If you want to spend a week, renting a house would be the most economical. There are many houses for rent, but the best rentals book early and August is the busiest month on the island. What dates were you considering? For the most accessibility, I'd suggest staying near the downtown areas of one of the 'down island' towns, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs or Vineyard Haven. Maybe look at the Top Question list to the right of the page 'What town to stay in' is a good start.
Be sure to read a bunch of posts that have already appeared on this board -- you will pick up lots of info to answer your question. Briefly speaking, you probably want to pick a place in one of the 3 main towns, because "up island" (the eastern, more rural part) is very rural and can be a little isolated for a first visit. Also you want to be on the bike paths, which go between the 3 main towns (and a little more than that, but just to describe it in a simple way). Edgartown (my personal favorite), Oak bluffs, Vineyard Haven. They all have pluses and minuses, but all of your activities can happen in and around each town. Plus, it's easy to get between the towns.
The bike paths are really wonderful. There are also public buses, plus taxicabs, that can take people nearly anywhere.
Let us know if you are thinking of a hotel / B & B situation, or renting a house.
Oh, and if you want to take your car over to the island you will need a reservation to bring it, even if it's a rental car. It's very competitive to get car reservations in the summer. But you could also rent a car over on the island just for a few days, or skip it. It probably is not necessary to have one.
thankyou both so much-thats a really helpful start. We want to self cater if possible and will start lookign around Edgar town I think. Sounds as if might leave the car behind too.
I think that if it were me and this was my first time going to the Cape and Islands that I would choose to stay on the Cape and maybe do a day trip to M.V. For rentals you could start by looking at www.weneedavacation.com
By the way, if you wish to drive to the ferry but not take a car over, then you do not need any reservations. Pedestrians and bicycles can go over at any time. The main (large) ferry leaves from Wood's Hole on Cape Cod. There are other ferry companies, but why don't we leave that aside.
If you still want M.V. (and not Cape Cod), and are focused on Edgartown, here is what I suggest: use a real estate broker. The websites will give you lots of choices (you can even select for certain qualities, and certain locations). We just picked a place in Edgartown but needed air conditioning. It limits the search, but then we know everything on the list has AC.
Edgartown is actually a big area in terms of square miles. One thing you should consider is whether you feel it better to be in the "downtown" or whether one of the outskirt areas would be OK. With all those kids, actually you may feel a car would really help you. Still you can rent a car for a few days and get around by bike, bus and cab or walking on the other days. (the car rentals are very expensive over there -- on the other hand, it's expensive to bring over your car. Just do what seems most convenient.)
Edgartown outskirts. I would suggest that downtown is unlikely to work for you because the houses for rent there are usually quite snug and small. However, this is just my observation. for our budget, we get a lot more room by going outside the downtown area. There are large houses that are right in the main town (our realtor called that area downtown), but they seemed to rent for astronomical sums so eventually we skipped looking in the downtown.
Our house will be in Katama, which is the area south of downtown that stretches all the way down to South Beach. Actually this could be the perfect area for you. If your kids are excited about beach time, South Beach is amazing, and perhaps they could walk or bicycle there. The bike path does go that way. Some of Katama, the southern part, is quite far from downtown however. So, if you begin to search Katama, you still want to look at a map and see if you are 1/2 mile from downtown, or more like 2 miles. This could affect your activities, especially for the younger kids.
I hope this helped, and did not confuse you.
We just picked our house, so I think there is still a pretty good selection, but I would definitely press ahead right away on your search.
I like using a real estate office for a few reasons, but others advocate renting from the owner directly. That makes me nervous, and I feel nothing would be worth showing up for my vacation and being told that I was scammed and that we had not been in touch with the real owners and had thrown our money away. Also it makes it easier (IMHO) to do your initial searching. We used Sandpiper, but in the past have also used Sandcastle or something (not sure if I remember the other name). Feel free to message me.
Of course you need to use due diligence if you rent from an owner. If you decide to stay on the Cape there are real estate offices in every town if you prefer to use them. We use www.wilkinsonre.com in Orleans but we have also rented privately and through www.weneedavacation.com without any problems over the last 40 years or so. Martha Murray Real Estate in Dennisport also gets good recommendations from regular contributors to the Cape Cod forum.
I agree with Senior. If this is your first trip then stay on Cape Cod and do a day trip out to MV. Thats exactly what we did on our first trip in 2009. We pre-booked our ferry trip as we took our truck, I think the cost was about $200 though I could be erring on the high side. Went over early in the morning and came back after about 10 hours. Managed to see most of the island albeit from just driving around though we packed a picnic and chairs and found a quiet beach to relax on for a few hours.
Doing it this way will at least give you a taste of MV without being confined to the island for a week. With children that age you will probably find a lot more to keep them happy staying on Cape Cod than being restricted to MV.
I will also be honest and say that we did not like MV at all. My one over whelming memory was how filthy the public toilets were wherever we went. There seemed to be no pride taken in keeping anything clean or garbage free, now we did go late in the season [September] but that shouldnt be an excuse.Edited: 9:08 am, January 09, 2014
Boy, should you stay on MV or on CC? I think you should go to Long Island. Just kidding. The point is that you can do whatever you want and you know your family better than we do (I hope). A week on MV would be heaven to my kids as would a week on the cape. In other words, it doesn't matter. I would suggest that you bring a car to MV if you are going for a week unless you stay right in one of the towns with an easy walk/bus ride/bike ride to the beach.
You certainly do need a car on the Cape. The biggest problem you will have is that you will get 5 voices here and there are hundreds of thousands of people who visit in the summer. There is absolutely no reason to think our voices reflect what you want out of a vacation.
We spend time every summer on the Cape - usually in the town of Brewster and on Martha's Vineyard in Edgartown. Both are lovely, with plenty to do. I would say if you want to go to the Vineyard, then go for it! The beaches are fantastic, the bike paths easily accessed, good restaurants & nice shops. ( By the way, I have never seen garbage or trash on the Vineyard in any place other than receptacles where it belongs).