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Best of the Beaches on Martha’s Vineyard

Enjoy some surf and sun at the many beaches that stretch for miles along this gorgeous island’s shoreline.

 

The beaches on Martha’s Vineyard are owned and run by a variety of organizations. Some are open to the public; some you’ll need a resident beach permit (some rental properties come with one); some are free to members of the nonprofit Trustees of Reservations (while nonmembers pay a fee); and some are strictly private. There are also nature trails, gardens and even an arboretum to explore.

Top Public Beaches

Bend-in-the-Road Beach (Joseph Sylvia State Beach)

Here you’ll find two miles of calm beach along Beach Road between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. This is a very popular beach, so parking can be tough. There are lifeguards at the beach in season (from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend). This is an excellent beach for families.

Katama Beach (South Beach)

There are three miles of barrier beach on the South Shore at the end of Katama Road. The surf is usually rough, but it’s a beautiful setting. Lifeguards are on duty in season.

Oak Bluffs Town Beach

This beach has calm, shallow water and is hugely popular, because it is adjacent to the town wharf and Steamship Authority dock. Oak Bluffs Town Beach, also known as Inkwell Beach, continues again about one mile southeast of the small inlet flowing into Sengekontacket Pond, and ends at the Joseph Sylvia State Beach, which continues on to Edgartown and the Bend-in-the-Road Beach.

Conservation Properties

The Trustees of Reservations (tel. 508-693-7662) owns and manages five properties on Martha’s Vineyard, totaling more than 2,000 acres. These are Long Point Wildlife Refuge, Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge, Wasque Reservation, Menemsha Hills Reservation and Mytoi Garden.

These properties are regulated for public use by limiting parking spaces and may charge entrance fees to nonmembers (an annual family membership for the Trustees of Reservations is $65, and you can usually buy one on the spot).

East Beach (Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge and Wasque Reservation)

Take the ironically named “On Time” (or Chappy) ferry (it leaves as soon as it’s full and, hence, is by definition always on time) over to the island of Chappaquiddick. “Chappy” has some of the most beautiful beaches and nature walks on the island. One of my family’s favorites is the back harbor beach in the Wasque preserve—muddy flats that extend for miles with the water rarely reaching your knees.

East Beach, or “Three-inch Beach,” as we have nicknamed it, is crowded only with horseshoe crabs, gulls, terns and piping plovers, even in July and August. Adults can also walk over the dunes a few steps to access a beautiful Atlantic Ocean beach. If you have the right vehicle and an over-sand permit, you can access remote trails.

You’ll also find on Chappy the rather incongruous Mytoi Garden, a charming small Japanese-style garden within an open pine forest. There’s a small pond with an island that you can access via an arched bridge. Walking along the windy footpaths takes you through a birch walk, camellia dell, stone garden and hillside garden. It is a nice little respite from the sun.

Admission fees and permits: From May 30 to Oct. 15: Trustees members get in for free, nonmembers pay $3 per adult, kids 15 and under are free. Admission is free to pedestrians at other times of the year. Over-sand vehicle permit fees are $180. The Chappy Ferry costs $12 per car and driver round-trip; $4 for a passenger round-trip; $6 for a bicycle and rider round-trip.

Long Point Wildlife Refuge Beach

Located off the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road in West Tisbury, Long Point Wildlife Refuge Beach is probably my favorite family beach when I travel to Martha’s Vineyard. One reason is that it is never crowded, because once the parking lot is at maximum capacity, no one else can come in. You definitely need to get there early. The water is warm in the summer. Kids can wade out for several feet without going over their heads and it’s just a beautiful way to spend the day.

Admission fees and permits: From June 15 to Sept. 15: Trustees Members get free admission and half-price parking; nonmembers are charged $10 per car plus $3 per adult; pedestrians and bicyclists are charged $3; children 15 and under are free of charge. Free admission for all from Sept. 16 to June 14.

Hiking Beaches

Menemsha Hills Reservation

For hikers, the Menemsha Hills Reservation offers three miles of trails to explore in Chilmark. If you get to it, Prospect Hill is a reward with views of Gay Head Light, Menemsha and the Elizabeth Islands. Admission is free to all.

Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary

This Massachusetts Audubon Society property offers four miles of trails to explore through woodlands, meadows, ponds, a salt marsh and barrier beach. At the Nature Center and Discovery Room of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, you can see barn owls nesting in the barn dormer through a special “owl cam.”

Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, 100 Felix Neck Drive. Tel. 508-627-4850. Admission: $4 for nonmember adults and $3 for nonmember children ages 2 to 12. www.massaudubon.org


Destinations: Martha’s Vineyard

Themes: Beach Vacations, Family Travel

Activities: Sightseeing


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