Situated in the Atlantic Ocean, just a hop away from Cape Cod, the historic little island of Martha's Vineyard draws thousands of vacationers every summer. Time here is best spent enjoying the Atlantic's stunning and varied coastline, and perusing the island's sensational shops.

But before you do anything else, make your way to the beach. There are a lot of options to choose from, including beaches for those who like to wade in the shallows, and those who like to tackle big waves. For a classic Vineyard beach experience, head to Edgartown's South Beach for three miles of surf and the area's iconic sand dunes.

Known for a vibrant performing arts scene, it's easy to swap the beach for a show on an evening in Martha's Vineyard. See what is playing at Martha's Vineyard Playhouse, which is open year-round, and presents everything from classic Shakespeare to contemporary plays.

Travelers who love to shop will find that the Vineyard has no shortage of galleries and boutiques with neat treasures. In Edgartown, nibble on confections from Murdick's Fudge while you wander in and out of shops. Be sure to pick up a pleasurable summer beach read in Vineyard Haven at Bunch of Grapes Bookstore.

Visitors should also check out a local favorite, Chilmark Chocolates, which is tucked inside a charming cottage. Keep in mind that you might have to stand in line for a taste of these treats — but we assure you that it's well worth the patience.

For something more savory, there's Larson's fish market in Menemsha (steamed lobsters and mussels with butter-drenched corn on the cob) and Aquinnah's Outermost Inn, which serves a three-course dinner paired with unforgettable sunset views.

Before you leave the island, take a stroll or bike ride around Oak Bluffs. The colorful, gingerbread cottages that neatly line the streets were originally built as a Methodist Church campsite. And don't leave town before taking a spin on the quaint Flying Horses Carousel, which happens to be the country's oldest one in operation.

By Travel + Leisure and Travel + Leisure Staff