Summer Travel 2008: The Islands, Decoded

| Boston Magazine |

THE CHEAT SHEET: MARTHA’S VINEYARD

Get There

The Steamship Authority is your best bet, with 14 daily 45-minute Woods Hole–Vineyard ferries ($7.50 one way). 508-477-8600, steamshipauthority.com. Or consider the Island Queen: It’s cheap ($8), fast (35 minutes), and friendly. (True story: The captain once held the ship for us.) 508-548-4800, islandqueen.com. If you can stomach a 10-seater, you can be oceanside in under an hour via one of Cape Air’s daily flights from Logan ($234 roundtrip). Take the 10 a.m., usually the least crowded. 508-771-6944, capeair.com. Or go the catered route and book a charter from Blue Star Jets, starting at $1,000 per hour. 866-538-8463, bluestarjets.com.

Stay

Captain R. Flanders House: Far from Edgartown’s fanny-packing day-trippers, the 1700s farmhouse is all secluded privacy. Bonus: Jackie O’s old house, er, compound is nearby. Doubles from $175, North Road, Chilmark, 508-645-3123, captainflandersinn.com.

Harbor View Hotel & Resort: Just reopened after a $77 million facelift, the grand dame of Vineyard resorts hosts posh families (and the occasional bridezilla). Doubles from $375, 131 N. Water St., Edgartown, 508-627-7000, harbor-view.com.

Mansion House: The former Tisbury Inn got a much-needed makeover that added a spa and fitness center and banished all things doily. Doubles from $279, 9 Main St., Vineyard Haven, 508-693-2200, mvmansionhouse.com.

Winnetu Oceanside Resort: The faded-luxury-style Winnetu beckons to harried urban toilers. Eleven acres of lawn and sandy beach, plus yoga workouts, ensure respite. Doubles from $230, 31 Dunes Rd., Edgartown, 508-310-1733, winnetu.com.

Eat and Drink

Atria: Playful menu items like Pig Pig Pig and Cod Is Great, Cod Is Good save this white-tablecloth eatery from stuffiness. Ask to sit on the patio—the waitstaff keeps bug spray behind the bar. 137 Main St., Edgartown, 508-627-5850, atriamv.com.

The Bite: This roadside shack is the ideal spot for loading up on crispy fried seafood to nibble while taking in the Menemsha sunset. 29 Basin Rd., Menemsha, 508-645-9239, thebitemenemsha.com.

Détente: Only 12 items make the menu each night; fortunately, all are typically fantastic (as is the sinful Nutella pot de crème). Nevin Square, Edgartown, 508-627-8810, detentewinebar.com.

Ritz Café: This straightforward watering hole—known for rowdy local crowds—is the island’s anti-snobbery stronghold. One Circuit A
ve., Oak Bluffs, 508-693-9851.

Shop

Alley’s General Store: The Vineyard’s oldest pantry is a good place to people-watch for both weathered locals and burnished celebs. State Road, West Tisbury, 508-693-0088.

Bunch of Grapes Bookstore: Local author William Styron dubbed it "the best bookstore in America," and we’re not arguing. 44 Main St., Vineyard Haven, 508-693-2291, bunchofgrapes.com.

Chilmark Store: Another A-list haunt, the no-frills provisioner serves fresh salads and sandwiches. Snag a perch on the porch. 7 State Rd., Chilmark, 508-645-3655.

Island Outfitters: Prepsters and surf dudes alike buy their Reef flip-flops and Costa Del Mar shades at the long-standing island chain. One Post Office Sq., Oak Bluffs, 508-693-5003, islandoutfitters.com.

Sun

Gay Head (Moshup Beach): A short hike from the parking lot delivers sun lovers—and some determined nudists—to a swath of soft white sand and a view of the 200-foot-tall Aquinnah Cliffs. Off Moshup Trail, Aquinnah, 508-693-0085, mvy.com/islandinfo/beaches.php.

Katama Beach (South Beach): Everyone from Michael Jordan to hordes of summering coeds (and the lifeguards who love them) lay down towels on this 3-mile barrier beach that has rare ample parking. End of Katama Road, Edgartown, 508-627-6145.

Lambert’s Cove: Okay, it’s technically residents-only, but scoring a pass isn’t so hard: Rent a house in the area or hop a ride with a local friend. Or (shhh!) park elsewhere and try to walk on. The views of Vineyard Sound and the Elizabeth Islands are worth it. Lambert’s Cove Road, West Tisbury, 508-696-0147, westtisbury-ma.gov/park_&_rec.htm.

Lucy Vincent Beach: Another residents-only policy means hoi polloi are scarce and unspoiled vistas abundant. Tip: Some up-island hotels, like the Beach Plum Inn, provide guests a gratis pass. South Road, Chilmark, 508-645-2100, ci.chilmark.ma.us.

Know

Zebee Voss: The in-demand masseuse vows never to "fluff and buff," and we believe her. Our last treatment left us sore (bruised?) but, a day later, completely at peace. An Island Touch, 110 State Rd., Vineyard Haven, 508-693-0300, anislandtouch.com.

Tom Osmers: The West Tisbury shellfish constable and oyster fisherman knows more about island seafood than anyone else. See him for fresh cod, clams, and scallops, among other ocean delicacies. 508-696-8277.

Bouclé Salon and Spa: Beauty emergency? Bouclé excels at blowouts, mani-pedis, and last-minute facials. Its staff is young; its décor is cute but not cloying. 12 N. Water St., Edgartown, 508-627-3853, bouclespa.com.