Best Things To Do in Martha's Vineyard
Stretching out on Moshup and Menemsha beaches are must-dos of course, but there's more to experience here besides working on your tan. The Aquinnah Cliffs and the satellite island of Chappaquiddick are full of hidden wonders for nature lovers. And the gingerbread cottages and old-fashioned carousel in Oak Bluffs are fun for families. Or just rent a bike and explore the smaller island's hamlets at your leisure; it's a classic way to catch the Vineyard at its best.
Updated June 18, 2019
- #1View all Photos#1 in Martha's VineyardBeaches, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
You'll have your pick of beaches on Martha's Vineyard. From the protected, shallow surf on the northern and eastern coasts of the island to the big waves crashing on the south side, the Vineyard's various shorelines offer a little something for everyone.
But of all the places to stake a spot in the sand, recent visitors said South Beach (also known as Katama Beach) is one of the best. Situated in Edgartown, South Beach stretches for 3 miles and offers a rumbling surf and rolling dunes. You'll find ample parking here, but most travelers were happy to bike from Edgartown on a path that leads straight to the sand.
- #2View all PhotosfreeAquinnah Cliffs#2 in Martha's VineyardNatural Wonders, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
The Aquinnah Cliffs — formerly known as Gay Head — is one of Martha's Vineyard's most-visited tourist spots, with bus and bike tours congesting the paved roads in the peak summer season. But the epic clay cliffs — carved by glaciers millions of years ago — are worth the trek. Visitors can explore the lower beach paths to see the cliffs up close and stretch along the sands at Moshup Beach. Or take the upper trails to the top of the cliffs to catch a glimpse of Gay Head Light and nearby Elizabeth Islands.
Watch your step, however; the Aquinnah Cliffs are part of the island's Wampanoag reservation and under special environmental protections to deter erosion. Keep your eyes peeled for signs detailing off-limit areas. And don't even think about grabbing a hunk of the red clay as a souvenir.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Martha's VineyardEntertainment and Nightlife, Historic Homes/Mansions, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDEntertainment and Nightlife, Historic Homes/Mansions, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
These extravagantly decorated summer cottages offer a quaint peek into the island's past. The grounds were originally occupied by 19th-century Methodists, who would retreat here in the summer to camp and worship. Visitors soon became residents, replacing their temporary canvas tents with Gothic-design cottages, painted in colorful hues.
Today, the more than 300 properties are privately owned by camping descendants and members of the Campmeeting Association (still active), so visitors can only observe from outdoors. But if you're itching to catch a glimpse inside, you can tour the Cottage Museum during the summer season. The tiny green cottage is furnished with period pieces and displays various photographs and other memorabilia from the campground's heyday.
- #4View all PhotosfreeChappaquiddick#4 in Martha's VineyardParks and Gardens, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Chappaquiddick became infamous for all the wrong reasons. In July 1969, Senator Ted Kennedy was driving a young woman named Mary Jo Kopechne home from a party in Chappaquiddick when the vehicle went off the side of the Dike Bridge. Kopechne was killed, but Kennedy survived.
But there's so much more to this island than a politically tinged tragedy. Chappaquiddick is full of rugged beaches with unruly surf, 14 miles of over-sand vehicle and walking trails, as well as a 14-acre Japanese garden, Mytoi. The petite island's main draw is the Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge, the nesting area for a variety of New England shorebirds. Here you can take a naturalist-led, over-sand jeep tour provided by the Trustees of the Reservation. The reservation also offers Cape Poge Lighthouse, kayak and seaside exploration tours on a daily basis from Memorial Day through Columbus Day (mid-October).
- #5View all Photos#5 in Martha's VineyardMuseums, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
For its relatively small size (100 square miles), Martha's Vineyard has its fair share of lighthouses. But of the five dotting the northern side of the island, visitors and travel experts continually recommend making a stop at the Edgartown Lighthouse.
Originally constructed for Crane Beach in Ipswich, Massachusetts, this 1800s-era lighthouse was relocated to the Vineyard in 1938. Aside from its history, the lighthouse draws in travelers thanks to the incredible views seen at the top of its spiral staircase: from this vantage point, you'll enjoy panoramic vistas of the harbor and neighboring Chappaquiddick Island.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Martha's VineyardZoos and AquariumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDZoos and AquariumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
One of the more unique attractions on Martha's Vineyard, Island Alpaca is a hit with recent visitors for its friendly animals and well-stocked gift shop. Spread across 19 acres, the farm features a herd of 72 Huacaya alpacas and one llama. When you're not petting or interacting with these gentle creatures, take a self-guided walking tour of the farm. The barn that's located on the premises is a centuries-old reclaimed hand-hewn oak, post and beam barn that was exported from Pennsylvania.
Recent visitors, especially those with children, said a stop here is a fun way to spend a few hours. Though there's no formal tour, travelers said there are plenty of knowledgeable caretakers on hand to answer any of your alpaca questions. You'll also want to make time for a swing though the gift shop; according to reviewers, the hand-knitted, alpaca fur-lined goods are well-made and cozy.
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Built in 1876, the Flying Horses Carousel is the oldest operating platform carousel in the country. The hand-painted horses, housed in a big red barn, have been carefully preserved; most of the original steeds still have horse-hair manes and tails. Kids — and the young at heart — love to ride this carousel. Riders can also play the brass ring game. Collect as many rings as you can as you ride by the metal ring dispenser — one dispenser is placed within reach of the outside row and another in reach of the inside row. The lucky rider who catches the brass ring scores a free ride.
Recent travelers, especially those with kids in tow, highly recommended a stop here (just be prepared for long lines, especially during the summer). Even if you won't be taking a spin on the carousel, you'll want to make a quick stop for the history alone, according to recent visitors.
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