Engaging Getaways and Venues for:
USA/New England: Edgartown, MA
Edgartown and Chappaquiddick offer outdoor fun, diversity and beauty in all seasons. Choose from tame or big-surf beaches, pond or ocean kayaking, fields, forests and sandy refuges. There are trails through meadows, exotic gardens and sanctuaries for casual walkers and serious birders. Conservation organizations and commercial establishments supply bikes, boats and tours. All the resources and experiences are within walking or biking distance from Edgartown center.
Katama or South Beach, located two miles from the town center, is three miles of barrier beach on the south shore at the end of Katama Road. There is fine surf on one side and protected salt ponds and grassy dunes on the other. South Beach is the most crowded beach in the summer months. Vehicles with Dukes County over-sand driving permits can drive on well-marked areas, once their tires are deflated.
The surf tends to be rough, but there is a lifeguard on duty during the day. It is about 2 1/2 miles from Edgartown center and can be reached by the public bus operated by the Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority, or by cycling on bike paths. There is limited parking for cars in the summer. From September to June, the beach is often empty, and the surrounding open-plain terrain, known as Katama, is a great walk.
Long Point Refuge is about four miles outside Edgartown along a bike path on the road toward the airport, the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road. The refuge is one of the largest Trustees properties—600 acres with more than two miles of flat trails through woods and open areas. It is more remote than South Beach, less crowded and more beautiful. There is a small parking lot that is full by mid-morning in the summer. When it's full, though, the beach still feels uncrowded.
Joseph Sylvia State Beach, also known as the Bend in the Road, is two miles of beach along the road from Edgartown to Oak Bluffs. Cycling on a bike path takes about 10 minutes from any lodging in Edgartown. Families with young children like this beach, because there is a gradual slope into deeper water, and the waves are small and gentle.
Fuller Street Beach near the Edgartown Lighthouse is not a great swimming beach. It is rocky and has eroded considerably in the last few years, but it is a nice place for a leisurely in-town beach walk, especially in the early morning or at sunset.
East Beach on Chappaquiddick's eastern edge is part of Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge and Wasque Reservation. It is a barrier beach formed thousands of years ago by offshore currents that deposited millions of tons of sand. Due to strong and changing currents, swimming can be hazardous.
Norton Point in Chappaquiddick is a 2 1/2-mile strip of sand and dunes that linked Edgartown and Chappaquiddick until 2007, when a major ocean storm caused a breach in the barrier beach. This is a natural cycle that has occurred before. The breach is closing year by year. Until it does, the currents here are also strong.
Walking, Hiking and Birding
In Edgartown, Sheriff’s Meadow is a walker and birder’s delight with wooded walkways and outlooks over a pond built in 2014 (see Overview section).
Felix Neck, a Massachusetts Audubon property, is a few miles out of town on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. It has four miles of trails through woodlands, meadows, ponds and salt marsh—perfect for exploration or quiet contemplation.
On Chappaquiddick, even non-birders can’t fail to notice the many bird species They include cormorants, sandpipers, piping plovers, terns and other shorebirds at the surf line and ospreys hovering over the water’s surface, preparing to dive onto a fish.
Poucha Pond on Chappy is a Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank property. Its marshes offer habitat for great blue herons, egrets, migrating shorebirds and ducks. It is a nice walk to combine with Cape Poge or Wasque Reservation.
Chappy beaches are good for lounging or hiking or biking through rare sand barrens and bird habitats with spectacular vistas. A visit to Chappy’s Japanese-style garden, Mytoi, is a must. Sheltered by a lovely pine grove, the preserve includes a small pond and an island; non-native and native flowers and plants; footpaths leading past a birch walk and stone garden, and a trail winding toward Poucha Pond and a salt marsh. The entrance to the Cape Poge Refuge is a few steps down the road.
There are several paved, protected and relatively flat bike paths that start in or near the center of Edgartown leading to South Beach, State Beach and Long Point. The bike path to Oak Bluffs is about a six-mile ride. A three-town Edgartown-Oak Bluffs-Vineyard Haven round-trip is about 18 miles.
Experienced riders can try off-road trails in the state forest or venture to the winding and hilly roads of Chilmark, West Tisbury and Aquinnah. There are no protected bike paths on these roads, so early morning rides are recommended. A ride around the perimeter of the entire island is more than 60 miles.
Morning Glory Farm, started in 1975 by locals James and Deborah Athearn, grows vegetables and small fruits on about 60 acres. Small successive plantings of a wide variety of crops supply the farm stand from May through December. The breads, pies, cookies and other baker’s treats are the pride of the island. Check out the authentic farm-to-table Morning Glory Cookbooks, too. The first book, The Family that Feeds the Island, is the best of the two. You can ride a bike on a path along the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road and be at the farm in 15 minutes. There are picnic tables where you may realize that a cup of coffee and a muffin in the morning sun is a slice of heaven.
Sengecontacket Pond, on the road between Edgartown and Oak Bluffs, is a favored spot for windsurfers and kayakers. The pond and surrounding environs encompass 745 acres and stretch about 2 1/2 miles. Pond water is flushed twice daily through two inlets in a tidal interchange with Nantucket Sound. Island Spirit Kayak sets up shop near the pond in the summer and the fall. Sea and pond kayakers and canoers also love Chappaquiddick. The Trustees offer the gear and programs there.
The best fishing spots are well-kept secrets. South Beach and Wasque on Chappaquiddick are known for good surfcasting, especially for blue fish at dawn. Sengecontacket Pond has plentiful shellfishing beds (you need a town permit to harvest them). Larry’s Tackle, an Edgartown fixture, is the place to go for gear, deep-sea fishing charter information and tips on where to fish.
Golf and Tennis
There are three courses on the island. Farm Neck Golf Club is the closest to Edgartown and is one of the most beautiful courses on the East Coast. It is a private club with tennis courts but is open to the public for a fee. It also is a wildlife refuge.