Things to See & Do
There are activities for young and old: leisurely sightseeing and birding, strolling along one of many pristine beaches, or experiencing miles of bike and hiking trails, in kayaks or canoes. Martha’s Vineyard constantly thrills visitors with an ever-changing landscape. From the majestic red clay Aquinnah Cliffs, to breathtakingly beautiful beaches, freshwater ponds and meadows; every day brings brilliant colors and vistas to explore.
The Vineyard gained its reputation as a leading tourist destination primarily because of its very pleasant summer weather — during many summers the temperature never breaks 90°F — and many beautiful beaches. In general, the summer season runs from June to the end of August.
Each of the six towns, Vineyard Haven, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah, offer their own brand of hospitality. From simple to sophisticated, all are enchanting, and engaging. Activities include street fairs, fireworks, farmers markets, the Agri-culture Fair, golf tournaments, and festivals of art and music, and offer the promise of lifelong memories.
The five historic lighthouses are unique in personality and majesty. Edgartown, East Chop and Gay Head lighthouses are open to visitors. For mor information, vist the Martha's Vineyard Museum website or call 508-627-4441.
Be sure to treat yourself to a ride on the Flying Horses Carousel in the heart of Oak Bluffs. It is the nation's oldest operating platform carousel and a National Historic Landmark. This treasured carousel has been enjoyed by Vineyarders and visitors for more than a century.
Historically, it was home to one of the earliest known deaf communities, and consequently a special dialect of sign language, Martha's Vineyard Sign Language, developed on the island. It is home to the colorful and historical Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah).
The beauty of this magical place touches all who visit. Discover the magic that keeps visitors coming back time and again.
The Steamship Authority to Martha's Vineyard is a quick 45 min ride and is the only ferry that will transport cars to the Vineyard.
The Towns of Martha’s Vineyard
One of New England’s most elegant communities, Edgartown was the Island’s first colonial settlement and it has been the county seat since 1642. The stately white Greek Revival homes built by the whaling captains have been meticulously maintained. They make the town a museum-piece community, a seaport village preserved from the early 19th century.
Excellent shops, fine restaurants, and a beautiful harbor are only a few of the attractions that make Vineyard Haven so special to tourists and residents alike. The town that incorporates Vineyard Haven is called Tisbury, after a parish in England near the birthplace of the Island’s first governor, Thomas Mayhew. English settlement of the area dates from the mid-1600s, when Mayhew purchased the settlement rights from the Crown. Owen Park, off Main Street (just beyond the shopping district), honors one of Vineyard Haven’s whaling captains. The town beach here is a fine place to watch the harbor. Ferries shuttle in and out, providing the Island’s year-round connection to the mainland.
In 1835 this community served as the site for annual summer camp meetings when Methodist church groups found the groves and pastures of Martha’s Vineyard particularly well suited to all-day gospel sessions. Steam vessels from New York, Providence, Boston, and Portland continued to bring more enthusiastic devotees of the Oak Bluffs way of life. Horse cars were used to bring vacationers from the dock to the Tabernacle. The horse cars were later replaced by a steam railroad that ran all the way to Katama. One of the first passengers on the railroad was President Ulysses S. Grant. The railroad gave way to an electric trolley from Vineyard Haven to the Oak Bluffs wharves, and the trolley eventually gave way to the automobile. Oak Bluffs is also the home of the Flying Horses Carousel, the oldest continuously operating carousel in the country. Its horses were hand carved in New York City in 1876. This historic landmark is maintained by the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust. It is open daily during the summer, and on weekends in the spring and fall.
It was the mill site that originally attracted settlers, because there was no stream in Edgartown strong enough to dam for a water wheel. The grist mill gave way in 1847 to the manufacture of satinet, a heavy fabric for whalemen’s jackets made from Island wool. The Congregational Church on State Road is always open to visitors. Solid and settled as it now looks, even this structure did not escape the Islanders’ penchant for moving buildings around. The original churchyard, where the first settlers of the town are buried, is about a quarter of a mile down the road. Near the church is the West Tisbury Town Hall. Several old houses here started out as inns, back when a trip from the down-Island ports to Aquinnah or Chilmark was a long haul over sandy roads. Daniel Webster stayed at the house next to the store building. Across the little pond from the old inn is the site of a house built by Miles Standish’s son in 1668.
Chilmark is a town of rolling hills and unmatched coastline. Not so long ago uninhabited except for an occasional farm or fishing village, it now provides the setting for many a summer home. The stone fences of the sheep farms still ribbon the hills, while the old stone animal pound stands on the South Road, a reminder of the days when a gate left open resulted in a roaming flock and a fine for its owner. The center of Chilmark boasts a lovely church. The unique pointed steeple was added when the building was moved in 1915 from its original site on Middle Road.
Many year-round residents of Aquinnah are descendants of the Wampanoag Indians who showed the colonial settlers how to kill whales, plant corn, and find clay for the early brickyards. Much later, these Aquinnah Indians were in great demand as boatsteerers in the whaling fleets. It was the boatsteerer who cast the iron into the whale. The Aquinnah Indians were judged to be the most skillful and courageous boatsteerers of that era. The courage of the early residents of Aquinnah demonstrated itself in the many instances when they took to the seas in deadly weather to aid survivors of wrecks that took place off the Aquinnah Cliffs. As further testament to their valor, a plaque on the schoolhouse commemorates the fact that Aquinnah sent more men, in proportion to its size, to fight in World War I than did any other town in New England.