Martha’s Vineyard is one of the most beautiful and unique islands in the world. Located in Dukes County seven miles off the Massachusetts coast, the island is accessible via ferry and airplane.
Each year millions of tourists visit the island to experience its beaches, views, lighthouses, dining, art, and culture. The island is perhaps most famous for the celebrities, politicians, and CEOs who flock there every year.
It’s become the ultimate getaway spot for the rich and famous, exemplified by President Barack Obama’s frequent trips there (he also recently bought a $15 million estate on the island). But despite its reputation as being exclusive, anyone can visit and enjoy the island.
According to the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, the year-round population on the island is only about 17,000 people. During the popular tourism months, the population surges to over 200,000.
So if you’re planning a trip there, you’ll want to know when the busy season is. The Vineyard, along with its sister island Nantucket, is one of the true gems of New England.
Before visiting, you should have a general idea of when to go, when not to go, and what to do once you’re there. With a little research, you can plan a sun, fun, and culture-filled trip without breaking the bank.
Why You Should Visit Martha’s Vineyard
Martha’s Vineyard offers a New England experience like no other. While it’s a secluded, private location, it’s surprisingly accessible. You can reach the island in just 45 minutes on the high-speed ferry from Hyannis, Cape Cod.
Alternatively, many of the major airlines offer daily service to the island. Apart from its accessibility, Martha’s Vineyard offers some of the most spectacular beaches on the Eastern Seaboard.
From Menemsha Beach and Lucy Vincent Beach in the Town of Chilmark to Katama Beach in the Town of Edgartown, the Vineyard has spots to bronze, swim, and relax from coast to coast.
If you’re not a beachgoer there are still beautiful sights to take in on the Vineyard, including its famous lighthouses, art galleries, views of the Vineyard Sound and Edgartown Harbor, the museum, and art galleries.
The island is nine miles north to south and 25 miles east to west with 44 miles of scenic bike trails. You should also consider visiting Martha’s Vineyard for the sheer amount of activities and things to do on the island.
Tourists on the Vineyard enjoy hiking, biking, beach yoga, art galleries, shopping at craft boutiques, and sipping some suds at the island’s breweries (including Bad Martha Farmer’s Brewery and Offshore Ale Co).
Overall Best Time to Visit Martha’s Vineyard
According to the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, the best time to visit the island is late spring and through the entire fall.
The late spring and fall offer all the best parts of Martha’s Vineyard without the annoyances of peak season. The late spring and fall are considered off-season on the island, so the glut of tourists that descends from Memorial Day to Labor Day has mostly thinned out by then.
With the smaller crowds, you can explore the Vineyard without all the commotion of hundreds of thousands of tourists.
Another reason late spring and fall are great times to visit Martha’s Vineyard is that the island has a temperate climate that keeps temperatures relatively warm. You can enjoy the Vineyard outdoors deep into November while still enjoying mild temperatures in the 50s.
The island in the fall is still bustling with fun activities like the Food & Wine Festival, the Martha’s Vineyard Oyster Festival, the Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, the Edgartown Race Weekend, and traditional New England autumn activities like apple picking and farmers markets.
Cheapest Time to Visit Martha’s Vineyard
The cheapest time to visit Martha’s Vineyard is outside its peak season from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
July and August are the busiest months on the Vineyard, so you can expect to pay top dollar for hotels, lodging, transportation, and just about anything else.
If you’re looking to score a sweet deal on flights or lodging, try looking for accommodations in late May and late September when the weather is near-peak and the crowds have thinned.
Many hotels and private rentals are anxious to fill their rooms and maximize profits before the winter, and you can often find remarkable deals. However, the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce emphasizes that the Vineyard is for people of every budget throughout the year.
Many of the islands’ best attractions like the beach, scenery, arts, and culture are free, and the public transportation system is reasonably priced throughout the year. Reaching the island doesn’t have to be expensive either, as a one-way ferry ticket can be less than $20.
Least Busy time to Visit Martha’s Vineyard
The winter is the least busy time to visit Martha’s Vineyard. By the time winter rolls around, most tourists on the island are long gone and seasonal restaurants and shops are closed until the warmer months.
During the winter months, transportation to the island is limited. The Steamship Authority ferry reduces the number of round trips to the Vineyard because demand is lower.
For most of the winter, the population on the island consists of year-round communities without tourists. Outside of the winter months, the early spring and late fall are also less popular, and therefore less busy, times to visit the island.
Worst Time to Visit Martha’s Vineyard
The worst time to visit Martha’s Vineyard is also the winter. While winter on the island is relatively mild, you can still expect temperatures only peaking in the 30s for most of January and February.
The cold temperatures somewhat limit what you can do on the island. The summer months bring great weather for physical activity like walking, biking, hiking, and swimming at the beach.
If you’re looking to be active during the winter months, you’ll need to bundle up and learn to love snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Additionally, many restaurants, shops, and businesses shut down for the winter because of the lack of demand.
Certain parts of the island might seem like a ghost town in the winter with everything closed. The main strips in Edgartown and Oak Bluffs, two of the most popular towns on the island, are mostly shut down in the winter.
However, for those looking to avoid crowds and get great deals on flights and lodging, winter might be the season for you. Many Martha’s Vineyard hotels advertise on their websites that the winter months are their lowest rates of the year.
Additionally, the views are just as beautiful if you can tolerate the cold. Martha’s Vineyard also becomes a festive place for the fall and winter holidays.
The town of Edgartown has one of the best Christmas celebrations in Massachusetts. The town puts on several days of events with concerts, food festivals, horse-drawn carriage rides, and general holiday cheer.
