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Steamship Authority

After months of planning and waiting, it’s finally that time of year again. You’re on your way to your Martha’s Vineyard vacation and nothing can stop you now — well…except for that pesky Woods Hole ferry. Even with the best of intentions, we’ve all missed the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard once or twice. Luckily, your vacation doesn’t have to wait for the next ferry. Jump start your Vineyard vacation with these engaging things to do in Woods Hole.

 

Things to do in Woods Hole Massachusetts
Flickr/Doug Kerr/CC BY 2.0)

Things To Do In Woods Hole, Massachusetts

Embrace the Ocean

Settled over 300 years ago as a fishing and farming community, Woods Hole is internationally known as a center for marine, biomedical, and environmental science. Ocean lovers of all shapes and sizes should head straight for the Woods Hole Science Aquarium, the oldest operating aquarium in the United States. Press your nose against the glass tanks and watch over 140 species of fish waves their tails and flap their fins. Plus, you may even get to graze your fingers across the backs of lobsters, quahogs, spider crabs, horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs, and starfish in the touch tanks — just don’t let the experience turn you off of eating seafood.

 

Nobska Light Woods Hole
Flickr/Mass Travel/CC BY 2.0)

Walk To Nobska Point

Take the long view on your Martha’s Vineyard vacation with a walk down to Nobska Point. Just over a mile away from the Woods Hole Steamship Authority, this gorgeous spot boasts a stunning lighthouse that you may have spotted from the ferry once or twice. Climb to the top of Nobska Point Lighthouse and enjoy panoramic views of Vineyard Harbor and Martha’s Vineyard. Keep an eye on your time though — we wouldn’t want you missing a second ferry, would we?

 

Grab a Snack

If you ask us, one of the best things to do in Woods Hole is to chow down on a delicious snack. Looking to satisfy a deep hunger? Stop into Wood Hole’s favorite pirate bar, the Captain Kidd. Decked out in nautical pirate flair, this spot will get you in the maritime spirit with its decor and decadent fresh seafood. A mere five minutes from the Woods Hole ferry, you’ll find Candy Go Nuts, an old fashion sweets store with a mouthwatering selection. We highly recommend their any of their penny candies for a classic candy store experience. The best part? After all this candy, your kids (and maybe you, too) will crash and nap during your Martha’s Vineyard ferry ride.

 

Take the Shining Sea Bike Path

Bringing your bikes to the island? Scrounge up your helmets and unpack your bikes for a quick trek along the Shining Sea Bike Path. Built along an old railway path, this bike path begins in Woods Hole and extends 11 miles to Falmouth. Unless you’re a very speedy biker (or you’re looking to miss another ferry), we suggest just getting your feet wet, biking along the Cape Cod shore and stopping at the region’s beautiful beaches for a quick dip.

 

With all the quiet corners and maritime gems to discover in Woods Hole, your hour to wait will no longer be wasted. Don’t dilly dally, though. The folks at Vineyard Square are eager to welcome you to your island home.

Plan a Visit to the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival
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Explore Memorable Things to Do & See in West Tisbury
Spend a Day at the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest
See the Next Big Thing at a Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival
A Guide on How to Get to Martha’s Vineyard
A Look at the History of Our Edgartown Hotel
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ferry1Probably one of the least romanticized aspects of Martha’s Vineyard is the Steamship Authority‘s ferry service.  It’s old.  It’s stodgy.  It’s even smelly on occasion.  People may make disparaging comments about the boats or the service or the crowds, but I’ll have none of it.  Think of me what you will, but I like the ferry.  It’s the people’s option.

The best part about taking the ferry is the separation that it provides from the land-locked life.  When I’m riding on the ferry, traversing Vineyard Sound to the Island, I can feel the anxiety and stress falling from me as if an oversized knapsack has been loosed from my back after a long, arduous hike.  As I anticipate a stay on the Island, my shoulders seem to rise an inch or two from the sheer relief of burdens picked up on the mainland.  I need that time of adjustment.

If there were a bridge or tunnel to the Vineyard, as some souvenir car stickers would have you believe, I would still take the boat.  I like the physical and emotional transition that it affords.  That’s why, when taking the car on the ferry, it’s best to get out and spend the crossing time topside.  Getting into the car and not getting out until you are on the Island has the same effect as driving over a bridge.  You just don’t get the break you need to start a real vacation.

Ferry-by-takomabibelot (1)Today there are two primary steamships making the voyage from Woods Hole, mypreferred point of departure: the three-year-old “M/V Island Home” and the venerable (by comparison) “M/V Martha’s Vineyard”.  (There is also a set of freighter ships, but I prefer to stay with the passenger vessels.  Even I have my limits!)  My preference is for the bi-directional newer ship.  It doesn’t need to turn around upon MV arrival as the older boat does.  Thus, I can set my feet on Island soil that much sooner.

