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Up-Island

With so many things to do in downtown Edgartown, it can be tough to justify straying very far from North Water Street, especially on a shorter visit. Still, if you’re a veteran of these parts or just looking for a change of scenery, a trip up-island is well worth your time. When we say up-island, we mean the western part of Martha’s Vineyard: West Tisbury, Chilmark, Menemsha, and Aquinnah. Confused yet? The phrase “up-island” dates back to our whaling days, when latitude and longitude were crucial for navigation. The further up-island you go, the higher your coordinate of longitude.

 

Gayhead Light Atop The Aquinnah Cliffs

Getting Up-Island from Edgartown

We’ll admit that heading up-island takes a bit more planning and travel time than a stroll to Edgartown Lighthouse, but, trust us — the extra effort pays off. These smaller towns run at a slower pace, with natural scenery as their main focal point. For a quick ride out of town, your best bet is to check out the Vineyard Transit Authority bus schedule — day passes are inexpensive, and buses run regularly from town to town all day during the summer. For total freedom at a higher price, you can charter your own Stagecoach Taxi for your person tour-de-island. Guests can always stop by the front desk for personalized help planning a day up-island.

 

There’s a lot of ground to cover over in those parts, but we consider these up-island attractions essential:

 

West Tisbury

A perfect stop on the way to or from the island’s western tip, West Tisbury’s limits reach the shore both north and south of downtown, covering a huge swath of central-western Martha’s Vineyard. With the people here scattered few and far between, this hamlet provides the perfect opportunity for a meandering stroll through nature.  Just outside the village lies the 70-acre Polly Hill Arboretum, where tree species from around the world thrive amidst beautiful stone walls and meadowlands. Split your outdoor time between the Arboretum and the Field Gallery, whose whimsical sculptures live in harmony with a green landscape.menemsha beach light guard stand

 

Menemsha

For hundreds of years, the island’s freshest catches have been arriving daily from the tiny fishing village of Menemsha. Larsen’s Fish Market menu has all the classics cooked to order from clam chowder and lobster to stuffed scallops. Visit for lunch or stop by mid-afternoon to avoid the evening rush that accompanies Menemsha’s famous sunsets. A walk around this sand-swept town promises rewards in the form of lesser-known storefronts, ocean views, and solitude.

 

Chilmark

Chilmark chocolates sign on Martha's VineyardJust southeast of Menemsha, Chilmark is the place to stock up on farm-fresh up-island produce and treats. Chilmark Chocolates make a sweet gift (if you can resist eating them yourself), and the Chilmark General Store serves up top-notch breakfast sandwiches and gourmet pizza with seating on their covered porch. Expect a fair amount of company at both places — they’ve earned the fuss.

 

Aquinnah

Home to the famed Gay Head Lighthouse, Aquinnah marks the westernmost tip of Martha’s Vineyard. You’ve probably seen photos of this historic beacon atop copper-colored clay bluffs, but a camera just can’t do it justice. The shoreline changes constantly with the tides—so much so that the lighthouse has actually been moved back from its more precarious original location.

The Best Things to Do in Martha’s Vineyard for Solo Travelers
What to Know about the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival
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

Chocolate eggs by sister72

Chocolate.  The mere word conjures up all manner of sensations: images, scents – even moods.  But most of all tastes.  It is part of our diet and part of our culture.  Consider the phrases that have entered the vox populi:

When the going gets tough, the tough get chocolate.
Chocolate: It’s not just for breakfast anymore.
Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.
All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt!

It’s bad for your waistline but a good source of anti-oxidants. And it tastes like heaven.  We rationalize and take the oh-so-good with the bad.

So what does all this have to do with Martha’s Vineyard?  Well, MV is a chocolate lover’s dream, with several places to go to meet one’s Recommended Daily Allowance of Brown Gold.  (Sorry, but the white stuff simply isn’t chocolate.)  Below, find a brief compendium of chocolate oriented destinations:

In Edgartown, the Ice Cream and Candy Bazaar reigns, partly for its selection of yummy chocolate treats but also for its location: right on the harbor.  (See my post from July for a paean to that place.)  Added bonuses are the ice cream and fun penny candy… none of which costs a penny. This is the Vineyard, after all!

Oak Bluffs holds a treasure in Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium.  One of four locations – the others being Falmouth, Northampton, MA and Bar Harbor – this place has a huge variety of chocolate and chocolate-covered delights, from truffles to turtles.  My daughter swears by the chocolate-covered gummy bears.  I’ll take her word for it since I am not gummiverous.  Ice cream is offered at the Circuit Avenue location as well.  That alone is worth the trip.

Finally, there’s Chilmark Chocolates.  As the name would suggest, this is a chocolate store.  No ice cream, no drinks, no penny candy, no web site, no scenic seating area, no room to move.  This place is all about the chocolate.  Period.  But it doesn’t need anything else.  The delicacies are all hand made or hand-dipped and they are all delicious.

One thing I love about Chilmark Chocolates is that they know we need them more than they need us.  They make that clear through a variety of means:  First of all, they are never open.  OK, that’s an exaggeration, but not much of one.  They are only open a few days a week, a few hours a day.  And they invariably close during the busiest week of the summer! (A side effect of the limited availability is the often unlimited lines.)  Second, their location up island is relatively remote compared to the likes of Circuit Ave., Upper Main Street, or Five Corners.  Finally, the store is really just a short corridor. Walk in one side and out the other.  There is nowhere else to go.

But there is nowhere else you need to go, because along that corridor is a glass enclosed display of the finest chocolate treats you are likely to find anywhere.  And they are surprisingly reasonably priced.

