Just a short ferry ride from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Martha's Vineyard is an island paradise. Visitors can enjoy the lovely sandy beaches, wedding venues, romantic sailboats, great hotels, colorful gingerbread cottages, old lighthouses and farmers markets. Less crowded than Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, MA is the place where you will share the beaches with the rich and famous, have a great meal at the Terrace at The Charlotte Inn and explore the magical Menemsha Hills for an incredible variety of plant life. Here are the best things to do on Martha's Vineyard on your weekend getaway or day trip.
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One of five lighthouses on Martha's Vineyard, Edgartown Harbor Light is located in Edgartown at the entrance to Katama Bay and Edgartown Harbor. The first two-story wooden lighthouse was built in 1828 and served as the keeper's home. It was replaced in 1939 by the existing cast-iron tower.
Originally located about a quarter of a mile from the coast on a small artificial island, the stone causeway caused the sand to accumulate creating a beach that today connects the lighthouse to the land. There is limited public access to the light room because of the almost vertical ladder people have to climb to reach it. The lighthouse is an important part of various community events like July 4th fireworks.
121 North Water Street, Edgartown, Massachusetts 02539, Phone: 508-627-4441
2.Katama Beach, Martha's Vineyard
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About four miles south of Edgartown, Katama Beach (South Beach) is a three mile long magnificent public beach. Surfers who love the rough surf are attracted to the barrier slip of sand, and swimmers flock to its protected salt-pond side. Located on the south side of the island, the beach is also called South Beach. Its fine white sand contrasts nicely with the crystal clear turquoise water.
The beach is well-groomed and monitored by lifeguards, but the beach is long and they cannot be everywhere, so keep this in mind if you go swimming, the surf can get rough. It is often possible to find a secluded spot away from the crowds and enjoy the serenity of the sea and surf. The beach is lined by large, sweeping dunes covered with sparse grasses.
KatamaRoad, Edgartown, Massachusetts 02539
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As you climb the 308 foot high Prospect Hill on top of Menemsha Hills, the view that will explode in front of you will take your breath away. The vista stretches from the rugged shoreline with the cliffs of Aquinnah, across Vineyard Sound to the Elizabeth and Normal Islands, timeless and ancient, shaped by thousands of years of nature's relentless work. Along the path to the top, you will pass holly and blueberry, which love the moist, sandy soils.
Menemsha Hills is a 211-acre nature reserve just outside of the small town of Chilmark on Martha's Vineyard, protected for its diverse plant habitats that include wetlands, woodland groves and low, marshy areas where you can see red maples, beech, red, white, and black oaks, dune grass, pitch pine, goldenrod and beach plum. It is a wonderful spot for a leisurely hike, a picnic, fishing or taking in the beauty in silence.
N Rd, Chilmark, Massachusetts 02535, Phone: 508-693-3678
4.Aquinnah Cliffs, Martha's Vineyard
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Aquinnah Cliffs is a mile long expanse of brightly colored cliffs on the edge of the small town of Aquinnah, at the western tip of Martha's Vineyard Island. The cliffs are composed of complex layers of gravel, sands and clays of all colors and hues that are the result of a hundred-million year-old work of nature. The glaciers, sea and land have twisted layers of soil into colorful, waving bands that are perched above the sea.
Erosion keeps exposing layers underneath, coloring the sea red, and often revealing secrets of the past such as -fossils of great sharks, clams and crabs of the ancient sea, camels, wild horses and whales. The Cliffs are protected today and, because of severe erosion, climbing and removing of clay is forbidden. The cliffs have a bad reputation of posing great peril to seafarers and have been witness to many a shipwreck. One of the first American revolving lighthouses was built in 1799 atop the Cliffs.