The Steamship is reliable and consistent.  It runs year round and only the harshest of weather keeps it from its appointed rounds.  Its persistence accounts for some exciting happenings.  I recall a particularly rough crossing, during which one courageous soul insisted on sitting on the outside deck of the ferry.  As he sat alone  (no one else was foolhardy enough to venture outside on this passage) reading his newspaper, a rogue wave came over the front of the ship, engulfing him in bone-chilling salt water.  He came back inside, humbled, wiser, and soaked to the marrow.

I don’t mean to disparage the obvious benefits of the alternative means of transport.  The “Island Queen”, a passenger-only vessel that takes its patrons from Falmouth Harbor to Oak Bluffs Harbor, is fast and convenient, with far less hectic departures and arrivals.  From the other side of Falmouth Harbor, the quaint “Pied Piper” will drop you off right in downtown Edgartown.  (How cool is that?)  I won’t touch on the relative merits of the air routes to the Vineyard.  That discussion is left for the more affluent among us.

All things considered, however, I prefer the pace, tradition, and yes, the price of the Steamship Authority option.  Truth be told, anything that gets me to the Vineyard is appreciated!  In this case, because of the delights of the destination, getting there is not nearly half the fun!

Plan a Visit to the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival
Where to Get the Best Pizza on Martha’s Vineyard Near Edgartown
Explore Memorable Things to Do & See in West Tisbury
Spend a Day at the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest
See the Next Big Thing at a Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival
A Guide on How to Get to Martha’s Vineyard
A Look at the History of Our Edgartown Hotel
Celebrate the Season | A Guide to Christmas in Edgartown

New BridgePerhaps the most frequent question posed to island people is, “What do you do in the winter?”.  I get the feeling that many of our summer friends have a vision of a big, domed platter cover coming down from the sky to envelop Vineyard while the locals hibernate from New Years Day until Memorial Day Weekend. Ah, not so.  Entertainment is at a minimum, but far from non-existent.  It’s just that we have a lot more of everything in the summer.

But I’m getting off track here.  Mostly, what we’re doing here in the winter, is getting ready for the return of all our off Island friends in the Spring!  A summer resort takes a huge amount of maintenance! The biggest projects this year are our bridges!  I’m sure you have all watched the slow progress of the building of the temporary Lagoon Bridge between Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven.  Well, it finally opened this month!  It took two barges to being over the new drawbridge section AND the incredible crane that put it in its place.  Now the old bridge is being cut up into sections and taken away the same way.  The temporary bridge is such an impressive structure, it’s hard to believe that it too must eventually meet the same demise.  By the time you return this year, the new permanent bridge will be well underway.

Moving along to the other side of Oak Bluffs…Watching the progress on Little Bridge and Big Bridge (as they are affectionately known), along the Beach Road to Edgartown, is an education in engineering in itself.  If you were one of the lucky ones who had your 2009 visit spill over into the beautiful fall, you watched as the mobile traffic lights were erected and both bridges lost their ocean side lanes.  Since then the rebuilding has begun, with barges, cranes and equipment I’ve never seen before.  Talk about a feat of engineering? How do those four story cranes withstand the gale winds that have been blowing across the pond? And while I’m at it, I’d like to applaud the work crews and traffic cops battling the same winds and storms, sometimes so concealed under thick winter clothing that all you can see is a slit of their sunglass covered eyes.  But progress is what they are making, and I’m sure by the summer, all kids (young and old), will be jumping off the newly rebuilt Big Bridge.  And when they leave in September, the traffic lights, cranes and construction crews will return to perform the same magic on the pond side of the road next winter.

Going back into Oak Bluffs Center, its east to get distracted, as there’s no more Steamship Authority ferry terminal.  There again, all you see are large cranes, some very strange looking, large vehicles, and a pile of humongous boulders.  Yes, we are finally going to get a new terminal.  But not without complications.  It seems the old foundation has massive cracks in it, so instead of building the new building structure on it as originally planned, it will have to be replaced too.  Why does everything end up costing more? (It’s the same at my house!) But things are taking shape.  If you can see between all the equipment smothering the dock, you can make out shiny new railings.  All should be pretty spiffy for the 2010 season.

And last but not least, lets not forget two major construction projects coming to an end soon and both adding huge new services to the Island –  the brand new YMCA and the shiny new, state of the art hospital, both opening this spring.  The hospital opening was supposed to have been in February, but due to some faulty flooring adhesive, it has been moved back until April.  Details. details.  But not to worry, you will have a state-of-the-art facility to bring your skinned knees and sunburns to this summer.

So, you see, life hardly stops on the Island when the days get shorter.  In fact, there is quite an impressive flurry of activity.  And what does all of this winter maintenance say to you?  I sincerely hope the message is that we really care for and about our summer family and want to offer you the very best when you return to us!!

 

Plan a Visit to the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival
Where to Get the Best Pizza on Martha’s Vineyard Near Edgartown
Explore Memorable Things to Do & See in West Tisbury
Spend a Day at the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest
See the Next Big Thing at a Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival
A Guide on How to Get to Martha’s Vineyard
A Look at the History of Our Edgartown Hotel
Celebrate the Season | A Guide to Christmas in Edgartown

If I had a dollar for everyone who has ended a reservation call with some variation on this theme, I’d be a happy man. Sometimes, people want me to tell them what they should do and I simply cannot. This can be frustrating for some.

