It’s no secret that a small spit of land about six miles off the coast of Cape Cod is a beckoning summer paradise. Martha’s Vineyard comprises six seaside towns — each with its own character — and boasts beautiful beaches, rave-worthy restaurants, and a slew of seasonal things to do.
A few things have changed since last year, so here’s a quick look at what’s new, what’s open, and what’s buzzing on this tiny island. Visitors who haven’t been in a few years may notice new restaurants, new storefronts, and a few other changes.
Let’s begin where most Martha’s Vineyard vacations do: at the Steamship Authority — the ferry service that shuttles thousands of passengers from its Woods Hole terminal to ports in Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs. New this year: Travelers can purchase ferry tickets online and board using readers on their cellphones. Ferries run just about every hour, and walk-on passengers can buy tickets the day-of. No more extra line to wait in inside the terminal. As always, car reservations are extremely limited and have to be made well in advance — if you have a booking, don’t miss your boat.
Restaurants, bars, coffee shops
Repeat visitors to the Vineyard will notice a few additions and changes to the dining scene. And remember, when it comes to booze, not all towns are created equal. Oak Bluffs and Edgartown are the only two with full liquor licenses and package stores. In Vineyard Haven (a.k.a. Tisbury), West Tisbury, and Aquinnah, restaurants can serve alcohol but only with food. Chilmark is a dry town; its restaurants are BYOB. And if you’re looking for a reservation, call ahead (online reservation services like OpenTable are only available for a few spots).
In Vineyard Haven, Fish MV is one of the newest restaurants to hit Main Street. Its menu, as you’d expect, is chock-full of seafood dishes, plus a variety of tacos and bowls, lobster rolls, and raw bar bites. Its sister restaurant, Waterside Market, just next door, is also open for the season. A third sister restaurant, La Soffitta, however, is temporarily closed due to staffing issues, according to Carolina Cooney, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce.
Salvatore’s Ristorante Italiano is another relatively new spot in Vineyard Haven. This Union Street eatery serves Italian fare in an intimate, elevated setting.
Cooney also pointed visitors to 19 Raw, a seafood restaurant with patio seating that opened its doors in Edgartown a few seasons ago. This year, the spot has added a new offshoot under the same roof: 19 Prime Cast Iron Steakhouse. The combined menu features seafood towers, contemporary bistro fare, and now, numerous cuts of dry aged meats.
Those who’ve enjoyed a meal while watching the biplanes take off (rides available) at Katama Airfield will want to try this new spot: Katama Kitchen. The restaurant at 12 Mattakesett Way opened last year, replacing the longstanding Right Fork Diner. Katama Kitchen has outdoor and indoor seating, both with views of the airfield, and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
A few new takeout spots and cafes have popped up in Oak Bluffs. Aalia’s Coffee opened on Kennebec Avenue earlier this year, offering breakfast and lunch. Tigerhawk Sandwich Co. on main drag Circuit Ave., makes elevated, artisan sandwiches, and Mo’s Kitchen at the Portuguese-American Club is a newish off-the-beaten-path gem for lunch and dinner. Nomans, opened a few seasons ago, has become an outdoor go-to with a versatile menu, full bar, and lawn games. (It’s especially ideal for large parties and families.) When the urge for a cold one strikes, try The Alley, the town’s newest bar — nestled in the heart of downtown — a stand-in for Park Corner Bistro and The Lampost, two beloved local bars that shuttered before the pandemic.
The longstanding Ocean View, a year-round staple overlooking Oak Bluffs Harbor, is also closed now: the building was destroyed in a fire over the winter. Legendary breakfast spot the Art Cliff Diner in Vineyard Haven is closed (for renovations), as is the Newes from America Pub in Edgartown, and The Terrace at the Charlotte Inn — which is short on staffing, according to Cooney.
Up-island, in the tiny town of Aquinnah, the new Aquila Coffee House features the works of local artists and retailers, and the new food shack Cliffhangers serves up lunch and dinner (with live music on Thursday nights).
Speaking of live music...
The Martha’s Vineyard Concert Series brings a host of performers to the island in venues like the historic Old Whaling Church, the Loft, and the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center. This year, some noteworthy names include Deer Tick on July 20, Graham Nash on July 27, Tom Rush on August 10, Ladysmith Black Mambazo on August 16, and Don McLean on August 20. The Beach Road Weekend music festival is also back this year on August 26-28, offering three days of music featuring artists Beck, Wilco, The Avett Brothers, Lord Huron, Khruangbin, Billy Strings, and more. The festival takes place at Veterans Memorial Park in Vineyard Haven.