Cape Cod Islands: Nantucket & Martha's Vineyard | Cape Cod Travel Guide

Martha's Vineyard

The island of Martha’s Vineyard is only seven miles off the coast of Massachusetts, but a world all its own. This is a true island; there are no bridges from the mainland. Most visitors arrive by ferry or by plane.

There are six towns on the island—Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, Aquinnah, Chilmark and West Tisbury—each with its own character and style. Inns and B&Bs, shops, art galleries and restaurants are plentiful in every town, but you can purchase alcohol only in Edgartown and Oak Bluffs; the rest of the island is dry.

The Vineyard is known as for its beautiful beaches, but it is also home to spectacular architecture, live theater, a thriving arts community, several live music venues and dance performances throughout the summer. You can explore the island’s whaling history and native Wampanoag Indian culture at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. For outdoorsy types, hiking, biking, sailing, fishing, and wind and kite surfing are all available in abundance.

Martha’s Vineyard has an astonishing array of restaurants for an island of its size and, thanks to vigilant local zoning laws, only one franchise. (There is a Dairy Queen in Edgartown.) You’ll find many fine-dining options, as well as good food at reasonable prices. Reservations are an absolute necessity in season, and most kitchens shut down at 10 p.m. Kid-friendly fare includes the usual pizza, burgers and fish & chips. Family-owned ice cream shops abound, each with its own legion of fans.

Visit the Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce Website.

Nantucket Island

Whether you’ve lived on Nantucket for a lifetime or you’re making your first trip, the sight of the island coming into view from the bow of a ferry or the seat of an airplane is a stirring one.  Long lines of foaming breakers crash against vast stretches of sands on the south shore, while church steeples dot the downtown horizon to the north.  In high season, the network of docks, wharves and moorings in the harbor teem with the activity of one of the busiest ports in the Northeast. Walk the wide sandy beaches, as beautiful as any in the world.

As a National Historic District, the island’s downtown architecture has changed little since the 17th century and never fails to captivate visitors with its cobblestone streets, stately facades and quaint wharf cottages intertwined with fragrant roses and dense clusters of colorful hydrangeas. Inside many of those buildings, visitors will find gourmet restaurants, the finest traditional and contemporary art, quirky collectibles and many unique items that make Nantucket shopping such an adventure. For your stay, choose anything from a from an historic Nantucket bed and breakfast to a luxurious, full-service hotel or private rental.

With nearly 40 percent of the island’s 50 square miles in conservation, it’s also possible to feel you’re alone beneath the endless skies if you take a picnic into the moors or venture by kayak into one of the upper harbor’s many secluded inlets, where sometimes the only thing to remind you of civilization is the distant sound of a ferry whistle or a foghorn. No matter how you like to spend your day, or what your budget, you’ll find the relaxed island way of life is as inescapable as the fresh sea air.

Visit the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce Website.

Watch a video exploring the history and culture of Cape Cod & the Islands!