At special hotels there’s a fine art to the arrival. At the Charlotte Inn each part of the journey becomes more and more intimate.
First you take a ferry from Falmouth across the sound to Martha’s Vineyard. Then you drive across the island past fields and shingled homes to the welcoming village of Edgartown. Then you turn down Summer Street and come to a charming series of white wooden buildings set around elegant gardens. You enter past a parlor and a winding staircase and walk up to a small wooden counter where you check in.
You may have already pet one of the friendly golden retrievers lounging in the entrance. Right away you feel very much at ease and very happy to be here. You might be on such comfortable terms and very quickly you will want to retire by one of the many fireplaces and enjoy a glass of sherry.The Charlotte Inn has the welcome antique-filled domestic interior of favorite London townhouse. But this place is definitely connected to the island you are on, and you can feel the gentle air that comes from being so near the sea.
Hotels profess to make you feel right at home but that’s easier if you’re staying in what was once a home, with proportions that are less grandiose, but no less elegant. This was a home built in 1866 that became a hotel in the 1930s, though it’s been renovated with a keen sense of history since then. This is a place where you appreciate the civilities of afternoon tea on the porch. Everything is made better because the staff are especially polite, helpful and relaxed. The Charlotte Inn makes it easy to want to linger with a novel in the courtyard, take coffee in the sitting room (or maybe something stronger!). It’s a place you want to take your time.
But you’re on Martha’s Vineyard so you’re going to swim in the sea to the fish market on Menemsha Beach for what may be the best oyster I’ve ever eaten. There’s the beautiful lighthouse on the Aquinnah Cliffs, and farm-stands, bookstores and eccentric fishing outfitters. Yes, if you care about fly-fishing for striped bass then you’ll want to strategize about when and how to do that and charter a boat at the excellent Coop’s Bait and Tackle.
Many of the rooms have fireplaces too so you really have to decide where you want to spend your time—it’s an embarrassment of riches. And if you have a suite which takes up the entire second floor of the carriage house then you may never want to leave at all. Gery and Paula are the owners and they are present and attentive to details the way a couple who has owned a hotel for decades. They can recommend a bottle of wine, where to have lunch, a scenic walk. It’s the sort of local expertise you’re always looking for when you travel.
A good hotel on an island is always going to have a special quality—it’s set apart and becomes its own little world. You feel a more direct connection to it, because it’s so singular. So when you find one that you like you know you’ll come back to it. And it’s no surprise that The Charlotte Inn has many repeat guests, who come across on the ferry year after year. Summer is the high season, of course, but I visited in late September and it was just perfect. Very quickly I knew I had stepped into a welcome new tradition.