Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard

Ahhhhh! It’s finally Travel Tuesday and I’ve finally got a new destination to share with all of you! It’s no secret that I headed to The Cape a few weeks ago and fell in love with summer on The East Coast. I’m thrilled to be bringing you a new travel series on the blog so that you can start planning your trip for next summer. Because I promise you, you will want to visit after you see these pictures!

A trip to either of these treasures on the East Coast is a trip that you will never forgot. Rich history, authenticity (you won’t find any chain restaurants or stores here!), and the prettiest sites you’ll EVER see are nestled upon the quaint streets of these two little islands.

Whether you’re hiding out Up Island on Martha’s Vineyard, or walking the cobblestone streets of Nantucket, you’re bound to fall in love with one of these two pieces of paradise. And yes, you read that right… you will only fall in love with one. And you will unapologetically rep a Black Dog or the letters ACK for the rest of your life, and never understand why people think the other island is better. (This rivalry is REAL.)

I’ve made my choice on my favorite island. I knew it was “my” island the second I stepped off the ferry. But I’m going to try to be civil and share all the great things about both of these amazing islands with you over the next few weeks!

Sitting here, I can’t quite seem to come up with the correct words to describe either of these places. So, I’ve decided to let my favorite author, and Queen of Nantucket, Elin Hilderbrand do the talking for me.


Like thousands of other erudite, discerning people, you’ve decided to spend your summer vacation on an island off the coast of Massachusetts. You want postcard beaches. You want to swim, sail and surf in Yankee-blue waters. You want to eat clam chowder and lobster rolls, and you want those dishes served to you by someone who calls them chowdah and lobstah. You want to ride in a Jeep with the top down, your golden retriever, named Charles Emerson Winchester III, riding shotgun. You want to live the dream. You want an American summer.

But wait! You’re torn. Should you choose Nantucket… or Martha’s Vineyard? And does it really matter? Aren’t the islands pretty much the same?

We chuckle and smirk at the assumption, shared by so many. Possibly, you’re not familiar with the bumper sticker (a bestseller at the Hub on Main Street and proudly displayed on the vehicles of nearly every islander of distinction, including the director of the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce) that reads: GOD MADE THE VINEYARD… BUT HE LIVES ON NANTUCKET.

If you’re not swayed by that kind of shameless propaganda, then consider the vital statics:

Nantucket Island

Settled: 1659
Original inhabitants: Wampanoag Indians
Distance from Hyannis: 30 miles
Area: 45 square miles
Population: 11,000 year-round; 50,000 summer
Number of towns: 1
Famous residents: Prefer not to be named

Martha’s Vineyard

Settled: 1642 (We say: “Age before beauty”)
Original inhabitants: Wampanoag Indians
Distance from Woods Hole: 11 miles (We say: “It’s practically the mainland!”
Area: 100 square miles (We say: “Twice as big”)
Population: 16,535 year-round; 100,000 summer (We say: “Twice and many”)
Number of towns: 6 (We are speechless [!!!]- and can someone please tell us what is up with Chappaquiddick?)
Famous Residents: Meg Ryan, Lady Gaga, Skip Gates, Vernon Jordan, Carly Simon, James Taylor, and… John Belushi, deceased and buried off South Road (They have Bluto; we say: “So what?”)

Is there any part of Martha’s Vineyard that can compare with our cobblestone streets or the stately perfection of Three Bricks, the homes that whale-oil merchant Joseph Starbuck built for his three sons between 1837 and 1840? Does the Vineyard have an enclave of tiny rose-covered cottages- as whimsical as dollhouses- as we do in the picturesque village of ‘Sconset? Does “MVY” have a protected arm of golden-sand beach, home to piping plovers and a colony of seals, as our nothernmost tip, Great Point, does? Does it have a sweeping vista like the one offered across Sesachacha Pond toward the peppermint stick of Sankaty Head Lighthouse? Does it have a dive bar as glamorously gritty as the Chicken Box, where one can hear Grace Potter one week and Trombone Shorty the next? You might not want to get us started on the superiority of our restaurants. If it were out last night on earth, who among us could choose between the cheeseburger with garlic fries from the Languedoc Bistro and the seared-scallop taco with red cabbage slaw from Millie’s?

