Arriving By Ferry
Most visitors take the ferry service connecting the Vineyard and the mainland. If you're traveling via car or bus, you will most likely catch the ferry from Woods Hole, in the town of Falmouth, on Cape Cod; however, boats do run from Falmouth Inner Harbor, Hyannis, New Bedford, Rhode Island, and Nantucket. On weekends in season, the Steamship Authority ferries make more than 25 trips a day to Martha's Vineyard from Woods Hole (two other companies provide an additional 12 passenger ferries a day from Falmouth Inner Harbor). Schedules are available from the Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce (tel. 508/693-0085; fax 508/693-7589) or the Steamship Authority.
The state-run Steamship Authority runs the show in Woods Hole (tel. 508/477-8600 early Apr to early Sept, daily 8am–5pm, or 508/693-9130 daily 8am–5pm), with about 20 crossings a day in season. It maintains the only year-round ferries to Martha’s Vineyard and the only ferries that accommodate cars in addition to passengers. The large ferries make the 45-minute trip to Vineyard Haven year-round; some boats go to Oak Bluffs from late May to late October (call for seasonal schedules). If you’re bringing your car over to the island, plan to get to the Woods Hole terminal at least 30 minutes before your scheduled departure.
Many people prefer to leave their cars on the mainland, take the ferry (often with their bikes), and then rent a car, Jeep, or bicycle on the island. You can park your car at the Woods Hole lot (always full in the summer) or at one of many lots in Falmouth and Bourne that absorb the overflow of cars during the summer months; parking is $10 to $15 per day, depending on the time of year. Plan to arrive at the parking lots in Falmouth at least an hour before sailing time. Free shuttle buses (some equipped for bikes) run regularly from the outlying lots to the Woods Hole ferry terminal.
The cost of a round-trip car passage from April through October is $137 to $157 (depending on the size of your car); in the off season, it drops to $87 to $107. On top of that, each passenger needs to pay a round-trip fare of $17 adults and $9 children 5 to 12. (Kids 4 and under ride free.) Bikes add an extra $8 round-trip. You do not need a reservation on the ferry if you’re traveling without a car.
Note: The Steamship Authority charges different rates for cars of different lengths. You will need to specify the make and model of your car when you place your reservation.
Once you are aboard the ferry, you have won the right to feel relieved and relaxed. Now your vacation can begin. Ferries are equipped with bathrooms and snack bars. Your fellow passengers will be a gaggle of kids, dogs, and happy-looking travelers.
Passengers without cars can ride the car ferry from Woods Hole. From Falmouth, the passenger-only Island Queen at Falmouth Inner Harbor (tel. 508/548-4800) makes a 35-minute crossing to Oak Bluffs, late May to mid-October. The round-trip fare is $22 for adults, $12 for kids 12 and under, and an extra $8 for bikes. No reservations are needed. Parking will run you $15 per calendar day. Credit cards are not accepted. Tip: It pays to buy a round-trip ticket on the Island Queen; it’s cheaper than two one-way tickets. The Falmouth–Edgartown Ferry Service, 278 Scranton Ave. (tel. 508/548-9400), operates a 1-hour passenger ferry, called the Pied Piper, from Falmouth Inner Harbor to Edgartown. The boat runs from late May to mid-October, and reservations are required. Round-trip fares are $60 for adults and $40 for kids 6 to 12. Bicycles are $10 round-trip. There are several options for parking. Parking is $20 for the day; $25 for overnight.
From Hyannis, the traditional Hy-Line ferry runs daily from Ocean Street Dock (tel. 800/492-8082), to Oak Bluffs, late May through mid-October. Trip time is about 1 hour and 40 minutes; round-trip costs $59 for adults; $39 for kids 5 to 12 ($14 round-trip for bikes). Parking at the Hy-Line lot is $25 per calendar day in season (spring and fall $20, $8–$12 off-season).
From New Bedford, Massachusetts, a fast 1-hour ferry travels to Martha’s Vineyard six times a day in season (late May–Oct). The fare is $70 round-trip for adults; $40 round-trip for kids 12 and under. Contact Seastreak Martha’s Vineyard for details (tel. 866/683-3779).
From North Kingstown, Rhode Island, to Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Fast Ferry (tel. 401/295-4040) runs its high-speed catamaran Millennium daily from mid-June through October. The trip takes 90 minutes. Round-trip rates are $89 to $104 for adults, $66 to $81 kids 4 to 12, $16 bikes. Parking next to the ferry port is $10 per calendar day.
From New York City and New Jersey to Oak Bluffs, Seastreak Martha’s Vineyard (tel. 866/683-3779) runs a high-speed catamaran from late May to mid-October. Round-trip fares are $240 to $310 adults, $135 to $310 children, $30 bikes. The catamaran leaves Thursdays and Fridays from New York and takes 6 1/2 hours from New York to Oak Bluffs. The ferry makes the return trip Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays.
You can fly into Martha’s Vineyard Airport, also known as Dukes County Airport (tel. 508/693-7022), in West Tisbury, about 5 miles outside Edgartown. Cape Air/Nantucket Airlines (tel. 800/352-0714) connects the island year-round with Boston (trip time 34 min., about $187 one-way); Hyannis (trip time 20 min.; $49 one-way); Nantucket (15 min.; $49 one-way); Providence RI (trip time 25 min.; $124 one-way); and New Bedford MA (trip time 20 min.; $49 one-way). US Airways (tel. 800/428-4322) flies from Boston for about $304 round-trip and also has seasonal weekend service from LaGuardia Airport, in New York City (trip time 1 1/4 hour), which costs approximately $400 round-trip.
Peter Pan Bus Lines (tel. 888/751-8800 or 508/548-7588) connects the Woods Hole ferry port with South Station and Logan Airport in Boston, as well as with New York City and Providence, Rhode Island. (To get to Falmouth Inner Harbor instead, passengers disembark at the Falmouth Bus Station and take a taxi to the harbor or, in summer, a free shuttle bus that gets you a short walk away.) The trip from South Station takes about 1 hour and 35 minutes and costs about $40 one-way; from Logan Airport, the cost is $30 one-way; from Providence, the 2 1/2-hour trip to Woods Hole costs $30 one-way; from New York, the bus trip takes about 6 hours and costs approximately $74 one-way. The trip from South Station to Woods Hole takes about 1 hour and 35 minutes and costs about $40 one-way; from Logan Airport, the cost is $30 one-way; from Providence, the 2 1/2-hour trip to Woods Hole costs $30 one-way; from New York, the bus trip takes about 6 hours and costs approximately $74 one-way. After arriving in Woods Hole, bus passengers then need to buy tickets for the Steamship Authority ferry.
Both Peter Pan and Plymouth-Brockton bus lines go from South Station and Logan to Hyannis.
Falmouth Taxi (tel. 508/548-3100) also runs limo service from Boston and the airport. It charges $165 plus a gratuity.
During the summer, you’ll most definitely need a reservation to bring your car on the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. Word to the wise: You must reserve months in advance to secure a spot. Contact the Steamship Authority at www.steamshipauthority.com, or by calling tel. 508/693-9130.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.