Bar harbor in Oak Bluffs

Since my move to Martha’s Vineyard in 1994, I’ve lived in five of the Island’s six unique towns. Although I have fondness for each of them, when I finally landed in Oak Bluffs I knew I was home. This town has the most dramatic change of seasons I’ve seen, from the spooky quietude of winter to the chaotic explosion of summer. Each spring we wait like eager children on Christmas morning. Then, one by one, the restaurants on the harbor open their doors and summer begins.

Coop de Ville tends to lead the pack. Owner Petey Berndt is a veteran after 24 years at this location. The large picnic table seating and perimeter bar rail is all outdoors covered by a large canopy. Locals, visitors, and celebrities have been known to share a table and enjoy a cold beer with the always reliable fare including raw bar, lobsters, and 10 varieties of wings, prepared and served with care by Petey’s devoted staff.

The newest addition to the harbor scene is housed in a two-story Victorian cottage. This site tends to reincarnate at an alarming rate, yet Lobsterville Bar and Grille seems poised to live a long and healthy life. With a new bar upstairs and seating on the wrap-around porch, the second floor has been transformed into an inviting and romantic place to watch the sun set while enjoying a vast array of seafood or their popular specialty, lobster stuffed chicken.

Nancy’s is to the harbor what Macy’s is to the shopping mall — a department for everyone. The Obamas chose items from the extensive menu at the Snack Bar last summer that serves burgers, steamers, chicken fingers, lobster rolls, salads, falafel, and more. Order at the counter. Then have the kids save a table on the patio and go visit Donovan’s bar for one of his sensational frozen drinks.

Walk up the stairs at the back of the building and you’re at a rooftop tiki bar. The vantage point from this location affords diners a view beyond the wall of yachts docked in the basin below. Relax at a table for lunch or dinner, or join the young energetic crowd swarming the bar at night.

Can’t take the heat? Walk though the sliding glass doors and feel the cool air wash over you. You’re in a different world — spacious and sophisticated with a plush bar and lounge area at the far end. The same menu is available inside and outside, offering sandwiches, seafood, steak, lobster, and numerous appetizers.

Wear your flip-flops to our very own beach away from the beach. Sand Bar and Grill is a veritable beach party every Sunday with live music outside, where the tables really are set right in the sand. The enormous menu offers many items until 12 midnight and fresh house-made sushi. If thunder starts to rumble or the wind is mussing your hair, just head inside to the cozy back bar and dining area.

Sarah and Dave Henry manage Fishbones Café at the far end of the harbor. The canopied outdoor bar is a local gathering place where the bartenders know everyone by name and keep the beer icy cold. Like a tightly corralled cocktail party, conversations flow between old friends and strangers. The open-air dining area is ample and away from the hubbub. Dave’s latest menu revision is the best yet, with favorites like shark bites, roasted vegetable risotto, pan-seared halibut, and lobster mac and cheese.

Whether you’re here for a day, a week or all year long, you’re always on vacation at the Oak Bluffs harbor.