In recent years, Martha’s Vineyard has become associated with presidential vacations, multi-million dollar homes and a short-lived reality television show featuring beautiful rich blonde kids. Co-existing with all these things, the Vineyard I know and love is a less-flashy and more laid-back place. Even if the people you meet are trustafarians, you wouldn’t know it from their lived-in shorts and dust-covered cars. For a quick blast to the hippie past, the Orange Peel Bakery’s potluck pizza night invokes the hippie spirit of Martha’s Vineyard.
The Orange Peel Bakery still uses the honour system for payment.
Martha’s Vineyard and the Hippie Years
In the 1960’s, the hippies washed ashore onto Martha’s Vineyard much to the early distrust of the local islanders. At least the Vineyarders were more welcoming than the people of Nantucket though who had a strict policy of sending hippies back to the mainland.
In 1969, Martha’s Vineyard came on to the national consciousness briefly when a young (and married) Senator Ted Kennedy had his car accident on Chappaquidick which killed both his female friend and his chances at the US presidency. Luckily, the scandal referred to Chappaquidick by name. Many people do not associate Chappaquidick with Chappy, the local’s name for the occasional-island that is across the harbour from Edgartown in Martha’s Vineyard.
The hippies of Martha’s Vineyard bobbed along in the 1960’s and 70’s stream happy in their own drug-filled haze and music. Some of the young people had grown up summering on the Vineyard, while others were on-island more by luck than judgment. For example, one name you hear often is that of Peter Simon, a photographer who still lives on the island. Peter is the little brother of Carly Simon and son of the man who founded Simon & Schuster publishing house. He grew up spending his summers in the Vineyard. In any event, they all got into feeling groovy on Martha’s Vineyard. Like all youth movements though, the hippies grew up. They eventually got jobs, got married and had kids.
The liberal free-spirit of the hippies is still alive and well in Martha’s Vineyard even in these days when hipsters have replaced hippies. A part of Moshup Beach near Aquinnah is still unofficially clothes-optional. Many people don’t lock their homes and cars. You see lots of farm stands, flower stands, etc by the side of the road which are run on an honour box payment system.
What do I love about the Vineyard? It’s not a ‘scene’ like the Hamptons. There is next-to-no nightlife in the Vineyard. Even the island’s most happening nightlife at Oak Bluffs is pretty lame compared to other places off-island. The real action happens at dinner parties in people’s homes.
Sure, there are the famous and wealthy people sprinkled around the island. They get to blend in because there are so many of them around. Bill Clinton was famous for playing the saxophone at the bar at Lola’s in Oak Bluffs. We stood in line behind the Obama kids at an ice-cream store. When their secret service agents asked if they could jump the queue with their charges, they were politely refused. They were forced to stand in front of me and the 6 over-excited-about-ice-cream-and-oblivious-to-anything-else children I had with me. I can tell you the noise levels were pretty high. Bwahaha.
The handyman who comes to help repair our screened porch regularly (because the kids kick the screen every single time they open the door) is an ex-hippie who still wears tie-dye and cut-off shorts (unironically). He’s happy to regale us with (occasionally cringe-worthy) tales of the island’s free-wheeling past. Nice guy, but I’m pretty sure a chunk of his brain was baked years ago.
Pizza Nights at the Orange Peel Bakery
I was reminded of this spirit of communal living when we went to have dinner at the Orange Peel Bakery in Aquinnah. The owner, Julie Vanderhoop, is a member of the Native American tribe that were established in Martha’s Vineyard long before European settlers came to the island.
My friend’s little boy was desperate to go into the Native American teepee in the back yard but that was off-limits.
Although the main bakery is in Aquinnah by the cliffs, we went to the very popular, bring your own topping pizza nights run by the Orange Peel Bakery on State Road.
A mailbox is the first sign that you have found the place.
When you pull up to the address on State Road, you think you are entering someone’s house party. In front of an ordinary Vineyard house, people in deck chairs are sprawled across the lawn, children are running about and music tinkles over the scene. The actual pizza making process is organised on the side of the house next to the giant stone oven. The oven is lined on the inside with French clay and the outside with local Aquinnah stones.
