“Which island is better, Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket?” that’s a difficult one to answer. There are many similarities but also many differences. Probably the best way to explain it would be – there’s just a different vibe to each island. Martha’s seems a little more relaxed, while Nantucket has more of a “high end” feel. After giving it some thought, our favourite of the two would have to be Nantucket, but Martha’s is not far behind.
In a perfect world there would be no such thing as a short trip to either, however when trying to decide which of the two to visit on our last trip, it was so impossible to pick one over the other that we were thrilled to find that there was actually a”two island in one day” option called “Around the Sound.” Ideally you would want more time at both places but with only one day left in our schedule – this is what we chose, and having been to both islands before – it worked for us.
For this trip we stayed in West Yarmouth, which is approx. a 2 hour drive from Boston, and just a few minutes from Hyannis and the ferries. Flying from Barnstable to the islands is also an option, but the most popular way of getting there is by ferry. There are two ferry options: the Steamship Authority which takes longer and you are able to bring your car (very pricey, and you must book ahead because vehicle space is very limited in the summer) or the Hy-line Fast Ferry which cuts the travel time down to approx. 1 hour and is very comfortable however it does not transport vehicles.
We had pre purchased our tickets online just to be sure there was no issue with availability and arrived at the ferry at 8 a.m. for our 8:30 a.m.departure. I would not have wanted to arrive any later, parking was a bit of a challenge (expensive and limited) and there was quite a long line already waiting to get onboard. The ferry was very comfortable with indoor and outdoor seating and a snack bar and air conditioning. We left right on time and the ride literally flew by. First stop, Nantucket.
From the moment that you step off of the ferry you are surrounded by charm. One tiny little cedar shake covered shop after another, leading to the centre of town. One big advantage of the ferry is that it drops off right at the start of the town – no transportation necessary, although there are bus tours (also available through Hy-line) that will take you around the rest of the island and for an overview.
So many little shops and galleries…
Once you get a little closer to the centre of town, the one of a kind shops are lined along the cobblestone streets – you definitely want to be wearing comfortable shoes – very bumpy and uneven but totally adds to the atmosphere.
If you’re looking for something other than shops, maybe a stop at the Whaling Museum?
Tucked right behind the centre of town lies a small glimpse of the beautiful waterfront
A stop for a delicious lunch on the patio at The Tavern before getting back on the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard
Fresh lobster roll and clam strips that tasted like they had just been reeled in (mouth watering just thinking of it)
Plenty of great beaches on Nantucket
After lunch and a little more shopping, we caught the ferry for the second leg of the trip – Martha’s Vineyard. The boat had lots of seating and it was nice to put our feet up and relax for the one hour ride to the next island.
Martha’s Vineyard is made up of 6 towns, with the two most popular being Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. The ferry docks right in Oak Bluffs, which is perfect for a short stay because everything is quite reachable by foot in the area. If you’re looking to head out of the area (and you didn’t bring your car), the public transit system is quite good or you could rent a car (there’s a Budget car rental just a short walk from the dock). There’s much more to Martha’s Vineyard than Oak Bluffs so I highly encourage you to explore the rest of the island if you have the time.
The dock area has several lively little bars and restaurants, with daily/nightly specials. A great spot to sit and people watch while waiting for the ferry.
Keep walking towards the right and you will soon come to the oldest carousel in the U.S. – The Flying Horses. Take a ride and don’t forget to catch the brass ring to get a free ride. I couldn’t get Baby Bug on it this time but it brought back great memories of our last trip when she was around the age of 5 – where does the time go?
the oldest carousel is right in the middle of this little beach town
After a fun ride on the carousel, continue on Main St. and it’s one shop and restaurant after another, offering many snacks and souvenirs for purchase. After a bit of a walk (and a turn to the right), you will come to one of the most unique and beautiful neighbourhoods I have ever laid eyes on…
Gingerbread Cottage Campground
Yes it’s a bit of a walk and yes it’s a little bit hidden – but oh so worth it! Going back to the mid 1800’s, every summer this area was a campground for Methodists and their families to gather for church camp meetings. Eventually their tents turned to cottages, and eventually these little cottages turned into the quaint, unique gingerbread cottages that they are today. Winding little one way streets with more than 300 one of a kind cottages that look like they came straight from a Disney movie. Oh, and yes they are for rent – Mama Bug discovered for approx. $2500 a week (yikes!!!), and they are in big demand.
There is no shortage of gorgeous beaches to enjoy while on the Vineyard or Nantucket. We really like the stretch between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. Fun Fact: This is the area where some of the movie JAWS was filmed in 1974.
EdgartownThis is the town that is a little more upscale with shops and fine dining and many beautiful inns. Very easy and affordable to reach by public transportation (bus), and if you have a car, we were shocked to find that we had no trouble finding free parking in the middle of July, but that could have been some of our luckybug “luck.”
You really can find a shop for almost anything in this beautiful little island town.
Perfect way to end a great day, watching a fishing boat heading out while we were sailing back into port in Hyannis. On a clear day you might even catch a glimpse of the Kennedy compound.