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Martha’s Vineyard is one of those places on Earth where a little piece of my heart is permanently placed. This quaint little island off the coast of Massachusetts is host to so many of my most precious childhood memories, and today I found out it will he home to many in the future as well (more on that announcement later!)

What is it about Martha’s Vineyard that makes it such a special destination? It’s a mix of things. It’s beautiful beaches and well protected natural areas, it’s charming and distinctive little towns dotted across the island, it’s a slowed down, community centric way of life, it’s a thriving arts and cultural scene, and its endless possibilities for outdoor adventures. It’s the perfect summer destination, and we aren’t the only ones who think so — the year-round population of 20,000 swells to 100,000 in the summer. It’s also what it isn’t — it isn’t a spring break hotspot (though I love those too!), it isn’t a place where you’ll find a Starbucks, it isn’t filled with high-rise condos or strip malls.

Ferry to Martha's Vineyard

While my parents are big international travelers now, (I’ve been to Greece, Turkey, Thailand and Iceland with my mom in the past year and Cambodia and Thailand with my Dad in the past three!) when I was a kid they both worked big corporate jobs with hectic schedules. When vacation time came around, the last thing they wanted to do was strap their bratty kids onto long haul flights and drag us around foreign lands. So instead they would rent a beach house, throw my sister and I into the car with a week’s worth of amusements, and we’d take the ferry over to the beach for a relaxing family holiday. We had annual cupcake decorating contests, island events we loved to attend and beaches we’d always return to. It was our happy place.

However, my parents separated when I was in my teens (luckily they get along great and even travel together now) and I hadn’t returned since. So when I made plans to attend Jawsfest, my mom jumped on board and invited along her boyfriend, his daughter and one of her friends as well. We couldn’t wait to get back on the island after so many years away!

Ferry to Martha's Vineyard

This trip was full of firsts for us. The main difference was that instead of renting a house… we went camping. Camping on Martha’s Vineyard, the presidential playground? Yes, it’s possible! And for us, it was really the only option since scheduling limitations had us visiting from a Thursday to a Thursday, and renting outside the typical Saturday to Saturday groove is basically impossible in high season. Sure, we could have stayed in one of the island’s handful of B&Bs or hotels, but for a fraction of the price we were able to rent a small cabin and a campsite at the Martha’s Vineyard Campground.

Martha's Vineyard Family Campground

The cabin was super basic, with nothing but a mini-fridge and a bunch of beds cleverly stacked around the two teeny rooms. I was pretty skeptical of the whole experience and I do admit I begrudged walking to the bathrooms in the middle of the night and having to walk to the main building to use WiFi. But those small issues aside, it was a great experience. I liked the community feeling around the campground, and the fact that budget options exist on the island.

Martha's Vineyard Family Campground

Also, I liked that it forced us to get out and do more. When you are staying in a big beautiful beach house, you don’t tend to have much motivation to leave it! Staying at the campsite was fun, but I definitely didn’t want to lounge around the 8 x 10 cabin all day. So we explored the island a little bit more than usual on this trip, which meant lots of excursions to the beach.

Martha's Vineyard Beaches

Martha's Vineyard Beaches

The weather came in and out through the week but even if the skies were cloudy I enjoyed sitting in the sand and reading a book. As Martha’s Vineyard was my first real introduction to the sea, I always associate the big rough waves and smell of saltwater and seaweed with the ocean. While I obviously adore the crystal clear and calm waters in the Caribbean and in Southeast Asia, they don’t say “seaside!” to me like a big gulp of ocean air and a day getting tossed in the waves.

Martha's Vineyard Beaches

Martha's Vineyard Beaches

Martha's Vineyard Beaches

Martha's Vineyard Beaches

Another first for this trip? Jumping off the iconic Sengekontacket Bridge. Somehow in all those years of coming to the Vineyard, I don’t even remember watching this island tradition taking place. I was more than happy to add it to my roster of Martha’s Vineyard experiences, though. I really love jumping off things.

Martha's Vineyard Bridge Jump

Martha's Vineyard Bridge Jump

There’s more to Martha’s than the water, though. Exploring the island’s five charming and distinct towns is what sets this New England destination apart from its summer destination competition.

Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard

The most elegant and upscale of the island enclaves is Edgartown. It’s a great spot for gaping at big houses and window shopping at budget-busting boutiques.

Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard

Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard

This is the side of the island we’ve stayed around most frequently, so we have all kinds of favorite old haunts here. However this is probably the part of the island that most lives up to the stuffy stereotype, and I do admit it can seem a bit exclusive.

Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard

Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard

More up my alley these days is the sweet town of Oak Bluffs. This is the busiest and biggest town on the island, with unparalleled options for dining, nightlife, and distraction. There’s a town beach, a spacious seaside park, a little movie theater and attractive rows of candy colored homes.

Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard

Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard

Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard

Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard

In our “seeing the Vineyard in a new way” kick, my mom and I signed up for a walking tour of the Campground, the official home of the historic Martha’s Vineyard Campmeeting Association. Once upon a time this was a gathering place for a large annual Methodist gathering. Over time, the attendees’ tent camps evolved into a neighborhood of Victorian-looking cottages that seem to be in a quaint competition with gingerbread trim, bright colors and plentiful flowerboxes. Today, the neighborhood of three hundred homes looks much as it once did, with residents whiling away the day sipping tea on their front porches and children running through the shady green parks. We fell in love with the area.

Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard

I mean we really fell in love with it. While we were touring the campground, my mom noticed a few For Sale signs and was absolutely shocked at the list prices, having had no idea that you could own Martha’s Vineyard property for so few figures. The seed was planted. In the two months since then, she’s traveled back to the island to look at a sweet yellow cottage (not pictured) again and proceeded to fall more and more in love with it. After the requisite real estate drama and hesitation and soul-searching, she decided to pull the trigger. It was a big decision, but she knew she wanted a place where we could host friends and family, a place that would stay in the family for generations to come. So an offer was made, fingers were crossed, and we waited. This morning I received a happy phone call that the place is ours! I’m so grateful to my mom for this generous gift to our family today and for the future.

Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard

Word’s can’t express how happy I am that Martha’s Vineyard will continue to be a part of my life. It brings me great joy to think that the place where I once played as a girl, I’ll someday watch my future nieces and nephews frolic around as well. And in the meantime, I look forward to helping my mom fix up our sweet new home and exploring the Vineyard as official residents! Of course it will all be documented here, so I hope you’re just as excited to read about it as I am to share it.

Congratulations and thank you to my mom! And don’t worry, there’s more Martha’s Vineyard goodness coming up this week…

Is there a place in your life that holds memories and meaning? A place you have a past and bright hopes for the future?

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29 Comments...
  • Gaelyn
    October 16 2012

    I’ve never been to Martha’s Vineyard but maybe now that I know someone there…. Those little gingerbread houses are adorable.

    And yes, I’m just posting about some places that are dear to my younger memories. But I don’t want to move back there.
    Gaelyn recently posted..Illinois River Road

    • Alex
      October 16 2012

      Well, we won’t be moving there full time because the houses aren’t “winterized…” part of the reason they are such a steal! But it will be a summer home πŸ™‚

  • Ashley of Ashley Abroad
    October 16 2012

    I feel that way about our family cottage on Lake Huron. It’s been in the family since the 1920s and it’s where I go when I need a break from everything. People who don’t live near the Great Lakes think that they’re like regular lakes, but they’re truly freshwater oceans!
    Ashley of Ashley Abroad recently posted..Doors from Around the World

    • Alex
      October 16 2012

      That sounds like the beaches in Chicago to me… they feel like ocean beaches! That’s so cool about your family home on the lake, that’s what we are hoping to look back and say one day… “It’s been in the family since 2012!” πŸ™‚

  • Olivia
    October 16 2012

    As someone who went from only looking at the pictures in your blog to actually reading the words, I have to say the pictures still are my favorite part. God you are good!! Why don’t my dinky iPhone pics look like that???

    In childhood memories you failed to mention the annual Baackes Family Cupcake Contest which I am declaring here and now is officially back on for Summer 2013. New name- Cupcake Wars? Either way, GAME ON, artsy girl.

    • Alex
      October 16 2012

      I’m flattered — I didn’t even think the photos in this post were anything special. But clearly you still aren’t reading the words too clearly… I did in fact mention the cupcake contest!

  • Bonnie Toth
    October 16 2012

    Thanks for sharing this, Alex! I’ve never been to Martha’s Vineyard, but it’s on the bucket list… (after I hit a few more dive destinations!) By the way, I can’t wait to see what YOUR cupcakes look like next summer!

    • Alex
      October 16 2012

      There actually is diving off the Vineyard… but none that I’m too interested in doing πŸ™‚ I thought of you recently when I went Skydiving here in Hawaii! It was amazing… pictures to come!

  • Joan
    October 16 2012

    The Vineyard is a magical and wonderful place. Congratulations to your mom on her Campground house.
    Oak Bluffs holds a special place in my heart as well…grew up there as a summer kid and always feel like one when I’m there.
    Love your pictures but especially the Bandstand ones.
    I was just there last week and autumn has arrived with the beauty of another season.

    • Alex
      October 16 2012

      My mom is there now and the photos she is sending are stunning! I’m hoping now that we have a place and will be spending much more time there I can see a Martha’s Vineyard autumn someday!

  • Sarah Somewhere
    October 16 2012

    Congratulations Alex’s Mum! (Sorry, Mom!) Those cottages are so beautiful, cant wait to see yours! Thanks for showing me the Island Alex, I had heard or MV but never really knew what it was! A vineyard?!
    Sarah Somewhere recently posted..A Change is as Good as a Holiday?

    • Alex
      October 17 2012

      You know I am embarrassed to say I don’t know WHY it’s called Martha’s Vineyard! Perhaps there were once wineries there, in fact maybe there still are… though I can’t say its a famous wine region or anything!

  • Sam
    October 16 2012

    Yayyy! I am so happy for you. This looks like the most adorable place to live put a photo up ASAP! xxx

    • Alex
      October 17 2012

      I should be going to visit the place in November, can’t wait! We won’t be there year-round but we will be there in the summers!

  • Steve McKee
    October 16 2012

    Who was Martha, by the way?
    Steve McKee recently posted..First Day: Madness, No; Desire, Yes

    • Alex
      October 17 2012

      Hmmm… looks like I might need to do a post about the naming of Martha’s Vineyard. Cause I got nothin’!

  • cristal
    October 16 2012

    That’s amazing! Are you going to rent the property out when you’re not using it?

    • Alex
      October 17 2012

      Thanks Cristal! The Campmeeting Association has pretty strict rules regarding that kind of thing — the house can be rented out for a total of six weeks per year. We’ll definitely take advantage of that to offset maintenance costs and such!

  • Lindsey
    October 16 2012

    Wow, congratulations! It’s fantastic you now have permanent ties to a place that means so much to you. As for beach experiences… my overriding sense of the ocean is similar – big crashing waves you had to work with. The best kind of beach πŸ˜‰
    Lindsey recently posted..I Just Booked My One Way Ticket…

    • Alex
      October 17 2012

      Thanks Lindsey! I’m still pinching myself I’m so excited.

  • Hannah
    October 17 2012

    Ok, I officially want to be adopted by your family! MV looks amazing – I can’t wait to see your new family cottage. And beautiful photos as always Alex πŸ™‚
    Hannah recently posted..Our lovely little house in Goa

    • Alex
      October 17 2012

      Hannah, you are more than welcome to visit anytime! Maybe I need to host a blogger meetup there some summer πŸ™‚

  • Margyle
    October 17 2012

    Wow… I do have to say I’m pretty jealous, even though I’ve never lived there and would never move close enough to make it worth while – but the place is just so fantastic looking! Congrats on being the envy of many many people out there.
    Margyle recently posted..A Little Rain Never Hurt Anyone?

    • Alex
      October 18 2012

      Believe me, I know I’m a lucky girl! If you’re ever on this side of the world, you’ve got to check out MV.

  • Rika | Cubicle Throwdown
    October 18 2012

    Wow – congrats to your mom! How exciting! Can’t wait to see photos of the new place. Can I be adopted into your family? πŸ™‚

    I’ve never been to MV but in Canada it’s always presented to us in TV and movies like this idyllic little beach town, and your photos seem to confirm this. I love kitschy places like that, it looks so cute. Wishing you guys many happy memories to come there!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..It’s here.

    • Alex
      October 18 2012

      Maybe I should ask my mom if I can host a blog reader meetup πŸ™‚ It sounds like the way its presented in Canada is pretty accurate!

  • Jen
    October 19 2012

    These Vineyard pictures are incredible! It’s been well over a year since I’ve been, but I feel like it was yesterday just looking through your photos. It definitely makes me want to revisit… even though it’s almost November!

    Congratulations to your Mom! I’m a bit envious… I fell in love with those candy cottages on my visit, and I imagined how amazing it would be to spend the summer in one. I can’t wait to hear more about the renovation and your time spent there!

    • Alex
      October 20 2012

      Thank you Jen! And we’re allowed to rent out the house for six weeks of the year so maybe once its all fixed up you can fulfill that dream for a week πŸ™‚

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