People are sprawled over the lawn eating, drinking and conversing while the music plays.
Pick yourself up a pizza crust with sauce and cheese and then head on over to the toppings table. Put on your own toppings or help yourself to someone else’s toppings. Then you hand the pizza over to the person operating the very hot stone oven. Soon you will be rewarded with piping hot pizza of your own creation. The person slicing the pizza will give you half the pizza, and the the other half of the pizza will be donated to anyone else who wants it. You can repeat the process as often as you want (or until the dough runs out!).
The rules are simple. You bring whatever pizza toppings you want. Everyone’s pizza toppings are shared. Bring chairs if you want or a picnic blanket. It’s a good idea to bring drinks as well. Hang out, eat pizza and talk to your neighbours. Lots of people come straight from the beach.
Our children loved making their own pizza. They also tried pizza combinations they would not have otherwise tried because the toppings were there. One unexpected delightful combination was a s’mores pizza – pizza base (no cheese or tomato sauce!) with marshmallows, Hershey’s chocolate and brown sugar.
My daughter was very pleased with her pizza creation.
Pizza nights are run on Wednesday and Friday nights this summer at 22 State Road and cost $15 per adult and $10 for children. The money is put into an honour jar. Check online with the Orange Peel Bakery because the days may change. We are being less Type A, remember?
My daughter tucking into a dessert pizza – S’mores pizza is made of a pizza base with marshmallows and hershey chocolate.
A Photo Gallery of Potluck Pizza Night
A sign indicates pizza night is happening! People park on the side of the road.
The seashell-strewn drive looks like many other homes on the island.
A band plays folk music
The bakery is known for it’s freshly baked goods.
A pizza base ready to be bedazzled with toppings.
Pizza toppings range from the gourmet (arugula, prosciutto etc) to the child-friendly (marshmallows, hershey bars etc)
After pizza, our kids played in the back yard of the house.
Sunsets on Martha’s Vineyard
After pizza, you should try and catch the sunset in either Aquinnah or in Menemsha. Aquinnah cliffs are a bit further up the road, and Lobsterville Beach is the next turning after the Potluck Pizza at 22 State Road. If you go back down-island a bit, you will come to Menemsha beach.
Today’s sunset is brought to you by the colour pink.
It’s the perfect ending to a perfect day on Martha’s Vineyard. Bonus: If the kids aren’t tired before, a bit of running around on the beach before dark will definitely get them there.
The picturesque Edgartown Lighthouse stands in the harbour to the pretty whaling town of Edgartown in Martha’s Vineyard, an island located off the coast of Massachusetts. Across from the lighthouse, you can see the sometimes-island of Chappaquiddick (known locally as Chappy). On occasion when the Atlantic Ocean feels benevolent, a sandbar connects Chappy to Edgartown embracing Katama Bay in a gentle hug of expensive waterfront homes. Like a lot of historic lighthouses, the Edgartown Lighthouse fell into disrepair over the years. Today it stands proudly again and around its base, a children’s memorial pays tribute to children whose lives have been cut tragically short.
The Edgartown Lighthouse in the harbour of Katama Bay. Photo credit: Eli in Martha’s Vineyard for Flytographer
The Edgartown Lighthouse
The Edgartown Lighthouse peninsula is located on a small sandy beach which is an easy walk from Edgartown itself. Scrub, beach plum bushes and seashells speckle the beach as the sand winds down to the shore.
Although Martha’s Vineyard has prettier beaches, we often walk to Edgartown Lighthouse on non-beach weather days. Between watching the boats come in and out of the harbour and skimming stones in the water, this beach is perfect to while away a few hours with restless children.
The path leading down to The Edgartown Lighthouse and Lighthouse Beach
Photo Credit: Eli in Martha’s Vineyard for Flytographer
Clambering over the rocks is always fun.
