For a lot of people, most probably, the summer season begins this weekend. As I wrote in my last post, for me the summer on Martha’s Vineyard really begins at The Best Of The Vineyard, but that might be a question of logistics more than anything else. Regardless, summer is here and it seems that the responsible thing to do is to finish what I started when I wrote Must Do’s Of Edgartown. I need to write the Must Do’s Up Island. There have been three in the series so far: Must Do’s Of Edgartown, Must Do’s of Oak Bluffs, and Must Do’s of Vineyard Haven. That only leaves Must Do’s Up Island.
I think it’s easy, for weekend visitors in particular, to forget about all that up-island has to offer other than a quick trip to the Gay Head Lighthouse or a Menemsha sunset. While there is a lot to be said for both of those things, there is a lot more to be said about Martha’s Vineyard, up-island. This probably comes as not surprise to anyone who has read any of my Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries. A lot of the action takes place up-island. I wouldn’t write about it if I didn’t love it. So, here it is—Martha’s Vineyard up-island. Enjoy!
Eating Up Island
This is a bigger deal than you might think. So many people think that all of the cool restaurants are down-island, and there are some great ones to be sure. I have written about them extensively. I have told you where I like to eat for breakfast, lunch, and supper. Lobster rolls have been mentioned ad nauseam. Eating up-island is not to be overlooked and there is an extremely broad spectrum from which to choose.
Last September, I finally made it out to The Beach Plum Inn for breakfast. This is something that I had been wanting to do for a very long time; however, breakfast in Menemsha is a bit of a challenge when you don’t have a car. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there, because I finally made it. Beach Plum did not disappoint. In fact, it exceeded all expectations. For a more in-depth write up about my experience, check out my post.
Lunch up-island is one of the most Martha’s Vineyard experiences that you can possibly have. On a True Vineyard Day, head up to either Menemsha or Aquinnah. In Menemsha, you have Larsen’s Fish Market or Menemsha Fish Market. Both have some of the freshest seafood that you will ever have. Lobster rolls, clam chowder, lobster bisque, swordfish sandwich, clams, mussels, do I need to go on? Take your order and walk over to the beach. That’s what being on Martha’s Vineyard is all about. I actually believe that it’s what life is all about. Deadlines, quotas, technology—I just cannot believe that those are the reasons we were put on this earth. STOP and go to Menemsha…have a lobster roll.
Aquinnah is just as magical just from one-hundred-feet higher up! Where Menemsha is practically in the water, Aquinnah Restaurant is perched high on the cliffs. Make your way out to the deck and find a table overlooking the ocean. You might need fried clams, or a lobster burger, all served with homemade chips. I’m a big fan of their sun tea. I promise, when you are sitting high up on the Aquinnah Cliffs with a lobster roll in hand, each of the waves that crashes ashore beneath you will wash away a little bit of worry, bit by bit, until all that’s left is you.
Lambert’s Cove Inn and State Road in West Tisbury are definitely must do’s up-island. So is 7a Foods. Their stuff is great to take with you to the beach. Good coffee too—that’s a big deal to me. There are so many wonderful people on Martha’s Vineyard working hard to make our island a delicious place to be. Make sure you get out and enjoy as many of them as you can.
Shopping Up Island
This has been the next heading in all of my “Must Do’s” entries; however, Up-island isn’t really renowned for its shopping district. There are a few shops that I love. I hemmed and hawed about where I should put Chilmark Chocolates and I decided to put it under shopping. I know that they are food, but they’re not sit-down meal in a restaurant kind a food. They’re not meals at all, but they are amazing! This is their last season and they’re definitely worth a look. They have preselected assorted boxes for you if you’re a newbie, or you can make your own choices and pay by weight. All of the candy is made on site by truly amazing people. I will be sad to see them go. Having said that, I really respect their decision to go out on top. Bravo Chilmark Chocolates—you’ve done well.
Also worth a perusal is The Chilmark General Store and Alley’s General Store. The Chilmark General Store is, as you would imagine, in Chilmark, where as, Alley’s is in West Tisbury. Both of them are worth a look and you never know what you will find in Alley’s.
There is an assortment of terrific local artisan shops on the Gay Head Cliffs right outside the Aquinnah Restaurant. It’s a small, almost an out door market, configuration that sells locally made (for the most part) clothes, sculpture, and jewellery. The people are friendly and their wares unique. I love meandering through and picking up souvenirs for friends and family.
Exploring Up Island
I knew that “Shopping Up Island” would be a little thin, but “Exploring Up Island” would more than make up for it. If it’s a True Vineyard Day, a day that practically demands that you be outside, then you really need to venture up-island. Most of the must do’s up island are outdoors. One of my favourite spots is the Field Gallery in West Tisbury. It’s right across the street from the Town Hall. Unfortunately, I don’t have any good photos. When I had beck next month, I will take a few and stick one in here. The gallery is a fun and happy place!
Menemsha sunsets aren’t just beautiful, they’re a thing. Menemsha sunsets are an event. Last September, a car full of friends and I went down to Menemsha, loaded up on food at Larsen’s, and took it all down to the beach. Towels spread out and comfortable, we laughed, ate, and enjoyed the energy. We were not alone. The beach was full of summer people—with a few islanders thrown in for good measure I’m sure—all ready to watch one of Mother Nature’s finest productions.
It almost seems redundant to mention but of course, you have to check out the Gay Head Lighthouse. During the summer season, it is one of the lighthouses that is open to the public. Climb to the top and have a look. The view alone is worth it, but so is the history of the magnificent building itself. The history of The Gay Head Lighthouse is an incredible one. Starting long before it was the red brick structure we know and love today. In 1799, t was the first of the five lighthouses to be built on Martha’s Vineyard and it goes on from there.
Hiking is also a big part of being up-island. I’ve already posted about hiking the Menemsha Hills, as it’s my favourite, but there are a lot of trails throughout Chilmark and West Tisbury available for a hike. Do yourself a favour and download the TrailsMV app onto your phone! They list of the trails with great details. They’ve done a great job.
Last, but by no means least, when you are outside, must do’s up island is all about beaches. There are so many of them. Just pick a spot and start walking the island’s perimeter. Moshup Beach is one of my absolute favourite spots to be in the world. The beach is flawless. Separating yourself from the rest of the world by the hundred foot, red clay cliffs is an amazing feeling. Sometimes, I don’t even get phone service…and I love it.
It’s so easy to get caught up on the main drags down-island, to go to the same restaurants that we already know and love, and with good reason—we love them! An afternoon trip will expose you to plenty of must do’s up-island. Make a point of heading up and seeing what you can see. The scenery alone would be enough to call me back time after time, but there is a lot more to it than that. Hopefully, I have laid the groundwork for you here. That was my plan when I decided to start writing my Must Do series. When it all comes down to it, take off your shoes and socks, wade in the water, put on flip-flops if you have to, maybe some topsiders, take your time, stop planning your day, and just wait and see what’s around the next corner. Hey…it’s The Vineyard.