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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 settlement—and 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 House—a fabulous example of Greek Revival architecture at 99 Main Street—and 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 Delight—12 scoops!—from Mad Martha's.

West Tisbury, which bisects the island into east and west, is a bastion of surprising pastoral charm—an 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 beaches—and most treacherous waters (accounting for the lighthouse, which still operates)—also surround this remote easternmost stretch of the island.

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Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association

Religious camp meetings were a fast-growing trend in the 1830s, when Methodists encamped for the first time in Oak Bluffs. Eventually, they built small wooden...more

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Lighthouses on Martha's Vineyard

Three of the Vineyard's five lighthouses (all on the north side of the island) are open to the public for sunset tours operated by the Martha's Vineyard Museum...more

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Chappaquiddick

Chappaquiddick, an island just off Edgartown, is the least-known part of the Vineyard…well, least-known except for The Bridge—the one on which Mary...more

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Biking on Martha's Vineyard

Martha's Vineyard has miles of bike routes, most of them wide paths set apart from the main roads by grassy strips. There are short trails such as the scenic...more

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Beaches on Martha's Vineyard

The Vineyard has 14 public beaches as well as six residents-only beaches that are off-limits to outsiders (unless your hotel provides guest passes or you're...more

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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