One of the questions we get so often is “Which Island should I go to?” and we are happy to help you figure that out! While Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are often called the “Sister Islands”, just like sisters often are, the two are both very unique.
The Key Differences
Really, to answer your question, we would need to know a little bit more about you and who you’re traveling with and your idea of the perfect trip, as the islands both provide their own distinctive attractions and opportunities. We can give you an idea of the feel of each island so that you can make the best decision for yourself.
Each Island as a Unique Vibe
Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard have very different vibes as soon you get off the ferry. Immediately when you get to Nantucket you are struck by a feeling that you’ve stepped back in time. Without chain stores, miles of cobblestone streets, buildings sided with weathered cedar shakes, and historical land markings on many of the buildings you come across you really feel taken back in time to an idyllic island. Nantucket is pristine, the beaches are gorgeous, and the hospitality of the islanders is unparalleled. Nantucket feels special. This vibe may lend itself more towards people who are looking for sightseeing, a nice stroll through beautiful architecture and local shops, and those who appreciate the finer things in life.
Martha’s Vineyard, on the other hand, feels as though you have stepped into a postcard island destination. With its beautiful parks, colorful homes, pristine beaches, and so many places to visit, Where Nantucket is mostly flat and sandy, Martha’s Vineyard has woods, fields, hillsides and the breathtaking Aquinnah Cliffs. Along with its natural beauty, the island also boasts delicious, fresh seafood, hundreds of great shops, farmers markets, and local events galore. Martha’s Vineyard feels more like your typical vacation destination. Full of fun and life, the Vineyard is teeming with opportunities to play, relax, and have a good time exploring.
Martha’s Vineyard is Larger than Nantucket
The most obvious difference between Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard is the size of the islands. Martha’s Vineyard is much bigger, with 6 towns and is 23 miles long and 9 miles wide. While you could see the whole island in a day, you’d definitely want more time than that to truly explore and get a feel for the unique vibe of each town. The “down island” towns of Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown are shopping havens with attractions and restaurants to suit every taste. The “up island” towns of Menemsha, Chilmark and Aquinnah are quaint, quiet places reminiscent of the island’s maritime past.
On the other side of the bay, Nantucket is much smaller, 14 miles long and 3.5 miles wide, with 2 downtown areas, Downtown Nantucket and Siasconset which is on the eastern side of the island. In between, there are plenty of residential areas, beautiful natural conservation areas and beaches, and hidden lighthouses and other historical locations.
Your Ability to Get Around by Foot, Bike, or Car Differs
The most important information for travelers is how to get around whatever island you choose to visit. While both trips definitely require you to put on your walking shoes, the amount to do within walking distance of the ferry differs depending on your destination and stamina. Nantucket has a great downtown area within steps of the ferry, and you could spend an entire day exploring the various shops, taking in the architecture, going to the museums, and tasting the delicious food and snacks available. There is also a beach and Brant Point Light within walking distance. If you wanted to see more of the island without renting a bike or car, you can always use the public transportation available, or take one of the bus tours available. You cannot access much more than the immediate downtown area on foot, but there are a ton of bike paths, and Nantucket is easy to navigate.
On Martha’s Vineyard, you are dropped off in Oak Bluffs, one of the 6 towns on the island. It is very
walkable, and you can see and do a lot right in town, including a visit to the Camp Meeting Association’s gingerbread houses, the famous carousel, stop by ocean park to take in the views, grab a bite to eat at one of the many delicious eateries, and peruse shops on the main drag of town. If you want to venture much further, you will need a bike or car. Bike paths abound, but to get to the “up-island towns” mentioned above, you will want to take public transportation or a car. There are also several bus tours available if you want to see the whole island in one day.
Hopefully, this answers your questions about which island you should visit! No matter which island you choose, you’re sure to have a great time. We can’t wait to take you there!