The Sweet Summer Joy of the Ferry to Martha’s Vineyard

There are a handful of ways to get to the island of Martha’s Vineyard for vacation: private jet, private boat, commercial airline, commercial ferry or public ferry. Of these, in our humble opinion, the best mode of transportation by far is the Steamship Authority’s ferry service.  Here’s a photo journal of the iconic summer joy of the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard.

what makes the summer ferry to martha’s vineyard such a joy?

Well, it’s not aesthetics of the vessel

The fun of the ferry is definitely not due to its elegant looks. It’s not wholly unattractive, but serviceable would be a kind way to describe it.

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier

It’s not the on-board amenities or the décor, either. Unless you really love hot dogs, or popcorn, or public-bus-terminal-circa-1960’s seats and benches, you’re not really on this brief voyage for the food or the plush surroundings.

its a lot about the people-watching on the ferry

You’re on this 40-minute ride for the people-watching. Especially the adorable dogs and kids. And the salt air. For the stiff breeze. And the views. For the seagulls riding the crest of a thermal alongside you, hoping to be fed (they love french fries. Who doesn’t?)

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier

And mostly, you’re in it for the thrill of seeing the little slice of heaven that is Martha’s Vineyard come slowly into view.

For many of us, this journey is a vital, communal part of the iconic experience of a vacation on the Vineyard. It fosters that wonderful transition from the mainland, and work, and obligations and stress to the island, and ease, and Vineyard Time.

You could take a plane, of course. But why?

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier

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it feels just like Christmas morning

We once read a quote from someone in an interview who said “when the ferry pulls into view of the island, I feel as excited as I did as kid on Christmas morning.” We couldn’t agree more.

It’s the ultimate micro-luxury. Meaning that it doesn’t cost much money, and is so enjoyable, that even if you had all the dough in the world, you’d still want to travel this way. So leave the PJ in the hangar just this once.

Here’s a photo journal that highlights the particular joys of the Steamship Authority ferry. Coming or going, it’s all good.

taking the ferry to martha’s vineyard

first up: where to sit?

Once you’re on-board, your journey from Wood’s Hole on Cape Cod beings with a key decision: are you sitting inside or outside? Clearly, the correct answer is a seat outdoors, unless the weather is truly foul.

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier

Once you’ve made that call, you’ll also need to decide if you’d prefer to look forward to your destination, or behind you to where you just departed. This may have a great deal to do with whether you’re approaching the island for the start of a splendid visit, or reluctantly leaving the Vineyard to head back to the mainland.

It could also have deep philosophical implications and be a key indicator of your mood and where you are in your life.

The good news? Either way, the views are really fine.

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier

don’t forget to look up

Got a seat? Now – look up, look around, get acclimated. Breathe deeply and smell the sea, and the air, and the summer.

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier

Ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier

get into the vacation zone

Before you know it, you’re off to sea. Your fellow passengers are probably doing all kinds of things. Some are chilling out alone.

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier

Some are gearing up for their adventures on the island. For example, on a recent trip, we spotted a dance troupe rehearsing their moves in the shadow of the captain’s bridge.

Some have already started their first beach read of the vacation.

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier

Others are too excited to sit still.

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier

Some are celebrating a new union.

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier

Others are quietly talking, and perhaps making plans.

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier

breathe deeply and take in the view

While all of this is going on, what are we usually doing, you ask?

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier

Well, our custom is to never sit down on this trip. In addition to watching all the humans, we’re envying the seagulls and wishing we could fly, letting the wind blow the cobwebs fully out of our brain, making plans, reminiscing, dreaming of owning a house by the sea, and admiring the view.

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier

vineyard haven or oak bluffs?

When scheduling your trip with the Steamship Authority, you can choose to arrive at Vineyard Haven or Oak Bluffs. Each has its advantages. As a practical matter, it’s probably slightly easier to find a parking space after you disembark in Vineyard Haven. And there’s a big supermarket there, so you can stock up before you head to your lodgings. But for pure charm, it’s really hard to beat Oak Bluffs. Your call.

If you’re bringing your car, book very early for August crossings (like, in January). Otherwise, you can roll the dice and get in the standby line with your vehicle. If you’re walking onto the ferry for a day trip, or parking your car in Wood’s Hole, you’ve got a lot more flexibility on getting your ticket closer to your travel date.

The main thing is that at the end of this lovely sojourn, you’re in Martha’s Vineyard! And there’s very little in life that could be better than that.

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