Martha’s Vineyard is a May to October destination. Between these months the temperature is warm, the restaurants and cafes are open, and the tourists are everywhere. Today, in December, the island is much, much quieter. So, as a tourist on Martha’s Vineyard in the winter, what is there to do anyway? On my trip, the answer became nature and food; this post will be devoted to nature.
While the island is known for its sandy, calm beaches, access to the water in the colder months is hardly the tourist’s priority. Still though, the beauty of the many and marvelous coasts is to be appreciated. On our visit to Martha’s Vineyard, even in the chilly weather, we made stops to a number of beaches and nature spots. Two picturesque spots worth visiting in the colder months are Aquinnah and Chappaquiddick.
Aquinnah is a town located on the western-most part of the island. The town is known for its beautiful Clay Cliffs that line the coast and the red brick Gay Head Lighthouse. This part of Martha’s Vineyard, like most others, offers sandy hiking paths as well as beach access. While parking is hard to come by during the peak season, we had no trouble parking right in front of the scenic overlook to take in the watery horizon.
On the stark opposite side of Aquinnah lies the “island” of Chappaquiddick, known to the locals as “Chappy.” I put “island” in quotations, because it is technically a peninsula, as the tides sometimes reveal a sandy land bridge on the southern-most tip of the landmass. To access Chappaquiddick by car, one must take a small ferry from a little port tucked away in Edgartown. Unlike the large boat that transports scores of people and vehicles between Woods Hole on the mainland and the island of Martha’s Vineyard in its 45-minute commute (more here), the Chappy Ferry runs on continuous all-day service and takes no more than three cars at a time on the 2-minute journey between islands.
Docking on Chappy, my first thought was disbelief to see so many houses on this tiny island (as if Martha’s Vineyard were not small and secluded enough already!). Like Martha’s Vineyard, Chappy is woodsy and beachy. We drove to the eastern part of the island to visit the Mytoi Japanese garden, which features an abundance of diverse trees and plenty of seating deliberately situated to offer unique views of footpaths and water features.
Continuing down the road, we came to Dike bridge, made famous for the 1969 car accident in which then-Senator Ted Kennedy’s car skidded off the road into a pond and his passenger Mary Jo Kopechne perished. We parked on the landside of the Dike bridge and crossed toward the beach on foot. There are no roads on the beach side, so unless your car has 4-wheel drive and the correct tire pressure, you will not be able to safely drive up and down the coast. The East Beach on the other side of Dike bridge is strikingly beautiful. I can only imagine how nice it would be to swim along this picturesque stretch of land. Although it was a balmy 50-degrees (lol) on this December’s day, it was windy and rainy, which made even our brief walk along the sand a bone-chilling experience.
Aquinnah and Chappaquiddick are only two such beauties on this island paradise. In addition, there are plenty of hiking paths (mostly flat), “preserves,” “sanctuaries,” and “reservations” to explore even when the temperatures dip below freezing.
In the time of COVID-19, it is a very beautiful thing to find so many destinations worth visiting in the outdoors.