Havana 2014? No Oak Bluffs 1879

Beckons us back once again
It's "Yesterday's Island" with the tiny, quaint Gingerbread cottages in the Methodist Campground in Oak Bluffs.

The island time forgot beckons us back again

And Oak Bluffs is easily our favorite town there

By Walter & Patricia Brooks

As righteous Muslims would head for Mecca once a year, my wife and I head for our own spiritual mecca in Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard.

Yes, I know it's not as posh or overpriced as Edgartown or even Vineyard Haven, but my wife spent her summers there as a teenager and her family has lived there for generations, so it's as much touching base with our past as anything else.

Her aunt Fran has gone to surf-casting heaven, so we always check into the Wesley House shown below which has been in continuous operation as a destination for travelers since 1879.

The scene on Oak Bluffs harbor could easily be confused with today's Havana as a New England Antique car club held its annual foray to this charming island. Pat Brooks photos.

The 19th century Methodist Campground is directly behind the inn. You walk past these cottages from another time on your five minute stroll to the main drag called Circuit Avenue.

The bike path between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown runs along the ocean beach, even past bulcholic scenes like these catboats.

The campground Tabernacle is just behind the inn, and the local school's graduation was taking place one night.

Later this summer you may see this familiar Washington DC group on the bike path.

An $18,000 masterpiece

According to the Best Read Guide the Wesley was built by Mr. A.G. Wesley for the sum of $18,000. Over the years, the hotel has undergone many changes. At its largest, there were 105 rooms, including those in the Arms building which was built around 1924. Currently the hotel has a total of 95 rooms.

The Wesley occupies a highly visible location across from the Oak Bluffs harbor. It is one of the first buildings seen by travelers coming by land or by sea. The hotel personifies the Victorian atmosphere which can be seen throughout the town.  If we had a billion to blow on accommodations we would still always stay at The Wesley.

The hotel is quite simply the quintessential Martha's Vineyard of the 19th century, and the room rates are as low as $145 in Spring and Fall rising to $245 in "the season" which is June 19-September 12.

And this is for a hotel which looms over Oak Bluffs' fascinating and busy harbor with Cape Cod visible across Nantucket Sound beyond.

Brooks Travel Rule #8

The Brooks' Rule of Travel # 8 is "all hotel rooms look the same when the lights are out", so we prefer saving a couple hundred or more each night and spending it on a good dining or entertainment.

The only drawback is my reluctance to leave the Wesley's spacious porch with it's rocking chairs and free coffee 24/7. See the aerial photo below.

Getting around the island

On The Vineyard we opted to rent a car from AA Car Rental and visited every one of the island's seven towns in one day. It's really best to leave your own car back on the mainland and rent one here. AA offers low rates for daily, weekly and monthly rentals. Their selection includes new Mini Coopers, Jeep Wranglers, Convertibles, 4-Door Cars, SUV's and Mini-Vans. They are adding Electric Bikes this summer.

AA has three convenient locations in Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven and Edgartown. Call them at 508-696-5300 or 800-627-6333.

Another option is the Vineyard Transportation Authority whose buses stop for you in front of the hotel. You can also either bring our own or rent a bike and head out on the bike path to Edgartown which starts behind the hotel and the old Methodist Campground.

The island is served by four boat lines; the Steamship Authority, the Island Queen and Patriots Boats from Falmouth, and the HyLine Boats from Hyannis as well as Cape Air from Barnstable Airport and Boston.

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