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Free Things To Do in Martha's Vineyard
- #1View all Photos#1 in Martha's VineyardBeaches, Free, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Free, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
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, Free, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Free, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
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, which were 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, Free, Historic Homes/MansionsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDEntertainment and Nightlife, Free, Historic Homes/MansionsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
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 Camp Meeting 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 VineyardFree, Parks and Gardens, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Parks and Gardens, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
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).
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