Bucolic and beautiful, a place apart
The Inns of Menemsha offer an unusual, island experience
By Walter & Patricia Brooks
My wife spent summers on the island growing up, and we visit a couple times every year, but we have never stayed on the western, up island area of Gay Head, Menemsha and Chilmark before.
"Up-Island's beautiful vistas encompass the wildness of wind, tide and space. Ancient paths and structures inform the traveler of times when the Wampanoag Indians hunted for white-tailed deer and colonists farmed the land.
South Road is in part the Indian footpath made before English settlement.
The King's Highway established in colonial days still runs unpaved in places, offering ideal trails for horseback riding. Stone fences, protected by law, are reminiscent of the sheep farming prevalent during the 17th century.
"With its lobster pots, nets, rigging and other gear used in Vineyard fishing, Menemsha is an artist's paradise. It is also a working fishing village; fishing boats dock and unload their catch here at fish markets."
The stone walls along the roads and front yards up island offer a completely different New England look than found on Cape Cod, almost Vermont-like were it not for the ever-present ocean views and breezes.
We stayed at the remarkable and quite unique Inns of Menemsha, a fourteen acre compound of flowering gardens, rolling woodlands and paths through rustically landscaped meadows and woodlands with moss-covered stone walls down to the ocean and the harbor.
There are even a pair of wild turkeys whose male will preen his tail feathers if your wife calls him with a feminine "gobble-gobble".
Many travel writers call Menemsha the most picturesque harbor in all New England.
This is the best time to visit the Vineyard, before the crowds of summer. If you hurry and get there before June 11 the usual $355 a night room is $215 and you can even have a cottage for $305. The same lower price apply from September 20 through the end of October.
Guests at the Beach Plum Inn receive a full breakfast and guests at Menemsha Inn have an elaborate continental breakfast with coffee and tea available 24/7.
A note to readers; We dined at the Beach Plum Inn's restaurant on the opening night of the 2010 season. The fact that we had a truly superb meal is therefore even more impressive. Their website is being redone, and the menu on it at present is not what is being served this year, so we created our own version of the 2010 menu here.
Dinner at The Beach Plum Inn
The Inns of Menesha include the Menemsha Inn and the Beach Plum Inn which loom over Menemsha Harbor with the Elizabeth Islands to the west and Woods Hole on Cape Cod to the north across Vineyard Sound.
We stayed at the Carriage House in the Menemsha Inn and had a superb dinner at the Beach Plum Inn. Many travel writers have called it the best restaurant on an island known for great food.
The Chilmark Tavern - Another great restaurant a mile away
Around the corner from Bettlebung Corner in Chilmark we discovered a really great dining experience at the Chilmark Tavern. Here we were in a veritable boondock, and yet we were within a short bike ride of two really great restaurants.
How often do you find a menu with some really "different" appetizers? Chilmark Tavern had several. For instance, how many times have you wanted a "taste" of some fried clams, but not a complete meal. Here I had an appetizer of just the right amount of marvelous fried clams served in a small brown bag, see the montage of eatable delights below.
And my wife had the best sweet and spicy ribs she ever tasted. See the complete menu here. The Chilmark Tavern is at 9 State Road, Chilmark, (508) 645-9400.
The western end of Martha's Vineyard includes West Tisbury, Chilmark (which includes Menemsha) and Aquinnah. This part of the Vineyard is called "up-Island" because as you travel west you move up the scale of longitude, an expression which is a holdover from the Vineyard's days as an island of seafarers.
The center of Chilmark is called Beetlebung Corner. This name comes from the stand of tupelo trees behind the split rail fence opposite the little triangle. Years ago, wood from these trees was used to make small mallets called beetles, and wooden stoppers for kegs, called bungs. Learn more by reading this Up Island Drive story in Best Read Guide.
Both the Hyline and Steamship Authority ferries come into Oak Bluffs which is always our starting point when visiting Martha's Vineyard.
And near both docks is Sun 'n Fun Rentals where you can rent a bike, moped or car at 28 Lake Ave Oak Bluffs, (508) 693-5457.
Since Menemsha is a good ten miles away from any ferry dock, we rental a bright red Jeep here at the lowest prices on the island.
Don and Derrick at Sun 'n Fun had a famous customer a couple years ago when Barack Obama was vacationing here while running for the presidency in 2008.