They say “anybody who’s anybody” vacations on Martha’s Vineyard during the month of August every single year. I guess that explains why you’ll find former President Obama and family, the BET film festival, and HBCU-hosted parties—among other things—on the island throughout the month. The island may be small and close-knit, but there’s more than enough to keep you occupied for the full duration of your trip, whether it’s for a weekend or the entire month.
One of the first things you have to do once you arrive at the vineyard is jump off what is now affectionately known as “Jaws Bridge,” thanks to its appearance in the 1975 Spielberg film. It is, without a doubt, a rite of passage for kids … and honestly adults too. Located on Beach Road in between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, the 15-foot bridge is hard to miss because there are always dozens of people sitting on the ledge awaiting the right moment to take that leap. Despite signs that say “no jumping” or “keep off bridge,” tourists jump and flip from sunup to sundown. Make sure to set aside a little time to
experience this tradition.
You can’t visit Martha’s Vineyard and not spend time at the Inkwell—notably one of the main reasons African Americans want to visit. As I mentioned last week, “the Inkwell” was a disparaging nickname given to the beach by white vacationers because of the number of Blacks who would be there. These days, although the beach is a little more racially diverse, it still attracts hundreds of vacationers on the island. One thing to note is that a day at the beach in Martha’s Vineyard is a little like camping. There aren’t any companies renting beach chairs or umbrellas, so beachgoers must bring their own. And interestingly enough, there aren’t any stores near the beach, so any food or drink you want to enjoy while laying out needs to be packed and brought over. (But please remember glassware should never be at a beach. My boyfriend stepped on a piece of broken glass when we were at the Inkwell.) Although the Inkwell is the most famous beach on the island, it definitely isn’t the only one. Lots of people we ran into while we were there told us they were spending their days on South Beach, a state beach almost directly
south of the Inkwell.
If the day isn’t sunny, or you aren’t the type of person to spend hours at a time lying on a beach, take time to explore both Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. They are vastly different. The town of Oak Bluffs has a ton of activity throughout the entire day. You can walk around the harbor, ride “America’s oldest carousel,” play games in a two-story arcade, dine at modest waterfront restaurants or shop at locally owned shops on Circuit Avenue. Make sure you swing by C’est la Vie while on Circuit. It’s a local gift store that has been owned by a Black man for more than three decades. It’s the best place to buy your Martha’s Vineyard or Inkwell gear—even Obama agrees. The owner also offers a variety of sorority/fraternity-specific gear.
Be sure you take time to explore the neighborhood of gingerbread houses Although you’re in Oak Bluffs. There are more than 300 of these fairylike, colorful wooden houses, and no two are the same. These houses were originally Methodist camp meeting houses, but are now just homes. While lots of people live in their gingerbread house year round, a few can be rented out for your stay.
Edgartown is a much more picturesque town with traditional Cape Cod details, such as wood panels on homes and a variety of hydrangeas on every corner. There are tons of cafés around the town and shops that are a little higher end, but still local. Most vacationers head straight to the lighthouse when they arrive to town, as it is something of a landmark. If you have the time, schedule a sunset tour through Mad Max, a sailing company located in the harbor of Edgartown. Although I was quite cool for the duration of the sail (I didn’t have a jacket and was wearing shorts), it was one of my favorite activities.
There are tons of restaurant options on the island. My favorite breakfast spot was a little café in Edgartown: Among the Flowers. Not only was it cute and cozy, but also it produced good food quickly! Biscuits is a pretty popular restaurant in Oak Bluffs, but there’s usually always at least an hour wait, so either go when you aren’t very hungry or order something to go.
We had a really amazing dinner at the restaurant Atria. The food was great, but what really made our experience worthwhile was that we got to eat outdoors on their lawn on a round fire pit dining table. It was such a unique way to enjoy a cool Cape Cod evening under the stars. We also enjoyed dinner at the Charlotte Inn, although it was much fancier and didn’t allow us to be as laid-back as the island is known for.
Martha’s Vineyard is an unpretentious place to enjoy everything that summer has to offer. If you can, make a point to visit the island next August so you, too, can created your own MV memories.
Megan Pinckney (@shadesofpinck) is a retired beauty queen turned lifestyle blogger who loves exploring the world and writing about it.