Martha’s Vineyard, a haven for the rich and famous, is an expensive place to lay your head at night in high season. But when the rich and famous and many of the tourists have left, things cheapen up considerably.
One great example: The historic Kelley House located in the heart of Edgartown, which opened its doors in 1742, making it one of the country’s oldest hotels. At this sprawling beauty, rooms spread over five buildings, and off-season rates tumble below $100 a night – for Cape and island residents. But even if you’re not a local, rates aren’t much above $100, a seasonal bargain well worth taking advantage of this time of year when the island is blissfully quiet, and many of its stores open through the holidays.
In season, there are many ways to get to the island including the Vineyard Fast Ferry from Quonset Point, a 90-minute ride that’s $89 roundtrip. Also in season is a ride out of New Bedford on the Sea Streak, a one-hour ferry for $50 roundtrip. Year round, the Steamship Authority runs from Woods Hole on Cape Cod, a 45-minute trip that costs $17 roundtrip. The fastest way to get there any time of the year is by air; Cape Air flies to the Vineyard and Nantucket out of New Bedford.
Kelley House has a rich history, dating back centuries, but film buffs will love its more recent lore: During filming of the hit shark shocker “Jaws” in 1975, the hotel provided lodging for many cast and crew members. And remember the film’s ferry scene, where Chief Brody and Mayor Vaughn have a confab? That was the Chappaquiddick ferry, visible from the Kelley House and a very popular tourist attraction.
The cultural hook at the hotel also embraces the artistic. Its lobby features artists with strong connections to the island, showcasing their photos of various Vineyard scenes. The gallery includes a rotating set of digital photos as well as framed prints on the wall. The prints can be ordered via iPads in the lobby.
The buildings are quaintly named: The Chappy House, Court House, Garden House, Mizzen Top Suites and Wheelhouse, all beautifully appointed and downright cozy, especially this time of year. We had a suite in Mizzen, with two bedrooms, a spacious living room with rattan furnishings and water views, and small kitchenette.
One of the best draws of the hotel is The Newes from America, it’s signature restaurant, one named by Travel + Leisure as one of the Vineyard’s best places to eat. The Newes reeks of history, with its rough-hewn beams, ballast brick walls and hearth, a decidedly warm-and-cozy spot where its rack of beers is popular, along with American fare like the New York Reuben and rack of ribs, to British culinary treats such as bangers and mash and fish and chips.
Edgartown is a picturesque little hamlet, easily traversed by foot or bike, the latter available at the Kelley House. One worthwhile retail stop is the thrift shop run by the island’s Boys and Girls Club. Given the wealth of many island residents and visitors, the treasure of donated items is astounding. I got bargains like suit coats of silk and tweed, bearing names that include Jos. A. Bank, for $5 each.
If you go, bear in mind Kelley House closes in January and re-opens in early April. Thanksgiving isn’t a bad time to visit, as The Newes offers a lighter-fare menu that will include clam chowder, chef’s ceviche, mussels marinieres, fried calamari and Roquefort stilettos.
For more information, visit www.kelley-house.com.