Mobile Phone User click here
We treated ourselves to a “farewell to summer” trip to Martha’s Vineyard the other day, much like we greeted the summer with a daytrip to Nantucket in the spring. After a wonderful season of warm weather, bright sunshine, and our Cape Cod bed and breakfast inn full of guests from near and far, we enlisted the help of our innsitter for a day and set sail for the island via the Island Queen ferry out of Falmouth Harbor.
We took the 9:00 AM ferry, along with a few other early birds, and landed in Oak Bluffs less than 45 minutes later. Looking to circumnavigate the entire island in a day, we opted to rent a mini-Cooper convertible and enjoy the late summer sunshine in style. We drove towards Edgartown via the Beach Road as soon as all the paperwork for the rental was complete, but instead of going into town, which we had done on many previous excursions to the island, we took the Katama Road to South Beach. The beach was just beginning to fill for the day with late summer sun worshippers eager to hit the beach for a day that promised wall-to-wall sunshine. On any other day we would have opted to join them, but our mission was to see as much of the island as we possibly could so that we could advise our guests of the best things to see and do on a day trip to the island.
Our route took us past the airport via the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road and down towards Aquinnah and Gay Head via the South Road. Martha’s Vineyard is extremely rural and lush with farms and fields, as well as wooded areas of scrub oak and pine. Many dirt roads and long winding drives branched out from the main roads, leading I assume to lovely waterfront estates and secluded beaches. But without a local guide to point the way to the Vineyard’s hidden treasures, we were left with just a rudimentary map of the island to navigate our course to the east end of the island.
The view from the lighthouse at Gay Head is absolutely inspirational–sparkling sea and dramatic heath-covered cliffs that lead to secluded sandy beaches. However, the walkway to the scenic overlook is lined with concessioners selling everything from fast food to tee shirts. It is a stark contrast betwixt inveterate commercialism and stunning natural beauty. I chose not to let the blur of tacky tourist traps mar my experience and simply drank in the vista before me: all blue sky and an ocean of next to navy in color lined with dramatic cliffs of golden sand. It reminded me in many ways of the Greek islands and the Mediterranean Sea.
We lingered only a short while before retracing our steps to the tiny fishing village of Menemsha. Our plan was to have lunch at either The Bite or Larsen’s, as their reputation for fresh seafood is of near historic proportions around these parts. Unfortunately, The Bite was closed on the Tuesday we visited, and Larsen’s menu was limited to steamed shellfish, which didn’t suit my husband’s penchant for all things fried. So we pressed on, eventually landing in Vineyard Haven where we dined at the infamous Black Dog Tavern while watching the boats bobbing in the harbor. After a good, but unremarkable lunch, we shopped a bit for the logo sportswear that has become world famous at the eponymous gift shop next door.
We ended the day as it began, with a return drive to Oak Bluffs, past the lighthouses of both East and West Chop, a quick spin through the gingerbread cottages on the grounds of the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association, and a peek at the Flying Horses Carousel, the nation’s oldest operating platform carousel and a National Historic Landmark.
The ferry trip back to the mainland was uneventful, and as we exited the parking lot to start our journey home to the Inn, we were filled with a sense of anticipation at what the fall would bring and an overwhelming gratitude for this wonderful region we call home.
I can think of no better way to have ended our day “off” than by stopping in Wellfleet to have dinner at Mac’s Shack. By “off” of course, I mean that we had no check-ins at our bed and breakfast on Cape Cod and therefore no need to hurry home from our adventure in Provincetown (see previous blog entry). Located at 95 Commercial Street, Mac’s Shack is one of several establishments owned by two brothers whose commitment to quality is the hallmark of their success.
