Martha’s Vineyard Weekend Escape
July 25, 2012

Martha’s Vineyard often gets categorized as an exclusive island getaway, but a visit there doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, if you forgo your car and bring (or rent) bikes, skip the hotel and camp instead, and visit beaches and sights off the tourist path, you can pretend the island is your personal playground---all in a low-key and less costly way than most visitors experience.

The island’s only campground is the aptly named Martha’s Vineyard Family Campground, located less than 2 miles from the Vineyard Haven ferry terminal. The campground has wooded tent sites with picnic tables and fire pits, as well as RV hookups and cabin rentals. The cost of one week at a tent site for two people ($315) rivals that of one night at a hotel! Two additional people can stay for an extra fee (kids get a discounted rate).

One or two room cabin rentals, which start at $840 and can accommodate between four to six people, have water available, electric lights and outlets, a small refrigerator, an outside gas grill with side burner, picnic table, fire ring, and mattresses. You have to bring your own cooking utensils and bedding. Bicycle rentals are also available at the campground, which has hot showers and a small store.

Getting around Martha’s Vineyard is easy, especially on bike. You don’t have the hassle of fighting for parking spaces at popular beaches or in town, and there are almost 40 miles of bike paths. Should little ones get tired, the buses on the Vineyard all have bike racks, and the bus runs by the campground. Discover Martha’s Vineyard, AMC’s guide to hiking, biking, and paddling on the island, is a great resource for visitors.

There are so many options for outdoors fun on the island that I’d need more space than this blog to describe them all. Instead, I’ll list of few of my favorites, which I’ve come to love over more than a decade of visiting with my family. Perhaps not surprisingly, they are Trustees of Reservations and Mass Audubon properties, which mean they are cared for and protected, and will be for future generations, a thought I find comforting.

MV Outdoor Favorites

To get to East Beach (Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge and Wasque Reservation), take the ironically named “On Time” (or Chappy) ferry (it leaves as soon as it’s full and, hence, is by definition always on time). The tiny ferry takes you (and your bike or car) the short distance over to the island of Chappaquiddick, where you’ll find some of the most beautiful beaches and nature walks on the island.

Mytoi Garden, on Chappy, is a charming small Japanese-style garden within an open pine forest. There’s a small pond and windy footpaths take you through a birch walk, camellia dell, stone garden, and hillside garden. It is an unlikely and delightful garden.

Long Point Wildlife Refuge Beach, located off the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road, is probably our favorite family beach. The water is warm in summer and kids can wade out for several feet without going over their heads.

Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, a Massachusetts Audubon Society property, has 4 miles of trails to explore through woodlands, meadows, ponds, a salt marsh, and barrier beach, plus a Nature Center and Discovery Room. 


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Help a neighbor: Whether it’s the season for shoveling snow, raking leaves, or weeding their garden, your kids will get double benefits from being outdoors and building community.

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