State Rd, Aquinnah, Massachusetts 02535
5.Martha's Vineyard Museum
© Martha's Vineyard Museum
The Martha's Vineyard Museum started its life as the Dukes County Historical Society in 1922 with a small collection of revolutionary era documents. After several changes in direction and name, in 2006, Martha's Vineyard Historical Society decided to change the name to the Martha's Vineyard Museum. The new name more accurately reflects the mission and accumulated holdings such as objects, documents, photographs, historic books, and paintings.
The goal of the museum is to inspire people to understand, explore and discover their island heritage. The museum has a number of permanent exhibits that range from the Thomas Cooke House and Historic Herb Garden to Hands on History Lab, and Enchanted Isle: The Story of Martha's Vineyard. The museum is the steward of three island lighthouses: The East Chop, Gay Head and Edgartown.
59 School St, Edgartown, Massachusetts 02539, Phone: 508-627-4441
6.Lucy Vincent Beach
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Lucy Vincent Beach is not on many tourists radar, but is one of the most beautiful and picturesque beaches on the Martha's Vineyard island. To access it, you have to purchase a pass from City Hall and then head to the village of Chilmark. Fine sand is dotted with a number of large rocks that are scattered about.
The surf crashes against the rocks and the beach is shadowed by a backdrop of small cliffs. Since it is so secluded and less known, this lovely beach is often uncrowded. It is also one of the rare places where people are allowed to bathe or sunbathe in the nude.
Chilmark, Massachusetts 02535
7.Gay Head Lighthouse
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Gay Head Lighthouse is a historic landmark located on the northwestern coast of Martha's Vineyard. The lighthouse was commissioned in 1796, making it the first lighthouse constructed on the island. In its 200-plus year history, the lighthouse has been upgraded, rebuilt, and moved back from the changing coastline multiple times.
In the 1980's, it was saved from destruction by Congress at the request of the people of Martha's Vineyard. The lighthouse is now open for daily tours from July to October. Local residents and tourists can also gather for sunset viewings on the lighthouse grounds in the summertime.
65 State Road, Aquinnah, Massachusetts 02535, Phone: 508-645-2300
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Sometimes an island, sometimes a peninsula, Chappaquiddick Island is the vacation destination with the changing coastline. "Chappy," as it is called by the 179 locals who live there year-round, contains 18 square miles of beautiful beaches, salt marshes, and coastal inlets.
This tiny, secluded part of Edgartown is the perfect place for a relaxing, low-key beach vacation. Even travelers who want a more active vacation will find plenty to do here, including walking trails, fishing, bird watching, and kayak tours. Ferry service from the mainland is available year-round, weather permitting.
9.Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary
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Felix Neck Sanctuary is a nature lover's paradise. It contains 194 acres of protected beaches, salt marshes, meadowlands, and woodlands, as well as 4 miles of walking trails. Here, guests can learn about the native birds, plants, and animals of coastal Massachusetts.
The Sanctuary provides classes and activities for all ages, including the Fern and Feather Summer Day camp for children. Guests can take a kayak tour of Sengekontacket Pond, explore the island's walking trails, go birdwatching, or enjoy a picnic lunch in one of the island's dedicated eating areas. Admission is only $4 for adults and $3 for seniors or children 12 and under.
100 Felix Neck Drive, Edgartown, Massachusetts 02539, Phone: 508-627-4850
10.Polly Hill Arboretum, Martha's Vineyard
© Polly Hill Arboretum
Developed in 1958 by horticulturist resident Polly Hill, the Polly Hill Arboretum is an island landmark. The property consists of 20 acres of land cultivated with shrubs, trees, and flowers from around the world. Another 40 acres are set aside as a natural preserve. The arboretum showcases plants such as rhododendrons, hollies, crabapples, and magnolias that are set in beautifully landscaped meadows and fields.
Self-guided tours are available year-round, and guided tours of the grounds are given each morning in July and August. The arboretum also offers educational classes for children and adults, and a searchable plant database to help gardeners find the best plants for their land.
