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tzimmer's First Road Trip Report to Martha's Vineyard & Boston

tzimmer's First Road Trip Report to Martha's Vineyard & Boston

May 28th, 2007, 04:30 PM
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Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 29
tzimmer's First Road Trip Report to Martha's Vineyard & Boston

We used the following websites for getting travel deals and touring info for Boston and Martha’s Vineyard:
www.mvy.com (Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce)
www.mvol.com (Martha’s Vineyard Online)
www.fodors.com (  )
Go Boston offers several different cards that have free or discounted passage to many sites – but you have to purchase these. We chose the 3 day Go Boston Card ($90 per person) – which got us into all of the sites that I had wanted to see for FREE, plus it included the Beantown Trolley which we used to hop on and off to get around town. You can also go to Boston USA for a free card that offers additional discounts to different places (and a free Appetizer at the Union Oyster House) as well as a discount for the Go Boston cards! How neat!
The Martha’s Vineyard websites listed above also have coupons and specials listed on their websites. And I received wonderful information from many people on Fodor’s, especially escargot and naturegirl.
We flew into a chilly Boston on the morning of Saturday, May 19th, and rented a car for a drive to Wood’s Hole, MA where we caught the Steamship Authority Wood’s Hole Ferry to Martha’s Vineyard (www.steamshipauthority.com). Parking the rental car in their lot overnight was $18 – the ferry ride over was $28 for 2 people – round trip. You can ferry your car over but the cost was more than renting another car on the island since we were only staying 1 night.
The ferry ride over takes about 40 minutes and was a nice start to our vacation. Even though the boat was pretty full, the ride over was very tranquil and serene.
The first stop was the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluff, which is the oldest Carousel in the country! A quick ride there and then we rented a car and drove to the only winery on the island, Chicama Vineyards Winery (www.chicamavineyards.com). You need to keep your eyes peeled for their small sign at the entrance – we missed it twice! The winery sits 1 mile back 1 mile from the entrance on a dirt road. Chicama typically has 5 wines to sample at any given time – but they produce approximately 10 different wines. I loved their Cranberry Satin which is a dessert wine – but since we were buying wine to go with our dinner in Menemsha (which is a dry town), I figured that the Cranberry Satin would be too sweet to go with the lobster I was going to have for dinner! So I bought the Chenin Blanc which was also delicious. We were one week too early to catch a tour, but their shop was open. The shop and tasting area were smaller than I had expected, however they did have a good selection of home-made olive oils, vinegars, jams, jellies, and other condiments for sale as well as gift baskets, etc.
After purchasing our wine we headed to our hotel, the Beach Plum Inn in Menemsha (www.beachpluminn.com). We stayed in the Hydrangea Room which has a small garden alcove overlooking the Menemsha Harbor. The view was beautiful. The room was pretty standard and the bed was comfortable. It wasn’t luxurious but we weren’t staying in Martha’s Vineyard to stay inside – so we didn’t mind. The hotel grounds are surrounded with many beautiful and lush gardens – which even in mid-May looked fantastic! We chose the hotel based on 2 things – sunset views and fantastic restaurant reviews!
After dropping off our bags at the Inn, we headed to a famous roadside seafood shack, The Bite (www.thebitemenemsha.com). I had the fish and chips and my husband had the poppers. My fish was excellent – it wasn’t beer-battered – but maybe a corn flake crumb coating. It was DELICIOUS! We ate our food at the beach nearby and then walked along the water for awhile. We shopped at the stores along the harbor and took some pictures. Menemsha is truly a small fishing village and a much more rural area than we had expected. Not that we minded at all – it was absolutely beautiful and it was very relaxing…
We drove to the Aquinnah Cliffs and Light House and took some more pictures. I would recommend this area for any nature lover – the Cliffs are beautiful and awe inspiring! There are shops and restaurants at the look-out point however, only 1 shop was open when we were there. We drove a little further to Moshup beach and looked for shells and pretty rocks for our 6 year old son. Took some more fantastic pictures!
We headed back to the Beach Plum Inn for dinner. The restaurant is beautiful – painted in soft beiges and creams with wrap around windows overlooking their large bricked garden patio – which overlooks the harbor. Every table in the restaurant has a fantastic view. Unfortunately it was cloudy the whole time we were there and so we didn’t get to see the fabulous sunset . We tried their Mussels in Tomatoes with Garlic & Scallions in White Wine Butter Sauce – something new for the both of us. Some bites were tasty – others were – interesting… We aren’t used to shellfish! I had lobster with potatoes and veggies, my husband had the sirloin with garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus. My lobster was the BEST lobster I have ever had in my life! It was very sweet, tender, and fresh! The lobster was caught just hours before in the Menemsha Harbor – which we could see from our dinner table. My husband said his steak was tasty! The wait-staff was phenomenal. They were very attentive and super friendly, offering suggestions and chatting about where we were from as well as giving advice on what we should see while we were in town. (Since Menemsha is a dry-town, you can bring your own wine to dinner, and they will pop the cork and serve the wine for a small corkage fee.)
