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If you are looking for a peaceful and laid-back atmosphere or seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, the picturesque island of Martha’s Vineyard is a perfect place for you.
Martha’s Vineyard is known for its charming New England villages, rich history, unspoiled beaches, and scenic landscapes. There are plenty of things to see and do on the Island, from outdoor activities, culture and historic sites, boutique shopping, fine dining, casual eateries, and several beautiful beaches where you can relax, swim, or enjoy water sports.
The island is open year-round, with a huge influx of tourists in summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day, almost 200,000 to be exact. With only 17,000 people living on the island year-round, it is safe to say Martha’s Vineyard is a wildly popular summer destination. Prices for ferries, parking, activities rentals, admissions, and, of course, accommodation see large increases during the peak summer season.
A day trip to Martha’s Vineyard is fun during the summer high season, but an overnight trip is best during the shoulder season from late September- October when there are fewer tourists, prices decrease, and you can find easy parking. If you are staying the night, I recommend bringing your car on the car ferry (about $215) or renting a car while there, as the island is a bit too big to enjoy without one (or by bike alone).
Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or simply looking for a relaxing day trip, there’s something for everyone on this beautiful island. Read on to discover 45 unique things to do in Martha’s Vineyard.
Enjoy the Flying Horses Carousel
Step back to the bygone era at the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs. As the oldest operating carousel in the United States, this attraction has been enchanting visitors since 1876. While this carousel was initially constructed on Coney Island, it was moved to Oak Bluffs in 1884.
Its meticulously carved wooden horses, vibrant decor, and vintage charm create an atmosphere that feels straight out of a fairytale. While you’re here, you’ll notice that the horses have inset glass eyes and tails made of real horse hair – enjoying the carousel is one of the most unique things to do in Martha’s Vineyard. Just one thing-don’t forget to grab the brass ring!
Walk through the Gingerbread Cottages
The 318 Gingerbread Cottages in Oak Bluffs are a kaleidoscope of pastel colors and intricate designs. Featuring Carpenter Gothic architecture from the late 19th century, these whimsical structures, with their ornate trimmings and fanciful facades, make for a photographer’s dream and a wanderer’s delight.
While wandering on the streets of these cottages is intriguing on its own, these homes have a storied past. In 1835, a group of Methodists began holding religious camp meetings on a half-acre piece of land in Oak Bluffs. This camp became an annual tradition, with many families pitching tents to listen to the services. Over the years, many families began extending their stay, needing a more substantial structure to stay in. As a result, these ornate cottages were built to replicate the look of the canvas tents that the Methodists had formerly stayed in during the camp.
Enjoy the Cottage Museum
Learn more about the Gingerbread Cottages at the Cottage Museum. This charming museum offers a glimpse inside the 1800s Campground Cottages. You’ll see period furnishings, vintage photographs, and other historical artifacts, and you can also pick up a souvenir from the gift shop.
Visit Island Alpaca
Island Alpaca, an alpaca farm located in Oaks Bluff, offers a fun opportunity to get up close and personal with these gentle creatures. You can take guided tours of the farm to learn about alpacas, their care, and the creation of alpaca fiber products. This farm also occasionally has alpaca yoga, so check the website to see if you should bring your yoga mat. This is an experience that promises both education – and cuteness overload!
One of the best ways to explore Martha’s Vineyard is by renting a bike and pedaling through its picturesque landscapes. With well-maintained paths and roads that wind along the coast through forests and past charming towns, biking provides a chance to connect with the island’s natural beauty at your own pace.
There are several fantastic biking routes in Martha’s Vineyard, but one of the best is the 16-mile Vineyard Haven Loop. Along this route, you’ll ride past several shops, restaurants, and wineries, so it’s great for those who want to experience a little bit of everything. For a shorter ride, take the bike path from Oak Bluffs to South Beach and back, only about 9 miles total.
Rent a Convertible and Drive Around the Island
For an unforgettable driving experience, rent a convertible and embark on a joy ride around the island. With the wind in your hair and stunning vistas around every corner, you’ll find a sense of adventure and serenity as you traverse Martha’s Vineyard’s scenic roads. Sun n Fun Rentals has a variety of sporty cars to choose from – including Mini Coopers and Jeep Wranglers. Most rentals are seasonal, so make sure to plan accordingly.
