Blog Post by Megan Jensen
My early trips this summer to Martha’s Vineyard kept me close to the main island towns of Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. Each town is unique and has plenty to offer for the casual journey to an offshore isle. But, for my last sojourn to the island before heading home, I decided I was up for something more adventurous – Up Island, as the locals call Menemsha, Chilmark and Aquinnah.
It was a rainy and cloudy day but I decided to brave the weather and optimistically bought a day pass for the bus hoping to see all of the up-island hotspots, from the Menemsha fish markets to the Gay Head lighthouse.
Taking the bus is my absolute favorite way to get around the Vineyard and I love the helpful and informative bus drivers. They really are the true guides to the island. They’ll drop you off anywhere along their route, and make sure you get picked back up again. They can point out anything from Jackie Onassis’s property to the greatest breakfast stop, and will tell you the best and fastest route to get where you are going.
To head up island you will need to take the number 2 or 3 bus. I would recommend buying an all-day bus pass for $7, otherwise its $1-2 every time you get on and off the bus. When I took the bus I went to Menemsha first because I wanted to have lunch in the historic fishing village, but the bus driver told me it would have been much easier if I had first gone to Aquinnah and then worked my way back to Menemsha.
This tiny, historic fishing village offers visitors a chance to see and experience a different way of life. I was beyond excited to try the fresh seafood and it really was incredible, just-caught fresh and I found myself trying one of everything. The fish markets are little more than one room shacks and you have to eat your meal while sitting outside on lobster traps at makeshift tables. Menemsha Harbor offers a great public beach and beautiful sunsets. For five dollars, you can take the bike ferry across the water to the bike path that leads all the way to the Gay Head cliffs and lighthouse. If the scenery seems vaguely familiar to you, it might be because parts of the movie Jaws were filmed here. Give yourself a few hours here – and keep in mind the bus only comes once an hour.
Chilmark offers a great in-between stop on your way from Menemsha to Aquinnah (or vice-versa). The Chilmark Store is sure to be busy, and here you can stock up on groceries, local produce and grab lunch – the pizzas are delicious and homemade. Down the street is the Chilmark Chocolate Shop known for a constant line out the door. I found it to be a great place to relax and refuel before heading to Aquinnah.
Aquinnah may arguably be the most beautiful place on the Vineyard. The name was changed from Gay Head in 1998 to reflect the year round Native American population that still lives there. This town is known for its stunning clay cliffs, lighthouse and Jungle Beach. Located near the lighthouse there are quaint rows of shops where you can buy beautifully crafted jewelry or have a bite to eat. Be sure to give yourself 2-3 hours here – there is plenty to see and do. Although if it is really rainy I’d come back a different day, as all activities are outdoors.
Exploring this side of the Vineyard gave me a very different look at the island and personally I prefer the up-island area to the bustling towns. I love the remote feeling, the broad vistas and the sense of peace. I hope you get a chance to visit this less-seen part of the Vineyard and find it as beautiful and memorable as I did!
Guest Post from blogger Megan Jensen
My favorite part of being an intern here at the Woods Hole Inn is the opportunity it gives me to explore Woods Hole and Cape Cod. So when I found out part of my job was to take weekly driving tours and write about what I saw and did, I was ecstatic!
Last week I took my first driving tour along the coast from Woods Hole to the Bourne Bridge. I started at the Inn early in the morning on a hot and sunny day, and drove up along the coast to the Bourne Bridge. It’s a fun and easy drive, with lots of great places to stop, for both locals and those coming from out of town.
Here is what I saw, did, ate…and highly recommend.
1. Visit the Knob
Just a few minutes drive from the Woods Hole Inn, the Knob offers a great short walk and beautiful views of the water and harbor. There is free parking available near the knob, on Quissett Harbor Road. The path is easy to find and the small conserved forest offers two trails, both ending up at the end of the “knob.” I recommend taking the right hand path, it will take you through the forest and along the water – offering great views, sunshine and an optional stop at a small beach. At the end of the path are benches where you can sit, relax and look out onto the water.
2. Stop and grab breakfast or lunch at the West Falmouth Market
As you continue your drive along the coast stop at West Falmouth Market for food, drinks and anything else you might need. When I got there it was nearly noon and very busy. They have a fresh deli – where you can choose one of their signature sandwiches or you can make your own. You can also order pizza to go. They have all the picnic essentials – coals for the grill, paper plates, and a good selection of beer. When I stopped I also grabbed a tempting looking muffin – all their bakery items are homemade each morning!
3. If it’s a beach day head for Monument Beach
Driving along the coast I passed by popular beaches with steep parking signs (20 -30$) and crowed shorelines. While Chapoquoit and Old Silver are great beaches, I recommend continuing north into Bourne and stopping at Monument Beach. When driving north it will be on your left, and can be easy to miss. Parking is free along the side of the road, and the beach is just across the railroad tracks. There is parking if you have a beach sticker, and there are also public restrooms and an outdoor shower. I loved swimming in the peaceful harbor, and the beach is great for all ages!
4. If it’s not a beach day stop and explore the Little Bay Walking Trails
These walking trails are a great way to spend an afternoon. Found alongside Shore Road in Bourne (before you get to the beach) there is a small area to park your car and take a walk in the woods. There is a map located at the beginning of the trails.
5. Grab dinner at the Lobster Trap
Only one mile north of Monument Beach this restaurant is a great place to eat after a day at the beach. Lots of parking and indoor and outdoor seating – this casual seafood restaurant has something for everyone. Next door to the restaurant is a fresh seafood shop where you also have the option of buying your own food and cooking it at home, or at the beach. I got a stuffed Quahog to go, and am in love. Being from the Midwest I’ve never tried this before and loved eating my meal off of a shell.
6. Drive across the Bourne Bridge
The last destination on my drive was to drive across the Bourne Bridge. I’ve always thought it was fun to drive across bridges (maybe a Minnesota thing?) and this one is really great. The bridge is huge and the views of the Cape Cod Canal are awesome. I also love driving back onto the cape and seeing the “Cape Cod” bushes welcoming me!
7. On the way home stop for ice cream at Somerset Creamery
This can be done at anytime during the drive. Located in Cataumet off of Route 28A, this is a good stop on your way out or back home. The ice cream is delicious and there are a ton of flavors to choose from. I opted for the waffle cone (they are homemade and have ingenious no-drip bottoms) with ginger flavored ice cream.
This was a great drive and can take as little or long as you would like. I suggest following the coastal roads for a better view and more places to stop along the way. Route 28A is a quick alternative however, and each stop is easy to navigate to from the main road.
This is the route I took Woods Hole Inn to Bourne Bridge.