We kicked off our summer vacation with our very first visit to the New England coast and the lovely island of Martha’s Vineyard. We managed to time our visit right at the beginning of the summer season which officially begins around mid June although the tourist scene begins to awaken from its winter slumber during the week following the Memorial weekend holiday. Thus, we were greeted with curiosity by the local shop owners and restauranteurs who wondered why we were here so early. “Yeah, we just opened,” they kept telling us, apologizing for not quite being fully operational.
But, limited store hours and minimal island offerings notwithstanding, we eeked out a Vineyard vacation just the same! The weather was even working against us this week. The forecast had promised sun and 60s which we got a peek of here and there, but the clouds and rain persisted as did the cool–okay, cold–but we would not be deterred! This place is lovely, rain or shine! The cottage-style homes, the quaint bed & breakfasts, the cozy holes just welcome you.
Our accomodations were perfect, on location in Edgartown, near little shops and boutiques and facing the ocean (although next time I’ll get a room one floor up so I don’t have to stand on my tiptoes to see the “oceanview” we were promised!). We also found some GREAT eating places–Sharky’s for fattening Tex-Mex, Biscuits for yummy breakfast (two words: French toast, I’m through!) and the Copper Wok for the best sesame tofu and fried rice you’ve ever tasted, bar none!
But, I must say, my favorite thing was the lighthouses! I think they are so beautiful and inspiring. Each one has a history and a story. The lighthouses also gave us a perfect reason to tour the island. Since the weather didn’t permit bike riding or beach time, we instead crisscrossed several towns–Tisbury, Oak Bluffs, Acquinna and Vinyard Haven in search of the historic lighthouse sites and stumbled upon a few other interesting places along the way (which I will talk about in future blogs).
The Martha’s Vineyard online magazine calls the lighthouses “working monuments” of history, an appropriate moniker, I think, considering their sole purpose is to provide a beacon for travelers who either lose their way or are unaware of lurking dangers. Such was the case with The Gayhead lighthouse erected in November 1799. So many lives were lost because of an “underwater ledge running from cliffs westward” that mariners referred to it as the “Devil’s Bridge,” but Gayhead’s bright beams outshined that menace and has spared many over the years.
Meanwhile, the East Chop lighthouse was the lighthouse the government didn’t want! They thought the West Chop lighthouse was enough! But, the relentless Captain Dagget raised the funds himself to build it in 1869. Through valiant effort he proved it’s worth and it’s still praiseworthy today!
We only made it to 3 of the 5 lighthouses this trip, but the Edgartown lighthouse was just walking distance from our hotel, so on May 31st we trudged through the rain and settled for this shot of the stately edifice in the hazy distance:
Then we awoke on June 1st to a bright sun beaming through our windows! What is it about the month of June in Martha’s Vineyard? So, of course, we trekked back and got a better and brighter pic, woohoo!
What a difference a day makes!
According to island lore, this lighthouse was built on a manmade island in 1828 and the path that leads to it was dubbed “The Bridge of Sighs as couples drew out their goodbyes on the walk to the lighthouse before being separated for weeks, months, or forever by whaling voyages.” Such a sad story to be associated with such a pretty place! And it is an absolutely gorgeous spot, surrounded by sand with a port and sailing boats on one side and a beach and the open ocean on the other.
Despite the beauty of the place the lighthouses are reminders that life is fragile and fleeting. They stand as beacons that beckon weary travelers to safety. For those, like us, who arrive they are symbolic of a safe haven while also a memorial for those who never return.
During our visit to Martha’s these bright structures beckoned us. They invited us to stay awhile, to listen to their stories and understand their purpose–how they came to be and what they’ve come to mean to the people who have relied on them for their very lives.
While here we have also made memories and established our own history! On the last day, as we zipped into town to catch our ferry, we managed to squeeze in a quick bike ride! In our final moments on the island, we pedaled along the quiet north side, behind tree-lined neighborhoods, past well-kept lawns admiring, again, the beauty…
By the time we pushed off from the dock and watched the coastline fade into the distance, we were nostalgic, but also determined that we must return, because there is still more to see and do. After all, our stories and discoveries have really only begun!