On Sunday morning, we drove to Edgartown and took the short car ferry to Chappaquiddick Island ($13 roundtrip) to go to Mytoi Gardens, a small Japanese style garden. Mytoi is maintained and protected by The Trustees which preserves natural and historical sites in Massachusetts. There is no charge to visit the garden, although donations are accepted at the entrance. The gardens were very serene and relaxing. The flowers were already blooming so we enjoyed our quiet time together just soaking in all the beautiful scenery and of course, taking pictures!
We went back to Edgartown and walked the shopping district – bought a sweatshirt because it was so cold! Had the weather been nicer we would have stayed at one of the beaches and maybe done some ocean sports – but it was cold and sprinkling so we opted to ct the shopping. The shops are very quaint and boutique-like! It was wonderful. Although all the women’s clothing was very pricey. We bought some super delicious vanilla fudge and cranberry fudge at Murdick’s Fudge on N. Water Street and some Boston Baked Beans and Chocolate covered raisins at the Ice Cream and Candy Bazaar on Dock Street. We ate a delicious lunch at Among The Flowers Café, which has outdoor seating – but because it was so cold that day, the staff closed off the outdoor area with clear plastic tarps and cranked up the heater! It was actually quite nice and comfortable. We were warm and could still see the activity and harbor outside. I had their chili and my husband had their warm ham and cheese croissant with a bowl of chili. The chili was fantastic – very hearty – and my husband’s croissant was also very tasty. He loved it.
We scarfed our food quickly and drove to Oak Bluffs to look at all the gingerbread houses and find Good Dog Goods on Upper Circuit Ave. I wanted to look for a little tee-shirt for my rat-dog, Jack. They didn’t have any tee-shirts – but they had tons of fancy sweaters and dog coats, collars, leashes, baked goodies – and just about anything else you would need for your spoiled rotten dog!
From there we went to Vineyard Haven and looked through some of their shops. And then headed back to Wood’s Hole via the Steamship Authority ferry – just as the sun came out from behind the clouds….
From Wood’s Hole we drove north to Plymouth and were so darn hungry that we chose the first large restaurant that we could find with a full parking lot – which is sometimes a good indication of the quality of the food. We chose the East Bay Grille (www.eastbaygrille.com) on Water Street, an upscale casual steak, fresh seafood, and pasta house. Boy did we luck out! Our food was amazing and the wait-staff was very friendly! Then we drove over to Plymouth Rock which was just down the road and took a few pictures. It was dark and we needed to get to our hotel so we didn’t get to stay long.
We continued our journey to Nantasket Beach – where we were booked to stay at the Clarion Nantasket Beach Resort and Spa. We got hopelessly lost – our Yahoo Map directions were so messed up. We stopped at a few locations to get directions and eventually found the hotel. It was late when we arrived – around 9:30 PM. Driving up to the hotel area was a little scary. I felt like I was in a bad side of town – some of the buildings around the hotel are unoccupied and several of the restaurants and shops didn’t keep up with their landscaping and cleaning. The Clarion looks great on the outside, and it looks like it had recently been renovated on the inside as well. But this is a tricky one… It’s like a dichotomy. I liked the hotel in general, but I got an overall feeling of confusion from staying there. The surrounding buildings are not in great shape – but the hotel is across the street from the beach! The hotel has an indoor swimming pool and spa which they kept open late for their guests – which I loved – except when we went to the pool at 10 PM it was overrun with about 20 screaming teenage girls, who were either there for a party or an athletic sports game. Needless to say – we stayed in the spa for about 5 minutes and then left because they were screaming so loud there was no way to relax. The hotel room was great – we had a view of the ocean, a large TV, and gas fireplace with a mantle, a spa tub – but the bed linens and towels were made of sticks and twigs. Scratchy beyond belief! Our room came with a free continental breakfast – just fruit, coffee, milk cereal, bagels, and muffins. But we couldn’t get to it – because we just happened to come down right after all those screaming teenage girls. The line was long and the room was loud – so we just left and figured we’d get something later.
We drove to Quincy, parked the car for the day and caught the “T” Subway into downtown Boston. It was quick and painless. The subway was clean and not scary! Everyone was on their way into work – we looked like tourists in our jeans and sweatshirts compared to their suits and skirts! We got off at the Downtown Crossing and walked to the Boston Common to pick up a Freedom Trail Guide Book and additional maps at the Information Center. Then we headed to the City Transportation Center to retrieve our Beantown Trolley passes for the next few days. The passes were free with our Go Boston card but they are typically $29 per day per person. From there we caught the Trolley and rode it to Long Wharf to go on a whale watching tour with the Boston Harbor Cruise Lines (www.bostonharborcruises.com). (You have to be mindful of where you need to go in relation to where the Trolley is stopping next. The Trolley’s go in one continuous loop one-way through the city. So if you get on at the wrong point - you could wind up going in the opposite direction that you need to go. We learned this the hard way!) The Whale watching tour was also free with the purchase of the Go Boston Card – but tickets are typically $35 for each adult. There is a drink and snack bar on the ship – and restrooms! The Whale watching tour was by far our most favorite thing that we did while in Boston. The ship leaves daily at 10 AM and returns after 3-4 hours. We were lucky enough to see approximately 20 whales that day. Some of them came up within 50 feet of the ship. It was an absolutely awe-inspiring 3 hours and well worth the price of the Go Boston Cards.
After the whale watching tour, we picked up the Trolley again and rode it up to the North End (Little Italy) where we picked up the Upper part of the Freedom Trail (Chopp’s Burial Ground, Paul Revere’s House, and the North Side Church. Admission was free to all of these with our Go Boston Card. The amount of history in the church and Paul Revere’s house was just amazing. I just imagined all of the discussions that took place in these 2 buildings regarding the future of our country. We took a ton of pictures in the church but cameras are not allowed in the Paul Revere House. Afterwards, we visited Mike’s Pastry (www.mikespastry.com) – Famous for Cannolis and Italian Pastries. I have never had a cannoli – but this shop kept popping up in travel guides and online so I figured it must be really good. And it was! We tried a cannoli dipped in chocolate and my husband also ordered a Boston Cream Pie Cream Puff Pastry. They were scrumptious! Little Italy truly does look like a small Italian village. The architecture is old-world American but there are so many Italian Restaurants and Markets and Pastry shops that I lost count. Men and women lined the streets sitting on stools talking and laughing as hundreds of people walked through the streets. It was an amazing experience. All of my senses were wide open – soaking it all in.
Then it was off to Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Quincy Market for some quick shopping! The Great Hall in Faneuil Hall was closed due to maintenance so we didn’t get to tour that. I was so bummed that I forgot that we were supposed to get coupons at the information desk for the shops in Faneuil Hall with our Go Boston card. (I will remember next time!)
We ate dinner at the Union Oyster House, America’s oldest restaurant. If you go to one restaurant in Boston – this should be it! The history that this place holds makes it a national treasure! And the food is downright amazing as well! It has been in operation as a restaurant since 1826 and is designated a National historic Landmark. The ambience and décor in the restaurant is like nothing else I will ever experience. There are at least 4 floors to this restaurant with all kinds of twists and turns to additional seating. I enjoyed the lobster ravioli (which would have been free with my Boston USA card – but I had forgotten it!). My husband had their pork chops which he said were delicious also. The waitress was very friendly and attentive. And the prices were wonderfully affordable. There is also a shop next to the restaurant where you can purchase souvenirs and food mixes.
After we rolled out of the restaurant we made our way to the Old State House and the Old South Church, also part of the Freedom Trail. Again, admission was free with our Go Boston Cards. We were done for the day and went back to our hotel to walk on the beach for a few minutes and have some drinks at the bar.
The next morning (our last day in Boston), we decided to drive into Boston since we had to be at the airport by mid-afternoon. What a trip! We got off the wrong exit and got a little lost! We eventually found our way to a public parking deck just south of Newbury ($30 a day!). Just a side note – there is public parking available underneath the Boston Common for half that price! We were going to ride the swan boats – but we didn’t have much time left to enjoy Boston, so we decided to skip it in favor of walking around the Beacon Hill area. WOW! What amazing architecture!
We headed down to Newbury Street and strolled through some boutiques and ate delicious burritos outside under the sun at a burrito restaurant. The birds must be habituated to all the people eating and giving them food – because they would come right up to us and take food from our fingers if we held it out! It was funny to see! From here we caught the trolley to the Museum of Fine Arts – but we chose to go down the road to the Isabella Gardner Museum (www.gardnermuseum.org), where there are fine arts, upholstery, tapestries, rare books, and statues on display in an Italian Villa Setting. It was lovely and I wished I had more time to spend there looking at everything! (Admission was free with the Go Boston Card). We wanted to tour the Museum of Fine Arts but didn’t have time as we had to get back to the airport to get home. (If we had to change one thing, we would have stayed at a hotel in downtown Boston even though they are more expensive. By the time you add up the gas, the time spent in traffic, the cost for a car rental, etc – it costs the same to stay in town as it does out of town.)
We didn’t want to leave Boston – we both had such a great time! Everyone we met in MV and Boston were very nice, friendly, and helpful. All of our meals were fantastic and the sights were just incredible – I can’t find the words to capture it all. It was definitely 4 days well spent and we will go back!
tzimmer is offline  
May 28th, 2007, 04:39 PM
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Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 29
sorry about the length...
and for some reason - as much as i tried to edit the post - it wouldn't put my spacing in between the paragraphs!

