As an island off the coast of Cape Cod, getting to Martha’s Vineyard requires some planning. When choosing how to get to Martha’s Vineyard, the two choices are limited to either a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard or a flight to Martha’s Vineyard. On the plus side, there are plenty of options for ferries to Martha’s Vineyard and flights to Martha’s Vineyard from several North East states.
How To Get To Martha’s Vineyard
Martha’s Vineyard is located only 6 miles off the coast of Cape Cod. The longest bridge in the world is the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Louisiana clocking in around 24 miles. Possibly a bridge could be built connecting Martha’s Vineyard to the mainland but it hasn’t been (and probably won’t).
A bridge to the mainland would only cause more congestion on Martha’s Vineyard during the summer when the population booms. Never mind the backlog on the bridge – the Sagamore Bridge and the Bourne Bridge are prime examples.
So, there is no way to drive onto Martha’s Vineyard. You can, however, bring your car onto the island by taking the car ferry to Martha’s Vineyard from Woods Hole. You are at the mercy of the Steamship Authority who control the car ferry to Martha’s Vineyard.
As a passenger, you have several options of ferries to Martha’s Vineyard.
Alternatively, private and scheduled flights to Martha’s Vineyard land at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport.
For both ferries to Martha’s Vineyard and flights to Martha’s Vineyard, you can buy either one way or return trips.
Ferries To Martha’s Vineyard
Ferries to Martha’s Vineyard sail from Cape Cod (Woods Hole, Falmouth and Hyannis), and other parts of Massachusetts (New Bedford and Nantucket). There are also seasonal ferries from Rhode Island and New York.
Car Ferry To Martha’s Vineyard
If you want to bring a car onto the island, your choices are limited to the Steamship Authority ferries which leave from Woods Hole on the mainland and go to either Vineyard Haven or Woods Hole on Martha’s Vineyard.
There are only a certain number of cars that can make each ferry trip and so the scramble for prime ferry times (Fri/Sat/Sun) during summer weekends is fierce.
Why are weekends so busy? Well, it’s the weekend sure and people want to make the most of their time off work. But during the summer, weekly rentals of homes and minimum stays at hotels etc are the norm.
The usual changeover day for summer rental homes is Saturday to Saturday but there are also Sunday to Sunday turnovers. So that’s a lot of people transiting on and off the island every weekend.
The busiest weekends include the long weekends like July 4th weekend but also the end of July/beginning of August weekends.
The Steamship Authority does operate a waiting list service so there is some movement and reason to hope if you find yourself stuck with a crossing at an ungodly early hour.
The Steamship Authority runs the ferry all year round. Out of the summer season, it’s much easier to get a car onto the ferry. There are reduced rates for people who live on the island.
Options If You Can’t Get A Car Ferry Reservation
Remember that you can park your car in Falmouth at the Steamship Authority Palmer Avenue Parking Lot and then go as passenger-only on a ferry. There is a frequent free connecting bus from the parking lot to Woods Hole.
Another option is to rent a car from Avis from wherever you are coming and drop it off at the Avis at the Palmer Avenue Parking Lot and take the transit connecting bus.
But I need a car on island!! Waah.
You might have to park the car in the parking lot, check into your rental for the weekend and then go retrieve your car when it’s less busy during a midweek car ferry.
Rent a car on the island. The car rental agencies have offices in Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven and at the Marthas Vineyard Airport. Car rental prices are high because they have a captive audience. Simple supply and demand.
Be eco-friendly and bike everywhere! There are lots of cycling paths on Martha’s Vineyard. The Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) bus system is also pretty good and has cycle racks in front so you can transport your bike too.
There’s now a decent Uber service on island as well as taxis. Island taxis can be huge and can accommodate a vanload of people.
Passenger Only Ferries To Martha’s Vineyard
Without a car, your options are much more numerous.
You can be walk-on passenger on the Steamship Authority Ferry that leaves from Woods Hole. There is no need to reserve a passenger ticket. You can easily purchase a passenger ticket at the Ferry Terminal at Woods Hole on the day.
There are other seasonal ferries to that have arrival/departure points in Massachusetts (Falmouth, Hyannis and New Bedford), Rhode Island and New York City. These seasonal ferries operate during the summer season.
Seasonal Ferries to Martha’s Vineyard
The seasonal ferries operate from about the middle of May until the Fall. They are operated by companies other than the Steamship Authority. Without the added weight of cars and trucks, seasonal ferries to Martha’s Vineyard tend to be a much faster service.
Hyannis to Martha’s Vineyard
Hy Line operate the Hyannis to Martha’s vineyard ferry as well as a Hyannis to Nantucket ferry.
The Hy Line cruise terminal in Hyannis is right at Hyannis harbor. Hy Line ferries operate parking lots so that you can leave your car behind. Alternatively, there is a Thrifty Rental Car on site so you can could rent Thrifty elsewhere but drop it off here.
In Martha’s Vineyard, the Hy Line ferry comes into Oak Bluffs with its own dedicated dock on Circuit Avenue Extension. You can come straight off the Hyline ferry and grab yourself a drink at the Sand Bar & Grille.
There’s an A-A Island Auto Rental right there or a Budget Car Rental around the corner. Alternatively, get a taxi or uber to pick you up.
Martha’s Vineyard to Nantucket Ferries
Hy-Line ferries also operate an inter island ferry from Martha’s Vineyard to Nantucket (and back). In Martha’s Vineyard, they dock at Oak Bluffs and in Nantucket, they dock at Straight Wharf.
Visit both islands and decide which you prefer for the Martha’s Vineyard versus Nantucket rivalry. Hint: The correct answer is Martha’s Vineyard.
You can take a day trip from Martha’s Vineyard to Nantucket with a Hy-Line ferry. The ferry leaves Oak Bluffs at 9:05 AM and returns from Nantucket at 5:15 pm. It’s pricey but children under the age of 5 are free. Bicycles cost extra to transport.
It’s a bit harder to take a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard from Nantucket because of the ferry times. You would arrive in Oak Bluffs around noon and depart for Nantucket around 4pm. It’s just enough time for a nice lunch and quick stop to see some cool sites in Oak Bluffs like the Gingerbread Houses and the Flying Carousel. It’s a cool if pricey diversion if you are bored with Nantucket.
Falmouth to Martha’s Vineyard
On the Island Queen ferry, Falmouth to Oak Bluffs in Martha’s Vineyard just takes 35 minutes. It’s recommended that you make reservations for the Island Queen but you can also purchase tickets on the day subject to availability.
The Falmouth dock is located at 75 Falmouth Heights Road. There are parking lots for you to leave your car behind. They operate on a first come-first serve basis so there’s no guarantee you will find parking. On the plus side, there is overnight parking if you chose to stay the night in Martha’s Vineyard.
The Island Ferry dock in Oak Bluffs is also on Circuit Avenue extension.
You can bring pets and bicycles on board the Island Queen.
Rhode Island to Martha’s Vineyard
You can take a ferry from Quonset Point in Rhode Island to Martha’s Vineyard on the Vineyard Fast Ferry. The trip takes approximately one hour 40 minutes. There is dockside parking in Rhode Island.
Flights to Martha’s Vineyard
Cape Air serves Marthas Vineyard from Boston all year round. During the summer season, they also fly from other parts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and Washington, D.C.
Other airlines with seasonal service are Jet Blue, Delta and American Airlines.
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