Visit Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge
The Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge on Chappaquiddick Island’s eastern end is a haven for nature enthusiasts. Known for its pristine sand dunes and diverse wildlife, including seals and migratory birds, this refuge offers guided tours and the chance to explore Martha’s Vineyard’s unspoiled beauty.
This refuge is also a paradise for fishing enthusiasts – its waters are home to striped bass, bluefish, bonito, and albacore. At the island’s northernmost tip, you’ll find Cape Poge Lighthouse, dating back to 1801.
Climb up a Lighthouse
There are 5 lighthouses on Martha’s Vineyard Island all serving as a maritime beacon and an emblem of the island’s seafaring past. You can learn more about the lighthouses and their opening times at MVMuseum.org
- Edgartown Lighthouse– This light is situated in Edgartown harbor, known for its scenic beauty and historic charm. You can climb to the top of the lighthouse (when it is open) for sweeping views of the harbor and town below.
- East Chop Lighthouse– A picturesque 40 ft white light in a park along Chop Drive, constructed in 1869. It is still active, guiding ships safely through Vineyard Sound. In 1988, the lighthouse was moved inland 300 feet to prevent it from falling into the ocean by the eroding bluff it was originally built on.
- West Chop Lighthouse– Perched on a scenic bluff overlooking the Vineyard Haven Harbor, the 25-foot historic rubblestone lighthouse has beautiful views and a connection to the island’s maritime traditions. While the lighthouse grounds are not accessible to the public, it’s definitely worth viewing it from afar.
- Gay Head Lighthouse- Perched atop vibrant clay cliffs, the Gay Head Lighthouse in Aquinnah is one of the most unique things to do in Martha’s Vineyard. The breathtaking views from this spot, both the lighthouse itself and the surrounding landscapes, create a sense of wonder and appreciation for the island’s natural beauty. Climb up the spiral staircase to the top for magnificent water views.
- Pouge Lighthouse– The island’s most remote lighthouse is situated on the tip of Cape Pouge on Chappaquiddick Island. The best way to see the light is from the water or on a guided tour, as access to the sandy road is by permit only and costs $200.00. You can opt to hike the 8-mile round-trip path through sandy hills, but it’s very strenuous and not recommended.
See the Stunning Aquinnah Cliffs
The Aquinnah Cliffs, also known as the Gay Head Cliffs, is one of the best clifftop observation points in the area. The vibrant layers of clay and sediment tell a story of geologic history, while the panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean are particularly postcard-worthy. Witness the cliffs during different times of day to see how the sunlight transforms the colors and creates a mesmerizing display – sunset is one of the most beautiful times to visit.
Hike the 16-mile Cross-Island Trail
On the first Saturday of June every year, the Cross-Island Hike is a day-long excursion with the goal of exposing people to the vast network of trails around the island. Typically, this hike includes dirt or paved paths, shorelines, steep grades, and overgrown vegetation. Sometimes, the trek continues on private property with the permission of the owners. While 16 miles can seem daunting, many participants opt to hike just a portion of the trail. Whether you do a small chunk or the entire thing, this can be a great way to experience some off-the-beaten-path gems in Martha’s Vineyard.
West Tisbury Farmers’ Market
If you’re on the island during the summer and early fall, the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market offers a variety of locally grown produce, artisanal products, and crafts in the historic Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Hall. The market is Martha’s Vineyard’s oldest, largest, and finest open-air market.
Visit the Old Whaling Church
Nestled within Edgartown, the Old Whaling Church is one of the most unique things to do in Martha’s Vineyard. Its towering spire and elegant architecture tell the story of this island’s whaling past, and it’s one of the best examples of Greek Revival architecture in New England. Now a cultural landmark, the church hosts events, concerts, and gatherings celebrating history and the arts, making it a community engagement hub.
Enjoy a Food and Wine Festival
In the heart of autumn, Martha’s Vineyard comes alive with the Food and Wine Festival. This delightful event, held in October, offers a delectable experience for food lovers and wine enthusiasts. From gourmet dinners prepared by renowned chefs to tastings of local wines and artisanal foods, the festival is a celebration of the island’s culinary prowess and a way to savor the flavors that define Martha’s Vineyard. If you’re a foodie, this event is for you!
Nature Watch at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary
The Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown beckons nature lovers and birdwatchers to explore its pristine 194-acre habitat, featuring meadows, woodland, ponds, marsh, and shoreline. With walking trails that wind through diverse ecosystems, you can observe a wide variety of plant and animal species, including ospreys, wild turkeys, ducks, and red-tailed hawks. Education programs and guided tours provide insight into the island’s natural wonders and the importance of conservation.