809 State Road, West Tisbury, MA 02575, Phone: 508-693-9426
11.Long Point Wildlife Refuge
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Beaches, marshes, woodlands, and freshwater ponds all converge to form the 632-acre Long Point Wildlife Refuge. This broad sand plain and woodland area was formed after the last Ice Age, and is truly a unique landscape. Long Point is home to many rare plants and wildlife that are suited to its dry landscape and brackish waters.
Visitors can explore the refuge along a 2-mile hiking trail which will take them through the woodlands, plains, and along the beachfront. Guests can swim in both salt and fresh waters, and kayaks and paddleboards are also available for rental. The refuge is open daily year-round.
Hughes Thumb Road, West Tisbury, Massachusetts 02568, Phone: 978-921-1944
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12.The Terrace at the Charlotte Inn
© The Terrace at the Charlotte Inn
The Terrace at The Charlotte Inn is an elegant bistro-style restaurant located at the Charlotte Inn in the center of Edgartown village. This beautiful Edwardian house offers old-world atmosphere and dining is a very special event whether you are eating in the light-filled conservatory indoors or on the spacious stone patio.
Chef and owner Justin Melnick uses island-grown, farmed and caught ingredients when available, to create a contemporary, imaginative menu that celebrates American cuisine with fine Italian and French influence. Try his pan-seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras on grilled brioche with berry compote and a wine syrup.
27 S Summer St, Edgartown, Massachusetts 02539, Phone: 508-627-6227
13.Old Whaling Church
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Old Whaling Church in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard Island is one of the best examples of Greek Revival architecture in New England. Built in 1843 by a number of the towns wealthy Methodist whaling captains and designed by Fredrick Baylies, Jr., the church's façade is dominated by beautiful imposing Doric columns that support a classic pediment, as well as by a Gothic bell tower with the Town Clock.
In the main hall there are still original whale oil lamps and a dramatic mural by Carl Wendte. In 1980 the church was bought by Martha's Vineyard Preservation Trust and is now serving the entire community by hosting Town meetings, lectures, concerts and weddings.
89 Main St, Edgartown, Massachusetts 02539, Phone: 508-627-4442
14.Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association
© Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association
The Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association (MVCMA) is a non-profit, historical organization dedicated to showcasing the history of the American “campground" religious movement from the early 19th century. The Martha's Vineyard campground was made up of small cottages for families to live in and a large tabernacle where religious services were held.
Services and Bible studies are still held weekly at the MVCMA. Guests can tour the cottage museum, which shows what life was like for those who lived on the grounds in the early 1800's. The museum also has a gift shop with souvenirs and memorabilia available for purchase.
80 Trinity Park, Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts 02557, Phone: 508-693-0525
15.Morning Glory Farm, Martha's Vineyard
© Morning Glory Farm
Morning Glory Farm is a 60 acre farm in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard that has been growing fruits and vegetables since 1975. They grow lettuce, sweet corn, beets, carrots, tomatoes, melons and much more. Additionally, there is a beautiful, diverse herb garden, and the farm grows cut flowers, plums, strawberries, blueberries and peaches.
About 8.5 acres of the land grow fruits and vegetables which are labeled "morganic," (Morning Glory Organic) which are produced using an organic method but not certified. The farm also raises cows, pigs and pasture-raised chicken. Check the calendar to see what is being harvested on Morning Glory Farm at the moment and go get some fresh produce and let the kids roam around the real, working farm.
120 Meshacket Rd, Edgartown, Massachusetts 02539, Phone: 508-627-9674
16.Mytoi Japanese Garden
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Surrounded by sheltering pine trees, Mytoi Japanese Garden is a peaceful, secluded paradise located on Chappaquiddick Island. The garden's creator, Hugh Jones, spent hours building and landscaping the garden and surrounding grounds.
