Cape Cod Feature

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Clam Shacks

Cape Codders have been clamming for generations, and their iconic mollusks are a celebrated part of the culture here. Classic clam shacks are known for their bountiful baskets of crispy fried clams, which, according to Cape Codders, should always be ordered "whole"—that is, with the bellies. Fried clams are never the only item on the menu. Typical fare also includes clam chowder, lobster rolls, fried fish, scallops, shrimp, coleslaw, fries, potato salad, and other non-seafood items. The quintessential experience usually involves ordering at one window, picking up at another, and eating at a picnic table—hopefully one with a beach or harbor view! A few of our favorites on Cape Cod include The Clam Shack in Falmouth, Mac's Seafood in Wellfleet, and Arnold's Lobster & Clam Bar in Eastham. The Bite in Menemsha on Martha's Vineyard is also worth a try. Commercial shellfishing on the Cape is one of America's oldest industries, and locals aren't the only ones clamoring for shellfishing licenses these days. Some of the Cape's more "clambitious" visitors also want to get in on the hunt for these scrumptious fruits of the sea. But it's not as easy as just hitting the shore with your rake and basket. Shellfishing is regulated by the state, and each town has its own regulations regarding license costs, clam size and quantity, and the areas and days shellfishing is permitted. If you're ready to try recreational clamming, put on your clamdiggers, grab your rake and basket, and head to the local town hall to get your license and any other necessary information. You can also take a class, like the ones offered by Barnstable's Association for Recreational Shellfishing (wwww.shellfishing.org), or check in with the local shellfish warden to find out about any organized clamming excursions.

Martha's Vineyard

Far less developed than Cape Cod—thanks to a few local conservation organizations—yet more cosmopolitan than neighboring Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard is an island with a double life. From Memorial Day through Labor Day the quieter (some might say real) Vineyard quickens into a vibrant, star-studded place.

The busy main port, Vineyard Haven, welcomes day-trippers fresh off ferries and private yachts to browse in its array of shops. Oak Bluffs, where pizza and ice cream emporiums reign supreme, has the air of a Victorian boardwalk. Edgartown is flooded with seekers of chic who wander tiny streets that hold boutiques, stately whaling captains' homes, and charming inns.

Summer regulars have included a host of celebrities over the years, among them Carly Simon, Ted Danson, Spike Lee, and Diane Sawyer. If you're planning to stay overnight on a summer weekend, be sure to make reservations well in advance; spring is not too early. Things stay busy on September and October weekends, a favorite time for weddings, but begin to slow down soon after. In many ways the Vineyard's off-season persona is even more appealing than its summer self, with more time to linger over pastoral and ocean vistas, free from the throngs of cars, bicycles, and mopeds.

Except for Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, the Vineyard is "dry," but many restaurants allow you to bring your own beer or wine. The town of Vineyard Haven has recently allowed beer and wine—but no liquor—to be sold in restaurants only.

Getting Here and Around

Air Travel

Cape Air has regular, year-round flight service to the island from Hyannis, Boston, and Providence's T. F. Green Airport and seasonal service (starting mid-June) from White Plains, NY (that includes a bus transfer to and from Manhattan). From New York's LaGuardia Airport, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., U.S. Airways Express provides seasonal service. JetBlue provides seasonal nonstop service from New York-JFK.

Bus Travel

Once on the island, the Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) provides regular service to all six towns on the island. The buses can accommodate a limited number of bicycles and the island has an excellent network of well-maintained bike trails. The VTA also has free in-town shuttle-bus routes in Edgartown and Vineyard Haven. You can also get around by bicycle (rentals are available) and taxi (though the latter are expensive).

Bus Contacts

Car Travel

Although traffic can be bad during the season, it can be handy to have a car to see all of Martha's Vineyard and travel freely. Instead of bringing one over on the Steamship Authority ferry from Woods Hole (the only ferry service that transports cars—expensively), it's sometimes easier and more economical to rent one once you're on the island for a few days of exploring, particularly during the busy season when car reservations on the ferry are hard to come by. But don't expect a bargain for rentals once on island either; expect to pay about $180 per day for a jeep. The island does its best to discourage extra automobile traffic.

Ferry Travel

The Steamship Authority is the main ferry heading to Martha's Vineyard from Woods Hole. Other ferries leave from Falmouth Harbor (Island Queen); North Kingstown, RI (Vineyard Fast Ferry); Hyannis (Hy-Line); New Bedford (Seastreak), New York City (Seastreak, seasonally).

Visitor Information

Contacts

Vineyard Haven (Tisbury)

Most people call this town Vineyard Haven because of the name of the port where ferries arrive, but its official name is Tisbury. Not as high-toned as Edgartown or as honky-tonk as Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven blends the past and the present with a touch of the bohemian. Visitors step off the ferry right into the bustle of the harbor, a block from the shops and restaurants of Main Street.

Getting Here and Around

Vineyard Haven sees ferry traffic year-round, so this port town is always active. If you're traveling without a car, you can get around by taxi or the white buses run by Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority. Bike, scooter, and car rentals are also possibilities. Much of the downtown area is easily explored on foot, and a good number of the lodgings are within reach. Vineyard Haven is 3.5 mi west of Oak Bluffs.

Beaches

Where to Eat

Where to Stay

Nightlife and the Arts

Shopping

Vineyard Haven has a nice concentration of shopping along Main Street, which is intersected with several shorter streets that also hold shops if interest. Conveniently, since many people arrive by ferry without their vehicles, the majority of shopping is easily accessible right from the ferry docks. You won't find any large-scale chain stores here; rather a good variety of upscale clothing shops, galleries, and other independently owned businesses selling everything from kitchen ware to luxury bath products.