Relax in Ocean Park
Ocean Park, comprising 7 acres of green space in Oak Bluffs, is more than just a beautiful expanse of greenery; it’s a hub of cultural activity. Known for its live music concerts, this park is also home to spectacular fireworks displays, picnic areas, and lively summer festivals and is surrounded by stunning Victorian and Gothic style homes.
Experience Morning Glory Farm
Boasting 70 acres of fruits and vegetables, Morning Glory Farm is a vibrant agricultural gem on Martha’s Vineyard, where you can pick your own fresh produce or select from a range of locally grown fruits, vegetables, and flowers. The farm store also offers homemade cookies, bread, pies, soup, and more, so you won’t leave hungry! Best of all, all of the crops at this farm are non-GMO, with seeds sourced from organic farms, making this one of the most unique things to do in Martha’s Vineyard.
Jump off the American Legion Memorial Bridge
For movie enthusiasts and fans of the classic film Jaws, the American Legion Memorial Bridge, known as the Jaws Bridge, holds a special charm. This bridge, featured in the iconic opening scene of the movie, has stunning views of the water and the surrounding landscape. This spot is where cinematic nostalgia and natural beauty merge, making it a must-visit for moviegoers!
Ferry to Chappaquiddick Island
Connected to Martha’s Vineyard by a short ferry ride, Chappaquiddick Island is a quiet oasis known for its unspoiled beaches, conservation areas, and serene landscapes. This small island is home to three large conservation areas: Wasque, Mytoi, and Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge. Nicknamed “Chappy,” this island is a hilly countryside surrounded by water, making it a bit cooler than the rest of Martha’s Vineyard – bring a jacket!
Walk through the Japanese Gardens
Mytoi Japanese Gardens on Chappaquiddick Island is a hidden sanctuary of tranquility. Designed to embody the serenity of traditional Japanese gardens, these 14 acres offer winding paths, peaceful ponds, and carefully curated vegetation. The inland freshwater pond and island of these gardens make it a great place to bring a book or to simply spend some time alone in contemplation.
Enjoy the Polly Hill Arboretum
Nestled in West Tisbury, the Polly Hill Arboretum is a botanical wonderland that showcases a diverse collection of rare trees, shrubs, and plants from around the world set among stone walls, fields, and meadows. Founded by horticulturist Polly Hill, this 60-acre living museum offers visitors a chance to explore themed gardens and meandering trails while learning about plant conservation.
Learn at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum
The Martha’s Vineyard Museum in Vineyard Haven is a treasure trove of island history and culture. With captivating exhibits that span centuries, you can learn more about the island’s maritime heritage, indigenous peoples, and evolving communities. The museum’s collections and interactive displays range from wooden boatbuilding exhibits to information on the filming of Jaws. Visit on a Wednesday to name your own admission price, normally $18 per adult.
Walk through Vineyard Haven
Vineyard Haven, often called “Tisbury,” is a charming harbor town that welcomes visitors with its maritime flair and bustling streets. As the primary port of entry to Martha’s Vineyard, Vineyard Haven offers the perfect blend of historic architecture, boutique shopping, and enticing dining options. Stroll along Main Street to explore local shops and galleries, then head to Vineyard Haven Harbor Cultural District to admire the picturesque views of bobbing boats on the Atlantic Ocean, painting a portrait of quintessential New England coastal life.
Enjoy Boutique Shopping
If you have come to Martha’s Vineyard for a bit of retail therapy, you are in luck. Martha’s Vineyard has a relaxed and welcoming shopping scene that complements its island lifestyle. Edgartown, Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs have charming main streets with shops and boutiques offering clothing, jewelry, gifts, and art. If you are wondering outside of the main towns look for general stores and gift shops offering a range of unique and locally-made gifts, gourmet foods and wine. Antique shops and bookstores with a wide selection of books, both locally-themed and general interest, are also popular shopping destinations on the island. A few of my favorite shops to browse are, Renaissance House and Nancy’s Antiques in Oak Bluffs, Trust the shop in Vineyard Haven and Rosewater Market in Edgar town for gourmet foods.