Photo credit: Eli in Martha’s Vineyard for Flytographer
The Children’s Memorial
Maintained by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, the base of the Edgartown Lighthouse serves as a children’s memorial for children of residents (both seasonal and permanent) who have passed away.
Each child’s name is carved into a granite stone placed parallel to the shoreline. A lighthouse serves as a beacon to safe harbour. The hope is that our lost children have found safe harbour wherever they are.
A plaque contains lines of a poem written at a memorial service for the first child whose name is engraved at the Lighthouse – Ricky Harrington who died in a car crash at just 16 years old in 1996. His grief-stricken father spearheaded the effort to create a children’s memorial at the Edgartown Lighthouse.
Of the several hundred memorial stones at the base of the Edgartown Lighthouse, the one stone we seek out every summer contains the name of our youngest son. Having died at the age of 5 weeks, he did not live long enough to experience the glorious freedom of a Vineyard summer.
My daughter placing wildflowers on our son’s memorial stone.
Photo credit: Eli in Martha’s Vineyard for Flytographer
I know, however, he would have loved his summers in the Vineyard as much as his older brother and sister do.
If I close my eyes, I can see him skipping along Lighthouse beach. It’s pretty easy to do since he looked exactly like my older son – my dark hair and eyes, his father’s stubborn chin and a milky Earl Grey tea skin colour that is a blend of both of us.
I don’t picture it very often – that way lies madness.
My twins when they were 2 years old could spend hours on the beach at Martha’s Vineyard.
My children have been spending the summer in Martha’s Vineyard since they were two years old. The Edgartown Lighthouse has become an indelible part of their childhood memories.
We have lived and travelled in so many places around the world. Martha’s Vineyard, however, anchors our family and the Edgartown Lighthouse is our beacon guiding us home. After all, home is where the heart is.
A game of catch on Lighthouse Beach.
Photo credit: Eli in Martha’s Vineyard for Flytographer
The Photo Shoot
When I learned that I had won a Flytographer photo shoot after donating to Passports with a Purpose earlier this year, I knew I wanted to do the family photo shoot in Martha’s Vineyard. We chose the Edgartown Lighthouse in order to honour the memory of our missing family member.
A walk along the path to the Edgartown Lighthouse
Photo credit: Eli in Martha’s Vineyard for Flytographer
Passports with a Purpose is an organisation that runs an annual fundraiser where travel bloggers and organisations unite to donate prizes. The public donates money which earns them a chance to win one of the prizes. The prizes tend to be very cool – they range from stays at assorted hotels to travel gear, for example. [NB: Passports with a Purpose is no longer running].
With the money donated, PwP funds a different project every year, for example, in 2015, they raised $20,000 to buy e-readers for libraries in Kenya and in 2013, they raised over $80,000 to build 2 schools in Mali. I’ve donated for several years now but this year was the first time I won anything.
Flytographer coordinates getting people a professional photoshoot in locations around the world. With over 180 locations, chances are that they work with a professional photographer somewhere you are going to vacation. I know people who have had photoshoots with them in London and Paris.
Usually I am the person taking photos which means I’m not in them. I confess that I am the photography geek in our family so I wouldn’t be happy with anyone else taking them anyway. It was nice having a professional take the photos and know we were in good hands. And, our Christmas card photos are done for this year in July! Hurrah! I am feeling so super-organised.
The photoshoot at the Lighthouse with Eli Dagostino for Flytographer.
Our photographer on the island was Eli Dagostino who has an office in the nearby town of Vineyard Haven. He was great with the kids and we had a fun, relaxing shoot.
I’ve never done a family photo shoot (mostly because I’m not very organised) but I am now considering having an annual family photo. As we all know, kids grow up too fast and time passes too son.
The Edgartown Lighthouse in Katama Harbour.
The Edgartown Lighthouse is open on the weekends from May through October and daily during the peak tourist months of July and August.
Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown is a bit of an institution on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Although billed as a humble farm stand, Morning Glory has the reputation and faithful clientele that would make any high-end gourmet food store proud.
