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About Martha's Vineyard

The clay cliffs of Aquinnah.
Island History - The Island of Martha's Vineyard is a jewel of many facets. It is the largest and, thought to be, one of the most picturesque islands in New England. The Vineyard is shaped like an irregular triangle, approximately twenty miles in length and nine and a half miles at its widest point. Located just a few miles off the southeast coast of Massachusetts, the island is easily accessible by airplane or ferry. It is comprised of six towns, three of which are referred to as "Up-Island" (Aquinnah, Chilmark & West Tisbury), and three of which are referred to as "Down-Island" (Edgartown, Oak Bluffs & Vineyard Haven, which is also known as Tisbury).

The Vineyard still offers a great deal of open space and rolling fields, as well as ponds and marshes, which are now protected by conservation restrictions. We are fortunate to have retained much of the charm and character that the first inhabitants found so appealing, though it's a fragile commodity.

Wampanoag TribeThe Wampanoag Indians were the original inhabitants of Noepe, now known as Martha's Vineyard, and date back about seven to ten thousand years ago. There were numerous sachemships on the island, but the Aquinnah Wampanoags are the only ones who continue to live here today.

To trace the first white man's discovery of Martha's Vineyard you have to consider a couple of different theories. One of the popular, but hard to prove, theories deals with the Norsemen. In Icelandic lore, there are references made to the discovery and exploration of America, including the discovery of a land referred to as Vinland (Wineland), which was named because of its abundance of grapes. It is believed that Leif Ericsson, a mariner in the eleventh century, was the first to sail this hemisphere, and it is quite possible that he was the first white man to discover this as yet unspoiled island.

The most commonly told story begins when Bartholomew Gosnold, an English mariner, set sail from Falmouth, England in 1602, to explore the shores of the new world. He sailed around Cape Cod and up the southern shores of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, mistaking them for the mainland.

Gosnold landed on the larger island of Martha's Vineyard after exploring and naming the Elizabeth Islands. Although the Wampanoags called the island "Noepe", Gosnold dubbed it "Martha's Vineyard", named for his daughter Martha and the presence of wild grapes on its shores. Upon exploration of the island, Gosnold discovered "Lakes, ponds and streams of the purest water, bushes bearing edible berries, tree growth from which hung fruit filled vines, while birds and animals were everywhere."

Barholomew GosnoldOn October 13, 1641, Thomas Mayhew purchased Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket and the Elizabeth Islands from Sir Ferdynando Gorges and the Earl of Stirling.

Under Mayhew's orders to colonize the island, the English first settled on the east end of Martha's Vineyard in 1642. During the first ten years of the settlement there were approximately three thousand Indians on the island and not more than three dozen whites.

The first semblance of a government of record was in 1653 when Martha's Vineyard became a colony of New York. Today Dukes County is comprised of the six towns on Martha's Vineyard and Gosnold (Cuttyhunk and the Elizabeth Islands). Each town has its own government, police force and fire department.

Aquinnah - Until recently, the Town of Aquinnah had been known as Gay Head. The name Gay Head was thought to have been given because of the multi-colored clay cliffs at its head that spill into the Atlantic. The name was changed back to its original Indian name of Aquinnah in 1998. Many descendants of the original Wampanoag Indians still reside in Aquinnah.

The clay cliffs for which the town is known were created by glaciers during the Ice Age. There have been many fossils found as the cliffs have eroded over the years, however it is now illegal to remove clay or anything else from the cliffs for fear of causing permanent damage to this magnificent natural formation.

One of the first lighthouses in America was built on the cliffs of Gay Head in 1799. In addition to the breathtaking views of the Gay Head cliffs, Aquinnah has many beautiful vistas, private beaches (for town residents only), and one public beach, Moshup Beach, located off Moshup Trail. Aquinnah is located on the western-most point of the Vineyard.

Chilmark - The up-island town of Chilmark is known for its rolling hills and magnificent views. Ancient stonewalls gracing the countryside are a common sight in this New England town. Chilmark's coastline is very dramic, ranging from the sloping sandy beaches of the south shore to the rocky coast of the north shore.

