At my advanced age, I love being surprised — to enter with low expectations and leave exceeding them. That was dramatically the case when my east coast-raised partner took my west coast-raised attitude on vacation to Martha’s Vineyard.

I grew up in San Francisco and live in the East Bay (the west coast one) and enjoy vacationing all over the area: Point Reyes, Tahoe, Mendocino, Monterey, the Sierras. Add them up and you can understand my devotion to the left coast.

On the other hand, as well as the other side of the country, I’ve never understood New Englanders fidelity for their coast. Ours is rugged, spectacular and, generally, crowded. I envisioned theirs as tame, flat and, generally, boring. Then again, I had never really seen it until this last stretch of May.

Undoubtedly I’ve pre-judged the economic landscape even more than the natural one. Martha’s Vineyard? Oh that’s where Presidents and old money types go. And how cool could a place be that was established before the Pilgrims landed?

But as we boarded the Woods Hole Ferry, the imagined New England scenery and aristocracy started to fade as we floated towards the unpromising land. Did I expect to see snooty New Englanders with five car garages filled with Lamborghinis? Not really, more some version of classic prep.

Instead, what I actually viewed from my partner’s college roommate’s six bedroom house, nestled in a Chilmark meadow, were rabbits, wild turkeys and a steady flow of birds, plus a peek of the ocean above the tree line.

And while traveling about the Island, there were no signs of obsequious workers serving us at some hotel restaurant chain. Instead, it’s salt-of-the-sea Larsens shucking oysters at their Menemsha fish market, or friendly local kids pumping gas in West Tisbury. We even discovered our Berkeley neighbor who gleefully heads east to help her brother out at The Galley for a couple months every year.

My head was turning! Strangers greeted us while hiking wooded trails. The waiter genuinely appreciated my tip. The folks at Cronig’s Up-Island Market stayed open late, just for us. A steamship operator chatted us up for 40 minutes as we waited for AAA to charge our dead hybrid car in the ferry lot.

This overflowing kindness made me realize Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had no idea that when he sent 50 Venezuelan migrants to the Vineyard — without even alerting local officials — that they would be well cared for.

And the food. At The Galley, we didn’t flinch at spending $7 for a soft-serve ice cream cone or $30 for a lobster roll on glorified Wonder Bread. They are that tasty. And we went back for seconds the next day, along with purchasing a fresh catch at Larsen’s for dinner. We dined with Berkeley friends at their house in West Tisbury, and they served freshly foraged barbecued clams and oysters. On the Island, bottoms up appears to be sliding a shellfish dipped in melted butter down the hatch.

But the secret sauce that likely molds the area into the utopian paradise I discovered is the C word: conservation. I learned and, more importantly saw, that there are hardly any national chains on the Island — other than maybe a single Dairy Queen and Lululemon. Hardly Monsanto or Marriott, much less McDonald’s or Motel 6. Plus, there are no billboards.

The Vineyard is surrounded by glorious trails filled with oaks and verdant foliage. Back home, we might get to a beautiful beach, but not before driving a long distance, jockeying for a parking spot, and hitting traffic and at least one mall on the way home.

We learned that the open space we were enjoying is not an open mystery — the land has been conserved through a two per cent surcharge on most real estate transfers.

Does it mean there are no cheesy tourist spots? Of course not. No American destination this glorious could escape that fate. But clearly it’s nature not merch(er) on this Island.

But I digress. To find the beach from the house where we stayed on the Vineyard, we meandered along a sacred stone wall, through a cemetery to die for, across a country road, and waded across a brackish pond.

Then, after meandering along a wide swath of sand, we dipped our toes in the water — and discovered it’s warmer than the Pacific.

Steven Cohen lives in Berkeley, Calif.