The barn/farm stand
The farm was started in 1975 on land owned by the Athearn family who have lived on the Vineyard since the 19th century. Starting off with a farm stand, by 2010 business was thriving enough that a newly-built barn replaced the original structure. They farm over 120 acres over several sites on the island. The farm produces a wide variety of crops, herbs and cut flowers.
Rustic chic flowers
We are lucky we live near Morning Glory Farm and stop by the farm stand often. I am in the habit of getting their ice tea and a muffin for breakfast after I drop my children off at horse-riding camp nearby. My favourite are the corn muffins followed closely by the peach muffins (in case you are wondering).
Martha’s Vineyard is such a small island that the farm where my children take their riding lessons is located near some of the Athearn family land in West Tisbury. The horse farm sends off its manure to fertilise the Morning Glory farm crops.
The farm stand’s zucchini bread is deservedly famous for being delicious. You can find the zucchini bread recipe here at Cape Cod Magazine if you feel inclined to try it out. I heard grumbling in line in front of me the other day when one woman was complaining to another that the zucchini bread was not as good as it used to be. Definitely, first world problems.
Branded merchandise and books
I thought the best way to introduce Morning Glory Farm to you was with a vlog. It’ll give you a short tour of the farm stand and all the delicious products inside. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMIfIPPbdy8]
Morning Glory Farm is located on the corner of Meshacket Road and the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road. It is open 7 days a week.
Ever wanted to live in a gingerbread house? The Cottage City neighbourhood in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard gives you an entire gingerbread neighbourhood. Hansel & Gretel wouldn’t have known where to start.
Cottage City dates back to the 19th century when Methodists gathered together each summer for religious meetings. After the first meeting in 1835, the same families would return each year and pitch their tents. Eventually by the 1870’s, the tents gave way to little cottages packed in together around a central wooden structure, The Tabernacle, which held community events.
The cottages were not only decorated with elaborate scrollwork, porches etc but also were brightly painted. This architectural style, called “Carpenter’s Gothic”, makes the houses look like something out of a fairy tale.
Added to the sensory overload, are the profusion of colourful flowers spilling out of window boxes, hanging baskets and gardens. And, let’s not forget all the adornments around the houses – seashells, wind chimes, signs, garden gnomes etc. One house even has a miniature dollhouse replica of itself set out on its porch. A minimalist would probably have a fit of the vapors within 5 minutes of entering the neighbourhood.
Around 300 cottages have survived to the present. In 2005, the grounds and buildings were named a National Historic Landmark which will help preserve them for years to come. Many cottages have been owned by the same family for generations. They do come up occasionally for sale or rent. The prices are exorbitant considering the cottages are minuscule. So, what price history you ask? Apparently, averaging about $2000/week.
Cottage City, however, never feels like a museum. The residents sit on their porches and their children play in the gardens. I’d find it difficult to be constantly gawked at but they seem to take it in their stride.
Cottage City has its own summer event in August, Grand Illumination Night, when the residents hang brightly coloured Chinese and Japanese lanterns from their porches. This event started over a 100 years ago as a way to mark the visit of the Governor of Massachusetts. It became more popular every year thereafter. Initially, the Cottage City residents disliked this secular event which didn’t jive with their conservative religious tendencies.
Prior to the lanterns being turned on in unison in the dark, people hang around eating and drinking. The residents are lucky to have porches on which to sit while visitors bring picnic blankets.
The variety of lanterns is amazing – old, new, floral, patriotic etc. The lanterns are up for the night only and get returned to storage the next day. One homeowner told us packing and unpacking her lanterns took 3 days. We had a lot of fun spotting new and different lanterns. Of the hundreds of lanterns, I did not see one repeat! Some of the lanterns are incredibly fragile because, traditionally, the lanterns were included in a house sale.
The Vineyard Haven band plays old favourites for the crowd before and during Illumination Night. Our children sang to the songs for The Sound of Music even though they were really tired and way past their bedtime.
