An Ancient Heritage
A Modern Lifestyle
VINEYARD HAVEN is the most active year-round community, partly because it is the only year-round ferry port on Martha's Vineyard. Most Vineyard Haven shops and restaurants remain open in the winter, unlike those in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown which rely more heavily on summer tourist trade.
The vibrant business community supplies the island's extensive building trade, and the time-honored boatbuilding industry thrives.
Tisbury was incorporated as a town in 1671. It was named for the parish in England where Thomas Mayhew Sr. was born. Originally it was much larger, but in 1892 part of Tisbury became the separate Town of West Tisbury.
OAK BLUFFS, adjacent to Tisbury on Vineyard Sound, is renowned for its gingerbread, “carpenter Gothic” cottages. Appropriately, the town was incorporated in 1880 as Cottage City, then renamed Oak Bluffs in 1907 in recognition of its increasingly year-round character.
The genesis of the town was a Methodist camp that today is a collection of colorful cottages centered on a park with a soaring Tabernacle, a forum for religious and artistic events. Like Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs is a shopper's mecca. It is a favorite destination for families because of the range of attractions, including beaches, parks, a hip harborfront scene, and a bustling downtown.
Although ferry service mostly ceases in the off-season, summer brings the mostly lively ferry service on the island, with boats connecting Oak Bluffs with Falmouth, Hyannis, Nantucket, New Bedford, and Rhode Island.
“Stately” describes EDGARTOWN, the county seat since 1642 and a town since 1671. It is the site of the County Courthouse, which is adjacent to the Old Whaling Church with its six massive columns. The preferred hometown of 19th century whaling captains, Edgartown maintains a maritime flavor and world-class yachting scene. The common Greek revival houses and white picket fences impart a storybook atmosphere, balanced by the upscale shops and restaurants in the town center.
Although it has no ferry service to the mainland, Edgartown boasts more overnight accommodations than any of the other island towns. Conversely, its tourist industry hibernates deeply in the off-season.
Edgartown was named for Edgar, son of James II, who bore the title Duke of Cambridge.
WEST TISBURY, the first of the up-island towns, provides a gradual transition from the hustle of down-island to the bucolic tranquility of up-island. Although primarily rural, it still offers a variety of retail businesses along State Road.
West Tisbury hosts the annual Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society Fair, and also draws crowds every summer-season weekend to the Farmers Market and Artisans Fair held at the historic Grange Hall.
Originally, West Tisbury was part of Tisbury. It incorporated as a separate town in 1892. Today it includes the communities of North Tisbury and Christiantown.
Hilly CHILMARK boasts the island's highest elevation. The ancient stone fences, undulating landscape, and soaring ocean views suggest Ireland. The town provides some of the best hiking and photography on the island.
Chilmark was named for a town near Thomas Mayhew Sr.'s birthplace in England. It was established in 1671 along with Tisbury and Edgartown. It became a farming community, and by 1850 had 96 farms.
The Chilmark village of Menemsha is an authentic New England fishing village with several small shops and eating places. The town center, near Beetlebung Corner, offers a modern library, a general store, and a chocolate factory.
AQUINNAH, also known by its former name Gay Head, is the site of the most dramatic natural phenomenon on Martha's Vineyard - the Gay Head Cliffs. A must-see for every visitor, the mile-long cliffs of multi-colored clay are a geological wonder. The public beach where the cliffs and ocean meet is awe inspiring.
Aquinnah is the home of the Wampanoag Indian Tribe, which coexists with recent settlers and renters seeking the solitude of the Island's remote western end.
One of the America's first lighthouses was erected atop the cliffs in 1799, where the majestic Gay Head Light now stands
A town by definition, geographically GOSNOLD consists of the nine Elizabeth Islands stretching from Woods Hole, Mass., in a southerly direction, roughly parallel to the western side of Martha's Vineyard Island. Gosnold separates Vineyard Sound from Buzzards Bay. Although homes are scattered across the island chain, Gosnold's tiny population is concentrated on the southernmost island of Cuttyhunk.
Gosnold was once part of the Town of Chilmark, but won its independence from Chilmark, becoming a town of its own in 1863. That independent spirit prevails to this day among the less than 50 people who live year-round on Gosnold.
Cuttyhunk is serviced by a ferry from New Bedford and by several small boats from Menemsha, primarily the catamaran sailboat “Arabella.” Cuttyhunk has a cozy harbor. The little island attracts boaters and others seeking simplicity and solitude.