It was a gorgeous day in April on the island of Martha's Vineyard. I had traveled from Southern California to visit family & friends and to spend my birthday on a place I had loved so much as a little girl. Traveling with a dear old friend I had known forever, we set off an a four day adventure.
The wind was blowing fiercely on and off over those days and at times was being terribly unforgiving, cold and forceful but the sun was comforting, the beaches pristine and the water...the water was so blue. Rich azures giving way to pale aquamarine. Maybe I had been away too long... in all of my memories of this island, I had completely forgotten to remember the intense beauty of its surrounding water.
The ferry ride from Woods Hole to the Vineyard takes just under an hour. We purchased our tickets and a reservation for my brother's Jeep online the evening before, so boarding was fast and easy. Once everything was secure, we walked up onto the small viewing deck. The engine was rumbling loudly and the air was chilly but being out in the open water made it all perfect. We looked back to see the mainland starting to fade out of sight. I remember as I watched it slipping away, I could feel every troublesome thing on my mind, piece by piece, being carried off by that strong wind and scattering like bits of sand into the ocean. I turned to look at my friend, we were both excited for our adventure. Up ahead we could see the island off in the distance, drawing closer. I had visited Martha's Vineyard many times by sailboat as a child in the summer with my family, and one other time in my 30's, but this would be my first visit in 13 years and my very first visit in April, in the off season.
Before we knew it, we were crossing through the breakwater and entering Vineyard Haven. Disembarking the ferry was so simple and fast and there was no traffic to speak of, so we arrived at our Edgartown hotel in just 20 minutes. That was almost too quick and we wondered if we should have maybe driven around the island more, but we decided to save the exploring for the next day.
We stayed at the historic Harbor View Hotel ~ so lovely and charming, located within walking distance to Edgartown as well as set right on the water with spectacular views of Lighthouse Beach and Chappaquiddick Island.
There were warm fires set every afternoon in the cozy hotel lobby.
After a deep restful sleep, lulled by the sounds of the ocean, we woke to a soft pastel grey day. With a warm cup of tea, we walked just a few steps to Lighthouse beach.
At first glance, after maybe a rough winter, this beach seemed a little ragged and hard, but when I looked more closely, in between the stones and stronger shells, little shimmery slivers of sunny yellows and oranges appeared. I soon realized that this beach was covered with delicate Anomia shells, also known as Jingle Shells. (see jingle shell photo at the bottom)
I loved the many textures here, especially the sea grass in the soft powdery sand.
We had the beach to ourselves, but we were not its first visitors that morning... such a perfect place for a morning run.
The shell lined path back to the Harbor View Hotel... I kept imaging how beautiful it would be here in the summer.
The next day was gloriously bright and sunny. Standing here at the Aquinnah Cliffs Overlook with an absolutely stunning view. Near to this point was a little grouping of cute cottagey boutiques and takeout food stands. In mid April, a few of the shops were open, the restaurants were closed.
Town parking for the beach... not super crowded in April...
The sandy path leading down to Aquinnah beach... this must be so gorgeous in full bloom with greens and berries and flowers.
I loved this wooden walkway.. I seem to remember stepping on a path like this when I visited here as a little girl.. I wondered if that is true... aww no dogs?
Walking up and down this beach for hours ~ so comforting to be in the company of a friend who knows me so well. We started out side by side but soon we were off in our own worlds...
The waves were surprisingly calm in spite of the strong winds...
Hello rocks... I guess you have seen a few things over the years?
I loved this little cluster of plants sprouting up from the sand dunes.
The Red Clay cliffs of Aquinnah are 90 million year old ... I found a fascinating article about them, The Secret Life of Clay
Lighthouse Beach under sunnier skies.
One last look at the beach before driving to the ferry.
A wonderful gluten free organic lunch from Rosewater Market & Takeaway.
Gluten Free Vegetarian Food: One challenge of travel is finding food to enjoy. We stopped at Whole Foods before leaving the mainland, so we brought our own GTs Kombucha, organic tulsi rose tea, and fruit and nuts. Once on the island, even though it was the off season, we found plenty of options:
Rosewater Market & Takeaway: located right in downtown Edgartown, Rosewater is wonderful cafe offering several vegetarian and gluten free options, focusing on food that is locally sourced and organic. We purchased salads, quinoa and roasted brussel sprouts - all were very good. We also tried and loved their fresh pressed grapefruit juice (and bought a second bottle for the ferry ride) as well as a locally made rose maca dark chocolate bar. Rosewater Market has cafe seating both inside and out as well as a darling little shop and really nice restrooms ~ very clean and pretty.
Henry's at Harbor View Hotel: located right in our hotel, we were able to walk downstairs and into this cozy dining area for soup, salads and teas. We ate two meals at Henrys, the staff and the other local customers were all very kind and friendly. One of the bartenders told us how she calls going to the mainland, "going to America," which is something she had not done for many years. I could completely understand, I think I could love living on Martha's Vineyard forever as well!
Scottish Bakehouse: We really enjoyed this locally sourced takeout counter cafe, located on State Rd, Vineyard Haven. They offer several gluten free vegetarian and vegan meal options as well as gf desserts. We enjoyed the quinoa burger + side of kale and the vegan coconut tofu. We took home some sort of wonderful gooey bar type dessert... cannot remember what it was, but it was good! Scottish Bakehouse also offers gluten free custom cakes by pre-order.
Shopping: We took some time to shop around both Edgartown and Vineyard Haven during our stay and nearly every boutique was open during the day in April. We each bought tea mugs from a really cute kitchen store and gifts for family.
Photo top: On our first full day, we shopped for some warmer clothes to protect against the wind. The fleece zip front vest I am wearing in the top photo was my birthday present :) a really cozy vest with a high neck collar (past season 2016) Fleece Vest, Royal Robbins / I was looking for an alternate.. nordstrom.com has something similar Patagonia Fleece vest
Sunglasses these are my favorite sunglasses - you will see them in my photos, from the top of Grindelwald Mountain, to the beaches in Lagua or Santa Barbara. I have very sensitive eyes and my dermatologist just told me that he can see a faint visible line of lesser damage around my eyes - even though I always wear 50 spf all over my face. Wearing these sunglasses daily have shielded my eyes and protected my skin that much more over the many years I have worn them daily. JeeVice Egoist Sunglasses
One last selfie from the Harbor View Hotel restroom after a really chilly morning on the beach / and ... back in California with Jingle Shells!
This was such a perfect low pressure, no makeup getaway - just lots of outdoor time with an old friend, with the beaches (almost) all to ourselves to explore. The one thing I would do differently would be to bring warmer clothes. Even with a shirt, fleece jacket and north face windbreaker jacket on top, I was still cold. My cotton pants or yoga pants were too thin for this weather and my unlined knit hat did not protect against the wind so I would upgrade all of those to warmer versions in a do-over :) I did change to wearing hunter boots for the last beach day instead of my running shoes which was much warmer, but not as comfortable for walking, so comfortable tall boots would have also been perfect for the Vineyard in April.