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Martha's Vineyard, MA

Where the rich go to play and we go to watch!

The islands off Cape Cod are enchanting destinations. Martha's Vineyard, in particular, paints a vivid portrait. The chic, the super rich, Walter Cronkite, the President and a Black Dog, a bridge on Chappaquiddick, film crews and jaws, all portray a very alluring destination. Just a short sail from the mainland, the Vineyard features pristine sandy beaches, natural beauty, golf courses, bike trails, nature preserves, lots of history, and more than a standard share of sun&fun-seeking celebrities.

So who is Martha? A 17th century celeb? In a way. The 17th century exporer Bartholomew Gosnold, who "discovered" the island replete with wild grapes, named it for his youngest daughter.

Brightly colored Gay Head Cliffs (Aquinnah) looking toward the Elizabeth Islands and Wood's Hole.

Getting there

The shortest approach to the Vineyard is via Wood's Hole. It's a straight shot over to Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown, all on the eastern seaboard of the Island. Menemsha, on the southwestern end, requires a bit of careful navigation over the shoals in Vineyard Sound from Wood's Hole or directly across via Quick's Hole from Buzzards Bay. Of course, passing around Cuttyhunk on a lovely day provides a great view of Gay Head from sea level.

Where to go

We've been to Martha's Vineyard several times and had very different experiences each time. One time, we spent the week traveling from point to point by bike, visiting places where "real people" live. Another time, we spent going from port to port seeing the other side. MV has four harbors, each with a totally different character:
Edgartown Harbor is most pictureque.

Edgartown - Home to the rich and beautiful, boutiques and chic hangouts abound, as does the sailing tradition

Vineyard Haven - The working harbor where the ferry delivers its precious cargo

Oak Bluffs- More powerboat oriented with a hugely supportive community marina, in a charming Victorian setting

Menemsha - The quintessential and charming New England fishing village

Click on any of the links above to learn more about each destination. Or read an article about the differences by clicking here.

Things to do

The western end of the Island consists of three small towns: West Tisbury, Chilmark and Aquinnah. This part of the Vineyard is called "Up-Island" an expression from seafaring days because as you travel west you move up the scale of longitude. Up-Island's beautiful vistas encompass the air, the sea, and the land reflecting the mood of the weather. Ancient paths and structures date back to times when the Wampanoag Indians hunted for deer and colonists farmed the land. South Road is in part the original Indian footpath. The King's Highway established in colonial days still runs unpaved in places, offering ideal trails for horseback riding. Stone fences, protected by law, are reminiscent of the sheep farming prevalent during the 17th century.

Hmmm, better than a Dunkin' Donuts stop. Only on the Vineyard!

One day we rented a car, though the agent didn't want to rent it to us because it was raining! Imagine that. Can't let the car get wet now, can we? MV can be a bit challenging as tourist places go; finding parking for your car in Edgartown is worse than finding a mooring for your boat. It can also be difficult finding restrooms. Lots of little delis and shops proclaim "No Public Restrooms" at times when the restaurants are closed. What is a person to do? We tried to have lunch in Edgartown but could not find parking so we passed Edgartown by that day and continued on. (We learned on another occasion, however, that there are public facilities at the Edgartown Visitor's Center on Church Street.)

Gay Head or Aquinnah, it's Native American name, is quite stunning, with its multicolored cliffs; again the parking is limited on beautiful sunny days. Gay Head overlooks Cuttyhunk and harbors sacred ancient Indian grounds. The indigenous Aquinnah Indians tell of how the giant god Moshup was irritated by sand in his moccasins and threw them into the sea; one formed the Vineyard.

The second day we rented mopeds instead and drove all around the perimeter of the island with the wind whipping around us. You can find parking for a moped much more easily than a car, so if it's not pouring, we'd recommend this option.

Beaches on Martha's Vineyard are popular destinations.

The third day, we rented bicycles. Now this was the ticket. The island has a bicycle path running the entire length down the middle, as well as a circle tour around the perimeter, and it's relatively level all the way - perfect for weekend warriors like us. About 30 miles later, having observed windmills, charming cottages, spectacular vistas and farms en route, we collapsed exhausted from the workout. You can also take a bicycle over to Chappaquiddick, visiting the mostly deserted Chappy beaches, the oriental landscapes at Mytoi Gardens, and the Poucha Pond reserve.

The Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Fair is an interesting way to pass some time if you happen upon it. They have shuttle buses from the major towns. You can ride a ferris wheel, admire goats and cows, and watch draught horses pull sledges of huge cement blocks weighing 8,000 pounds. Pretty impressive, actually. Then as night falls, there might even be a fiddling contest.

Of course, the beaches, the fishing, and the horsebackriding are all activities that can make an MV holiday exceptional, that is if you can break away from the people watching in Edgartown. As an alternative to lazing on the beaches, the Vineyard has miles and miles of walking trails open to the public to enjoy.

Moorings, Ramps & Slips



Aquinnah: Public boat launching ramp at West Basin into Menemsha Creek
Chilmark/Menemsha: Contact Harbormaster at Town Dock in Menemsha for slips and moorings at (508) 645-2846
Edgartown: Town finger piers for pleasure crafts. Ramps at Anthier's Landing into Sengekontacket Pond, and Katama Bay, Collins Beach.
(Contact Harbormaster for Mooring info)
Oak Bluffs: Town dock with slips for power boats. Contact Marina Manager for slip reservations: (508) 693-4355. Moorings are first come first serve. Ramps at East Chop Drive & Medeiros Cove.
Vineyard Haven: Dock at Owen Park. Ramps at Lake St. into Lake Tashmoo & Lagoon.
(Contact Harbormaster for Mooring info)
  Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, and Menemsha all have Harbormasters whose duties include dock maintenance, law enforcement, boating safety, assigning moorings, and assisting disabled vessels.

Edgartown:(508) 627-4746
(508) 627-6185
Monitors: ch. 9, 16 working ch. 74
Menemsha:(508) 645-2846
Monitors: ch. 9 working ch. 8
Oak Bluffs:(508) 693-9644
Monitors: ch. 9 working ch. 71
Vineyard Haven:(508) 696-4249
Monitors: ch. 9 working ch. 69

Related Links
Harbors & Marinas
Vineyard Gazette
The Martha's Vineyard Times
A drive and three walking tours
Best Read Guide Things to Do
MV Regional Transit Authority
MV Historical Society
Bike tours of MV
Biking Martha's Vineyard
Lodging on the Vineyard
MV Online
MV Radio
Tale of Four Harbors
MV Chamber of Commerce
Trustees of Reservations
Polly Hill Arboretum
Kayaking Adventures
Farm Neck Golf Club
18-hole (Semi-Private)
Farm Neck Way
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557
Phone: (50
Fax: (508)693-0822
Red Pony Stables 693-3788
Click here to read about Walter Cronkite and Martha's Vineyard.
Aerial photo of Cape Cod, with Martha's Vineyard in the lower left and Nantucket in the lower right.

Martha's Vineyard just across Vineyard Sound from the Elizabeth Islands and Woods Hole. Not for Navigation.

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