The Granary Galleries
The Granary Gallery family has three locations on the island: the Field Gallery in West Tisbury Center and North Water Gallery in Edgartown. The Granary Gallery is the largest art gallery on Martha’s Vineyard, located in the iconic Red Barn in West Tisbury. It features a wide variety of artwork, with a particular emphasis on pieces inspired by the natural beauty and unique character of Martha’s Vineyard. You can find paintings, sculptures, photography, and other forms of art that capture the island’s landscapes, culture, and maritime heritage.
Relax at Manuel F. Correllus State Forest
The Manuel F. Correllus State Forest provides an expansive woodland playground for those seeking outdoor activities. Spanning over 5,000 acres, this state forest offers miles of trails that wind through dense forests and tranquil ponds. You’ll also find a paved multipurpose path, a disc golf course, and horseback riding opportunities.
Visit the Village of Menemsha
The village of Menemsha in Chilmark is a timelessly picturesque fishing village that almost feels like it came out of a storybook. Known for its colorful fishing shacks, bustling harbor, and fresh seafood eateries, Menemsha offers a glimpse into the island’s maritime heritage. You can enjoy leisurely strolls along the docks, watch local fishermen unload their catch, and savor the sunset over the tranquil waters.
Look for the Stone Walls of Chilmark
The rustic stone walls that crisscross the landscape of Chilmark’s farmland along Middle Road are not only functional but also serve as intriguing reminders of the island’s history. Built by early settlers between 1750 and 1850 to clear fields for farming, these rustic stone walls evoke a sense of timelessness, showcasing the island’s agricultural roots and the artistry of early craftsmanship.
Experience the Native Earth Teaching Farm
The Native Earth Teaching Farm in Chilmark provides an authentic farm experience for visitors of all ages. This educational farm introduces guests to sustainable agriculture, farm animals, and the rhythms of rural life. More notably, this farm has goat yoga three times a week, so be sure to check the schedule and bring your yoga mat!
Watch a Sunset
Besides Menemsha Beach, there are plenty of spots in Martha’s Vineyard for incredible sunsets. The Aquinnah Cliffs provide a breathtaking vantage point for nature’s evening spectacle, casting a warm glow over the dramatic coastal landscape, cliffs, and lighthouse.
The East Chop Lighthouse in Oak Bluffs is another great sunset spot. If you’re here on a Sunday (and it’s open), you can view the sunset from inside the lighthouse, but it’s just as beautiful outside as well.
Get Creative at the Island Folk Pottery & Sculpture Trail
The Island Folk Pottery & Sculpture Trail, created by local artists Bill O’Callaghan and Heather Goff, winds its way through the Chilmark woods. Along the path, you’ll notice media and clay statues representing Earth Guardians and Tree Spirits, along with clay masks and sculpted eyes, creating a one-of-a-kind whimsical environment.
Try Local Fish at Larsen’s Fish Market
Larsen’s Fish Market is a must-visit spot for seafood enthusiasts. Located in Chilmark, you can sample fresh catches of the day, ranging from lobsters to clams, served from a busy take-out window. The lobster roll and the lobster bisque are just two of the many favorites at this local joint!
Get Active with Water Sports
If you’re visiting Martha’s Vineyard in the summer months, watersports are one of the best things to do! Check out Sengekontacket Pond for kayaking and clamming. Or Island Spirit Kayak in Oak Bluffs. Another option is Nantucket Sound, where you can enjoy sport fishing, windsurfing, boat rentals, paddle boarding, and a variety of other water adventures.
Book a Fishing Charter
For those who love fishing, booking a fishing charter offers an unforgettable adventure in Martha’s Vineyard. Experienced captains guide you to prime fishing spots, where you can cast your line and try your luck at catching the abundant marine species that inhabit the island’s waters. Check out North Shore Charters or Done Deal Charters for more information.
Enjoy a Sunset Sail
A sunset cruise is one of the most unforgettable ways to experience the beauty of Martha’s Vineyard. You can sit back, relax, and enjoy the stunning scenery of this area as you sip a glass of wine. Don’t forget to bring your camera.
Ride on a Pirate Cruise
With Pirate Adventures Martha’s Vineyard, you can embark on a fun and interactive pirate cruise for the whole family! On this pirate ship, you’ll assemble a treasure map, battle fellow pirates, and retrieve sunken treasure from the ocean floor. This is one of the most unique things to do in Martha’s Vineyard for the whole family. Adventures only run in summer.
Soak up the Beautiful Beaches
Martha’s Vineyard has no shortage of lovely beaches, so you’ll definitely want to bring your swimsuit. One of my favorite beaches is South Beach, also known as Katama Beach. It boasts over three miles of clean white sand and crystal-clear water. With large waves, this is a popular spot for surfing. Many visitors also enjoy shellfishing and bird watching in this area.