First timers......
tzimmer is offline  
May 28th, 2007, 08:03 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
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tzimmer this is a great report - I'm so glad you posted. You hit some of my favorite MV spots -

I remember some of your planning, but wish I knew more of it (ie; I would have told you not to stay at the Clarion - I am in a nearby town and unfortunately Hull is and always has been a town 'in transition' - the Clarion survives mostly on people visiting family, lodging for nearby weddings, etc... too far from Boston to be used as a base -

although I am surprised noone directed you to take the boat in and out of Boston instead of the T, but maybe the hours didn't work for you - but yoyu got your boat ride on your whale watch !

You covered a lot but I hope you do come back - it's a great city - and teh hotel prices are ridiculous, but there are alternatives like B & B's and also hotels closer than Hull for next time !

Thanks again for sharing - I'll have to read it agian in the morning - we've got company coming this summer and it's always nice to look at a visitors view while I'm planning what to do with them !
escargot is offline  
May 29th, 2007, 05:09 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
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I just noticed, you might want to put the link to this report as an 'update' on the threads where you rec'd all the suggestions - that way it will come up on those contributors personal thread updates and they will know your report is online in case they otherwise miss it - usually people like reading a trip report, especially when they helped with suggestions -

in case you don't know how to do that, you bring up your trip report post, open it to read, and then click on the title of it and you will see in the above search bar it changes to the link for it, copy and paste it: then you can post it on the bottom of your MV question threads - does this make sense?

here's the link:
escargot is offline  
May 29th, 2007, 05:18 PM
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thanks for all the help! i have really enjoyed adding my info to the site. i am about to add my reviews for the restaurants etc on the destinations pages, too.
tzimmer is offline  
May 29th, 2007, 05:28 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
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You are welcome ! Your report is awesome and will help lots of people when they search for MV info in the future too -
escargot is offline  
May 29th, 2007, 05:30 PM
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wait, where are you adding restaurant reviews on the destination page ? this is a part of the sight I am not familiar with.....
escargot is offline  
May 29th, 2007, 06:23 PM
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when you go to martha's vineyard in the destination tab and then click on restaurants - it lists the restaurants for MV - and you can rate them. But Among The Flowers and and the Beach Plum Restaurants are not on there. I was trying to search past posts to see if I can find out how to add them on so I can post a review. I posted a review for The Bite and The Beach Plum Inn (as the Hotel)..
tzimmer is offline  
May 29th, 2007, 07:28 PM
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Now I am craving fried clams from the bite and chilmark chocolates! Oh and a day in Chappy!!!!!!! Fantastic report. Hope the editors respond on where to suggest and review places their authors have missed.
May 30th, 2007, 09:51 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 5,206
Among the Flowers is a treasure - It became more popular after being featured on one of those Rachel Ray things about eating somewhere for $x or less - I never saw one of her shows, but someone told me they had seen it.

And thanks for telling me about how to rate restaurants, I've learned something new !
I like reading reviews (Zagats/TripAdvisor) altho sometimes I think the only people who take the time either really loved someplace or had a problem so I'm always balancing the reviews...and Zagats, I so rarely see anything off in there I wonder if they just leave those comments out altogether, I always fill in their survey myself, and there are some reveiws in there I just don't get.... chowhounds, etc, all ahve their advantages and disadvantages -

but thanks for telling me that I am going to check it out now ! ...
escargot is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 10:55 AM
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tzimmer, this is a wonderful report. You did justice to our city.
cigalechanta is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 12:07 PM
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That does it. I'm furious! You can't talk about one of my favorite places in the world, Martha's Vineyard, when I am 3,000 miles away. Ooooh, what a heavenly report, thanks so much, really. It was nice to read but painful.

Tess <---bragging rights - my family founded the island. Well, after the Native Americans but you know about that Yankee story.
TTess is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 12:18 PM
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This is a great report, tzimmer. Thank you so much for all the information.

cmcfong is online now  
May 30th, 2007, 05:05 PM
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Wow! Thanks for the thanks everybody! I just hope the report helps out a few people who are planning a visit to Boston and MV.

tess i hope you get to MV soon! I myself would like to go back later this year.
tzimmer is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2007, 02:44 PM
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