Both native and non-native plants are on display here, as well as local wildlife. Guests can wander the grounds by way of the footpaths that wind through it. One path leads across a bridge to a small island in the middle of a pond, offering guests a secluded spot for meditation and reflection. The garden is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
Dike Road, Chappaquiddick Island, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts 02539, Phone: 508-627-7689
Farm.Field.Sea specializes in edible adventures. The FFS team takes small groups of guests on excursions to the farms, fields, fishing, and cheese producers of Martha's Vineyard. Guests will learn about growing or harvesting food from sustainable sources.
Then they will enjoy a meal with the finest, freshest local delicacies, prepared by talented chefs and paired with the perfect local wine. FFS also offers retreats and classes for those who want to learn to cook a meal, make their own cheese or bread, or shuck an oyster.
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts 02568, Phone: 508-687-9012
18.The Black Dog
© The Black Dog
After exploring Martha's Vineyard to your heart's content, before boarding the ferry, you should stop by the Black Dog's Water Street Bakery to grab one of their delicious baked goodies to hold you over. The famous Vineyard Haven's Black Dog Tavern has always served freshly baked breads, pastries and cakes with their meals, but the demand surpassed the tavern's ability to bake them fast enough, so the bakery moved to the old Firehouse in 1973.
With desserts, breads and muffins, they started selling The Black Dog t-shirts as well. Water Street Bakery offers fresh cookies, pumpkin-cream cheese muffins, ginger snaps, small cakes and scones. They also sell Black Dog's famous chowder, sandwiches and another famous treat - the Breakfast Woofer Sandwich.
11 Water Street, Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts 02568, Phone: 508-693-4786
19.East Chop Lighthouse, Martha's Vineyard
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Built in 1878, East Chop Lighthouse stands high on a cliff overlooking the town of Oak Bluffs. It was maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard until the early 1980's, when it was slated for destruction. Local citizens and celebrities of Martha's Vineyard made an appeal to Congress, and the lighthouse was saved.
It has since been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. After extensive renovations, it was opened to the public on a very limited basis: Sunday evenings from June to September for a $5.00 admission fee.
229 E Chop Dr, Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts 02568, Phone: 508-627-4441
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Inkwell Beach is one of the most popular public beaches in Martha's Vineyard. Every summer, large crowds flock to the shore to enjoy swimming in the salt water or relaxing and sunbathing on the sand. Guests are advised to arrive early in the morning to reserve their spot.
In addition to swimming, water activities such as jet skiing, boating, kayaking, and wind surfing are all available. There are even yoga classes held on the sands. Guests who want to stay near the beach will find a variety of rental homes and hotels right next to the beach.
21.Norton Point Beach
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Norton Point Beach served as a connecting strip of land between Martha's Vineyard and Chappaquiddick until 2007, when a strong storm breached the barrier. Today, Norton Point can be reached from the Vineyard and still functions as a gathering spot for summer swimming, sunbathing, clamming, fishing, and picnicking.
There are 4.5 miles of beautiful trails providing the opportunity for hiking. In the fall, migrating birds flock to the island to rest and eat on their way south, making it a perfect place for birdwatching. The beach is open 24 hours a day, all year, with occasional closures for storm damage.
Edgartown, MA 02539, Phone: 508-627-8390
22.The Farm Institute
© The Farm Institute
The Farm Institute is located at Katama Farm on Martha's Vineyard. The farm uses organic methods to grow various fruits and vegetables year-round, both in gardens and in greenhouses. They also raise a variety of livestock, including cows, sheep, and chickens.
The Farm Institute offers both guided and self-guided tours of their grounds year-round for a suggested donation of $10. There are also summer camps and special programs available for children and adults such as cooking classes, hayrides through the meadow, movie nights, and opportunities to participate in farm chores. Martha's Vineyard hotels
14 Aero Ave, Edgartown, Massachusetts 02539, Phone: 508-627-7007
23.Manuel F. Correllus State Forest
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A rare combination of sand plain communities converge at the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest. Located in the middle of Martha's Vineyard, this 5,300-acre preserve contains grasslands, barrens, and woodlands. It is home to a variety of plants and wildlife, and was originally used as a preserve for the endangered Heath Hen until the species died out in 1932.
