Lonely Planet Writer

Martha's Vineyard family appeal

The First Family are going to Maine this year for summer vacation, but we're still fond of their choice last year: one the east coast's great family getaways, Martha's Vineyard.

Our favorite sites for the family on the island:

Flying Horses Carousel, Oak Bluffs. This 1876 carousel - some say America's oldest - is irresistible fun, at $1.50 a ride, with young and old leaning off painted ponies to grab as many rings a turn in hopes of the gold one, giving a free ride.

Farm Institute, Edgartown. This kid-run farm offers one-day to summer-long programs for kids to plant the crops, heave a hoe, feed the piglets and take their spoils to the West Tisbury farmer's market to sell. Kids absolutely love it.

Sandwiches & biplanes. Snoopy-styled biplanes take off and land on a cozy grass air strip between Edgartown and South Beach at Katama - plus its wee Right Fork Diner does a pretty good lunch to sit and watch the scene.

Dock Street Coffee Shop, Edgartown. It's a local routine - (usually) dads and kids taking a morning walk around the harbor and lighthouse early in the morning ('when it's magical,' more than one local swears) and finish with a egg breakfast at this in/out dive.

Biking. The Vineyard is easily traversed without a car - there's a great public bus system, but best are the 37 miles of bike lanes that sometimes follow fun 'ancient ways' (dirt paths) to secret swimming holes only locals go to. You can rent bikes in Edgartown.

Menemsha bike ferry. Speaking of bikes, the $5 ferry on the island's west side makes a tiny trip across the Mememsha Pond to Lobsterville Beach and up to Aquinnah's cliffs. Plus it's owned by James Taylor's brother.

Ice cream scene. Those who don't equate summer with ice cream - and we know you're out there - stay off this island. Mad Martha's - a famed local chain - dominates the scene, but Edgartown's Scoops, quietly, churns out creamier, tastier cones.

Long Point. Many public beaches are stunners, with gold sand, clams to dig for, and (out on the west end) cliffs to back it. Best is southern Long Point, though its (purposely) small parking lot keeps numbers down. Get there before 10:30am.

Jumping off 'the bridge'. The rather tiny 'Big Bridge' between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown has a rather juicy history - serving as a rather bloody setting of the film Jaws filmed on the island. Most go, at high tide, to jump off it. But be careful. As one 10-year-old, deadly serious, warned us, 'You can only jump at high tide. Otherwise you'll be killed.' It's about a four foot fall.

If you do choose to go further north to Maine and you're in the dark on what to do and where to go, we'll help light the way with 60 Lighthouses in 60 Hours, a free itinerary download from our upcoming title USA's Best Trips: 99 Themed Itineraries Across America (available September 2010).