You may think of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket as the summer playground of politicians and celebrities…
And while that certainly is one aspect of these New England coastal islands, located south of Boston and Cape Cod, each island offers its own unique flair that inspires fierce loyalty among local residents.
Getting to Know Cape Cod and the Islands
It’s that taste of local life that makes Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard so special — they feel like islands from a different time. An escape from the everyday. You won’t find chain stores or restaurants here, and don’t worry about a car — both islands are best explored on a bike.
Martha’s Vineyard sits closer to Cape Cod, only 7 miles away, while Nantucket is located 30 miles from the Cape. Martha’s Vineyard is bigger, in terms of both land and population. It’s 25 miles long and 9 miles wide, with three larger towns and three villages. Martha’s Vineyard is hilly while Nantucket is generally flat, apart from some sea bluffs. Nantucket measures 14 miles long by 3½ miles wide, with only one town, referred to as “Town.”
Nantucket is known for preppy fashion — its signature Nantucket red pants and shorts — with bright colors, boutique stores, and name-brand styles. Martha’s Vineyard has more understated fashion, with natural cream and blue tones and less focus on labels. But don’t mistake the Vineyard’s laid-back style as low-status; Martha’s Vineyard regulars include the Obamas, Bill Gates, and Oprah.
Both islands have been immortalized on the silver screen. You’ll surely recognize Martha’s Vineyard from the blockbuster classic, Jaws. If you prefer whales to sharks, at least cinematically, Nantucket might float your boat. The film In the Heart of the Sea celebrates the island’s whaling history.
The entire island of Nantucket has been designated as a National Historic Landmark District, due to its 18th-century preservation — charming cobblestone streets and Quaker-style homes — and its historical significance for the whaling industry in America.
On Martha’s Vineyard, the colorful gingerbread houses in Oak Bluffs look like they’re straight out of a storybook, and the Edgartown Harbor Light is a quintessential New England lighthouse. You’ll be able to find plenty of restaurants, shopping, and art galleries in either town.
Both islands offer beautiful beaches, bike paths, and ocean breezes that make for a dreamy getaway. And you’ll be able to find all the fresh seafood and delicious farm-to-table produce that your heart desires; each island holds a number of working farms. You can’t go wrong with a trip to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard.