From woodlands and white sand beaches to the historic homes of wealthy whalers, Martha’s Vineyard offers natural beauty, one of a kind attractions and vintage charm. This tiny island south of Cape Cod is a popular destination for vacationers and celebrities, including President Barack Obama and rock star Jon Bon Jovi.
The western portion of Martha’s Vineyard, commonly known as up-island, is the location of majestic natural wonders and quiet rural towns. Aquinnah contains the red clay Gay Head Cliffs and Martha’s Vineyard’s first lighthouse that was built in 1799. The town of Chilmark is home to the fishing village of Menemsha, famous for seafood and stunning sunsets.
Down-island to the east lies the historic village of Edgartown, whose scenic churches and white-painted homes preserve the prosperous whaling history of Vineyard. Just a shuttle stop away, the town of Oak Bluffs is a popular religious retreat. Visit the Methodist Campground, and its residences of colorful gingerbread cottages. Both towns have miles of gorgeous public beaches.
A local bus system makes traveling to different island locations easy. A car ferry is available from Wood’s Hole, Massachusetts to Martha’s Vineyard. Passenger ferries leave from various points in New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. A ferry travels from the Vineyard to the historic Chappaquiddick Island, where wildlife flourishes in undisturbed marshes and beaches.
Carved by glaciers millions of years ago, the epic Aquinnah Cliffs line the half-mile stretch of pristine coastline that makes up Moshup Beach â a prime destination for sunning and swimming.
Protected by the Nantucket Sound, scenic Jetties Beach is just a mile from downtown Nantucket. For a mellow locale and rolling waves, Siasconset Beach offers a peaceful retreat.
As evidenced by local fishermen frequently lining the jetties, the village of Menemsha is ideal for fishing including fluke, sea bass and scup.
Surf cast for the notorious Nantucket Blues a.k.a. bluefish especially from Great Point at sunset. Frequently referred to as the best in the world, Nantucket bluefish are some of the largest anywhere â ranging from 8 to 15 pounds.
The first lighthouse constructed on Martha's Vineyard, Gay Head Lighthouse was built in 1799 and has since been restored from the original wooden structure to today's brick exterior.
Brant Point Light is America's second-oldest lighthouse, standing just 26 feet tall. On the island's northernmost point, Great Point Lighthouse aids mariners.
On the southeastern side of the island, the stately Edgartown village was the center for whaling activities between 1820 and 1865 with over 100 whaling captains living here.
Classified as the Whaling Capital of the World, Nantucket was once the headquarters for whalers for over a century starting in 1750. Today, visit the Nantucket Whaling Museum to observe the collection of whaling equipment, scrimshaw and artifacts.
Accommodating vessels up to 200 feet, Vineyard Haven Marina offers concierge services for shoreside excursions including island tours and local restaurants.
With a full range of guest services, Nantucket Boat Basin is complete with pet-friendly accommodations and concierge services to assist in reservations, transportation and activities on the island.
Beaches may not be the first thing that come to mind when daydreaming about northern ports. But you better believe that when temperatures rise and those warm summer breezes start to blow, residents and visitors alike make tracks for sandy Atlantic Ocean curves. These 10 favorites, chosen by our Marinalife readers, provide a contrast to their palm-fringed and reef-studded southern siblings. Instead, showing off naturally diverse and sometimes-rugged shores, along with a treasure trove of historic and modern attractions.
Several sections make up this beautiful, 2.5-mile stretch on the east coast of Block Island and everyone has their favorite. The easiest to visit is Surf Beach, just steps from the Old Harbor ferry dock, where small waves lap a tawny blanket dotted with rocks. Baby Beach, to the south, attracts families to its shallow tide pools and mild surf. Town Beach has a pavilion with concessions; Scotch Beach is broad and roomy, with a volleyball game usually under way. Whatever your taste, you can't miss with this varied, wonderful slice of heaven.
Where to dock: Champlin's Hotel, Marina & Resort (401-466-7777)
You don't have to be rich and famous to frequent this public beach in Long Island's East Hampton. In fact, it's better that way. A bite-size 300 feet long, Georgica is one of the quieter strands in the area, popular with surfers and kayakers who like to leisurely paddle around neighboring Georgica Cove. There are lifeguards on duty during the summer and restrooms are available, but expect no other amenities here. Plan to bring a fully stocked cooler with you. However, magnificent views of the horizon-swallowing Atlantic Ocean are free and available year-round.
Where to Dock: Sag Harbor Yacht Club (631-725-0567)
Down Park Loop Road on the east side of Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park, Sand Beach lies hidden between mountains and rocky coasts on both sides. But the discovery is so worth it. The gorgeous, 290-yard swath is comprised mainly of tiny shell fragments that have been beaten into sand by the rough shores and surf. A lifeguard is on duty from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Changing rooms and restrooms are located next to the parking area. One caveat: the water is bone-chilling cold, even in July and August, so enter at your own risk.
Where to Dock: Harborside Hotel, Spa & Marina (207-288-5033)
Being located in a place called Pleasure Island sets a high standard, but Carolina Beach is up to the task. The 1950s-era motels and rental cottages flanked today by upscale condos and hotels evoke a vintage coastal feel. So does the boardwalk, which is a must-see (voted one of the 10 best in the country by Food & Wine magazine). Take a stroll there and peruse the amusements and boutique shops. Drop a line from the fishing pier, or visit the docks to watch the trawlers unloading the day's catch. You can bet there's some great, fresh seafood being served at the eateries right off the beachfront.
Where to Dock: Southport Marina (910-457-9900)
Perhaps the most picturesque pick on an island known for its magnificent beaches. The soft white sand, transparent water and good surf would put it at the top of many lists already but then there's the backdrop. The multi-colored clay cliffs in Aquinnah are spectacular, enhanced by small stone cairns built by previous visitors. A lookout area above the cliffs offers a few small restaurants that serve sandwiches, burgers and such. The beach is on the western-most part of Martha's Vineyard, often overlooked by tourists, which probably explains the clothing optional area. You have been warned.
Where to Dock: Vineyard Haven Marina (508-693-0720)
Looking for that Key West vibe without having to travel to, well, Key West? This is it. Coligny is Hilton Head's most lively beach, with sand volleyball courts and a giant outdoor bar just yards from the waist-deep ocean water. Here you'll find Hawaiian shirt-wearing musicians, all sorts of beach rentals, lifeguards, outdoor showers, changing rooms, even WiFi. Just a short jaunt north, Coligny Plaza feeds your need for touristy souvenirs, food and frosty beverages. Though this beach can become crowded in season, you have only to walk a few hundred yards north or south to get some elbowroom.
Watch Coast Guard ships come and go from the station around the point as you bask in the all-day glow of this khaki-colored gem. Dunes extend back from the wide cut of sand, with bike trails leading to the parking lot and, further, to Seashore Beach and Herring Cove. Stop by Province Lands Visitor Center before or after your sunning session to check out the short educational films and bookstore. Pilgrim Monument, also nearby, has exhibits about local plants and animals, as well as the Pilgrims' landing in Provincetown.
Where to Dock: Provincetown Marina (508-487-0571)
Sometimes you just want a little quiet time. So, after spending a day in Virginia Beach's bustling resort district, head 15 miles south to relax and recharge on Sandbridge Beach, five miles of golden sand along the Atlantic coast. Along with the blissful serenity of the ocean, those craving outdoor adventure can visit the marshes and open waters of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park for great kayaking, hiking and fishing.
Where to Dock: Marina Shores Marina (757-496-7000)
Let's get something straight right off the bat, this is not Wildwood, the noisier, newsmaking neighbor to the north. No, this is Wildwood Crest, a town known for its family appeal and historic architecture steeped in doowop culture. The beach is soft, white sand, with trained lifeguards and no alcohol, dogs or fires are permitted. Surfers have a designated area called Rambler Road Beach, where they can shred without disturbing swimmers. In the summer, outdoor concerts, fitness events and massive markets enliven this close-knit town.
Where to Dock: Schooner Island Marina (609-729-0900)
Rehoboth Beach is Delaware's largest beach resort, yet still spans only one square mile. But, oh, what a mile. The downtown boardwalk is where most of the action is. It's dotted with artsy boutiques and small, funky restaurants, along with a bevy of activities like video games, rides, go-karts and miniature golf. The vanilla-colored shoreline offers up surfing and skimboard lessons, as well as deepsea fishing expeditions. Back from the shore, Rehoboth consists of shady, tree-lined streets dotted with colorful cottages and tranquil parks.
Where to Dock: Indian River Inlet Marina (302-227-3071)
The Great Loop, the Downeast Loop, the Triangle Loop, Florida's Little Loop boaters seem to be quite loop happy. So here's one to add to your loopy list: the Nantucket Sound Loop, circling from Cape Cod in the north to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket in the south. There are many well-protected harbors, the fishing is very good, beaches run for miles, and there are quintessential small towns everywhere.
Great place to start is in Woods Hole, just down the road from Falmouth on the Cape. It's less than 12 miles from the Cape Cod Canal and less than 25 from Newport, Rhode Island. From there, the loop runs east-southeast to Martha's Vineyard, east to Nantucket, north up to Hyannis, and west over to Cotuit Bay before heading southwest to return to Woods Hole. This route stays inside the Nantucket Sound, safe from large ocean swells. There are many shoals scattered around the sound, but they are well charted and marked, and there's plenty of room to avoid them. The longest run is about 25 miles, which means easy day trips for even the slowest of vessels. By going north from Nantucket to Hyannis, the trip takes advantage of the prevailing southwesterly winds that dominate here during the summer.
