Girls’ Getaway: Harbor View Hotel, Martha’s Vineyard

By Janice Randall Rohlf

Last April, when three friends and I decided we needed a short, sweet and fun break, I remembered a wonderful visit a few years ago to the Harbor View Hotel on Martha’s Vineyard, where my husband, daughter and I stayed in a luxurious suite in a cottage on the hotel’s Edgartown property. Long story short, we four women set off for the Vineyard on a chilly day last spring and were received into the warm, welcoming arms of the Harbor View. Fall is also a perfect time for a girls’ getaway to the Vineyard. Kids are back in school, the summer crowds have gone and yet most businesses stay open, some through the holidays.

The trip my friends and I took was just an overnight, but it felt much longer. After depositing our luggage at the Captain Collins Cottage, and taking time to ooh and ahh over the stunning suite with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large living space with a sleeper couch and an adjacent kitchen alcove, we walked the short distance to the historic main hotel and tucked into a cozy booth at Henry’s Bar. With a view of the ocean and the iconic Edgartown Light, we ate, drank and talked to our hearts’ content. Of the four different lunches we ordered, the Cuban sandwich layered with meltingly tender porchetta was the favorite. And we heartily recommend splurging on truffle fries to share. Take it from us, they pair well with white wine, of which there is a nice selection (red too, of course). Beer lovers might want to order a Bad Martha IPA, a premium craft beer from Bad Martha Farmer’s Brewery and Tasting Room right in Edgartown (you can visit through October).

Late afternoon would have been the perfect time to walk the charming streets of Edgartown, a whaling community in the 19th century, admiring the Historic District’s architecture and browsing eclectic shops, but the weather put a literal damper on outside activities. However, we have some suggestions: At the top of the list is Edgartown Books, an independent bookstore with a courtyard garden and great front porch for people-watching, plus BTB-Behind The Bookstore, a coffee shop and restaurant located, you guessed it, right in their own backyard! Then, there’s Portobello Road, an absolutely magical shop whose owner must have the best time ever choosing his eclectic collection of merchandise. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to shop for clothes when I’m traveling and can take my time. In Edgartown, there’s no lack of places to recommend. The original Vineyard Vines is here, along with Island Company, British-inspired Jack Wills, Claudia Jewelry and several other boutiques that are sure to lure you in with end-of-season sales.

Several restaurants are open during summer only, but among those that operate during the shoulder seasons is Alchemy. For my group, it was the perfect choice! Seated at a window table on the first-floor landing, we were privy to the action in both upstairs and downstairs dining rooms and yet were set just enough apart to feel cosseted. Alchemy’s particular magic welcomes guests with its elegant but easy ambience, solicitous staff and the dazzling food prepared under the direction of executive chef Brian Woods. Encouraged by our affable server, three of us couldn’t resist the nightly special, which I have since learned has graduated to the regular dinner menu. Clearly, there were many other fans of the truly sublime Sake Marinated Black Cod with baby bok choy, caramelized local ramps and yuzu soy emulsion.

Overnight the weather cleared, so we decided to take a later ferry back than planned, a reservation change that is very doable in the off season. Basking in the Harbor View’s sunlit Lighthouse Grill, we lingered over the buffet brunch, impressed by the embarrassment of edible riches and not shy about going back for seconds of waffles, tri-tip roast with horseradish sauce, salmon pâté, buttery pastries, made-to-order-omelets and much more. A perfect end to a perfect getaway.

Fall is the perfect time to explore Martha’s Vineyard. Visitors can walk the charming streets of Edgartown, explore the iconic Edgartown Lighthouse or dine at the Lighthouse Grill at the Harbor View Hotel, the domain of executive chef Richard Doucette. At right, the annual Martha’s Vineyard Food & Wine Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

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