by Donna Cain, Innkeeper and owner
Martha’s Vineyard makes for a great day trip from our inn, Brewster by the Sea Inn and Spa. We like to recommend that you have an early breakfast at the inn and catch an early ferry out of Woods Hole. You can take your car on the ferry but most of our guests either ride the public transportation, take their bikes or rent mopeds to traverse the island.
Since I am such a history buff I have to include some of the island’s interesting history.
Bartholomew Gosnold was the first European known to have visited Martha’s Vineyard in 1602. Gosnold named the island after the bountiful grapes he found on the island and possibly Martha was his daughter. The island was formally colonized in 1640, when English settlers bound for Virginia ran short of supplies. They docked in Edgartown and found the resident Wampanoag friendly and decided to stay.
In the early 1800’s the whaling industry took off. The Vineyard enjoyed a whaling heyday from the 1820’s to the Civil War, with hundreds of sailing vessels sailing in and out of Edgartown. Whaling captains took their enormous profits from whale oil and built large Federal and Greek Revival homes all over the island.
After the Civil war, with whaling industry in decline, tourism became the Vineyard’s principal source of income. My 1878 the Methodist Campground of Oak Bluffs had become a popular summer resort, with 12,000 people attending annual meetings.
Over the next 30 years, other travelers discovered the island and returned summer after summer to enjoy fishing, warm waters, boating and a genteel lifestyle. Each of the different towns has an ambiance all of it’s own.
Upscale Edgartown is full of grand white Greek Revival ship captain’s homes, with fanlights and widow walks. The quaint town is filled with unique shops, galleries and restaurants.
Vineyard Haven has year round residents and is the commercial center of the island. The harbor is home to many wooden boats and has it’s own boatbuilder that still rebuilds wooden boats, Gannon and Benjamin Boatbuilders.
Oaks Bluff is both charming and honkey-tonk, in the words of travel writer Kim Grant. In 1835, Wesleyan Grove was the site of the Methodist congregation’s annual summer-camp meetings. The camper’s small tents became family tents, then primitive, wooden tent like cottages, and finally brightly painted cottages ornamented with fancy trim. The whimsical, precious, and offbeat cottages have become a must see during your trip to Martha’s Vineyard.
West Tisbury is often called the Athens of the Vineyard because of it’s fine New England Congregation Church, Town Hall and Grange Hall.
Music Street, where descendants of the 19th century ship captains still live in large houses, was so named because many families used whaling profits to purchase pianos.
This is just a little summary of what to see and do on your trip to Martha’s VineYard. The island has beautiful beaches-
serene country sides-
World class fishing-
and last but not least one should always have ice-cream when on vacation, Mad Martha’s has wonderful homemade ice-cream.
Information in this post from Kim Grant’s Explorer’s Guide and pictures from capecodphotoalbum.com.