We did some great activities with the kids in Martha’s Vineyard last month so I wanted to share. As I said in previous posts, we traveled with two other families so we had boys and girls ranging in age from 6 to 14, and we managed to find destinations that worked for everyone. Here are some of the highlights:
—Jump off the bridge at State beach. There are many beautiful beaches to visit and with its proximity to a main road and its rough, rocky sand, Joseph Sylvia State Beach would not be a first choice, unless you have adventurous kids who like a challenge. There’s a bridge at one end of the beach (it’s famous for its role in “Jaws,”) where people can climb onto or over the railing and jump into Nantucket Sound below. It’s high enough to intimidate adults and kids (I know because I stood at the top for a good 10 minutes before taking the plunge) but the water is deep and calm below so usually once the kids brave it the first time, there are multiple jumps to follow.
—Fish and watch sunset in Menemsha. We brought fishing gear but you can rent it on the island or just grab a bucket and look for crabs on the jetty in Menemsha. The kids loved fishing and seeing all the different sea creatures they found in their crab nets. Go in the late afternoon so you are there for sunset. You can pick up amazing seafood– raw or cooked– just a short walk from the beach at Larsen’s Fish Market or The Bite and bring it back to your blanket to watch Mother Nature paint gorgeous colors across the sky as you pop clams in your mouth.
—Ride the carousel in Oak Bluffs. I would call this an activity for younger kids, except there’s a contest element that attracted my uber-competitive older boys. The Flying Horses Carousel is the oldest operating in the country, in business since 1876. So small you could miss it, it’s housed inside an arcade by the water and features carefully preserved hand-painted horses, some original with horse-hair manes and tails. 6-year-old Eli loved the ride and 12-year-old Jacob got into the brass ring game, where you collect as many rings as you can as you ride by the metal ring dispenser. Eli was thrilled to win the brass ring and score a free second ride.
—Rent a paddle board. This was the most fun and the greatest value. We rented the board and oar from Wind’s Up in Vineyard Haven for three days and there was a kid or adult on that thing every moment we were on the beach. Our beach was on the Vineyard Sound side so the water was calm and the kids could explore on their own with little risk. You could float on it like a raft, and go out with multiple people or alone. It was peaceful and great exercise, as it requires balance and core strength. Best part? Kids were never bored with the board.
—See the lighthouse (and the unclothed) at Aquinnah Beach. Once we casually mentioned there was a clothes-optional beach on the island, the kids were obsessed with seeing it. It wasn’t the bare n–ked ladies but the beautiful setting and waves that lured us to G-y Head in Aquinnah on the western shore of the island. The picturesque beach is set against giant bluffs of endangered clay and spotted with giant rocks. The iconic 155-year-old red brick lighthouse stands on top of one of the bluffs looking very New Englandy. The kids played in the waves and eventually took a walk down to that part of the beach where they discovered most of the sunbathers are people you’d prefer not to see exposed. Despite that disappointment, it remains a highlight of the older kids’ trip.
—Shop in Vineyard Haven and Edgartown. My favorite time to shop is on vacation when I’m not hurried and there are more unique boutiques. Don’t just go for the Black Dog t-shirt. The shops in Edgartown and Vineyard Haven are adorable and sell a variety of goods. Carly Simon’s store, Midnight Farm is a must, offering eclectic vintage and new clothing, furniture, and gifts. Other stores sell artsy and antique home goods and jewelry. I’m not gonna lie: this didn’t go over with my boys, but the 13-year-old girls were all over it.
—Be Island Scavenger hunters. Many local stores sell the laminated Funhunters Martha’s Vineyard Scavenger Hunt booklet. It challenges kids to find many of the island’s iconic symbols (lighthouse, scallop shell,) nautical items, and several local plants and animals. It’s great to bring out to dinner to distract the kids and a nice keepsake when you go home to remember all you saw on the Vineyard.
We’re planning to return to the Vineyard next year because we loved our time there so much. If you have any activities for kids– or adults– to recommend, please tell me in the comments. I’m already planning next year’s escape, if only in my mind.