If you are looking for a summer getaway to a US island, Martha’s Vineyard is a great option. Located in Massachusetts, Martha’s Vineyard is a favorite summer vacation option for US presidents and celebrities. With beaches, restaurants, shops, attractions, hotels, inns, and B&Bs located throughout the various towns on the island, there are plenty of places for families to enjoy. Here are some things to do in Martha’s Vineyard with kids, including where to stay, what towns to visit, and restaurants to eat at.
Disclosure: Several years ago, we visited Martha’s Vineyard for two nights with the Chamber of Commerce at no cost to us. This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us. All opinions are our own.
Things to Do in Martha’s Vineyard With Kids
Towns in Martha’s Vineyard
Before planning your Martha’s Vineyard vacation, you’ll want to know about the various towns located on the island. They are all a bit different.
This former whaling city was the main shooting location as the town of Amity in the film Jaws. It’s the county seat, and is home to shops, restaurants, and hotels. This is where we stayed, because it was so easy to just walk around to eat and shop. Edgartown is home to many of the hotels on the island.
One of the Steamship Authority’s terminals is located in Vineyard Haven. There, you’ll also find beaches and restaurants.
Oak Bluffs is home to a seasonal ferry terminal that is open in the summer. It’s most known for the adorable gingerbread cottages that line the streets, as well as the Flying Horses historic carousel.
Located just off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Chappy (as it’s known), is an isolated area that’s technically part of Edgartown. You’ll need to take a ferry or a private boat to get there.
There are a few other smaller towns on the Vineyard that are a little more remote, including Aquinnah (home to the Gay Head Cliffs), Chilmark, and West Tisbury.
Activities in Martha’s Vineyard
There are five lighthouses on the island, two maintained by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. Edgartown Lighthouse is open during the summer and on weekends only in the late spring and early fall. Admission is $5 and is free for kids under 12.
They also maintain the East Chop Lighthouse, which is open seasonally on Sunday evenings. Admission is $5 and free for kids under 12. There’s also the Gay Head Lighthouse, which is open from mid-June to mid-October. Admission is $6 and is free for kids under 12.
If traveling with kids to Martha’s Vineyard, it could definitely be fun to visit a lighthouse. One is probably sufficient, unless you’ve got a particular interest in lighthouses. The Edgartown Lighthouse is probably the most convenient, especially if you are staying in Edgartown. It’s within walking distance of the town center.
Of course, you’ll want to spend some time at the gorgeous beaches in Martha’s Vineyard. There are plenty of great options, depending on where you are staying. Here are a few options:
Lighthouse Beach: This is where we went during our stay, because it’s within walking distance of the center of Edgartown.
East Beach: Located on Chappaquiddick, East Beach is part of Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge. It’s accessible via ferry from Edgartown or by private boat.
Oak Bluffs Town Beach: This shallow water beach starts at the Steamship Authority docks and runs through Joseph Sylvia State Beach.
Lake Tashmoo Town Beach: This public beach in Vineyard Haven is known for shallow water and warmer water temperatures.
There are plenty of other beaches on the island, so depending on where you are staying, you may find one that is a short distance away from your accommodations.
Flying Horses Carousel
This national historic landmark located in Oak Bluffs is the oldest platform carousel in the United States. It’s open from late spring to early fall, with various hours depending on the season. There’s still a brass ring on the carousel that you can try to grab as you go around. It’s a great stop for families and an icon on the island.
Island Alpaca Company
For something unique and different, visit the Island Alpaca Company. Guests can visit the farm, and also check out the shop. Admission is $5 per person.
Shopping in Martha’s Vineyard
The Vineyard is home to a number of unique and quaint shops, including some that are popular beyond the island. The Black Dog and Vineyard Vines are both on the island, along with other independent brands. There are several different places where you can do some shopping, including Edgartown center, Oak Bluffs, and Vineyard Haven. I always love grabbing souvenirs and gifts on the island because there are so many great, unique shops.
Where to Eat in Martha’s Vineyard
We loved the Seafood Shanty so much that we visited it twice during our vacation. It’s located right on the waterfront, and also has a beautiful roof deck. They have all of the fresh seafood you’d expect from this New England island, including raw oysters and steamed lobster.
Island Fresh Pizza and Subs
If you are looking for pizza during your vacation, Island Fresh Pizza in Tisbury gets great reviews for their delicious pizza and homemade bread.
We had heard so many great things about this restaurant, but it was unfortunately closed during our visit. It’s located on the waterfront in Edgartown and offers seafood specialties.
Sandy’s Fish and Chips
If you are looking for a delicious fish and chips dish, Sandy’s in Vineyard Haven is a great option.
Black Dog Tavern
Originally known for their Black Dog t-shirts, the tavern is located on Vineyard Haven Harbor. The menu includes seafood and steak appetizers and entrees. It’s open year round.
If you are staying in a place with a kitchen, you’ll also find grocery stores on the island where you can purchase essentials for your stay.
Where to Stay in Martha’s Vineyard
During our trip, we received complimentary lodging at Edgartown Commons. This hotel offers efficiency units including two-bedrooms with a kitchen. It’s not a luxurious hotel, but it’s conveniently located and the kitchen is great for families. I’d probably recommend this as an affordable hotel for families, especially if you may want to prepare your own meals. The hotel also has an outdoor pool.
For a more luxurious stay, consider the Harbor View Hotel which is located near the Edgartown Lighthouse. It offers a heated outdoor pool, and complimentary family activities in season.
This resort is also located on Edgartown and offers two heated outdoor swimming pools and a shuttle to the center of town. There’s also complimentary children’s programs.
There are also lots of vacation homes on Martha’s Vineyard. You can search for them here on FlipKey. Having a vacation home is a great option if you want more space to spread out, and may want to prepare some of your own meals.
What to Do in Martha’s Vineyard Without a Car
If you don’t have your car with you on the Vineyard, there are still plenty of great ways to get around town. Wondering how to get around Martha’s Vineyard without a car? You have several options, including cabs, walking, and biking. There’s also the Vineyard Transit Authority bus, which goes to all of the cities and towns on the island. This article is particularly helpful in showing you how to use VTA to get around.
Remember that if you want to have your own car with you on the island, you’ll need to make a ferry reservation that includes your vehicle.
How to Get to Martha’s Vineyard
Most visitors to Martha’s Vineyard take the ferry to get there. The Steamship Authority leaves from Woods Hole on Cape Cod and goes directly to Oak Bluffs in the summer and Vineyard Haven in the winter. You can travel with or without your car. There’s also the Hy-Line Cruises high-speed and traditional ferry. It travels from Hyannis on Cape Cod to Oak Bluffs.
There is (paid) parking at the ferry terminals if you want to leave your car behind. If you are flying in to Logan Airport from home, and then heading to the Vineyard, you can take a Peter Pan bus to the ferry terminal.
Another option is Cape Air, which leaves from Logan Airport and goes to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, which is located in Oak Bluffs.
When we traveled to Martha’s Vineyard on our vacation, we decided to take our car over to the Vineyard. In that case, I had to book a ferry for us and our car. At the time I didn’t realize how far in advance the ferries fill up, so we were lucky to be able to get a reservation.
The vessels we’d scheduled were freight ships, so they had limited amenities – not a problem since the journey from Woods Hole to Oak Bluffs is short. Definitely book well in advance for the best availability. Some people do have success with the waitlist. Remember that weather can also be a factor in your trip, and sometimes the ferries are canceled or delayed if there is inclement weather.
Have you been to Martha’s Vineyard? What are your favorite things to do on Martha’s Vineyard?