When you visit anywhere, you usually have an expectation or supposition about what to expect. When you visit the Bahamas you expect steel drums and white, sandy beaches. When you visit Orlando, you expect a big mouse, Disney princesses, and roller coasters. And when you visit Martha’s Vineyard, you expect… well, what do you expect?
What I expected was all wrong. And I couldn’t be more pleased about that.
I grew up in southern Florida just north of Palm Beach in a little town called Stuart. I grew up just north of where the rich and famous vacation and play. Palm Beach is an island and has a reputation and an air of exclusivity about it. Martha’s Vineyard is an island. It definitely has a reputation of exclusivity about it. And, for me, that’s where the similarities end.
In my mind, Martha’s Vineyard was full of McMansions built and occupied by the wealthy elite like the duPonts, Vanderbilts, and Kennedys. In my mind, everyone lived like the Great Gatsby and hosted lavish cocktail parties all season long. In my mind, the women wore nothing but the latest Lily Pulitzer dresses and the men wore nothing but seersucker suits. Don’t get me wrong… I know in the Cape that exists. And I’m sure it does on Martha’s Vineyard somewhere. But the Martha’s Vineyard I’ve seen so far is so much better than I ever could have imagined.
The island consists of basically six distinct towns, each with their own unique personality and opportunities. The areas are Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah. The vibe and feeling on this island are nothing short of relaxed and wonderful. I took my first drive across the entire island and was amazed at the beauty and diversity of the Vineyard.
In addition to what you’d expect, there are some, for me, unexpected wonderful surprises. There are working farms, farm stands, and farmers markets across the island. There are old school general stores that have everything you need. Think Target before Target even existed but obviously smaller. A lot of the general stores even stock locally grown produce and products.
“Support local, buy local” is a big deal here, which is evident by the fact that there is only one chain restaurant on the island, a Dairy Queen, and it’s been here for more than 20 years. It’s a part of the community as are the locally owned and operated establishments. It never ceases to amaze me the number of shops and restaurants available to island residents and visitors, some of which are only open seasonally.
I am very fortunate that I was offered an opportunity to work at Viewpoints Realty this summer. I am spending my summer in Vineyard Haven, specifically West Chop. Vineyard Haven and West Chop are on the northern side of the island. Vineyard Haven is the first town you experience when you depart the ferry from Woods Hole, Massachusetts. It hosts a landscape of trees and beach and the New England feel I was so desperately hoping to experience. It’s completely different from the other parts of the island. The majority of homes here are quaint and quintessential New England as the homes are cedar shingled. In West Chop, the majority of homes I’ve seen are large, maybe even sprawling, but not gaudy. Every home is what I pictured and hoped for when picturing my summer home away from home.