This past weekend, I stayed in Vineyard Haven. That’s a first for me. I have always stayed in Edgartown or Oak Bluffs in the past. Actually, if you want to get technical, I only stayed in Vineyard Haven when I was a little boy. My parents and I camped at the campground. I loved camping back then; however, as an adult, I have become more of a country inn and B&B, kinda guy. I was eager to see what Vineyard Haven would have to offer me as it would now be my backyard. So, here is the third entry in my series of places and activities not to be missed when you visit Martha’s Vineyard! Hopefully, you have already read, ‘Must Do’s Of Edgartown‘, and ‘Must Do’s Of Oak Bluffs‘. Welcome to ‘Must Do’s Of Vineyard Haven’.
Eating Vineyard Haven
I don’t think that it will come to anyone’s surprise that of all of the Must Do’s of Vineyard Haven, eating is my favourite. Before I really spent much time in the town, that was all I really used it for other than getting on and off the ferry. The biggest reason for that is, of course, The Black Dog Tavern. The Black Dog Tavern was built in 1971, but it seems like it has been there for hundreds of years. It’s quite easy to suspend your disbelief. It’s easy to see it dating back to the years when Vineyard Haven was called Holmes Hole. The interior is beautifully aged wood decorated with artifacts from schooners and whaling ships long gone, and historic photos of the area.
Sitting at your simple wood table and bench, looking out over the harbour, it’s easy to feel like time has stood still. Some of my islander friends give me a good-natured ribbing, reminding me of what a tourist I can be sometimes, but I live in a concrete jungle most of the time. If I find peace eating an excellent breakfast, and drinking coffee, looking out on the beach, so be it.
There are other terrific places to eat in Vineyard Haven. If you’re sticking with breakfast, The Art Cliff Diner is a great spot. I recommend going early. Actually, I recommend taking in all of my Must Do’s of Vineyard Haven early, especially during high season. I go for breakfast as soon as these spots open and I never have to wait for a table—even in August.
I have only been out in vineyard Haven for supper once that I remember. A friend took me to La Soffitta. It was excellent! La Soffitta is an Italian restaurant on Main Street. We had a great time. If you’re there at the right time, the ladies at Grace Church of Martha’s Vineyard in Vineyard Haven are definitely in the running for “Best Lobster Roll on The Island”. There are a great many who swear by them. They are worth checking out. There are still a few places that I really want to try in Vineyard Haven like Garde East and The Net Result on Beach Road—all in good time.
Shopping Vineyard Haven
When comparing it to it’s counterparts, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, there are fewer shops in Vineyard Haven, but there are definitely some really cool ones. Just a couple of days ago, I was in one of my favourites, Le Roux at Home. Le Roux at Home is definitely one of my Must Do’s of Vineyard Haven. I still haven’t been all the way through it—it’s a lot larger than it seems.
The first time I visited Le Roux was with a friend who wanted to pick up an iron-mesh glove for shucking oysters. It’s exactly the same kind of glove Valerie Taylor had on her hand when she forcibly shoved her arm into a shark’s mouth to see if it would protect her. Imagine my relief to discover that my friend, Geoff, had discovered a far more reasonable use for his. Le Roux is full of other items of interest, should you not be planning on shucking oysters, shark wrestling, or charging with Richard The Lion Heart in the Crusades.
Le Roux is full of housewares and kitchenwares, both with and without a Martha’s Vineyard motif. When I was in there on Monday, I picked up some tea towels for my Mum. She loves tea towels and these had horseshoe crabs and sailboats in a very simple design. There are some great platters that I would happily bring home if I wasn’t so nervous about travelling with them.
Whether you are looking for photographs, paintings, or sculpture, there are some excellent galleries in Vineyard. It’s also worth noting that The Capawock Theater is showing JAWS all summer long…just sayin’. Main Street Vineyard Haven is definitely worth the short walk from one end to the other.
Exploring Vineyard Haven
I checked off a big item on my Must Do’s of Vineyard Haven last weekend—I finally got to see the new Martha’s Vineyard Museum. They did a great job bringing the old building back to life. I would say “restoring” it, but that really doesn’t do their work justice. Restoration implies returning something to its former glory. This building has never looked this good in its one hundred and fifteen years of existence. The displays are marvellously curated. I have written about it extensively here. Take a moment and have a read, then please go and peruse the museum itself. You will not be disappointed.
The hike around West chop is a long one, but on a True Vineyard Day, it is a great walk. I love New England Architecture and there are some magnificent examples on this path, not to mention the West Chop Lighthouse. If it’s a hot day, bring some water, it’s a fairly long walk.
Owen Park also holds a special place in my heart. Could it be because I once watched JAWS on its lawns? Or because its the place where I went out with my friends in the Catboat Association to marshal a catboat race? Maybe a little of column ‘A’ and a little of column ‘B’. If you do decide to pick up a lobster roll at Grace Church, do yourself a favour and take it down to the beach in Owen Park. It’s a great little beach for kids to splash around in, or to simply read your book on a nice afternoon. The fact that the easiest way back to my inn every night was to walk along the beach was an absolute pleasure. As long as we’re on the subject…
While exploring Vineyard Haven this trip, I found myself staying at 1720 House. As I have already mentioned—I love museums. The reason for that is I love history. The fact that I was staying in a home that was built in 1720, literally three hundred years ago, was mind-blowing to me.I mean let’s put that into perspective, shall we?
After the French and Indian War, there were several disputes between the New World colonies and Great Britain. This is what led to the American Revolution in 1775 and the Declaration of Independence in 1776. That means that I was staying in a home that was fifty-six years older than The United States. By the time the American Civil War started, 1720 house was already one-hundred-and-forty-one years old! I love that.
I love to imagine what has transpired on the beautifully maintained wide-planked wooden flooring, and under the heavy ceiling beams. I’m not sure how many buildings on Martha’s Vineyard predate 1720 but it can’t be very many. It was a true Vineyard experience. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t strongly encourage you to ask the charming innkeeper, Abby Hirsch, to tell you a story or two. Through a wry smile and with a raised eyebrow, Abby told me some of the best stories that I’ve ever heard. She’s a gem.
On this last trip, I spent more time in Vineyard Haven than I ever have before. I’m really glad that I did. I poked my head into stores and came across hidden finds that I hadn’t in the past. I walked along the beach a lot and got sand in my flip-flops. It didn’t matter whether it was raining or sunny. Hey, it’s the Vineyard!