Things to Consider
If you’re planning a trip to Martha’s Vineyard it might be helpful to keep a few things in mind.
- The peak season is Memorial Day to Labor Day, and the month of August is the busiest.
- Experts say the best time to visit is late spring and from Labor Day through the fall.
- The temperate climate on the Vineyard makes autumn and winter seasons relatively mild.
- The Vineyard is not one town – it consists of 6 towns: Tisbury, Edgartown, Oaks Bluff, West Tisbury, Aquinnah, and Chilmark.
- The year-round harbor port, Vineyard Haven, is located in Tisbury.
- You can reach the vineyard via ferry (Steamship Authority), the major airlines, or Cape Cod Air. You can bring your car on the ferry.
- The offseason is the best time to score cheap deals on flights, hotels, and private rentals. However, be aware that large parts of the island shut down for the winter.
- Visit the colorful Victorian homes and inns in the town of Oaks Bluff.
- Visit the Vineyard’s five iconic lighthouses
- Visit the oldest platform carousel in the United States in Oaks Bluff
- The island has a lot of history and culture. Edgartown dates back to 1642. Consider visiting the year-round Martha’s Vineyard Museum to learn about the Vineyard’s history.
- There are 44 miles of scenic bike trails for biking enthusiasts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about the best times to visit Martha’s Vineyard:
Where is Martha’s Vineyard?
Martha’s Vineyard is located in Dukes County, which is 7 miles off the coast of the Massachusetts mainland.
How do I get to Martha’s Vineyard?
The island is accessible via ferry and airplane. The ferry is the Steamship Authority, and you can bring your vehicle onboard. Many of the major airlines also fly into the Vineyard. The flight is short and lasts only about forty minutes.
What is the population of Martha’s Vineyard?
There are about 17,000 year-round residents on Martha’s Vineyard. During the peak season from Memorial Day to Labor Day that number can swell to over 200,000!
How big is Martha’s Vineyard?
The island is about 100 square miles. It runs about 9 miles at its longest north to south and 25 miles east to west.
When’s the best time to visit Martha’s Vineyard?
The Vineyard is beautiful year-round. The most popular time to visit is the peak season, but experts recommend visiting in late spring or throughout the fall once the crowds have thinned, making it easier to explore without lines or wait times.
Is Martha’s Vineyard open during the winter?
Yes, the Vineyard has year-round communities, hotels, businesses, and restaurants that are open year-round. However, large parts of the island do shut down for the winter.
What is there to do on the island?
There’s a little bit of everything on Martha’s Vineyard, from beaches, walking and biking trails, golf, food festivals, art, shopping, a museum, culture and history, farms, and breweries.
How’s the golf?
There are spectacular golf courses scattered throughout the island, including Farm Neck Golf Club, Edgartown Golf Club, and Vineyard Golf Club.
What landmarks should I visit on Martha’s Vineyard?
You’ll want to check out the famous lighthouses. Additionally, the Camp Meeting Association is a national historical landmark with colorful gingerbread houses.
Is Martha’s Vineyard expensive?
It can be, especially during the peak season. Don’t expect to snag a room at one of the hot hotels or rent a weekly beach rental without dishing out thousands of dollars.
Can I explore Martha’s Vineyard on a budget?
Absolutely. Many of the best parts of the island, including the beaches, scenery, and culture are free. Ferry tickets are also relatively cheap. If you’re looking to stay a few nights on the island, consider renting a place during the offseason when rates are at their lowest.
Where can I stay on Martha’s Vineyard?
The Vineyard has many hotels and private rentals. The Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce website has a list of accommodations and a search engine for particular dates.
How do I get around on Martha’s Vineyard?
If you don’t bring your car on the ferry, there are several options for transportation. The island has public buses, taxis, and rideshare vehicles. There are also cars and bicycles for rent. Given the setup of the island, many people go to a town or two and walk around.
Where can I shop on Martha’s Vineyard?
There are many shops throughout the island. Vineyard Haven, Oaks Bluffs, and Edgartown have lots of craft boutique stores. The towns are walkable so you can go from store to store.
What restaurants should I go to?
Check out the Lookout Tavern, Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Company, The Blackdog Tavern, and Bettini Restaurant.
Book Your Trip to Martha’s Vineyard Today!
While Martha’s Vineyard might have a reputation as being exclusive and hoity-toity, that shouldn’t discourage you from visiting one of the most stunning places in the country.
It may be a hangout spot for celebrities and former presidents, but the average person can get there for a $20 ferry ticket and spend the day walking around and enjoying the beauty of the island without spending a penny.
The Vineyard has some of the most beautiful beaches and scenery in the world and it’s easy to see it all.
Once you reach the island you can walk around the towns, check out the lighthouses, visit the boutique shops, eat some mouth-watering and fresh New England seafood, and explore historical sites dating back to before the American Revolution.
Martha’s Vineyard has something for everyone, whether you’re an active and outdoorsy person or prefer to take in the arts, culture, and dining scene. If you like to party, there are several vibrant bars and fun breweries to visit.
The peak season can be crowded and expensive. Restaurants will be crowded, hotels and vacation properties at capacity, and you will likely pay top dollar for everything.
For an extended stay on the island, consider visiting outside the peak season from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Late spring and the entire fall are gorgeous on the Vineyard, and you can often find great deals on flights and accommodations during the offseason.
Whenever you visit, you’ll find Martha’s Vineyard is beautiful year-round and ready to convert another first-time adventurer into an annual tourist. Happy travels!