We understand how you might confuse those of us here with our compatriots there- after all, our region is lumped together as the Cape and the islands- but we are two distinct nations, each with its own ways, its own means, its own traditions, histories and secrets, and its own web of gossip and scandal. Think of the two islands as you would a set of twins. Outwardly, we look alike, but beneath the surface… we are individuals.

Martha’s Vineyard.

There is a bumper sticker- a bestseller, according to the owner of Alley’s General Store- that reads: GOD MADE NANTUCKET, BUT HE LIVES ON THE VINEYARD. Some of us would have edited that bumper sticker to say BUT HE LIVES IN CHILMARK- because who wants to be lumped in with the honky-tonk shenanigans happening down island?

However, in the interest of keeping this a foreign war and not a civil one, let’s celebrate the reasons we’re superior to Nantucket. The Vineyard has diversity- or races, of opinions, of terrain. We had the Methodist campground, with its colorful gingerbread houses; the Tabernacle; Ocean Park; Inkwell Beach, Donovan’s Reef, home of the Dirty Banana- and that’s only in Oak Bluffs! We have dozens of family farms that harvest an abundance of organic produce; we have the Jaws Bridge and the cliffs of Aquinnah; we have East Chop, West Chop, the Katama airstrip, and a neighbor in Edgartown who keeps llamas on his front lawn. We have Chappaquiddick, which is a lot more than just the place where Teddy Kennedy may or may not have driven Mary Jo Kopechne to her death off the Dike Bridge. After all, there is a Japanese garden on Chappy! And if we let the air in our Jeep tires down to eleven pounds and pay two hundred dollars for a sticker, we can enjoy the wild, windswept beauty of Cape Poge.

We have rolling hills, deciduous trees, and low stone walls. We have Menemsha, the best fishing village in the civilized world, where one can get the freshest seafood, the creamiest chowder and the crispiest, most succulent friend whole-belly clams. Have you never heard of the Bite? Larsen’s? The Home Port? These are iconic spots; these are legends.

We have the best celebrations: Illumination Night, the Ag Fair, the August fireworks. We aren’t sure what anyone celebrates on Nantucket other than being able to land a plane successfully at the airport despite the pea-soup fog or finally being able to find the correct shade of dusty pink on a pair of dress pants.

But what really makes the Vineyard special is the people. The Vineyard boasts a large and active population of middle and upper-class African Americans. We have Brazilian churches. We also have celebrities, but you would never recognize half of them because they have to wait in line at “Back Door Doughnuts” and sit in traffic at Five Corners in Vineyard Haven just like everyone else.

Most of us have only been to Nantucket for one reason: the Island Cup. We won’t say anything about the football game itself, because no one likes a braggart, but every time we visit to cheer on our high school players, we can’t help wondering how our fellow islanders can bear to live on such a flat, barren, and foggy rock so far out to sea.

Still, there is a connection between us that’s hard to refute. Geologists suspect that as recently as twenty-three thousand years ago, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Cape Cod were all part of one landmass. It might be easier to think of us as sisters-twins, even–birthed by the same mother. We like to think of Martha’s Vineyard as the favorite.

But then, of course, Nantucket likes to think of herself as the favorite.

Elin Hilderbrand- The Identicals (If you haven’t read this book you NEED to it’s my all time favorite!!!)

By the end of this travel series, I have a feeling you’ll have picked a side… just like me!

I’m so excited to bring one of my favorite places (and another really pretty place) on this planet to my blog the next few Tuesdays. I’ll be sharing detailed itineraries, tips for navigating the islands, and where to find the best attractions, food and brews. I just know that by the time this travel series is over, I’ll have you booking a plane ticket to Boston! And then a ferry to one of these little islands 🙂

Alright my loves! I’ll be back next Tuesday with more from MVY and ACK, and tomorrow with a #WhatUpWednesday 🙂

Have a fantastic rest of your night!


3 thoughts on “Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard

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