This New England Island Is the Epitome of Quaint (and Just an Hour From NYC)

We've barely reached cruising altitude when a flight attendant announces we've begun our descent into Martha's Vineyard, a small island off the coast of Massachusetts. In one hour—roughly the same time it takes to leave Manhattan in peak rush-hour traffic—we've touched down on the tarmac and walked through the quaint pitched-roof, flag-clad airport, a far cry from the bustle of New York City.

"Whenever I arrive here, I feel like I can breathe again," says Julia Wetherell-LeClair, co-founder of luxury fashion destination Orchard Mile, who has been coming to Martha's Vineyard for over 30 years. "There is a sense of relaxation that I don't experience anywhere else." There's truth to that sentiment—from the moment we arrive in Edgartown, the island's first colonial settlement, the pace slows. Row upon row of shingled houses stand tall, hydrangea petals blanket the streets like confetti, and the sea breeze carries the scent of salt from the Atlantic.

"I always feel like I need to go on vacation after going to the Hamptons, [but] the Vineyard is a lot more laid-back. I feel like I can actually check out," she explains. "Also, there are no chains, traffic lights, or parking meters on the island, which I think is very cool." The no-chain-store rule has kept major retailers away from Martha's Vineyard, but it's also meant that residents and vacationers have limited access to high-fashion brands.

Though Orchard Mile is a digital destination, it seemed fitting that Wetherell-LeClair would bring a retail pop-up to the place she feels most at home. "The Orchard Mile pop-up is essentially my 'mile.' It’s a mix of my favorite brands and [is] definitely a reflection of my personal style. I selected items based on all the things I do here during the summer," she says.

If you haven't made it to Martha's Vineyard this summer, there's still time. Ahead of Labor Day, Wetherell-LeClair shares the insider spots to eat, drink, and swim to explore this East Coast gem like a true local.