Martha's Vineyard in a Nutshell:
Among gay travelers, Provincetown gets the most attention among the towns on or near Cape Cod, but utterly charming, easygoing, and gay-friendly Martha's Vineyard shouldn't be missed. It's not a gay (or even straight) singles destination, but the island exudes romance as makes a terrific getaway for gay couples as well as families. Relaxation is the buzzword: there are fine beaches; a few towns bustling with sophisticated shops, inns, and restaurants; and a wealth of outdoorsy activities, from nature rambles to kayak tours to bike rides. Upscale but not uppity, Martha's Vineyard is the quintessential island retreat.
Although Martha's Vineyard is most popular in summer, and many of its businesses open only from May through October, it's actually an appealing destination year-round, especially during the less-crowded but still mild spring and fall seasons.
Average high-low temps are 39F/22F in Jan., 54F/38F in Apr., 79F/62F in July, and 62F/45F in Oct. Snow falls occasionally in winter but doesn't often last long, and summer breezes generally prevent extended heat waves. Fall and spring offer crisp, cool, and often beautiful weather. Precipitation averages 3 to 4.5 inches/mo. year-round.
Martha's Vineyard is a roughly 100-square-mile (9 miles wide, 23 miles long) island about 5 miles south of the Cape Cod town of Falmouth - it's part of a larger body of islands formed by glacial moraine that include Nantucket in Massachusetts, Block Island in Rhode Island, and Long Island in New York.
Martha's Vineyard is divided roughly in half by Down-Island (to the east), which is home to such popular and bustling towns as Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown; and the more rural and undeveloped Up-Island (to the west), where you'll find just a handful of businesses and a few tiny village centers.
Driving distances to Woods Hole, Cape Cod, the main ferry departure point for Martha's Vineyard (the ferry is about a 35-min crossing), from prominent places and points of interest are:
Boston: 70 miles (90 min)
Burlington, VT: 285 miles (5 to 5.5 hrs)
Montreal: 445 miles (7 to 7.5 hrs)
Newport, RI: 75 miles (90 min)
New Haven, CT: 175 miles (3 hrs)
New York City: 255 miles (4.5 to 5 hrs)
Northampton: 165 miles (3 hrs)
Portland, ME: 175 miles (3 to 3.5 hrs)
Providence, RI: 75 miles (90 min)
Provincetown: 75 miles (2 hrs)
Washington, DC: 475 miles (7.5 to 8 hrs)
Traveling to Martha's Vineyard:
Martha's Vineyard is fairly easy to reach without a car, and it's easy to explore on foot or Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority bus; summer traffic is horrendous, and a car can be a liability, so consider leaving it at home (it's also expensive to take a car over on the ferry).
Cape Air has direct flights from several major regional airports to Martha's Vineyard Airport. The most popular way to get here is by ferry on Steamship Authority and Island Queen from Falmouth, Hy-Line from Hyannis, and New England Fast Ferry from New Bedford. Also see Traveling to Cape Cod.
Martha's Vineyard Events and Festivals:
Ongoing summer events include West Tisbury Farmers Market on Sat. and Wed., Vineyard Artisan fairs on Sun. and Thurs., plays at the Vineyard Playhouse, and Chappaquiddick nature and lighthouse tours and kayak trips.
Late May: Annual Artisans Spring Fair at Grange Hall, West Tisbury.
Early July: Edgartown Independence Parade and Fireworks.
Mid-July: Edgartown Regatta.
Mid-Aug.: MV Agricultural Society Livestock show.
Late Aug.: Vineyard Fine Art Show.
Mid-Sept.: Martha's Vineyard International Film Festival.
Mid-Sept. to Oct.: MV Striped Bass & Bluefish Derby
Early Dec.: Vineyard Craftsmen Art & Craft Fair.
Martha's Vineyard - Neighborhoods and Communities:
Martha's Vineyard is divided into the western side, known as Up-Island, and the eastern side, known as Down-Island.
The major commercial districts are all Down-Island and consist of Vineyard Haven, a relaxed and low-keyed borough of shops and eateries and a major ferry terminus; Oak Bluffs, a free-spirited, less pricey, and more family-oriented town with a bounty of ice cream shops, amusements, and fun souvenir shops (it's also a ferry terminus); and Edgartown, a blue-blooded, elegant, if somewhat conservative town rife with cushy inns, restaurants, and shopping. Up-Island is more rural - and scenic - in character.
Top Martha's Vineyard Attractions:
The top pastime on this jewel of an island is simply relaxing - it's not a major sightseeing destination, but just strolling the gallery-lined streets of its main communities and exploring the island's several pristine nature reserves is great fun.
Some enjoyable pursuits include exploring East Chop Lighthouse in Oak Bluffs, touring Edgartown's Martha's Vineyard Historical Society; taking the short ferry over to Chappaquiddick Island and visiting such gems as Mytoi Garden and Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge; and driving Up-Island to Polly Hill Arboretum, Menemsha village, and Aquinnah (fka "Gay Head") Cliffs.
Resources on Martha's Vineyard:
A handful of resources provide information on the island in general. Although there's nothing specific for gay visitors, the staff at the Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce is extremely helpful and knowledgeable, as is the chamber's website. If you call and have questions about planning a same-sex wedding, for instance, they'll happily help you to find the right venue and local planner. Other helpful online resources include Martha's Vineyard Online, and the Internet version of the island's excellent newspaper, The Martha's Vineyard Times.
Getting to Know Martha's Vineyard:
One of the least spoiled coastal areas in the Northeast, Martha's Vineyard has been carefully preserved, many of its pastoral meadows and untamed beaches protected forever by conversation groups. For many visitors, the island represents the perfect balance between sophisticated diversions and tranquil, untrammeled scenic beauty. It's also long been a favorite summer hideaway of liberal-minded celebs, from the Clintons to Spike Lee to the late William Styron to Carly Simon.
You will not detect an obvious gay presence, as you would in Provincetown, or even increasingly in different towns on the Cape. But Martha's Vineyard is peopled by open-minded, progressive locals who, frankly, wouldn't blink twice at the sight of same-sex couples strolling hand-in-hand. In fact, although singles seeking nightlife will find much more to see and do in P'town, couples looking for an upscale, welcoming romantic getaway - perhaps even a gay wedding - may find Martha's Vineyard to be the perfect retreat.
There are actually a handful of gay-owned businesses on the island, including a smattering of accommodations, all of which cater to a cross section of visitors, gay and straight. Moreover, just about every business here could be called gay-friendly. Probably the most prominent and also most luxurious gay-owned inn is Lambert's Cove Inn and Restaurant, a stylish Up-Island property with a low-keyed vibe and a superb restaurant. Other recommened accommodations with at least a moderate gay following include the Shiverick Inn and the Hob Knob Inn, two elegant properties in the swanky heart of Edgartown; the breezy Crocker House Inn in downtown Vineyard Haven; and the reasonably priced Tivoli Inn in Oak Bluffs. A superb choice for gay families or couples who appreciate a wealth of sporting and recreational activities, plus an outstanding restaurant, is Winnetu Oceanside Resort.
The island also has dozens of fantastic restaurants. Musts include Detente in Edgartown, Lure at the Winnetu, the Beach Plum (which is also a terrific Up-Island inn), Sweet Life Cafe in Oak Bluffs, and the Net Result in Vineyard Haven - a relaxed seafood market that serves arguably the best lobster roll on the island.