Alley's General StoreThe town of Chilmark was named for Chilmark, England, the ancestoral home of Thomas Mayhew's wife. For centuries Chilmark consisted mainly of farmland and the tiny fishing village of Menemsha. Menemsha is now world renowned for its subtle beauty and traditional New England charm. In addition to being a classic New England fishing village, it is one of the only harbors on the east coast where you can watch the sun set into the sea. Among the best features of Menemsha are the dock-side fish markets where you can have your lobsters cooked to go, or pick up some of the freshest seafood imaginable.

Chilmark has many beautiful beaches, two are for Chilmark residents only (Squibnocket and Lucy Vincent), however Menemsha Beach is open to the public. Chilmark also boasts some of the highest property evaluations in the state, yet has one of the lowest tax rates.

West Tisbury - West Tisbury is a quaint New England village with many historical points of interest. It has large tracts of unspoiled land, much of it still used for farming. The center of town still has the old country store (Alley's) as its centerpiece, along with the Congregational Church, the Old Mill Pond, the Grange Hall and the Town Hall.

West Tisbury was once a stopover on the long trail from one end of the island to the other by horseback or horse Old Whaling Church Steepleand buggy. Today West Tisbury is best known for the Farmer's Market and the Agricultural Society Fair.

West Tisbury is home to Lambert's Cove Beach, one of the most beautiful on the north shore. Also, the Trustees of Reservations own a large south shore beach which is available to members of the Trustees of Reservations.

Edgartown - Edgartown is a scenic seaport village. Many of the beautiful antique homes that line the streets of this charming community were built in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The main section of town is graced with stately captain's homes that were built when Edgartown was a prosperous whaling community during the 1800's. The massive "Old Whaling Church" that dominates Main Street was built in 1843 and is a well-known Vineyard landmark.

Chappaquiddick Island is one of the most beautiful parts of Edgartown. With gorgeous beaches and hundreds of acres of preserved land it provides a habitat for many endangered species of plants and wildlife.

Modern-day Edgartown is a delightful place to while away a lazy summer day browsing thorough its many shops or dining at any of its fine restaurants. Take a stroll down by the docks and you'll see why Edgartown is best known for its yachting community.
Photo by Peter Simon
Oak Bluffs Fireworks over the gazebo in late August
Oak Bluffs - Oak Bulffs is known the world over for its "gingerbread houses", built on the site of the original Methodist summer camp meetings in the 1800's. Today the Tabernacle and many beautiful gingerbread-style cottages are located in the area known as the Campgrounds. "Illumination Night", when all of the cottages light japanese lanterns throughout the campgrounds, is one of the most popular events.

Oak Bluffs is also home to the "Flying Horses" carousel, the oldest operating carousel in the United States. Its horses were hand-carved in 1876 and the manes and tails are made of real horse hair. Each horse has a unique name, and choosing your favorite is half the fun.

Oak Bluffs' Ocean Park is among the town's big attractions. Concerts are regularly held in the gazebo during the summer months, and the August fireworks held by the park are fabulous.

The main streets of Oak Bluffs are lined with arcades, shops, and restaurants. Oak Bluffs is one of two ports on Martha's Vineyard where the Steamship Authority docks, however, Oak Bluffs is not used in the off-season.

Vineyard Haven - Tisbury, named for Tisbury, England, birthplace of Thomas Mayhew, is better known as Vineyard Haven. The port of Vineyard Haven is home to the Steamship Authority year-round. Vineyard Haven's harbor is one of the most beautiful on the island and offers up a bit of history. In the 1800's most of the coastwise shipping traveled through the Vineyard Sound and Holmes Hole, as it was called then, was a good port for anchorage.

The town has many scenic spots and points of interest. To this day Vineyard Haven is the center of year-round trade, as it is the only port on the Vineyard used by the Steamship Authority in the off-season.

Martha's Vineyard is a beautiful and diverse island. It is an exclusive summer resort community for many who vacation here, and for the rest of us it's home. We hope you'll come visit, enjoy its beauty and help preserve it for future generations. "Martha's Vineyard is an island-separate, but never equaled."

