see + do
Martha's Vineyard see + do
There are six towns on Martha's Vineyard, each with a distinctly different history and look.
If Edgartown looks familiar, it's because it served as the location for Jaws. The county seat since 1642, this town on the southwestern side of the island was the island's first colonial settlementand it looks it. Stately houses from the town's earliest days and early-19th-century mansions built by whaling captains dot the tree-lined streets. Orient yourself at Martha's Vineyard Museum, which houses nautical antiques, native Gay Head Wampanoag artifacts, and one of the finest lighthouse lenses ever made (59 School St.; 508-627-4441; www.marthasvineyardhistory.org); and pick up a book of self-guided walking tours, well worth the $8. Vineyard History Tours (508-627-8619; home.earthlink.net/~mvhistory) is also a good way to see all the sights in town, which include the Dr. Daniel Fisher Housea fabulous example of Greek Revival architecture at 99 Main Streetand the Old Whaling Church (89 Main St.).
Vineyard Haven, on the island's northernmost tip, was once one of New England's busiest ports and it's still the island's main harbor and principal ferry port, filled with sailboats and wooden schooners. Most visitors spend their time here shopping in the small, funky stores along Main Street.
Oak Bluffs, located between Edgartown and Vineyard Haven, is the liveliest town on the island. The town's reputation as a gathering place dates back to the 1830s, when the Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association was formed. Circuit Avenue, the main drag, is lined with shops, restaurants, and bars. If you have kids in tow, head for the Flying Horses Carousel, the oldest continuously operating merry-go-round in the country (Circuit Ave. Extension; 508-693-9481; closed Columbus Day through Easter), followed by a Bailey's Irish Cream cone or Pig's Delight12 scoops!from Mad Martha's.
West Tisbury, which bisects the island into east and west, is a bastion of surprising pastoral charman agricultural town where a farmer's market is held on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Grange Hall on State Road.
Chilmark, on the eastern side, invariably draws comparisons to Scotland for its hills, sheep farms, and dramatic coastline. Tucked into that expanse are some of the most lavish homes on the island, which make it worth taking a drive along State Road. Also in this area is the fishing harbor of Menemsha, the best place on the Vineyard to watch the sunset.
Aquinnah's dramatic, variegated clay cliffs are a national landmark; there's a scenic overlook, from which you can see the clay cliffs, the red brick Gay Head Light, and sails on the water below. Some of the most beautiful beachesand most treacherous waters (accounting for the lighthouse, which still operates)also surround this remote easternmost stretch of the island.