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Martha's Vineyard Insider's Vacation Guide

Updated on December 30, 2010

Things to Do on Martha's Vineyard, Places to See, Historical Sites, Photos, Recommended Restaurants and Sightseeing

Martha's Vineyard is one of the East Coast's finest vacation destinations. This isn't the place to come and enjoy a roller coaster ride, it's the place where you can enjoy natural surroundings like the clay cliffs at Gay Head, the quaint shops of Vineyard Haven, take a walk along the oceanside at Oak Bluffs, enjoy views of Chappaquiddick in Edgartown, or watch the sunset on the calm waters of Menemsha. Leave your cellphone turned off, hire a babysitter, and check the mental baggage at the door so you can truly enjoy all of the great restaurants, sightseeing, and beaches that Martha's Vineyard has to offer. On this page, you can find some recommended things to do on Martha's Vineyard. You'll also find photos, videos, and other recommendations for what to do on the island. Have fun!

Martha's Vineyard map outline
Martha's Vineyard map outline

Why Is It Called Martha's Vineyard?

How did Martha's Vineyard get its name? - the origination

According to the Martha's Vineyard Museum, English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold visited the area in 1602. Martha was the name of his mother-in-law and daughter. At the time, and to this day, wild grapevines grow throughout the island. The name was given then to the island by his on-ship journalists, and the name has stuck.

As you can see, Martha's Vineyard is made up of six towns. These towns are all different and have their own scene. For instance, Edgartown town center is more upscale, and has beautiful views of Edgartown Light. On the other side of the island, Vineyard Haven is a dry town (no alcohol), but is one of the most popular with tourists for its Black Dog Cafe. At the other side of the triangle, Aquinnah has spectacular cliffs at the area that used to be called Gay Head.

Towns of Martha's Vineyard

Find More Information on Martha's Vineyard - Books detailing Martha's Vineyard travel, destinations, and history

Martha's Vineyard isn't lacking in good literature. Here are some more great reads about the island, from Fodor's guides to the Cape and the Islands, to the quiet pleasures of the island (and where you can find them).

Martha's Vineyard Houses and Gardens - Beautiful homes and gardens of the Vineyard seen in this recommended book

Find Martha's Vineyard Hidden Treasures Through Hiking, Kayaking and Biking - Hard to find scenic gems and backroad treasures of the Vineyard

Menemsha gas station, in the town of Chilmark.

Menemsha gas station, in the town of Chilmark.
Menemsha gas station, in the town of Chilmark.

Gay Head Lighthouse Print (available framed, click to purchase print).

Aquinnah, formerly known as Gay Head, has changed names since 1998, though it is often still referred to by its former name by locals. The town of Aquinnah has a population of approximately 344 and is a Wompanoag tribal center. The town is known for its beautiful clay cliffs along the shoreline, and the often photographed lighthouse at Gay Head.

Aquinnah Cultural Center

Aquinnah Cultural Center
Aquinnah Cultural Center

Which Town on Martha's Vineyard Would You Like to Visit (or Revisit) Most? - Vote on the town you'd like to vacation to here...

Which Martha's Vineyard town would you like to vacation to?

See results

Edgartown Lighthouse Panoramic Print (click to purchase)

Edgartown Lighthouse is located on a sand spit on the eastern side of Edgartown. It can be easily seen from parts of Edgartown Center if you follow the coastline. The town of Edgartown has small shops and some of Martha's Vineyard's best restaurants. You can also find the ferry to Chappaquiddick Island located in Edgartown Center. The ride across is just a few minutes. Yes, this is the infamous island where the Ted Kennedy incident took place!

A Quick Tour of Martha's Vineyard - A video tour of Martha's Vineyard's most memorable sites, towns, and historic spots

Racially Diverse Martha's Vineyard - Historical Martha's Vineyard: ethnicially and culturally diverse for decades

Martha's Vineyard Food

The best known restaurants and types of food on the island

The food on Martha's Vineyard ranges from seafood to typical New England style breakfasts. There is a definite emphasis on seafood, caught locally and from abroad. In addition to seafood, there are many ice cream shops on the island like Mad Martha's. Here is a list of Martha's Vineyard restaurants, along with when they're open. Also, here are some of the most well known on the island:

Giordano's Restaurant & Clam

They serve Italian, they serve American, they serve seafood fried (which is their specialty). Try the fried fish sandwich, fried clams, or any type of fried seafood and you won't be disappointed by this Oak Bluffs restaurant.

Black Dog Tavern

The Black Dog is one of Martha's Vineyard's best known restaurants. Trip Advisor now rates the restaurant a little on the weak side, with many customers stating it isn't what it used to be. However, some are still satisfied, and the view from the restaurant hasn't changed... it's still incredible.

Sweet Life Cafe

Located in Oak Bluffs, Sweet Life Cafe was visited by President Barack Obama in 2009. This island favorite has everything from seafood to beef, but expect to pay a bit more for the upscale quality.

Detente Restaurant and Wine Bar

In Edgartown's Nevin Square, you can find the Detente Restaurant and Wine Bar, rated #2 on Trip Advisor for the best restaurants on MV. Contemporary/American style cuisine, you can dine on all three courses and enjoy a great selection of top wines.

Larsen's Fish Market

They bring the lobster fresh off the boat, steam it in the shack, and plunk it on your table. You can't get any better than this, and the view of Menemsha is worth savoring.


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