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Farm Neck Golf Club - 18-hole Bent grass course wrapped to the Sengiekontacket Pond shoreline. Built in 1979. Considered a landscaping jewel by golfing enthusiasts. Designed by Geoffrey Cornish & Bill Robinson. Enjoy a debate of which is the "signature" hole -- #3,4,7,8,12, 14, and 17 are the field -- and that's a lot of contenders for one course! Weekday green fees for non-members are seasonal. Call for more information.

Mink Meadows Golf Club - Mink Meadows Golf Club, located in Vineyard Haven, on Martha's Vineyard, was designed and constructed in 1936 by Wayne Stiles. The nine-hole semi-private course measures to 3076 yards, and features rolling terrain with ocean views over Vineyard Sound to Woods Hole and the Elizabeth Islands. Osprey and hawks regularly nest in the woods bordering the course, deer and wildlife sightings are a common occurance. The public may enjoy this well-groomed course by making tee times two days in advance.

Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary - Explore Felix Neck’s two miles of trails, which provide spectacular views of the surrounding woodlands, meadows, pond, salt marsh, and barrier beach. In the summer, enjoy such sights as nesting pairs of ospreys and a tree swallow colony. From the observation building, look for wood ducks and other waterfowl in the pond during the fall and winter. In the spring, barn owls can also be seen nesting in the barn loft.

Flying Horses Carousel - Located on Oak Bluffs Avenue in the heart of Oak Bluffs, this treasured carousel has been enjoyed by Vineyarders and visitors for more than a century. Acquired by the Preservation Trust in 1986, the Flying Horses Carousel is the nation's oldest operating platform carousel and a National Historic Landmark. It is one of the two known carousels built by Charles W.F. Dare in 1876. In 1884, the Flying Horses were brought to Martha's Vineyard.

Polly Hill Arboretum - Welcome to The Polly Hill Arboretum, a Martha's Vineyard horticultural and botanical landmark, developed over the past forty years by the legendary horticulturist, Polly Hill. It is here that Polly brought twenty acres under cultivation while preserving forty additional acres as native woodland. Crisscrossed by old stone walls surrounding open, wildflower-filled meadows and characterized by vernacular Vineyard architecture, the Arboretum is preserved as a not-for-profit institution established in 1996 and is devoted to the cultivation and study of plants.

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The Cliffs at Gay HeadAquinnah
  • Gay Head Cliffs and Beach - Off-limits. The Gay Head Cliffs are a National Landmark and are seriously endangered by climbing on the cliffs and removal of clay (both prohibited by law).
  • Gay Head Public Beach (Moshup Beach) - $15 parking fee in summer.
  • Lobsterville Beach - Open to all, but parking is prohibited on Lobsterville Road.
  • Philbin Beach - Aquinnah residents only.
Oak Bluffs
  • Eastville Beach - Open to all.
  • Oak Bluffs Town Beach - Open to all.
  • Joseph Sylvia State Beach - Open to all.
  • Pathway to the Jetty Beach (East Chop) - Open to all.
    Note: Oak Bluffs prohibits dogs on the beach from 8am-7pm. Please clean up after your pet.
  • Lucy Vincent Beach - Chilmark residents only.
  • Menemsha Public Beach - Open to all.
  • Squibnocket Beach - Chilmark residents only.
South BeachEdgartown
  • East Beach (Cape Pogue Wildlife Refuge and Wasque Reservation Located on Chappaquiddick Island) - Open to all; however, subject to regulations of The Trustees of Reservations.
  • Fuller Street Beach - Open to all.
  • Katama Beach (South Beach) - Open to all. Vehicles with permits allowed on marked trails.
  • Lighthouse Beach - Open to all.
Vineyard Haven
  • Lake Tashmoo Town Beach - Open to all.
  • Owen Park Beach - Open to all.
  • Tisbury Town Beach - Open to all.
West Tisbury
  • Lambert's Cove Beach - West Tisbury residents only.
  • The Trustees of Reservations, Long Point Wildlife Refuge - Open to all 9-5 year 'round. Parking fee in summer. Beach passes and memberships to The Trustees available, call 508-693-3678.

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African-American Heritage Trail - Trace African-American history on the Vineyard from before the American Revolution through the 20th century.

East Chop Lighthouse - East Chop light is located on Telegraph Hill, on the high bluffs near the town of Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard. The current tower was built in 1875, but the keeper's dwelling and outbuildings are gone now. East Chop has a green light.