Oak Bluffs

Circuit Avenue is the bustling center of the Oak Bluffs action, with most of the town's shops, bars, and restaurants. Colorful gingerbread-trimmed guesthouses and food and souvenir joints enliven Oak Bluffs Harbor, once the setting for several grand hotels (the 1879 Wesley Hotel on Lake Avenue is the last remaining one). This small town is more high-spirited than haute, more fun than refined. Look for the yellow tourist information booth at the bottom of Circuit Avenue. It's open from June through mid-October and is staffed with helpful folks from the area.

Getting Here and Around

Oak Bluff is the terminal for seasonal ferries. If you have a car, it's best to find a space and leave it while you walk, bike, or take the white buses operated by Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority.

Exploring

Beaches

Where to Eat

Where to Stay

Nightlife

Sports and the Outdoors

Shopping

You'll find more touristy shops—selling T-shirts, souvenirs, taffy, and the like—mixed in with galleries featuring local art, funky clothing shops, and beach-going gear. The shopping starts nearly right off the docks and is concentrated around busy Circuit Avenue.

Edgartown

Once a well-to-do whaling center, Edgartown remains the Vineyard's toniest town and has preserved parts of its elegant past. Sea captains' houses from the 18th and 19th centuries, with well-manicured gardens and lawns, line the streets.

A sparsely populated area with many nature preserves, where you can fish, Chappaquiddick Island, 1 mile southeast of Edgartown, makes for a pleasant day trip or bike ride on a sunny day. The "island" is actually connected to the Vineyard by a long sand spit that begins in South Beach in Katama. It's a spectacular 2¾-mile walk, or you can take the ferry, which departs about every five minutes. On the island's Mytoi preserve, a boardwalk runs through part of the grounds, where you're apt to see box turtles and hear the sounds of songbirds. Elsewhere you can fish, sunbathe, or even dip into the surf—use caution, as the currents are strong.

Getting Here and Around

Once you've reached Edgartown, a car isn't necessary. It's actually a hindrance, as parking can be very tight in summer. The Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority operates a fleet of buses that can get you almost anywhere you want to go. The town runs a well-stocked visitor center on Church Street.

The best way to get around Chappaquiddick Island is by bike; bring one over on the ferry and ride the few miles to Cape Pogue Wildlife Refuge. Sign up for a tour with the Trustees of Reservations for an in-depth look at the island's wonders.

Tours

Exploring

Beaches

Where to Eat

Where to Stay

Shopping

In keeping with its flair for the elegant and the sophisticated, don't expect Edgartown to be a bargain-hunter's dream. Clothing stores tend to be conservative and expensive, though of course it is all a matter of one's personal taste. There are some very fine and unusual shops selling out of the ordinary gift and household items. There is lots of shopping along Main Street, but do wander down the smaller side streets, and you'll be rewarded with new opportunities.

West Tisbury

West Tisbury retains its rural appeal and maintains its agricultural tradition at several active horse and produce farms. The town center looks very much like a small New England village, complete with a white-steepled church.

Getting Here and Around

The Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority buses makes stops at West Tisbury, 8 mi west of Edgartown and 6½ mi south of Vineyard Haven.

Exploring

Where to Eat

Where to Stay

Shopping

West Tisbury is truly a long and beautiful stretch of rural splendor; shopping here must be discovered rather than found in plain sight. There is no distinct downtown area, though along the bucolic roadways you'll find a few gems worth a closer look.

Chilmark

Chilmark is a rural village where ocean-view roads, rustic woodlands, and sparse crowds have drawn chic summer visitors and resulted in stratospheric real-estate prices. Laced with rough roads and winding stone fences that once separated fields and pastures, Chilmark reminds people of what the Vineyard was like in an earlier time, before the developers came.

Getting Here and Around

Chilmark, 5½ miles southwest of West Tisbury and 6 miles west of Aquinnah, is served by the big buses of the Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority. The fare is $1 per town, including the town of departure.

Where to Eat

Shopping

Much like its neighboring West Tisbury, this is the unspoiled countryside part of the island. Shopping opportunities are sparse, though rich.

Menemsha

Unspoiled by the "progress" of the past few decades, the working port of Menemsha is a jumble of weathered fishing shacks, fishing and pleasure boats, drying nets, and lobster pots. The village is popular with cyclists who like to stop for ice cream or chowder.

Getting Here and Around

Menemsha, is often busy with folks eager to see the sunset. You can take a Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority bus here; there's frequent service in summer, and more-limited service the rest of the year.

If you're exploring the area by bike, you can get between Menemsha and the Aquinnah Cliffs via the Menemsha Bike Ferry. It's a quick trip across the water ($8 round-trip), but it saves a lot of riding on the busy State Road.

Exploring

Where to Eat

Sports and the Outdoors

Aquinnah

Aquinnah, called Gay Head until the town voted to change its name in 1997, is an official Native American township. The Wampanoag tribe is the guardian of the 420 acres that constitute the Aquinnah Native American Reservation. Aquinnah (pronounced a-kwih-nah) is Wampanoag for "land under the hill." You can get a good view of Menemsha and Nashaquitsa ponds, the woods, and the ocean beyond from Quitsa Pond Lookout on State Road. The town is best known for the red-hued Aquinnah Cliffs.

Getting Here and Around

This is the end of the world, or so it seems when you're standing on the edge of the cliff looking out over the ocean. Aquinnah, 6½ miles west of Menemsha and 10 miles southwest of West Tisbury, gets lots of traffic, for good reason. You can drive here (and pray for a parking space) or ride the Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority buses, which have frequent service in summer.

Exploring

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