Okay, you caught me, this blog title is a tad bit of an exaggeration! But would you believe me if I told you that we found some ways to save money and plan a budget friendly trip to the island? Martha’s Vineyard is widely known as one of the more expensive travel destinations in New England but is well worth the visit. My boyfriend and I just spent the weekend in MV and found several ways to save money (so that we can splurge in other ways!) Hope you’ll find some of these tips and suggestions helpful as well!
Traveling to Martha’s Vineyard is one of the more affordable parts of the trip. Kyle and I hopped on a Steamship Authority ferry that takes you from Wood’s Hole, Massachusetts to Vineyard Haven for $17 a person round trip. We opted to take only bicycles onto the island with us which cost an additional $8 each round trip. This is a minimal fee compared to renting them from a shop on the island. To transport a small car would be $137 during peak season, and the cost only increases per size of car. If you can opt to not have a car, I’d highly recommend it to save money!
If you choose to park a car in one of their lots, it’s $15 a day, which can add up, but still less than having the car on the island with you! There are plenty of options for public transportation to get to Wood’s Hole, so it is possible to get there without car. For the sake of convenience, parking there is worth it!
[Pro Tip: Beware of the bus drivers from the lots to the ferry port, they are CRANKY and always in a rush.]
Where to Stay…
Renting a house on MV is almost laughable. Unless you have a few thousand dollars to throw around, you’re probably not going to find anything in your price range.
A relatively affordable option would be Airbnb. At quick glance, there are options ranging from private rooms to small homes available anywhere between $75 to $200. To get these kind of good prices though, you’ll have to book early. You’ll also find better options and prices if you choose to go in the off season.
We opted to stay at Martha’s Vineyard Family Campground! A short ride from Vineyard Haven (ferry port), it’s convenient to get to, right on the bus routes, and though I wouldn’t recommend it, it IS accessible by bicycle.
[Pro Tip: It’s uphill the whole way. This almost killed us.]
The campground has campsites with fire pits, picnic tables, electric and water for only $60 a night. With a fully stocked store and plenty of bathrooms and showers, this is hardly roughing it, and saved us a TON of money staying there.
The campground also has small cabins for $150 a night, which isn’t horrible if you’re not trying to stay in a tent. Looking back, it would have been nice to have one of those cabins so we could have avoided having to carry the tent, air mattress, blankets, etc. on our bikes. Again though, we spent less on two nights, than we would have on one night in one of the cabins. Decide what’s worth it for you!
If you opt not to have a car on the island, you’re in luck! The entire island is completely bike friendly and their bus system is great.
Though a couple of areas are rather hilly, there are bike trails and bike lanes all over the island. It’s hard to find a place that you can’t get to on bike. All of the transit buses have bike racks on the front and a lot of the taxis are equipped with ways to transport bicycles as well.
[This saved us after an over ambitious pedal into town before a night of drinking!]
In terms of affordability, you can’t beat the bus system. We bought a full day pass for only $8 and were able to hop on and off as many times as we liked and anywhere we liked. The bus was able to get us to every one of our destinations and back to our campground, so we weren’t limited at all. If you choose not to get a day pass, fares start at $1.50 and go up from there depending on how many towns over your destination is.
Martha’s Vineyard now has Uber and Lyft available, which usually isn’t the cheapest option, but it is convenient and probably less expensive than a regular taxi. Something to keep in mind!
What to do…
Martha’s Vineyard is such a scenic island that you could probably make an entire day out of sightseeing beautiful landscapes for free! We were able to wake up relatively early and caught a bus down to Aquinnah, the town where the picturesque cliffs are located. When you arrive, you’ll walk up the hill lined with small shops and food places, you’ll get a beautiful view of the cliffs and ocean from afar. At the top of this hill is also the Gay Head Lighthouse, which charges a small $5 fee to climb to the top and get a 360 view of Aquinnah.
[Pro Tip: Take a few minutes to read the history of this lighthouse. Spoiler alert: They picked it up and moved it away from the eroding cliffs!]
Though there are endless beaches on the island to choose from to visit, we decided to walk down to the beach right on Aquinnah. This gave us the opportunity to view the cliffs from a different angle, while also getting our beach (and painfully ice cold water) fix! This beach was a bit more rocky than most but worth the trek for the views alone!
Another affordable activity you could do is pack up a picnic and take a ferry over to Chappaquiddick, a small island right off the coast of Edgartown. The main draw of this area of the island is the secluded nature vibe and wildlife refuge that you will find there. There is also opportunity for Jeep and Kayak tours, among other things. A nice affordable getaway for the nature fans!
[We unfortunately didn’t make it there, we got distracted by the beer at Bad Martha’s in Edgartown! :P]
For the more athletic traveler, the island has over 44 miles of bike paths to explore. Whether you’re looking for a ocean front trip or a ride through the woods, there are plenty of options to choose from, and plenty of bike shops to assist you in your adventures!
What to eat…
Obviously your most affordable option would be to buy food and cook it yourself, however that is not always an option. We weren’t able to do that on our trip and unfortunately eating out ended up being the most costly aspect of our trip.
However there are plenty of budget friendly options available, especially for breakfast and lunch. There are an endless amount of cafes and sandwich shops that have grab and go options. Vineyard Haven especially seemed to have a cafe every few feet, including Black Dog Bakery, Mocha Motts and Nat’s Nook.
For dinners, it is possible to find meals at an affordable price, as long as you aren’t going out looking for lobster dinners! Sharky’s Cantina actually claims to have “50 Menu Items under $10!” A few other places to look into are Lookout Tavern, Rocco’s Pizza, and the Wharf.
[And treat yourself an ice cream at Mad Martha’s! It’s good for the soul.]
Where to splurge….
Hands down, if you find yourself in Oak Bluffs, please spend a couple extra dollars and go to Nancy’s Restaurant, located right on the corner of the harbor. This restaurant had the freshest, most delicious seafood we’ve ever tasted with a patio overlooking the boats in the harbor. It was so good, we went two nights in a row.
[Sorry bank account!]
And if there’s one last thing I suggest you splurge on, it’s a Dirty Banana. This frozen drink is a staple of Martha’s Vineyard, and with just the right combination of refreshing, chocolately and sweet, it’ll put you right in the island vacation mood.
Feel free to add any tips and suggestions in the comments section! I’d love to hear what other budget options people have discovered on Martha’s Vineyard!