Menemsha SunsetMartha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association Tabernacle - The Tabernacle is the physical and spiritual center of the Campground. It was built in 1879 by John W. Hoyt of Springfield, Massachusetts. Church services are held weekly in the Tabernacle during the months of July and August, and a variety of cultural events are held there each summer.

Martha's Vineyard Chamber Music Society - Our concerts on Monday evenings are at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown. Tuesday evening concerts are at the Chilmark Community Center in Chilmark. All concerts begin at 8:00pm with a pre-concert lecture by the artists at 7:30pm .

Martha's Vineyard Historical Society - A non-profit organization open to public membership, the Society strives to achieve a broad awareness, understanding and appreciation of our Island's unique cultural, physical and historical characteristics.

Martha's Vineyard Preservation Trust - Since 1975 the Preservation Trust has acquired, preserved and managed the endangered landmarks of Martha’s Vineyard, restoring living institutions to their rightful place in Island life. The Trust is a private, not-for-profit organization supported by contributions from the public and through the management of its historic properties.

West Chop Lighthouse - The Island's first lighthouse was erected here in 1817 and was replaced in 1838 by the present structure. In 1848 and 1891 the lighthouse was moved back because of erosion. West Chop has a red light.

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Beach Plum - Nestled atop Menemsha harbor lies the Beach Plum Inn Restaurant on the island of Martha's Vineyard. With panoramic views from every table, patrons gaze at the passing ships, cresting waves and iridescent setting sun.

The Black Dog Tavern - For thirty years, Meeting House Roadthis simple wooden structure has welcomed friends and travelers. Serving three meals a day, seven days a week, The Black Dog is either the first place you visit when coming to the Island or your last stop on your way to the ferry.

Le Grenier - Come and dine with us at Le Grenier in our elegant yet relaxed candlelit atmosphere. You can select from any one of the 28 diversified entrees on the menu.

The Newes from America - Discover The Newes from America, an American vintage pub at the Kelley House - the Harbor View's sister property. The Newes is a favorite gathering spot for both Islanders and visitors alike. It offers light, casual dining in an old world atmosphere and a number of choice micro-brewed beers and ales on tap.

The Outermost Inn - Our kitchen serves spectacular food in an intimate dining room or on the porch overlooking the property. Glorious herb and vegetable gardens supply the restaurant.

Outermost Inn SunsetThe Seafood Shanty - Relax and enjoy your favorite wine or cocktail while you take in the exquisite view of Edgartown Harbor from our dining room or outdoor deck. We specialize in seafood favorites served in pleasant surroundings.

The Square-Rigger Restaurant - When the native seafood lovers of Martha's Vineyard find themselves in the mood for a delightful, taste-tempting dinner, one of the places they most often head for is the Square-Rigger. The fine art of preparing your meal to your liking has become a tradition at the Rigger.

Sharky's Cantina - Great atmosphere, southwest fare, locations on Upper Main in Edgartown and Circuit Ave in Oak Bluffs. Most every islander has spent some time at Sharky's at some point. Voted Best of the Vineyard three years running.

State Road Restaurant - Well respected dining in West Tisbury. Always with excellent reviews. State Road has a feel of an old-time inn, and the founders have imbued the venue with panache and a perfect pitch for Island life and culture, down to the details.

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Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce - Come to Martha's Vineyard early and enjoy the slow, calm bloom of our pre-summer weeks. Stay through the warm autumn for the blue and gold of our Indian Summer; return to bask in the serenity of an Island winter.

Steamship Authority - The Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard & Nantucket Steamship Authority provides the only year-round passenger and vehicle ferry service to the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Service is provided from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven, and Hyannis to Nantucket. Seasonal service is also provided from Woods Hole to Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard.

Vineyard Gazette - Martha's Vineyard's newspaper of record for 155 years. News, calendar, travel, weather, classifieds, tide information, and more!

The Martha's Vineyard Times - Islanders read the Times, it's free and packed with local news, coupons, and more.

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Hancock Real Estate Agency
Phone: (508) 645-2544 | Fax: (508) 645-3261
Email: info@hancockremv.com

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