tip: If you don’t have a car during your visit, Island Alpaca is just off the 1, 7, or 9 bus line.
Things To Do On Martha’s Vineyard In The Fall
While summer is definitely prime season to visit Martha’s Vineyard, the fall is also a beautiful time to visit. And depending on when you visit, the water may be too cold for a swim, but all the charm of the island’s towns, Aquinnah Cliffs and restaurants will be just as fun to experience.
Here are some fun ideas worth considering if you’re visiting the island in the fall season!
28. Attend The Vineyard Artisans Festival
Typically taking place on Columbus Day weekend each year, the Vineyard Artisans Festival is a great way to shop from the island’s amazing crafters. And the best part? The event is completely free for all to attend! There’s also a kid’s playground on-site, as well as food and drink vendors.
This event can be found at Grange Hall in West Tisbury.
29. Enjoy The Last Few Days Of The West Tisbury Farmer’s Market
While this amazing Farmer’s Market runs all summer long, it continues through the month of October, making this a really wonderful activity to add to your fall itinerary.
During the fall season, you’ll find lots of seasonal produce and baked goods, awesome food vendors (including some really great pizzas), and even a Harvest Festival that takes place in mid-October.
30. Take Advantage Of The Beginning Of Scallop Season
If you’re planning a late fall getaway to the island, you’re just in time for scallop season! Beginning in late November each year, this is the time of the year when you can get the freshest Bay scallops you’ll ever eat, and most local restaurants and eateries will be featuring these on their menus.
Honorable Mentions: Food & Wine Events In The Fall
In year’s past, Martha’s Vineyard hosted an awesome Food & Wine Festival, and a wonderful Oyster Fest, but COVID put these events on hold, and there’s been no news for future events as of 2023. However, keep these in mind as you plan your fall trip, because they were popular events that just may come back. They’re worth keeping on your radar!
Things to Do On Martha’s Vineyard In December
31. Celebrate Christmas In Edgartown
If you’re looking for one of the best holiday celebrations in New England, you’ll want to plan a special winter excursion to Martha’s Vineyard for Christmas in Edgartown! One of the most charming towns on the island gets the full Christmas treatment with beautiful decorations strung all over, and lots of fun events full of Christmas cheer.
Some special activities to note during the celebration include the lighting of Edgartown Lighthouse, carriage rides, photos with Santa, special shopping events and tons more.
Where To Stay On Martha’s Vineyard
My personal favorite town to stay on Martha’s Vineyard is Edgartown because it has a beaches, a downtown with lots of restaurants, Edgartown Lighthouse, the Chappaquiddick ferry, and amazing hotels.
- 5-minute walk to Katama/South Beach
- Gorgeous rooms and suites
- On-site restaurant and massage services
- Pool and kid’s club
- Great place for both coupes and families
- Free shuttle to downtown Edgartown
If you’re looking to rent a vacation home, Tisbury or Chilmark are great options!
How To Get To Martha’s Vineyard
The only two ways to get to Martha’s Vineyard are by plane or ferry.
The most popular way to get to the island is by ferry, and most people choose to take either Hyline Cruises from Hyannis, the Island Queen ferry out of Falmouth, or Steamship Authority from Woods Hole. All of these depart from Cape Cod. These ferries usually drop you off in either Oak Bluffs or Vineyard Haven once you reach the island.
If you want to take a ferry directly to Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, you can also take the Edgartown Fast Ferry from Falmouth on Cape Cod.
If you need a ferry between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, the only option is the inter-island ferry via Hyline Cruises.
Lastly, you can also choose to take the SeaStreak Ferry from New Bedford, MA, or the Rhode Island Fast Ferry from North Kingstown, RI.
You can also choose to fly directly to Martha’s Vineyard, and the island’s airport is serviced by Cape Air, Delta, American Airlines and Jet Blue.
Which Ferry Is The Cheapest Option To Get To Martha’s Vineyard?
The cheapest ferry option for Martha’s Vineyard is the Steamship Authority ferry out of Woods Hole. This ferry is $20 PP*, round-trip, and takes less than an hour.
*Prices as of 2023.
How To Get To Martha’s Vineyard Without A Car
If you live in Boston, the best option is this tour, which drives you from the city to the ferry terminal, and has an option to include a tour around Martha’s Vineyard, too. If you’re hoping to see the beautiful Aquinnah Cliffs and Gay Head Lighthouse during your visit, you really need to have someone drive you there because the bus system takes a while.
There is also a bus station in Hyannis, and you can opt to take a bus there, and then either walk 15 minutes to the ferry terminal, or catch the free, seasonal shuttle to the terminal.
Visiting Martha’s Vineyard without a car? I’ve got you covered!
Click here to read my post on exploring the island without a car!
Is Martha’s Vineyard Better For Couples Or Families?
Honestly, both! My husband and I don’t have kids, and take romantic escapes to Martha’s Vineyard quite a bit. But I also know a lot of families with children that love Martha’s Vineyard for all the kid-friendly activities, like the carousel and calm beaches in Oak Bluffs, the Alpaca Farm, and the fun boat tours.
The Winnetu Resort is also perfect for kids, because of their kid’s club, which provides fun activities so parents can scoot away for part of the day.
Best Time Of Year To Visit Martha’s Vineyard
The best, and most popular, time of year to visit Martha’s Vineyard is in the summer in July and August. This is when New England experiences the best weather and longest days, and when everything comes alive. And for traveling to an island like Martha’s Vineyard, this is when you’ll have the most options for ferries.
But, this is also when you’ll run into the most crowds and highest hotel prices. I always think that coastal New England is worth it in the summer, though.
The next best time to visit is shoulder season in June and September, but September has also gained popularity over the last few years when the secret of “Second Summer” became more well known. Second Summer is when all the kids go back to school in September, and there are far fewer tourists, but you still have warm weather and ocean water. I’ve found early and mid September to still be pretty expensive and decently crowded (but definitely not as crowded as the summer).
June is lovely, especially early June, because the crowds have usually just started to trickle in, but it’s still peaceful, and hotels typically don’t charge quite as much. If you’re looking to swim in the ocean, the water is still very cold in June, though.
You may also find these posts helpful:
- Best Beaches On Martha’s Vineyard
- Your Ultimate Guide To Summer In New England
- Is Nantucket Or Martha’s Vineyard Better For A Day Trip?
- Best Sunsets On Cape Cod & The Islands
- What To Pack For Cape Cod & The Islands
- The Most Incredible Things To Do In New England
- Best Beach Towns In New England To Visit
- The Most Incredible New England Resorts & Spas
That’s A Wrap On The Best Things To Do On Martha’s Vineyard
Now you know all about the absolute best things to do on Martha’s Vineyard, and you’re ready to plan your next trip! Whether you’re looking to explore the cute towns and lounge around on the beaches, or are excited to explore the gorgeous Aquinnah cliffs, and check out some of the beautiful lighthouses, it’s most definitely going to be a wonderful summer vacation.