Today, Correllus State Forest is still dedicated to the conservation and restoration of the area's native ecosystem. Hiking, cycling, and horseback riding are available on the forest's 14 miles of trails, and cross-country skiing is available in the winter.
Edgartown, Massachusetts 02539, Phone: 508-693-2540
24.Vincent House Museum
At the Vincent House Museum, guests can get a glimpse of what life was like for the earliest settlers of Massachusetts. The Vincent House was originally constructed in 1672 and was moved to its current location and dedicated as a museum in 1977.
Both the interior and exterior of the home have been carefully preserved and showcase period details including bay-board flooring, daub insulation, a large brick fireplace, and hand-forged iron hardware. Antique furnishings can also be found throughout the home. The grounds also feature an orchard and an Elizabethan herb garden.
66 Main St, Edgartown, Massachusetts 02539, Phone: 508-627-4440
25.Farm Neck Golf Club
© Farm Neck Golf Club
Test your skill on the links at one of the most beautiful golf courses in the country. Farm Neck Golf Club is located on a peninsula on the eastern edge of Martha's Vineyard. Golfers can play through a variety of landscapes, including woodlands, salt marshes, and ocean edges.
The course is open from April to December. Farm Neck offers private lessons and clinics for those who want to improve their game, as well as six tennis courts which are open to the public. After golfing, guests can grab a bite to eat at the Farm Neck Café, which is open for lunch and dinner.
1 Farm Neck Way, Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts 02557, Phone: 506-693-3057
25 Best Things to Do on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
- Edgartown Lighthouse, Photo: Courtesy of jiawangkun - Fotolia.com
- Katama Beach, Martha's Vineyard, Photo: Courtesy of CHERYL - Fotolia.com
- Menemsha Hills, Photo: Courtesy of swambolt - Fotolia.com
- Aquinnah Cliffs, Martha's Vineyard, Photo: Courtesy of jovannig - Fotolia.com
- Martha's Vineyard Museum, Photo: Martha's Vineyard Museum
- Lucy Vincent Beach, Photo: Courtesy of rutheye - Fotolia.com
- Gay Head Lighthouse, Photo: Courtesy of cornfield - Fotolia.com
- Chappaquiddick Island, Photo: Courtesy of crin - Fotolia.com
- Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Photo: Courtesy of Vinoverde - Fotolia.com
- Polly Hill Arboretum, Martha's Vineyard, Photo: Polly Hill Arboretum
- Long Point Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Courtesy of johnsroad7 - Fotolia.com
- The Terrace at the Charlotte Inn, Photo: The Terrace at the Charlotte Inn
- Old Whaling Church, Photo: Courtesy of Brian Scantlebury- Fotolia.com
- Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association, Photo: Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association
- Morning Glory Farm, Martha's Vineyard, Photo: Morning Glory Farm
- Mytoi Japanese Garden, Photo: Courtesy of aiisha - Fotolia.com
- Farm.Field.Sea., Photo: Farm.Field.Sea.
- The Black Dog, Photo: The Black Dog
- East Chop Lighthouse, Martha's Vineyard, Photo: Courtesy of lightningboldt - Fotolia.com
- Inkwell Beach, Photo: Courtesy of cindygoff - Fotolia.com
- Norton Point Beach, Photo: Courtesy of Visions-AD - Fotolia.com
- The Farm Institute, Photo: The Farm Institute
- Manuel F. Correllus State Forest, Photo: Courtesy of ZaZa studio - Fotolia.com
- Vincent House Museum, Photo: mvpreservation.org
- Farm Neck Golf Club, Photo: Farm Neck Golf Club
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Timothy Edgerton - Fotolia.com