Escape to Martha's Vineyard for a day!

July 30, 2007 | By | Reply More
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A fabulous trip report by Sally H. from Boston
When my children were young and I needed to get out of the house for a summer’s day adventure, I would head for Martha’s Vineyard for the day. Surprised? It’s not as far as it seems from the Greater Boston area.

Edgartown Martha's VineyardDrive to Rt 24 south to Rt 495 South and go over the Bourne Bridge. Get directions to the Pied Piper Ferry on the web site (listed below). Need a stop on the way? On Rt 24 just before you get to Rt 495 is a big rest stop with gas, a convenience store, fast food and bathrooms. Returning home there is an identical rest stop across the highway right after you enter Rt 24 north at exit 7. Note, an odd thing about exit numbers. Rt 495 turns into Rt 25 and the exit numbers go down as you approach the cape, end at exit 1, and begin again with exit 3, 2 and 1 (the exits from Rt 25). Coming home, you pass exits 1, 2, and 3 and begin again with exits 1, etc. Now you know.

It is a 2-3 hour car ride to Falmouth, home of the Pied Piper ferry. This small ferry is an alternative to the huge Woodshole Ferry (that takes cars if one has a reservation) and the Island Queen. The benefits of the Pied Piper is that you drive right up to the dock where they take your car and park it for the day, then you can easily manage the gear and kids for the 50 giant steps it takes to board the boat. There is a summer boat that leaves at 10:15 in the morning. Being on a boat is an adventure in itself, so the fun really starts here. Next benefit, you arrive dockside in Edgartown at 11am and you are exactly where you want to be. Pass by the picnic tables and local fishing folk, young and old, and walk into the quaint town. Hungry? Bring your own picnic food or go to the Quarterdeck at the corner of Dock Street and Kelley Street and order take out food. Return the to ferry dock and eat at the picnic tables or on the benches on the roof top while you watch the Chappy ferry go back and forth the 50 yards to Chappaquiddick and the beautiful boats in Edgartown Harbor. The walk to the Quarterdeck is less than 100 yards.

After lunch, stop at the candy store just past the Quarterdeck on the left hand side of Dock Street for a handful of penny candy (yes that’s what it used to cost) and an ice cream, then walk up the hill on Kelley Street, jog left and continue walking up Winter Street and turn left on N.Summer Street, to the bus depot on your left. (a ten minute walk slowly with children). The bus depot has very nice public bathrooms and a place to buy cold, bottled water. Catch a trolley for South Beach. You will be dropped at the entrance and find a bathhouse on your right with an area to change and go to the bathroom.

Then on to the beach, just a few steps ahead. If the beach feels too crowded, here’s another island secret. Go back to the bathhouse (it will be on your left) walking away from the beach and in 50 feet, walk down the road on your left. About 100 yards ahead is another entrance to the beach cut through the dune. DO NOT CROSS THE DUNE ANYWHERE ELSE or you will damage important conservation land. It will be easier than walking down the beach from the first entrance.

South Beach is beautiful with typically big waves, so you need to stay alert with young children. If young children are in the water, YOU should be in the water. If they are playing in the sand, you can sit and watch.

Thanks to my best friend and college roommate, I learned two important beach tips for mothers. First, put all your gear down and draw a giant circle in the sand around the area. Put your towel down and explain to the kids, YOU CANNOT CROSS THIS LINE. It lets you protect some dry clothes for the end of the day, preserve a dry space to sit, and keeps flying sand out of your snack pack. Second, identify landmarks for your children. Even if they play in shallow water, they can move down the beach in the water moving perpendicular to the shore or just wander a bit and then not know where you are. Now, YOU SHOULD BE WATCHING, but it only takes a second to be in a panic situation. So, find the umbrella near you that is a distinctive color; find the life guard stand they should go to if they cannot find you; make sure they know your cell phone number if it has service at the beach or write your cell phone number with a permanent marker on their arm (weird but effective). It will come off in the tub with soft scrub. The travel tip I taught my friend: before you leave home, soak face towels (the small ones) in cold water, wring out and put each one in a zip lock bag. Then, put them in the refrigerator or freezer overnight and into your tote bag when you leave. If a child is sick, over heated, or just sticky, a cool face cloth is a treasure. This works for vacation travel or even a trip to town. I always have a wet cloth in a zip lock.

Let your kids carry stuff. Everyone should have a backpack. I keep towels separate (so they are under my control) and toys in another pack that the kids can access. In my pack I have sun screen, the wet cloths, dry clothes for everyone and sweat shirts because the boat ride home can be chilly anytime in the summer. Take a pack with water, fruit and snacks.

End of day, grab the trolley back to Edgartown and walk back to the Edgartown dock. There are afternoon return ferrys at 4:15 and 6:45pm. The Pied Piper ferry staff will ask for the ticket they gave you when they parked your car. They will call ahead and have your car waiting and ready to go when you arrive in Falmouth.

The Pied Piper costs a bit more both for the ferry and parking, but with young children and just one day, it is a wicked good deal. You will pay roundtrip, $30 for adults, $24 for kids 6-12, and nothing for kids under 5. You save bus transfers and longer walks from ferrys to parking lots and between towns on the Vineyard while carrying gear too far. Parking is $20 for the day. You should call ahead to ride the Pied Piper (508) 548-9400 for reservations which are required on weekends and Monday holidays.

This is the day you’ve had with your kids. A boat ride, a picnic, a trip to a candy store, an ice cream, a ride on an open trolley bus, a day at the beach. It cost you about $100 + food with two kids. Have a great time on the Vineyard.

Category: Boston, Family Vacations, New England