Location The Harbor View Hotel occupies one of the prettiest spots on Martha’s Vineyard, a small island that lies off the southern part of Cape Cod. This fabled Massachusetts holiday destination draws presidents and artists, musicians and actors, and generations of New England holidaymakers looking for a summer escape. Still, that means summer brings crowds to the tiny roads, leaving spring and fall, particularly fall, when the ocean is warmed, to the wise traveler. Winter is delightfully tranquil, too, but a lot of businesses are seasonal and the remoteness from consumer culture isn’t for everyone. But, generally, somehow Martha’s Vineyard hasn’t subscribed to 21st century hyperactivity. That is its appeal: an escape to wild dunes and remote farm communities; small towns with inns, boutiques, and individual restaurants, not chains; and beaches where people contemplate more than achieving a tan. Chappaquiddick is a separate, even smaller island, mostly given over to nature reserves, and without any commercial businesses, apart from farms. Martha’s Vineyard’s main towns include Vineyard Haven, which is where ferries from Wood’s Hole and Hyannis dock. There’s Oak Bluffs, a once popular Victorian seaside retreat, which is famous for its “gingerbread cottages,” an array of ornate, colorful summer homes, and its stately bigger Victorian gothic homes. The town is boisterous and oversubscribed these days, though. A place for bar hopping and nightlife, perhaps. Then there’s the gentler Edgartown, where the aptly named Harbor View Hotel is situated, an easy stroll from the main part of the town, overlooking Edgartown harbor.
Lodging Earlier this century, this 121-year old Victorian hotel, which is a member of the Historic Hotels of America, acquired new owners and, then, a complete renovation. The design was kept simple, but elegant, echoing the breezy, relaxed island ethic; an upscale island lifestyle, that is. Accommodations are spread over three adjacent venues: the main hotel, the Governor Mayhew Building, which includes guest rooms with either a pool or garden view, each with a balcony, and the Captain’s Cottages. These eight cottages are named for Edgartown sea captains and form a little village community at the back of the property. They are for sale as private residences. Until then, these one, two, and three-bedroom condos are available to guests. Each includes a living area and fully equipped kitchenette, and porch.
The hotel is pet-friendly and very welcoming to dogs of all sizes. Dog parents should be aware of ticks that are plentiful among the grassy dunes.
Throughout the hotel, small details such as plush robes and on-island made petrochemical-free toiletries in guest rooms, and complimentary morning tea or coffee, and milk and cookies in the evening in the lobby, add welcoming touches.
Restaurants and Bars Harbor View’s main restaurant, Water Street, is becoming a destination, an accolade that is warranted for the graceful views of the Edgartown Lighthouse and harbor, just across the road, alone. But the food is equally inspiring; it’s seasonal New England cooking with a nouvelle cuisine twist, and utilizing as much local island produce as possible, including the freshest seafood. This is the place for Katama oysters, pulled from the water just a few miles away in Katama Bay; the freshness means a more delicate flavor. Recently, Water Street experimented with opening for dinner year-round and found considerable success. The Sunday buffet brunch is superb and changes each week at the chef’s whim. Don’t miss out on a visit to Henry’s Hotel Bar, either. It’s a quiet little spot and a great place for a tipple or two. Henry’s menu is on the lighter, more casual side. It’s perfect for lunch or a cozy relaxing evening. Henry’s is open daily, year-round.
Fitness and Fun There is an outdoor pool and the hotel’s waterfront concierge arranges fishing and sailing trips on the hotel’s own boats. There are many pet-friendly hiking trails, but beach access for dogs is seasonal. Check the posted regulations. Golf, biking, bird watching and lighthouse exploration are other nearby activities.
Hotel Junkie’s Favorite Thing To Do Summer weather: sip a cocktail on the porch and take in the view of the sea and Chappaquiddick. Winter weather: grab a Sidecar fireside in the lobby.
Tech There’s High-speed wireless Internet access throughout the property
Getting there Direct air service to Martha’s Vineyard runs from Boston, New York City, and Hyannis, Mass. Year-round ferry service departs from Woods Hole, Mass., and seasonally from New York City, Hyannis, Falmouth and New Bedford, Mass., as well as Quonset, R.I.
Info 131 North Water St., Edgartown, Mass. 800-225-6005, 508-627-7000. http://www.harbor-view.com
Photo credit: Harbor View Hotel