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Posted by Carol Ward, guest blogger of

There is an upside and a downside to being known as one of the most beautiful and desirable vacation spots in Massachusetts: the upside is that Martha’s Vineyard attracts and delights thousands of visitors just about all year long; the downside is that some are deterred from visiting because they buy into MV’s false reputation of being a playground only for the rich and famous.
To set the record straight, I’d like to offer the following suggestions for a one day trip to the Island that outlines what a great time is available to anyone for just $50 or less. Not included is the cost of getting from where you are to the ferry, but from the time you buy your ferry ticket to the time you step back onto the mainland, the day is designed to come in at no more than $50/per person.

Here are the basics:

Round trip adult ferry ticket from Woods Hole, MA to Vineyard Haven or Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard: $16. Click here for Steamship Authority schedules and information.
All day pass for VTA bus with Island-wide service: $7
Click here to view maps and additional Information on MV Transit Authority busses.
Total, so far:  $23.

Oak Bluff’s Ferry Terminal abuts the Town Beach

Bring your own refreshments for the day, and you’ll still have $27 in your pocket, along with the ability to view the entire Island from Edgartown to Aquinnah. You can stop off or spend the day at the beach, and/or enjoy whatever free events the Island has to offer on the day you of your visit.
For some inspiration, here are a few upcoming events:

For a complete list of events, check out this events calendar.
Maybe you just want to check out the Island, and then wrap up the day on the beach. If so, here’s a suggested itinerary:
Arrive on an early boat docking in Vineyard Haven at 9 a.m., and buy a $7 day pass for the bus.
Start out by taking the #13 bus to Edgartown (#1 also travels to Edgartown, but not along the more scenic shore route). Make a stop in Oak Bluffs to walk among the gingerbread cottages at the Methodist Campground, which abuts the length of Circuit Ave., Oak Bluffs’ main street. Stop in at the Flying Horses Carousel, and watch the kids make a grab for the brass ring. (Deduct $2.50 from your remaining $23 if you want to take a spin yourself.)
Pick up the #13 where you were left off and continue through to Edgartown. Here you can pick up a free copy of the Best Read Guide at the Vineyard Gazette office at 32 South Summer Street, which features a walking tour of each Island town, Edgartown included.

Stately 19th century homes line the streets of downtown Edgartown

Having admired the historic whaling captains’ homes, white picket fences festooned with roses, and the busy harbor front, it’s back to the bus, this time the #6 transferring to the #5 at the West Tisbury Town Hall/Grange which will take you along the Island’s beautiful north shore to Aquinnah where, from the base of the Gay Head Light, you can see the surrounding Elizabeth Islands and the open Atlantic.

Aquinnah, home of the storied cliffs and ancestral land of the Wampanoag

Heading back down Island, you can either transfer from the #5 to the #2 or # 3 bus back to Vineyard Haven (ask the driver which is the most advantageous schedule at the time) or transfer to the #12 as you pass through Chilmark for the short ride to Menemsha.

Menemsha’s sandy beach is just steps away from MV’s still active fishing port 

Here, adjacent to the still-active fishing village, you’ll find a beautiful public beach and a number of places to enjoy seafood, chowder, ice cream and soft drinks.
By now, the day will be drawing to a close and you’ll want to be heading back to the ferry. The #5 buses that arrive 32 minutes past the hour at West Tisbury Town hall continue on to Vineyard Haven as Route # 3.
To sustain your energy for all this touring, undoubtedly, somewhere along the way you’ll want to stop to eat and drink. Here are a number of restaurants along the routes mentioned offering choices well within your budget:
In Oak Bluffs:
Dine with a view at Nancy’s Snack Bar where sandwiches, priced at an average of about $15, come with a choice of fries, greens or a pasta salad or at Offshore Ale, where for a sandwich and a house-brewed ale the tab will come in under $20.
In Edgartown:
At the Wharf Pub, choose from burgers and sandwiches (including seafood options) priced from $9-$14 (or enjoy a lobster roll for $19).
In Aquinnah:
Enjoy steamed, local mussels for $12.99 at the Aquinnah Shop, but leave room for the Island’s (maybe the world’s) best pie for $5.50 — worth every penny!
In Menemsha:
Sandwiches come with fries and slaw from $11-$18 at the back door of the Home Port; you can also stop in at The Bite for seafood snacks at comparable prices.
Including the ferry, bus fare and optional spin on Flying Horses Carousel, you’ve so far spent about $26, leaving you enough for any of the dining options listed above.
When you board the ferry for home, you’ll do so with anywhere from $4 to $0 dollars left in your pocket, but a full day of fun and happy memories to bring home from Martha’s Vineyard (and, hopefully, not too much sand).
Carol Ward is content editor at MVOL providing current information about the Island at & An Island resident for 30 years, Carol was formerly publications editor for MV Chamber of Commerce. She can be reached at [email protected].