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- No matter how long you’re headed to Martha’s Vineyard this summer, odds are that you’ll have a difficult time fitting in all that the island has to offer. Take all the time you need to relax, but also be sure to check out these 10 must-see things to do and see on your next voyage.
Yes, there is the joke about “taking talents to South Beach,’’ but don’t expect any glitz at the southernmost part of the island. Glamour, yes, as South Beach (or, Katama) is one of the most pristine locations on Martha’s Vineyard, boasting clean sand continually being pounded by the waves of the Atlantic. The protected salt pond in the area helps the beach maintain its timeless aura, save for the military artillery found here over the years since the military erected barracks during World War II. Get a history of the findings near the entrance to the beach.
Gay Head Cliffs
The majestic Gay Head cliffs await in Aquinnah on a beach where it sometimes seems as you’re about to be swallowed up by the local beauty. The brightly-colored cliffs are now protected as a historical site, which means not climbing them or removing any of the clay as a souvenir. But that does little to deflect the healthy digesting of the breathtaking views and rich Wampanoag history that are present there.
Just a short walk from Edgartown Harbor sits the lighthouse bearing the town’s name. Open to the public from late May until early October, the historic lighthouse offers a glimpse into the rich history of coastal life on the island. A keeper will be available on a summer schedule when visitors may explore the interior of the house and view the lantern room. Admission is $5 adults, free children under 12. See mvmuseum.org for a schedule.
The summer sunsets at Menemsha Beach are arguably among the most notable in all of New England, but dusk isn’t the only time to visit the westernmost side of the island. The Menemsha Hills provide sweeping views of the Vineyard landscape, where the nearby docks bustle with fishing boats unloading fresh catches. The best part is lobster and other seafood can be had for the fraction of the cost you might expect in Edgartown. Grab a paper plate, open a bottle of wine, and relax on a part of the island that can oftentimes avoid the bustle of some other towns.
You’ve probably seen their offerings at your local beer stop, but the Offshore Ale Co.’s location in Oak Bluffs is a favorite for not only their lagers, pale ales, and other brewing offerings, but their extensive pub menu offering lunch and dinner. Four fermentation tanks hover over the second floor, and a staff member is sure to answer any questions visitors might have, but Offshore is also willing to give those who want to learn a little bit more about their brewing process more involved tours of the facility during quiet hours. Call 508-693-2626 to inquire.
Flying Horses Carousel
Children can only take so many views of vistas and oceans, so a quick stop by the historic Flying Horses Carousel should be in order. Established in 1876, it is the nation’s oldest platform carousel, and has been designated a national landmark by the US Department of the Interior. It originally operated at Coney Island, N.Y., until the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust brought it to the island in 1986, hoping to save it from dismantling. Try to grab the ring and you get a free ride. Otherwise, it’s $2.50 per operation. Nostalgia included.
You expect birds and fish on Martha’s Vineyard, but alpacas? At Island Alpaca, visitors can visit the herd daily, and learn about the lives and breeding of these unique creatures. Here, both children and families will begin to understand the benefits llamas bring to the farming industry, and will even offer consultation to those thinking of raising a llama. Just don’t tell the youngsters you could actually come home with one.
Built in the mid-1800s by members of a Methodist community, the Oak Bluffs “gingerbread houses’’ remain a popular island attraction thanks to their “Story Land’’-like appearance. The small cottages are brightly colored, evoking a fairly tale land on the island, where it seems Mother Goose and friends may emerge from the rear of the homes to wish those passing by a magical day. Each bears its own name and dainty décor, and at night the neighborhood lights up into an illuminated wonderland.
Alley’s General Store
In operation since 1858, Alley’s General Store is the oldest operating retailer on Martha’s Vineyard, and is worth a stop whether you’re simply grabbing a bite, browsing for a souvenir, or need some extra bungee cords for your kayak. The Vineyard Haven store is everything an island market should be — part farmer’s market, part hardware store, and part meeting place, which Alley’s certainly has been known for both in and out of season.
The Trustees of Reservations oversees five distinct locations on the island, each perfect for outdoor activities. Whether it’s Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge, Long Point Wildlife Refuge, Menemsha Hills, the Japanese elegance of Mytoi on Chappaquiddick, or Norton Point Beach, it’s the best way to witness first-hand the special beauty of the island. Grab a picnic and visit at least one during your stay. For complete information, visit www.thetrustees.org.