A low-key beach escape, from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown, MA.

By Travel & Leisure
May 12, 2013
Retreat to Martha’s Vineyard
Credit: Courtesy of Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce

At least once in your life, you must indulge in the sublime experience of hiding from the world on one of New England’s famous upscale island retreats. Martha’s Vineyard hits all the right notes, with its candy-colored homes, dockside restaurants, and extensive cycling trails that lead to uninterrupted ocean views. Summertime draws countless visitors, but the quieter off-season can be lovely, too.


Chef Christian Thornton, a Bay Area émigré, treats his certified organic restaurant as his culinary playground. Case in point: he cooks local oysters in a wok.

Charlotte Inn

This refined island inn is actually a complex of ivy-draped 18th- and 19th-century houses secreted among lovingly tended gardens. Over the past three decades, owners Gerret and Paula Conover have finessed the interiors to English country perfection, making high art of the William Morris-meets-gentleman's-hunt-club aesthetic. The inn's relaxed, come-as-you-are attitude belies what could easily be perceived as museum-style stuffiness; the studied refuge is not without quirky touches. Estate antiques—marble-top dressers, silver sets, standing clocks—fill the 25 elegant rooms; each has goose-down comforters, Wi-Fi, and its own luxurious (and often palatial) bath. The French-inspired restaurant, the Catch at the Terrace, pays homage to the sea, and the Edgartown Art Gallery—also owned by the Conovers—is just adjacent; be sure to take a moment to wander the painting-filled common rooms of the former merchant whaler's home. All of this, combined with gracious service and a no-young children-allowed policy, makes the Charlotte Inn a great choice for those in search of a civilized and romantic island retreat.

The Steamship Authority

To get there, take the car ferry from Wood's Hole, MA, to Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard. It’s a short, pretty trip through calm waters. $130 round-trip

Flying Horses Carousel

In the village of Oak Bluffs, check out the Flying Horses Carousel, and 1876 amusement that retains its original glass eyes and horsehair trimmings.

Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge

Drivers of four-wheel-drive vehicles can get an over-sand vehicle pass to Chappaquiddick’s refuge for a cookout. Or, set aside at least two hours to explore the sanctuary’s flora and fauna on foot. Open year-round, daily, 24 hrs. Gatehouse open May 30–Oct. 15, daily, 9am to 5pm. Allow a minimum of 2 hours on foot, longer if in over-sand vehicle or also visiting Wasque or Mytoi.

May 30–Oct. 15: Trustees members free. Nonmembers: adult $3, child (15 & under) free. Free to pedestrians at other times of the year.