Balsam Hill Travels: Martha’s Vineyard

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When it comes to the best vacation spots in the country, few others exude the simple yet enticing appeal of Martha’s Vineyard. The beauty of this New England paradise – from its rustic architecture and landmarks to its seemingly unending coastlines – has captivated the hearts and imagination of all who come to visit for the summer.

This season, join Balsam Hill as we take a closer look at how each town on the island helps define Martha’s Vineyard as an ideal home away from home.

Vineyard Haven (Tisbury)

Known as the center of business and tourism on the island, Vineyard Haven, also known as Tisbury, is the main gateway to Martha’s Vineyard. This is where the major port for people and cargo is located, supplemented seasonally by the port in Oak Bluffs. Once you get to the island, you can check in at one of the many inns found here, such as The 1720 House and The Thorncroft Inn.

The 1720 House, owned by author and former New Yorker Abby Hirsch, embodies the qualities of a Martha’s Vineyard bed and breakfast with its warm and hands-on approach to welcoming guests. With its beautiful gardens and gracious accommodation, this unique Gunstock-style home allows guests to have a one-of-a-kind and soothing vacation experience.

Another well-known place you can check in at while you are in Vineyard Haven is The Thorncroft Inn. Built in 1908, this romantic bed and breakfast retains its traditional cottage ambiance. Its long history speaks of its reputation as one of the best honeymoon places on the island.

Because of the relatively laid back and peaceful atmosphere of Vineyard Haven, a number of celebrities and public personalities have made it their home. This prestigious list includes journalists Diane Sawyer and Mike Wallace, authors Lillian Hellman and William Styron, humorist Art Buchwald, stage actress Katharine Cornell, and singer-songwriter Carly Simon.

Oak Bluffs

Another entry point into the island is Oak Bluffs. This cozy town is famous for its rows of colorful cottages known as “gingerbread houses.” While these adorable houses may be privately owned, some of the locals do offer them to tourists for rent during summer. Check out the availability of the cottages if you prefer to have some privacy instead of staying at a hotel.

Oak Bluffs is also known for two of the most sought after cafes and restaurants on the island: Martha’s Vineyard Gourmet Cafe and Bakery and Nancy’s Restaurant.

Craving for some freshly baked doughnuts in the morning? Drop by Martha’s Vineyard Gourmet Cafe and Bakery on Post Office Square to have a taste of their scrumptious pastries. They are also known as the best maker of wedding cakes on Martha’s Vineyard.

If you’re planning on having a romantic dinner with your special someone while on the Vineyard, then Nancy’s Restaurant & Snack Bar on Lake Avenue is the place for you. You can have an intimate dinner while enjoying the seaside view at night. Locals and celebrity tourists alike frequent Nancy’s Restaurant. Among its famous patrons are the Obamas.


The largest and most populated town in Martha’s Vineyard, Edgartown, is most famous for its breath-taking natural beaches and pristine waters. An interesting trivia: so beautiful is the town’s beachfront that it became the setting for Steven Spielberg’s 1970s pop culture classic Jaws to capture that quiet small town feel. Many of Edgartown’s buildings and landmarks included in the iconic film are still visited by tourists today.

One thing you should keep in mind is that while most of the beaches on the island are not open to non-residents, you can still gain access to a number of them by getting a leasing permit or season ticket from the town hall for about $35 to $50.


If Edgartown is Martha’s Vineyard’s beach paradise, then Chilmark is its fishing retreat. Located near the southernmost tip of the Vineyard, Chilmark has access to the bounty of the Atlantic Ocean. Various fish and seafood are caught daily, sold, and served to lucky vacationers.

The Bite, a restaurant found in Chilmark’s Menemsha village, serves the best fried clams, oysters, shrimp, squid, and scallops on the island for over 20 years.

After having your fill, you can tour Martha’s Vineyard on your own chartered sailboat. While in Menemsha, you can visit Book A Boat and arrange for a two-hour trip for $55 per person. You haven’t seen the full beauty of the Vineyard until you’ve toured it on a boat, ala the Kennedys.

Waskosim’s Rock Reservation is also one of Chilmark’s unique attractions. Hiking the 185-acre nature reserve is a great way to see the stunning forest trails, open fields, and marshes seen only on the island. Get in touch with Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission for a schedule of treks to the Waskosim’s Rock Reservation.

The beauty of Martha’s Vineyard comes not only from its environs, but also from its culture. Its charm lies in the relaxed and comforting welcome you get from the residents. Where else in the world would you see people who would be glad to open their homes to guests and treat them as family? This is what makes the Vineyard the ideal home away from home.

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