There’s lots of wonderful things to eat, And wonderful games to play ... Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic.
And for us humans? When the gods provide the weather — and they’ve been holding back so far this summer, so let’s hope they’ll be generous from here on — the Vineyard provides many an idyllic spot for a picnic and no shortage of sources to fill the basket with delectables. Pretty much any taste and budget can be satisfied. Seriously, where to begin?
Let’s start with being on foot. If you are in Vineyard Haven, head to Owen Park, where you can spread out a blanket on the grassy lawn, under the shade of the gazebo, or on the beach alongside the dock to watch the ferries come and go. (It’s a great spot, complete with swing set, if you have small children as there’s much to hold their interest.) If you haven’t prepared a picnic at home, on the way to the park stop in at Krista Marinelli’s Gourmet Shop on Main Street for everything from artisanal cheeses and malt balls to the fresh veggies at the salad bar.
In Oak Bluffs, there’s the picturesque Camp Ground (no food in the Tabernacle, please) where the brightly painted Victorian cottages lend a nostalgic air that might go well with classic fare such as cucumber sandwiches and lemonade or a thermos of iced tea, and calls for an elegant setting: real linens and flatware, perhaps wrapped in lace doilies.
Or go waterside and stake a temporary claim at Ocean Park or State Beach, two easily reached public places where you can prop up an umbrella and stretch out with your summer read. If you are an early riser, both spots are glorious just after sunrise, when you might find a veil of mist still clinging to a glassy sea and pastel streaks of color on the horizon. Consider a breakfast picnic, and in that case, Slice of Life on Circuit avenue is where you want to load up the basket with fresh fruit salad, flaky croissants and house-made pastries.
Edgartown has Memorial Wharf on the harbor, with a two-story open-air structure with picnic tables on ground level and seating on the upper platform that affords a lovely view with the added quaintness of watching the On Time ferry chug back and forth between the main Island and Chappaquiddick. Go gourmet with goods from Soigné, or any number of take-out eateries — Humphrey’s, Espresso Love, and the new Mac Phail’s Corner Café on Dock street (if you love lobster rolls say no more), to name but a few.
Now, if you can kick off your walking shoes and motor out of town there are farm markets on every route to satisfy the most discerning and adventuresome picnickers. Don’t worry, if you are without a car, or just don’t want to drive, the Vineyard Transit Authority has all-Island bus service.
On the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road there is Morning Glory Farm, where the Athearn family and hardworking staff have been tilling the land and harvesting a bounty of fresh foods for Islanders for 30 years. The overflowing indoor market also offers imports from elsewhere on the Island, such as Pam’s pesto, Fella’s salsa, and By-the-Sea salt. Purchase a copy of their first (more than a) cookbook, Morning Glory Farm Book. It’s chock full of great family recipes and more than a farmer’s dozen from some favored Island chefs that you can use to create a gourmet spread for your outing.
You’ll find not a farm market per se, but a cookery, on the other side of the Island, just about parallel to Morning Glory. It’s the Scottish Bakehouse on State Road, on the way out of Vineyard Haven. Great for vegetarians (as there are numerous choices on the menu) and anyone whose palate appreciates the crème de lacrème of organic, locally grown, lovingly produced (on premise) breads, salads, sandwiches and hot plates. If pressed for time, you don’t have to go any further, as the green-grassed front yard hosts several picnic tables. Otherwise, keep going up State Road and head to the pretty little beach at Seth’s Pond off Lambert’s Cove for your picnic.
And there are easily a dozen conservation spots and beaches that are quintessential, picture-perfect picnic sites. On Chappy this includes Mytoi garden, Wasque and Cape Pogue.
And in every town on the Island: from Katama in Edgartown to the Polly Hill Arboretum in West Tisbury; from State Beach in Oak Bluffs to Lake Tashmoo in Vineyard Haven; from Great Rock Bight in Chilmark to Moshup Beach in Aquinnah. Though in the latter case, it’s a long walk from the parking area in Aquinnah, so let the strong one in the group carry the gear; or opt for one of those picnic backpacks that come with linens, cutlery, flatware, and even tiny salt and pepper shakers, with plenty of packing room for the sundries. Stop on the way to the beach to pack the cooler — at Alley’s General Store or the Fiddlehead Farm store, both in West Tisbury, or the Chilmark Store after you round the bend at Beetlebung Corner for the final leg up to Aquinnah.
All of these locales call for making the picnic a full day — or evening. To wit, Menemsha beach at sunset, where the apropos fare is seafood. (Can you say lobster rolls again?) Get them from one of two fish markets on the dock, or stop in at the new Menemsha Café for everything from Jonah crab cakes to the arugula and beet salad.
Whatever your fancy, there is many a picnic waiting to happen on the Island: All they need is you and your pic-a-nic basket. And don’t worry this isn’t Jellystone Park — there are no bears, cartoon or otherwise, who might try to snatch it away. Though you might want to keep a close eye on the gulls.