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Martha's Vineyard - romance on the East Coast


An exclusive summer getaway for the wealthy and well-known, Martha’s Vineyard, is, a great vacation locale which draws thousands of visitors every year. This 100-square-mile island in the Atlantic holds six towns, five light houses, miles and miles of bicycle trails, and plentiful beaches and harbours. Its remote location which is seven miles off the southern shore of Cape Cod, its abundance of weathered Cedar Shake homes, and its absence of the boring franchise businesses, give Martha’s Vineyard a distinct old world feel.

It’s a great holiday destination throughout the year, but it is the summer - when ferries and private boats, sail vacationers through the Atlantic to its shores. This is the time when summer residents return, back to the island, and its population swells from 15,000 to 75,000. That’s when Martha's Vineyard springs to vibrant life.

Remaining true to its seafaring heritage, the Vineyard uses nautical terminology to divide itself into two sections - up-island for the western section and down-island for the eastern. Martha's Vineyard is comprised of six towns - three of them up-island and three down-island. Aquinnah, West Tisbury and Chilmark - all up-island - have sights well worth seeing. The towns offering the most in the way of shops, restaurants, accommodation and action, though, are down-island - Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven. Edgartown, an old whaling village dating back to the 17th Century, is full of residential streets lined with stately colonial homes and white Greek revival houses where sea captains once lived. Strolling the streets to gaze at these homes is a good way to get to know this little town.

Some of the homes have been turned into museums, including the Vincent House, believed to be the oldest house on the island, and the Thomas Cooke House. Both give visitors a view into the past with furnishings from different periods during which the homes existed. Also in Edgartown is the Martha's Vineyard Museum. The museum offers sunset tours for all three of the lighthouses- Edgartown, East Chop and Gay. All of these lighthouses are still in use today, shining their lights as beacons to sailors out at sea.

A small business district near the water, lined with both upscale and casual restaurants, clothing boutiques, art galleries and small shops carrying souvenirs, helps make this town one of the island's most popular.

Summer on Martha’s Vineyard brings with it both typical holiday festivities and unique island traditions. One holiday is celebrated in style in Edgartown. On the 4th of July an early evening parade through its streets lets you see island groups, schools and businesses bring themselves to life in their own interpretations through costumed parade walkers and floats. And in a nighttime harbour-side fireworks display, fills the entire town's sky with colour. In August, multi-colored Japanese and Chinese lanterns begin appearing by the thousands on the porches of the gingerbread cottages in Oak Bluffs.

One island tradition was made famous in an opening shot of the movie "Jaws," filmed on Martha's Vineyard. On the road that runs along the water between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown is the American Legion Memorial Bridge, where at all hours during summertime days you'll see kids and the occasional adult jumping off the bridge into the Nantucket Sound. The jump is short but still a blast. After you jump, you swim to the nearby jetty and climb ashore. And jump in again if you like.

There are no bridges that connect Martha's Vineyard to the mainland, so you must arrive by sea or air. Most people arrive by ferry but there is an airport on Martha’s Vineyard, so you can fly from anywhere to the island. Having a car on Martha's Vineyard is really unnecessary. Their extensive shuttle bus system can easily and inexpensively ($1.00 from one town to the next) takes you anywhere you wish.

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