I had heard about Mac’s Shack and read reviews, but nothing compares with firsthand experience. Judging by the cars in the parking lot when they open their sushi bar at 3:00 in the afternoon, Mac’s is a local favorite. We arrived about 5:30, and there was already a wait for the coveted outside dining tables and some heavy action at the bar as well. We were seated at a nice table in the corner of the restaurant and marveled at how quickly the inside tables filled. By the time we left an hour or so later, all the tables were filled and the wait was considerable. Clearly the early bird gets the worm at Mac’s.
Our waitress was charming and affable, allowing us plenty of time to study the comprehensive dinner menu along with the extensive sushi bill of fare. I nursed a lovely glass of Pinot Noir while I perused the offerings, trying to make the perfect choices from both. I opted to start with the featured appetizer from the sushi menu, which was affectionately called a “hand grenade”. Two perfectly seared scallops topped with shrimp and then finished in the oven with dynamite sauce arrived at the table artfully arranged on a small rectangular platter. They were heavenly. Rich chose the Kamikaze roll, which was barbequed eel with avocado and cucumber and topped with spicy tuna. Though I did not taste it, I could tell from the expression on his face that it was a huge success.
For my entrée, I was wooed by the description of one of the nightly specials–handmade fettuccine with lobster and fennel bathed in a white cream sauce. Though I chose the appetizer portion, it was more than enough to satisfy my appetite due the richness of the sauce. Rich settled on the fish tacos, something we’ve both been wanting to try and it seemed fitting to start with the Mac’s Shack version, as all the fish served in the restaurant comes from Mac’s Seafood, it’s sister company. Served with salpicon slaw, sriracha aioli, avocado puree, and lime, the fish could not have been more fresh. If we hadn’t been out in public I’m convinced that Rich would have picked up his plate and licked it.
The entire meal was absolutely wonderful and we will most certainly return as often as our schedule allows. Open seasonally, Mac’s Shack is a full service restaurant with a sushi bar, raw bar and full liquor license. In addition to the wholesale seafood company, the brothers also operate three retail fish markets located throughout the lower Cape, Mac’s Seafood located on Wellfleet’s commercial pier, plus a full service catering division.
Taking advantage of the exodus on Cape Cod after Labor Day this year, Rich and I hightailed it down to Provincetown on Monday morning as soon as we finished cleaning up from serving breakfast to our guests. It was a spectacular morning, the air and sky washed clean after our brief bout with Earl over the weekend. With mild temperatures in the low 70s and nothing but brilliant blue above, it was the perfect opportunity to test drive a dune tour with Art’s Dune Tours.
Art’s Dune Tours was founded by Arthur Costa in 1946. Known locally as the ”King of the Dunes”, Art began his eponymous company after a stint in the army during World War II by taking visitors on an adventure through the dunes of Provincetown in his 1936 Ford Wood . On each and every tour he shared his enthusiasm for the natural beauty of his hometown, along with his knowledge of, and passion for, the native birds, plants, and wildlife that make the dunes their home. Though he passed away in 2006, his son Rob continues the 60+ year dune tour tradition with a fleet of Suburban’s and some colorful and knowledgeable driver/guides.
Our guide, Dody, was an affable lady who regaled us with the history of Cape Cod’s original Life Saving Stations, the19 remaining ramshackle dune shacks and their noted residents, countless shipwrecks along the treacherous coastline, along with some interesting tidbits about the flora and fauna that inhabit the mountains of sand along the National Seashore.
The hour-long trip ended with an exciting moment of near calamity when we temporarily got stuck ascending a steep dune to partake of a beautiful vista of Provincetown and Cape Cod Bay from the top. But with some help from her expert driving companions, we managed to avert disaster and skillfully eject ourselves from the sandy grasp of the dune quite handily. The view from the top of that hill was breathtaking and well worth an anxious moment or two.
Several hour-long tours depart daily from the corner of Standish and Commercial Streets in Provincetown. In addition, Art’s offers two-hour sunset and clambake tours, as well as private charters, and a 90-minute excursion that includes a tour of Race Point Lighthouse. Advance reservations are recommended for all tours.