Updated: Jun 11, 2021
Ten things you must do to experience the magnificent Martha’s Vineyard…
“I could never in a hundred summers get tired of this” - Susan Branch
Martha’s Vineyard is truly a magnificent place, a place that stays with you forever no matter where you are. If you don’t believe me, just ask anyone who has ever been there. With its breathtaking views, the multitude of fun activities you can do, and walks along the charming streets you will inevitably find serenity.
1. Edgartown Lighthouse
Edgartown Harbor Light is one of five lighthouses on Martha’s Vineyard and it marks the entrance to Edgartown Harbor and Katama Bay. The first lighthouse was built in 1828 and it was a wooden two-story Keeper’s house which was replaced in 1939 with the existing cast-iron tower. One of the more interesting facts about this lighthouse is that it was originally built on an artificial island that was located a quarter-mile from shore. Over time sand started accumulating around the stone causeway which ended up forming Edgartown Lighthouse beach that now connects the lighthouse with the land.
2. Head Cliffs of Aquinnah
Aquinnah is a town on Martha’s Vineyard with historical importance to the native Wampanoag people. It is best known for its beautiful clay cliffs carved by glaciers millions of years ago. Visitors can walk down to Moshup beach to experience the cliffs up close and maybe even witness the ocean water taking on a red, white, or grayish tinge from the clay eroding from the cliffs. At the top of the cliffs, you can find the Gay Head lighthouse which was the first lighthouse on Martha’s Vineyard - constructed in 1799, although the current structure was built in 1856, and at that time in history, Gay Head was considered the ninth most important lighthouse located in the United States.
photo credits: @jdellarocco
3. Gingerbread houses
The “Gingerbread houses” located in Oak Bluffs are an architectural attraction that will be a feast for your eyes. Out of the original 500 cottages, there are around 300 Victorian cottages left. They were originally built as a Methodist camp meeting houses with the tabernacle in the center of the complex, which is still used as a religious space. The most distinct feature that nearly all of the houses have is the colorful, ornamental vergeboard, that adds to the already charming Gothic style in which they were built, with their creative gingerbread details. Complementing the gingerbread houses are gardens of hydrangeas that are scattered all over the area. During Illumination Night in August, the Gingerbread houses are decorated with paper lanterns, making them even more astonishing.
4. Flying Horses Carousel
The Flying Horses Carousel is one of the two oldest operating carousels in America and it is also a National Historic Landmark. Thought to be designed in the 1870s it was first located in New York City and later moved to the island in the 1880s. Even though the name is Flying Horses, the horses in the Carousel are stationary wooden horses with the original inset oxide eyes, while unfortunately the original tails made out of real horsehair have been lost. It is also one of the few carousels left that still have rings that riders attempt to grab while riding, with one lucky rider who gets a free ride if they get the brass ring.
5. Mytoi Japanese Garden on Chappaquiddick
If you want to experience something different be sure to visit Mytoi Japanese Garden on Chappaquiddick, just a quick ferry ride from Edgartown. The garden was originally designed by Hugh Jones, who referred to it as my toy, where its current name comes from. Its signature feature is a small pond with an island where you can see turtles, goldfish, and frogs. This Japanese-style garden is divided into Japanese-inspired garden areas with both Asian plants and native flora, and traditional Japanese garden features. It’s the perfect place to just relax and have a quiet moment while enjoying nature.
photo credits: @evillinn63
6. Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary
Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary is the place to visit if you love nature and birds. Protecting the Vineyard’s wildlife, this 200-acre terrain extends into Sengekontacket Pond, offering visitors miles of trails skirting ponds, meadows, and marshes. Since it is such a diverse habitat it harbors a variety of birds, including wild turkeys, red-tailed hawks, ducks and ospreys, and barn owls. If you want to find shells, snails, crabs or other marine life be sure to walk the shoreline.
7. Menemsha beach
If you love sunsets and seafood, you should definitely spend at least one evening at Menemsha beach. Menemsha is a tiny fishing village up island that faces west and you can see the sun setting straight across the Vineyard Sounds waters. Its picturesque harbor was also the shooting background for the famous movie ‘Jaws’. You can enjoy freshly caught and cooked fish while you marvel at the astonishing colors of the sunset. Trust me, it will be an evening you will never forget.
8. “Jaws” Bridge
You haven’t fully experienced the vineyard until you have jumped off the Jaws Bridge. Although the original name is The Second Bridge it’s best knows as the “Jaws Bridge” as it’s a legendary landmark famous for being the filming location of a shark attack in the movie “Jaws”. Located between Edgartown and Oak Bluffs it is the dividing line between the two cities, with a sign on one side saying “Welcome to Edgartown” and on the other side “Welcome to Oak Bluffs”.
photo credits: @leapyearimages