Martha's Vineyard is New England's largest island, and though it sits just seven miles off the Massachusetts coast, it has a reputation for being an involved place to visit. Most who hope to vacation on Martha's Vineyard, particularly during the peak summer season, quickly learn that they must make both ferry and lodging reservations well in advance, that getting a car to the island is complicated, and that most vacation rentals require a minimum of a week's stay. However, there's an easier way.
The Winnetu Simplifies Island Getaway Planning
The Winnetu Inn & Resort (check rates) opened in 2001, providing Vineyard vacationers with a unique alternative to the small inns, B&Bs, and rental cottages that dominate the island's lodging landscape. Though the 11-acre, oceanview property in Edgartown may be large in comparison to many Martha's Vineyard outposts, it provides all of the charm and intimacy you'd find in a vacation home. Unlike a vacation rental, however, the all-suite resort offers stays of as little as three days, even during peak season, and an extensive menu of amenities that you won't find elsewhere on the island.
What impressed me most about The Winnetu, however, is something you'll experience before you ever set foot on the island. The resort's online reservation system is a Net-savvy vacationer's dream come true, transforming the complexities of planning a Martha's Vineyard escape into a simple task. With a few clicks, you can book your ferry passage, reserve spa services or your space in a yoga class, have rental bikes waiting for you, enroll your little ones in day and evening summertime camp programs, hold a seat at a clambake, book fun excursions and even have eggs, bacon and other food essentials waiting in your suite's refrigerator when you arrive.
A Suite Home on Martha's Vineyard
Suites at The Winnetu on Martha's Vineyard are equipped with all of the comforts of home.(c) 2004 Kim Knox Beckius
When we visited The Winnetu in May of 2004, we quickly felt at home in our expansive two-bedroom suite. The property's lodging options range from studios with kitchenettes to one-, two- and three-bedroom suites with full kitchens, the largest of which can accommodate up to six adults and two children. I was traveling with my parents and my toddler, so the full kitchen provided us with a great deal of flexibility when it came to planning our meals. A crib was waiting for my little one, but a nap proved elusive, as, in typical fashion, she was reluctant to snooze with a new environment to explore. When it came time for us all to turn in after our first day on Martha's Vineyard, we were happy to have comfortable beds awaiting us all.
It was a cool, fogged-in, pre-season weekend, so we didn't get to take advantage of our enormous, nicely furnished deck with views of a small pond and the ocean beyond. We did, however, get a nice sense of what a comfortable and inviting place this can be, especially when summer shines. The Winnetu operates from mid-April through late October, and while summer is a time for families, the quieter spring and autumn seasons find the resort inhabited mostly by couples and corporate groups.
A Home Base for Island Adventures
In the off-season, it's very helpful to have a car on Martha's Vineyard, whether you rent one when you arrive or book passage for your car with the Steamship Authority
, the only ferry company that offers vehicle transportation. However, during high season, The Winnetu makes island adventuring easy. Before you leave home, you can reserve your spot on an open-air beach vehicle to visit the Cape Pogue Lighthouse on Chappaquiddick or aboard a Sunset Water Taxi that will whisk you to the nearby center of Edgartown for dinner. In season, the resort's complimentary shuttle also helps guests make their way to town, though return is only via the Vineyard Transit Authority's all-island bus service, which also provides access year-round to other island destinations.
Rental bikes can be arranged for delivery right to the resort, and the island is very bicycle-friendly. Fit riders can make it all the way to Oak Bluffs, where kids can trade their bikes for an easier ride aboard the Flying Horses Carousel, America's oldest operating platform carousel. Oak Bluffs is also famous for its adorable Victorian gingerbread houses.
Stay and Play
The Winnetu's lawn chess set appears larger than life to my toddler.(c) 2004 Kim Knox Beckius
You can have plenty of fun without leaving the resort. Even in May, there were guests brave enough to swim in the heated outdoor pool. My daughter got a kick out of the supersized lawn chess set. We also made the trek to South Beach, which is accessible via a dirt path from the resort. It was a bit of a hike carrying a 1-1/2-year-old and cameras, but in 10 minutes, we were in the midst of 21 miles of sand. The surf here may be too vigorous for kids, so families are often directed to nearby State Beach for swimming.
In season, a free children's program for ages three through pre-teen runs Monday through Saturday mornings. For a fee, kids can also enjoy supervised dinner and a movie while their parents sneak away. Tennis clinics for children and adults are offered across the street at The Mattakesett Tennis Club. Summer also features family barbecues and clambakes by the pool.
The on-site restaurant, Lure, serves dinner in season, and while it is a bit upscale, children are welcome.
Seeking relaxation? There are many places to curl up with a book from the resort's library. You can book an in-room massage when you arrive, but why wait? Schedule a personal pampering session while you're online and ordering up your entire island getaway.