Inkwell Beach in Oak Bluffs is an excellent place for families to spend the day. The water is calm and shallow, and the beach has plenty of amenities like restrooms, showers, and lifeguards. Joseph Sylvia State Beach sits on the border of Oak Bluffs and Edgartown and is another popular destination, as this was where the iconic movie Jaws was filmed. This beach has a long stretch of sand with stunning ocean views.
Lucy Vincent Beach in Chilmark is a more secluded option, making it perfect for those seeking a quieter, more serene experience. The beach has soft sand and clear water, and the surrounding cliffs and boulders offer a stunning backdrop.
Moshup Beach in Aquinnah is another stunning beach option with beautiful cliffs and sunset views.
Have a Clambake on the Beach
Clambakes on the beach in Martha’s Vineyard are a beloved tradition for locals and visitors. It’s a chance to gather with others, enjoy delicious seafood, and soak up the island’s stunning scenery.
These clambakes typically include lobster, clams, mussels, corn on the cob, and potatoes, all cooked over an open fire on the beach. The smell of the salty ocean air mixed with the aroma of the fresh seafood is truly heavenly! Several companies in Martha’s Vineyard offer catered clambakes on the beach, including Bill Smith’s Famous Clambake.
Instead of hiring a caterer, you can also get take-out from a local restaurant and bring it to enjoy on the beach. Fish markets with clambakes and lobster dinners include Larsen’s, The Fish House, Net Result, and Menemsha Fish Market.
Try Local Sea Food
The Vineyard is known for its fresh and delicious seafood, with many seafood restaurants featuring catches of the day and seasonal specials.
I love the Menemsha Fish Market in Chilmark and The Net Result Fish Market in Vineyard Haven. Both are a seafood market and takeout restaurant serving some of the freshest seafood on the island including lobster, steamers, clam chowder and more.
The Seafood Shanty in Edgartown offers a waterfront dining experience with a focus on seafood. You can enjoy seafood platters, lobster, oysters, and other fresh catches of the day while taking in the views of the harbor.
For a casual setting in Oak Bluffs, try Nancy’s Restaurant or Tavern with a View.
Support the Orange Peel Bakery
Arguably the best-baked goods in the world! Support the native-owned bakery in Aquinnah who’s owner, Juli Vanderhoop, brings a unique take on traditional baked goods through her hand-built wood-fired stone oven and passion for the community. Enjoy daily confections, fresh baked bread and hot pizzas all hand-made with ingredients from the local garden. Daily offerings change and operating hours depend on what is baking. If you are able to get to this bakery for a fresh batch of whatever is cooking, don’t forget to bring cash and leave payment in the jar.
See the Origional Black Dog Tavern
The Black Dog brand, with its distinctive logo, has become a symbol of Martha’s Vineyard and is closely associated with the island’s culture and lifestyle. The original tavern opened its doors in 1971 as a small family-run establishment with an enjoyable atmosphere and clam chowder that was “just right.” Born from a desire for a cozy cafe opened year-round, the Black Dog Tavern has since taken off with multiple restaurants, cafes and bakeries and branded merchandise recognized worldwide.
Martha’s Vineyard has a few public golf courses where visitors and locals can enjoy a round of golf while taking in the natural beauty of Martha’s Vineyard. The two most popular are:
- Farm Neck Golf Club: Farm Neck Golf Club is one of the most well-known golf courses on Martha’s Vineyard. It’s located in Oak Bluffs and offers an 18-hole, public golf course that is known for its scenic beauty. The course is situated along the shores of Sengekontacket Pond and Vineyard Sound, providing stunning water views. Golfers of all skill levels can enjoy playing here. Farm Neck also has a pro shop and a restaurant.
- Mink Meadows Golf Club: Mink Meadows is located in Vineyard Haven and offers a 9-hole course with beautiful views of the Vineyard Sound. While it’s shorter than a typical 18-hole course, it’s known for its challenging layout and scenic surroundings.
I hope you enjoy your time at Martha’s Vineyard. You will need a multi-day trip to enjoy everything on this list, but If you are visiting for only a day, consider following this walking and biking itinerary from Oak Bluffs. Also, consider Nantucket Island for a day trip from the Cape. It is a bit smaller and just as charming, if not more!
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