Three Hours in Oak Bluffs


Last year was the first time since 1997 that I did not so much as step foot on Martha’s Vineyard.  So this summer, I decided that at the very least, I had to make sure that I at least managed a day trip.  It might not capture the full experience, but at the very least it would scratch the itch.  And honestly, for this particular Massachusetts native, summer isn’t really summer without a trip to Murdick’s fudge and a picnic on the lawn at Tanglewood.  Unfortunately, the Berkshires are not in the cards this summer.  But the magic of Murdick’s called to me across the water.

My husband and mother-in-law were willing partners in crime.  So we climbed in the car and wound our way down Route 28, past the mini-golf courses and tourist traps that are part of the charm of the southern part of the Cape, towards the picturesque villages of Mashpee and Falmouth.  We were aiming for a 12pm ferry; at 11:52 we were pulling into an insanely overpriced private parking garage in Woods Hole.  I ran for tickets, and we got into the walk-on line just as they started boarding the foot traffic.  No waiting, no fuss, and plenty of space on deck at the front of the boat.

"The Ferry to Martha's Vineyard"

The Ferry from Woods Hole to Oak Bluffs

The heat all week had been brutal.  Those 45 minutes on the bow of the ferry, wind whipping through my hair, were probably the most comfortable that I had been in days.  Perfect sunny day, sea breeze, seagulls swooping overhead- the Vineyard seemed keen to show off all of the things that make me love it.  And since we didn’t have to deal with a car, bad weather, Presidential Secret-Service details, or the price of groceries (or gas, or pretty much anything) on island, I savvily avoided the less idyllic elements.

We made a beeline from the ferry terminal in Oak Bluffs to Circuit Ave.  Not much changes in Oak Bluffs.  A few stores or restaurants come and go; the arcade moved a block a few years back to where one of the “night clubs” used to be; otherwise, things were comfortingly the same.  After a quick spin through town, with stomachs growling, we headed to the first stop.

Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs

My husband contends that The Offshore Alehouse may be his favorite spot on the planet.  We have spent many a night with a pile of friends squeezed into one of their spacious, high-backed, dark wooden booths, sharing pitchers of their beer and accumulating piles of shredded peanut shells that we sweep onto the floor whenever they get too large.  Come on an evening, and you’ll often find live music of one sort or another, and of course the Red Sox game.

This particular afternoon was World Cup semifinals time, and we had to make do with a table in the corner.  But the beer did not disappoint, and from the accounts of my companions, the oysters were delicious.  I’m still mourning the fact that they stopped brewing their Golden Ale several years back (I considered this my absolute favorite beer.  Ever.), and since I can’t eat fish, I do find the menu a little boring and pricey ($15 chicken quesadillas?  Really?).  But unlike my last visit two years ago, the staff were friendly and accommodating, and didn’t seem intent on getting us in and out as fast as possible.

After a long and satisfying lunch, it was time to move onto other business.  Murdick’s was next.  I’m not sure how they manage to get their fudge to solidify in what was approaching 90 degree heat, but the product was delicious, as usual.  So was my frozen yogurt at Mad Martha’s.  Once again, I got hit with Island sticker shock.  My single scoop was twice the cost of my very generous soft serve cone at Captain Frosty’s in Dennis the night before.  Definitely Boston city pricing, as opposed to the ridiculous quantities of fantastic ice cream that can be had for the same, or less price, at places like Kimball’s and Erikson’s out in the Boston suburbs.  Still a worthwhile $4 on a hot, summer day.  And I’m not going to quibble over my only MV ice cream of the season.


Making Fudge at Murdick's

Ice Cream

A Large Cone at Mad Martha's

That was the end of eating for the day.  There was also a little bit of shopping- tshirts and cute hats, but we barely had enough time to hurry back to the ferry.  This time, we sat inside and caught the end of the Germany-Spain match.  All three of us were droopy and a bit forlorn when we arrived back on the mainland.  We’d gotten almost exactly three hours in one of our favorite places, which really just whetted our appetites.  Without a chance to at least take a quick swim, the day felt a little incomplete.  But we’ll just have to come back again next year.  For at least a week this time.

  • Sabina

    Hi! Martha’s Vineyard is my favorite place in the U.S. I used to go every year too. This year I moved out of the country and am missing the Vineyard like crazy. I almost always stayed in Oak Bluffs and just love that little town. I find the ice cream is better at Ben-n-Bill’s, though. But whatever. I’m glad you got to go. It really isn’t summer without Martha’s Vineyard.