The Martha’s Vineyard Campmeeting Association also run a small museum on the grounds which is very informative.
My children loved Illumination Night. They got to stay up past bedtime and made a game of who could spot the next cool lantern. The event is crowded but very family friendly. Even without Illumination Night, I think Cottage City is worth seeing. It’s a testament to a bygone way of life of prayer meetings, community sing-alongs and leisurely chats with your neighbours on the porch.
When many people think of Martha’s Vineyard, they automatically think of it as a celebrity vacation spot. Yes, lots of rich and famous people spend their summer vacation here, among them the Obamas. The Vineyard, however, is so much more than the occasional celebrity that passes through.
Edgartown harbor fisheye lens
My children love their summers in the Vineyard. They are outdoors and active all the time — biking, hiking, swimming, body boarding, kayaking, fishing, playing tennis etc. On the beach, they love collecting shells, searching for moon jellies, building sand castles, digging tunnels and skipping stones.
The farms provide edutainment such as horseback riding and berry picking. Unlike our London house, our Vineyard home has a large yard where they can play with water guns, skipping ropes etc.
Every year, our house is full of friends and family who come to visit. Living abroad for so long, we spend summers catching up with our American friends. Renowned American broadcaster, Mike Wallace sums it up for me:
“Even as I talk, I can see it and smell it and feel it. It’s a special, insular, quiet, healing, glorious place. And year after year after year, you not only see your kids and your grandchildren grow, but you see everybody else’s kids, the same people, grow. There is a strange continuity to life in the Vineyard.”
I love the feeling that nothing really changes on the Vineyard. It’s a comfortable feeling to return here every summer, like slipping into a worn sweatshirt. Life in the real world is unpredictable — our summers, thankfully, aren’t.
family in a canoe
Full-time residents work hard to make sure that change is kept to the minimum. The island has no chain stores, no malls and no traffic lights. Many people still grumble about a rotary (roundabout) installed last year.
I feel occasionally that I have stepped back into 1950’s America – a kinder, gentler place where people cycle to the shops, roads are not congested, houses and cars are left unlocked and America is sure of its place in the world. Although my children think I am ‘ancient’, I am not actually old enough to have experienced the 1950’s. I expect this carefully maintained sense of nostalgia is probably as artificial as a Disney theme park.
Edgartown Main Street
I know the continuity in lifestyle can be frustrating for the younger Islanders – my babysitter grew up on the Island and finds it beyond boring. She admits, though, that she will probably bring her children back for the idyllic summers.
The Vineyard is able to maintain itself apart from the mainland because you can only get on the island by air or by ferry. In the summer, flights and ferries get booked up quickly. If you want to bring a car onto the island, you need to plan well in advance.
Steamship Authority ferry
For an idyllic reality-show version of Vineyard life, check out ABC Family’s reality show, The Vineyard. The show follows a group of attractive, straight-from- Abercrombie-casting, college students working at the ubiquitous Black Dog stores and food establishments. The show, itself, is fairly standard, somewhat anodyne, reality-fare (the tangled love lives of the participants). The scenery, however, is spectacular.
Islanders are used to the occasional celebrity sighting. The rich and famous seem to mingle into the crowd. We were standing in line behind the Obama girls in this tiny over-crowded ice cream store three years ago. The Secret Service agents, who were getting restless, asked at the counter if the girls could jump the queue. We were astounded when they were politely refused. The servers later told us that they have seen a number of famous people and no one gets special service.
The Vineyard is also one of the most racially integrated places in the United States. Historically, the Island has welcomed African-Americans both as land-owners and vacationers dating back to pre-Revolutionary times. Check out this New York Times article New York Times for a brief review. I like that my rainbow family fits right in.
jumping off a boat
Like many other families, our family comes to the Vineyard for sunshine, rest and relaxation. As a child, I remember feeling summer was endless. Each lazy, hot day of messing around with my friends and cousins merged into another. I hope my children have the same feeling about their summers. It’s nice to feel that the more things change, the more the stay the same.