Martha’s Vineyard – Massachusetts, U.S.A.

New England Charm Afloat

Christened in 1602 by British explorer Bartholomew Gosnold for his daughter, 20-by-10-mile Martha’s Vineyard is no longer covered with wild grapes, but it still promises island enchantment, New England mystique, and a low-profile lifestyle. In terms of both landscape and towns, it’s more diversified than mostly flat Nantucket, its neighbor 28 miles away.

Its rolling sand dunes and cranberry bogs are more reminiscent of Cape Cod, though in general the island is less developed. Oak Bluffs is a time-warp fantasy, offbeat and fun for its hodgepodge of some 300 candy-colored Victorian cottages. West Tisbury offers a Saturday Farmers’ Market (the largest of its kind in New England) as well as the Norman Rockwell-style Alley’s General Store, “Dealers in Almost Everything,” the island’s oldest busi­ness, in operation since 1858.

Among all this Americana, the island boasts a high celebrity quotient, with VIPs taking advantage of the tra­ditional respect for privacy and safety (homes and cars are still left unlocked here). Pretty Edgartown’s gracious Charlotte Inn enjoys a sophisticated in-town setting – not the place for flip-flops and hammock lounging.

Old-fashioned, elegant, and service proud, it is a cluster of five 18th- and 19th-century houses decorated in an English country manner and linked by formal gardens. Much of the inn’s island-wide fame can be attributed to its stellar French restaurant, L’Etoile, where refined dining takes place in an elegant plant-filled conservatory lit romantically by candles, and indulgent complimentary continental breakfasts are awash in morning sunshine and the smell of fresh cranberry pancakes.

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