Finally, know that when you patronize Chilmark Chocolates, you are supporting a business that was created to (and still does) employ disabled workers.  What could be better than buying and eating the world’s best chocolate as your good deed for the day?

 

Where do you get your chocolate fix?

Photo by sister72

 

The Best Things to Do in Martha’s Vineyard for Solo Travelers
What to Know about the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival
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
Great-Rock-Bight-300x225
Great Rock by Joanne Sardini

I already covered most of the Edgartown area beaches in an earlier post, so now to venture a little further afield…
I mentioned in my last post how fun State Beach is – lots of kids, lots of fun, great swimming. If you continue on Beach road to Oak Bluffs you will come across Inkwell Beach, just minutes from the downtown area. You will see lots of people swimming ‘laps’ between the 2 breakwaters every morning and it’s a great spot if you don’t have a car as it is easily accessible on the VTA bus route 13.

Between Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs, next to the drawbridge, is Eastville Beach. A small parking lot can take about 30 cars so it’s always pretty quiet and I love to sit and watch the ferries and other boats coming in and out of Vineyard Haven harbor – sometimes you can be lucky enough to see one of the Black Dog Tall Ships, the Shenandoah or the Alabama, in full sail – spectacular! You can take a ride on one of these beautiful ships, or just sit back and admire.

Head ‘Up-Island’ to the more rural areas of Martha’s Vineyard and public beaches are a little scarcer. Many of the beaches in this area are private or restricted access, so be careful not to wander where you may not be welcome. With that said, there are a few gems that cannot be left out…One of my favorite hidden gems is Great Rock Bight. Not the easiest beach to find, it is about 3.8 miles along North Road from the intersection with State Road. Parking is very limited so be prepared to get there early. The property is managed by the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank and has a lovely walking trail which winds through scenic woodlands to the beach. Be aware that the stairs to the beach are very steep – it can be a tough climb back, so pack light! When you get to the beach you can’t miss the Great Rock about 20 feet off shore. Relax on the sandy stretch near the stairs, or wander along the rocky stretch to your left and discover rock ponds and hidden coves.

Another ‘Up-Island’ gem is Moshup Trail – featured on the Travel Channel as America’s best walking beach – this is another Land Bank property. Less than half a mile from the public parking and bus stop at Aquinnah, this stretch of Atlantic beach sits in the shadow of the Aquinnah Cliffs and Gay Head lighthouse. It takes a little effort to get to this out of the way location, but it is definitely worth it! Just don’t climb on the cliffs, they are a Nationally Protected Landmark and it is a Federal offence to climb on them or take a piece home. Enjoy the surf, the sand and have a roll in the clay mud – it is said to have restorative powers.

There are lots of other great spots – which one is your favorite?

 

The Best Things to Do in Martha’s Vineyard for Solo Travelers
What to Know about the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival
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

To paraphrase a well known bumper sticker, “A bad day on the Vineyard is better than a good day at work.” We would only be exaggerating a little if we were to expand that to say better than a good day almost anywhere else!

 

Allowing the possibility that there really is such a thing as a bad day on Martha’s Vineyard, what would it look like? Among the things that could diminish one’s enjoyment of the island are low temperatures, driving rain, and lack of sunshine. What to do on those rare days when outside activities are not in the cards?

 

At home at the Edgartown Residence Club, there is always the option of curling up in front of the fire with a good book, good movie, or good friend. (A glass of wine or mug of hot chocolate wouldn’t hurt that scene either!) Bookstores, movie theaters and restaurants are possible choices as well.

 

Still, for a different kind of distraction on those days when you want to get out but “out” is not a friendly place to be weather-wise, my family likes to head to the Martha’s Vineyard Glassworks.

Located on State Road in West Tisbury, Martha’s Vineyard Glassworks is a combination art studio, museum, gallery, and craft shop, as well as a unique learning experience. And on a raw day, the heat emanating from the red hot ovens makes the place an oasis of warmth not to be missed.

 

There are two parts to the Martha’s Vineyard Glassworks experience. First are the pieces themselves. Two floors of unique and creative glass art will give you all the browsing pleasure you could possibly ask for. From jewelry to vases, from bowls to decorative pieces, there are items to suit everyone’s tastes, all beautifully realized.

 

The real draw of the rustic studio, however, is the opportunity to watch master glassblowers at work. While you look on, a simple lump of glass is transformed into a work of art. Whether a glass, a bowl, or even a Christmas ornament, you will experience a thing of beauty in the process of creation. The skilled and friendly craftsmen (craftspeople?) are also more than happy to explain what they are doing and why at each step of the process.

 

Kids and adults will all find themselves entranced by the process. Watching these masters at work – tossing the pieces and their working tools around with incredible deftness – is not unlike being in the audience at a magic show. Indeed, they do make things of beauty appear right before your eyes.

 

Warning to parents of young children: Unless you want to learn first hand the meaning of the phrase “bull in a china shop,” keep your young ones well in hand during your visit. They will be entranced by the glassblowers but may not be careful with the finished products.

 

If you want to visit Martha’s Vineyard Glassworks, make sure you call ahead to find out when they are blowing glass. Their number is 508-693-6026. Also, visit their web site to see more about the business and the kinds of items they make and sell. Note that they are a seasonal business, generally open from early May to late October.

 

Image courtesy of Martha’s Vineyard Glass Works

 

The Best Things to Do in Martha’s Vineyard for Solo Travelers
What to Know about the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival
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