The ferry ride to Martha's Vineyard often feels like stepping through the looking glass, where you gradually fall under a spell until you succumb to the magic of being "on-island." Caught up in the Vineyard's seductive rhythm of land, sea, and sky, however, it's easy to pass by some of its best finds without even knowing they exist. Here's a treasure map -- and a summer's worth of events to boot.
Chicama Vineyards and Winery
Stoney Hill Road
Box 430, West Tisbury
May 26 . Oct. 9
Open Monday-Saturday 11-5, Sunday 1-5
Tours Monday-Saturday at noon, 2 and 4 pm. Sunday 2 and 4 pm.
Closed July 4 and Labor Day
Founded more than 30 years ago, Chicama Vineyards is a buried treasure down a hidden trail. Heading up-island on State Road through West Tisbury, the green sign to Chicama Vineyards catches your eye, but while it claims that the aptly named Stoney Hill Road is only a mile long, it seems to wind and bump along for a lot longer than that.
But the payoff makes the journey well worth making. Once arrived, you spot rows of lush grapevines beyond a path lined with flowers. A guided tour of the pristine winery reveals huge gleaming tanks that are a vivid contrast to the bees buzzing in the dusty fields outside. The winery's shop has a gorgeous backlit wall of jewel colored vinegars and offers an abundance of items for sale, such as stained glass from Romania, flavored oils, jams, mustards, spices, and, of course, wine. Even if you miss the winery tour, there are samples of its Hurricane White, Cranberry Satin, Sea Mist, or Summer Island Red wines along with other distinctive proprietary vintages.
The visit is such an epicurean and visually delicious delight that you won't even notice the bumpy ride on the way home.
Ayuthia Charters, Inc.
Beach St. Ext., Vineyard Haven
Half day sail: $70 per person; minimum two, maximum eight adults
Late May through mid October
Kick the fun factor up a notch by taking a cruise aboard the Ayuthia, a 45-foot teak ketch built in Siam in 1937, with 800 sq. ft. of sail to send it flying across the water. Captain Tom Grew picks you up at the Black Dog dock and takes you by launch to where the Ayuthia is moored in Vineyard Haven Harbor. The route traveled on each half-day cruise is determined by the weather, wind, and tides.
The quiet movement of the boat is mesmerizing as the Ayuthia heads towards "Chappy," where the fishermen cast into the surf at the remote eastern end of Chappaquidick Island. The absolute silence of the sail-powered boat allows an undisturbed view of local wildlife, as well as some of the beautiful private homes along the shore. Grew becomes vague when questioned about the celebrities who live on-island, but he will talk at length about his forebears who were sea captains in the last century.
Good Dog Goods
79 Circuit Ave., Oak Bluffs
A mother lode of dog and cat nirvana can be found at Good Dog Goods, a shop "dedicated to the the human-animal connection." Loaded with fun and functional goodies, it's also a treasure trove for finding unique gifts for your own loyal pals.
A gleaming bakery case tempts you to break your diet with mouth-watering tortes, truffles, and gingerbread houses, until you discover these are actually all-natural "gourmet dog pastries." My two black labs, however, voraciously recommend the organic cheese star cookies.
Cool canine-inspired T-shirts, hand made pottery featuring favorite breeds, and a pewter dog bone with hooks to hang keys or leashes are just some of the items available.
Good Dog Goods is owned by Kerry Scott, a championship Gordon Setter breeder and third generation islander. Open year round, the flagship store is a refurbished 1890's Victorian house that sits at the gateway to the Tabernacle Camp Meeting Association grounds. The shop also has a century-old front porch with pots of geraniums where you can sit and greet the folks (and critters) passing by. If you are lucky enough to have your "best friend" along, pooches are always welcome.
The Field Gallery and Sculpture Park
1050 State Rd., West Tisbury508-693-5595
Open May 1: 10am . 5pm Mon . Sat
Year round by appointment
The statues are tough to miss. I'd often driven up-island and stared in wonder at the capricious creatures cavorting in what appeared to be someone's garden. The huge white figures are actually frolicking in The Field Gallery and Sculpture Park, which is free and open to the public.
This is a fun place to wander around outside, while the gallery inside showcases a wonderful mix of local and national art, ranging from the dramatic to the delightful. On one visit, the powerful photos of Ernest C. Withers provided insight into the African American experience during the civil rights movement of the 1960's. By contrast, another room held the pencil and watercolor musings of Patience Brewster, whose joyfully clever and absurd sense of humor left me laughing out loud. The work of these award winning artists was accompanied by several other fascinating exhibits, and new shows are rotated every two weeks. Starting July 4, the gallery hosts a two-week show featuring 20 Vineyard artists, with proceeds benefiting Martha's Vineyard Community Services. Works by painters Ron Gee and Jeff Hoerle will be on exhibit July 18-31.