There are as many answers as there are people. Some folk are extremely attached to their wheels and the idea of leaving their car, their independence…nay…their very identities behind is unthinkable. Some people can drop their cars like a hot rock and just wing it. YOU know your travel needs better than I do. It is possible (and FAR less expensive) to travel everywhere on the Island without bringing your car across.

Here’s what I suggest to Colonial Inn guests…

Leave the car behind. The Steamship Authority has ample parking in numerous locations. You pay $10 per calendar day to park and they shuttle you to the boat.  The Steamship cost for vehicles is between $135 and $155 round-trip. (The bigger the car or truck, the more you spend to bring it over!) Therefore, $40 for parking on a three-day stay leaves you $95 to $115 ahead. (That’s a meal for two at a mid-range Island restaurant…)

During the height of the summer, every town on Martha’s Vineyard becomes rush hour Boston. You can inch along for an hour and never see a parking spot, and you will begin to curse the happy carefree faces of cyclists and pedestrians. MOREOVER, they paid $40 to park their cars so they are loaded down with plunder while YOU have $100 less to spend toward boosting the economy. It’s downright un-American! So leave the car. Plunder the Village!

Car-less and straight off of the boat, options increase. This is where I have different advice for different people. Taxis are expensive. $22 for two people will get you from a ferry terminal to our door. Pricey? Yes, but with a varying number of travelers coming from locations far and wide, (some of whom may have begun their travels at three or four AM, ugh) and luggage in tow, it is the fastest way to get you here and settled.  If we can’t get you into your room yet, we will at least take that annoying luggage and direct you to a great lunch spot. (Freed of your burdens and a tummy full of lunch, you will feel much more adventurous. Trust me!)

Once you are here and settled, THEN we can walk you through the Vineyard Transit Authority Bus route.  The public bus system has connections to many points on the island and for a $15 three day pass, you can have unlimited access.  Many of the drivers are year-round Island residents and have a wide range of ideas for things to see and do. (Getting some of them to chat is trickier, but if it were all easy, where would the adventure be?)

There are also several bicycle rental shops no more than three minutes away.  We recommend Cutler Bikes and Wheel Happy.  They have been more than helpful to our guests over the years and I recommend them without hesitation.  Many of the roads on the Island have wide sidewalks designed to accommodate bicycles.

Please, just don’t ask us about mopeds! (We prefer that the one part of the island that you don’t explore while here is the emergency room…)

Image courtesy of The Vineyard Transit Authority

 

Plan a Visit to the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival
Where to Get the Best Pizza on Martha’s Vineyard Near Edgartown
Explore Memorable Things to Do & See in West Tisbury
Spend a Day at the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest
See the Next Big Thing at a Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival
A Guide on How to Get to Martha’s Vineyard
A Look at the History of Our Edgartown Hotel
Celebrate the Season | A Guide to Christmas in Edgartown
Ferry-by-takomabibelot
Photo by takomabibelot

Over the past 10 years in the hotel industry on Martha’s Vineyard I have noticed a strange phenomenon.  Many, and I mean lots and lots and lots, of 1st time visitors coming to Martha’s Vineyard book their accommodations and THEN ask ‘How do I get there?’

The first few times I gave all the travel options (there are also lots and lots of these – I’ll get to them in a minute, bear with me), didn’t think about the question too much and went about my day, but after a while I began to wonder – why book a hotel room if you don’t know how you are getting there?  The answer is now totally obvious to me…because Martha’s Vineyard is such an awesome place to visit, that most folks are sooo excited about coming here, they’ll work on the details later.  Also, lots of people forget that we are an Island.  AND we don’t have a bridge.

So, I hear you say, How DO we get there?

Well, the 1st, and most frequently used option, is the Steamship Authority ferry service.  This service is the ONLY car ferry (although we suggest leaving it behind – gridlock on vacation isn’t fun !) and makes the 45 minute trip about 14 times a day.  It takes some really bad weather before these ferries are cancelled, so they are also the most reliable option and gives them their well deserved tag line of “The Lifeline to the Islands”.  More about them in another post.

There are also a number of other passenger only ferry services from New Bedford has year round service and there is seasonal service from Falmouth (to Oak Bluffs orEdgartown), Hyannis and Quonset Point, RI.

Another option is to fly directly to the island.  You can do this year round on Cape Air, or seasonally on US Airways.

So, you can see why it took a while to go through all these options with people on the phone – and with so many travel options, I can see why they didn’t plan their travel before they booked their rooms!

 

Plan a Visit to the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival
Where to Get the Best Pizza on Martha’s Vineyard Near Edgartown
Explore Memorable Things to Do & See in West Tisbury
Spend a Day at the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest
See the Next Big Thing at a Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival
A Guide on How to Get to Martha’s Vineyard
A Look at the History of Our Edgartown Hotel
Celebrate the Season | A Guide to Christmas in Edgartown