Our “Free” Long Weekend at Martha’s Vineyard

My boss has a second home in Martha’s Vineyard.  They rent out the house during the busy summer months but other than that he goes down to about once per month and sometimes more frequently.  Last year he offered that I could use the house free of charge during the off season or any time that it was not rented and he wasn’t using it.  Mr. SFF and I finally found a weekend that we were both free and the house was available so we invited my mom and my sister to join us for an extended weekend.

Being self-employed Mr. SFF gets no paid vacation time and as I am rationing the remainder of my vacation time we made it a 4 day weekend leaving last Thursday morning for the drive down.  As you have to take a ferry to the island you have to plan ahead.  You not only have to plan when you are going to leave and your estimated arrival at Woods Hole but also the details about how you are going to cross. Even though we were travelling in the off season the ferry’s off season rates don’t start until November 1st so the rates were fairly expensive.  I figured out multiple options depending on if we wanted to take the car and if we were taking bikes or not.  Here are the general round trip costs:

$17 per person
$13 per day to park the car in Falmouth
$137 to take the car over
$182 to take the car with the bikes on the rack
$8 per bike that is walked on (instead of on the bike rack)

Our Options

a) Park the car in Falmouth and walk on the ferry = $120
b) Park the car in Falmouth and walk on the ferry with 2 bikes = $136
c) Take the car = $205
d) Take the car with the bikes on the roof rack = $250
e) Take the car with 2 bikes that we walk on= $221

As this was our first time to the Vineyard we decided to take the car so that we could do some exploring even though it was slightly more expensive.  If it was just me and Mr. SFF we probably would have parked the car and relied on our bikes for transportation and if we do go back that is probably what we will do.

We made our ferry reservation about 2 weeks ahead of time and as we were unsure of the weather we ended up booking option c for $205.  In the days leading up to the trip the forecast was looking good so Mr. SFF and I decided to take our bikes so we could get a little exercise.  Since it was cheaper to walk the bikes on the ferry we just decided we would take the bikes off the rack when we got there and walk them on for the extra $16.

We arrived at the ferry booth with plenty of time to spare on Thursday afternoon.  The woman checking us in saw the bikes on the car, looked up our reservation in the system, then handed us our tickets.  Either she did not notice that we did not book the bikes or she just didn’t care since there was no other people travelling with bikes as she just ushered us over to line 2.  We probably would not have gotten away with this in the full swing of summer but as there was only one other vehicle with something on their roof there was plenty of room for our car with the rack.  Money saved!

We only had three nights on the island so we decided that our first night, since we had been travelling all day, would be the night we would go out to eat.  We walked out to the Oak Bluffs downtown area and checked out a couple of places before deciding on a restaurant, the Martha’s Vineyard Chowder House.  There are fewer options as many restaurants close after Columbus day and we wanted a place that had good seafood so we ended up spending a little more than I would like but it was a wonderful meal which was evidenced by are clean plates

The rest of our evening was then spent relaxing out at the house and playing card games.  A free activity that my family loves.

Friday Mr. SFF and I went out in the morning for some exercise.  We started out biking together but after just under 7 miles I headed over to the Caroline Tuthill Preserve for a run while Mr. SFF continued on his bike for a 30+ mile ride.  I ran a nice casual 4 miles on quiet trails in probably the perfect running temperature.  After my run I biked back to the house with an insane headwind as I was along the coast but it was overall a fantastic workout.  I wish I had more free time to do that type of 2 hour workout more often.

2015-10-23 12.10.25

Lunch was already prepped when I got back to the house (my sister is a great cook) so after we ate and cleaned up we all headed out together to explore the island.  As we had not been to the island before we decided to drive around and check out the lighthouses and other sites.  We started out at the Edgartown Lighthouse which was a beautiful spot in the part of town where all of the captains used to live.  The village itself was beautiful and overlooked the lighthouse.  It was fairly windy though so we didn’t stick around for too long before heading to our next destination.

We continued south until ending up at South Beach.  Although deserted this is apparently one of the great beaches on the island if you are looking for some waves.  From there we went to the west side of the island to the Gay Head lighthouse.  In May of this year the lighthouse was moved back 129 feet due to erosion.  The area directly around the lighthouse was fenced off so we couldn’t get close to it but we were able to check it out from a distance and see the beautiful clay cliffs around it.

After the lighthouse we started to slowly meander our way back and ended up near Menumsha Beach.  We stopped at a local fish shop right on the coast and bought some lobster stew and walked around a bit before heading back to grocery store and then the house for dinner and more card games.


Saturday was a little more laid back and we stuck together all day.  After breakfast at the house we headed out for a short hike.  There was a hiking guide in the house and we ended up finding a great spot for a hike at the Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary.  We had a nice walk through the woods and ended up at the beach looking out to the Elizabeth Islands.  Famished after our hike we headed back to Vineyard Haven for a late lunch on our way back.  We wondered around town a little before heading back to the house for dinner.

I scheduled our ferry departure for 11:00 on Sunday so after cleaning up and putting the house back together we heading to town for a quick breakfast at Linda Jean’s in Oak Bluffs.  The food was great but a little pricey, just like everything else on the island.

Our ride home was fairly uneventful.  We had no problems getting on the ferry again with our bikes and had a smooth ferry ride back to the mainland.

Overall, it was a great trip and it was nice to have some quality time with my mom and sister.  We limited our meals out to one dinner, one lunch and one breakfast to help with costs.  Our only really activities were hiking and driving around so we were able to keep entertainment costs fairly low.  The cost of the ferry was pretty steep but it was worth it (at least this time) to take the car as we were able to see so much.

We shared all of the costs and the total for our “free” vacation came to $580 or $145 per person.  I am certainly glad our lodging was free as we otherwise would not have been able to take this vacation with my family.

MV bench

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