In Woods Hole, tie up in Hadley's Harbor, a very unique place. The Forbes family installed mooring buoys here in the inner harbor they are marked private but that seems to be a technicality, as cruising boats use the moorings regularly. Oh, and by the way, they're free. The only problem with that is that they're also often full. Your other options are to anchor in outer Hadley's Harbor or proceed to a mooring or slip in Woods Hole harbor. While you're in town, don't miss the tour at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, it is excellent. And when you're motoring out of Woods Hole, pay attention to the current as you're maneuvering toward open water there are rocks all around!
Next up, Martha's Vineyard. This is a very big island with many ports to choose from. I like staying in Vineyard Haven Harbor. It's in the center of the island, is sheltered from the winds, has options for anchoring, mooring or dockage, and the excellent local bus system makes it easy to get around. Plus, the collection of classic yachts moored here is great fun to check out. To the east, Oak Bluff has moorings and dock space options and seems to be party central. Edgartown, farthest east, is an outstanding little village with anchoring, mooring, and some dock space as well. A walking tour of the many old sea captains' houses is a great way to stretch your legs. Take the ferry across to Chappaquiddick to explore the marshes and beaches.
After the Vineyard, it's on to Nantucket. This has to be the most New England of New England destinations. Many of the streets are cobblestone, and the buildings are postcard perfect. There is room to anchor, a large mooring field, and in the harbor is the excellent Nantucket Boat Basin (508-325-1350, nantucketboatbasin.com), which has earned the Marinalife Transient Marina Of The Year Award for three years running. George Bassett, the dockmaster for 28 years, has built up an 86 percent customer return rate, in large part because it's all about customer service at Nantucket Boat Basin. George and his 40-person staff keep everyone happy, and it's important to book your reservations early to make sure you get a spot. The wharf-like setting is charming and one-of-a-kind, with shops and restaurants just steps away. It has the appearance more of a fishing village than a marina, and it works very well. Arrange for a bike rental to venture along the island's paved bike trails past beautiful homes and pristine beaches. You can also run your dinghy five miles from Nantucket Boat Basin up to the Head Of The Harbor and the stunningly gorgeous Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge.
There's nothing quite like Nantucket.Next, head 25 mile north to Hyannis. Don't lie, the first thing you think of when hearing Hyannis is Kennedy, and rightly so. That family made the town famous, and still has a compound there. You can anchor in the outer harbor not far from several of their moored boats. Visit the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum to learn even more about one of our best-known presidents. But there is also so much more to Hyannis. Well-protected Lewis Bay is accessed via a deep channel, and has a mooring field run by the Hyannis Yacht Club and a large area available for anchoring. Further into Hyannis' inner harbor you'll find the Hyannis Marina (508-790-4000, hyannismarina.com), a resort-like facility with all the usual extras plus 200 slips for yachts up to 200 feet, a pool, Trader Ed's Cabana Bar, Tugboat's Restaurant, three courtesy cars, and one of the best-stocked marina ships stores I've ever seen. Carla Sullivan, dockmaster for 18 years, runs a tight ship if you need it, she can get it. She regularly attends to the needs of the megayachts that frequently tie up, but gives the royal treatment to every boat that lands at her docks, no matter how large or small. If you can pull yourself away from the marina, there are all kinds of excellent restaurants and attractions to check out. The Black Cat Tavern has some of the best chowda around. Downtown there's a unique collection of waterfront artists' studios, a maritime museum, and plenty of shops to fulfill the need for retail therapy.
There are nice beaches on the inside and outside of Egg Island, just a quick dinghy ride from anywhere in the harbor.
The last stop on this loop is Cotuit Bay. The channel at the entrance to Cotuit Bay is quite shallow, so the preferred entry route is the channel into West Bay, followed by an immediate turn into the Seapuit River behind Dead Neck. This route gets dredged frequently and big sailboats use it regularly. There are marinas further up West Bay and a mooring field in Cotuit Bay, but I like to anchor behind Dead Neck in the no-wake zone. There is a sandy bottom with good holding behind the barrier-island bird sanctuary. You can walk around the beach to the sound to swim in the ocean, or just relax in the peaceful, quiet setting. From the West Bay channel, it's an easy day trip back to Woods Hole.
Falmouth Harbor, less than 10 miles west of Woods Hole, has plenty of marinas if anchoring out for a night is not your cup of tea. You can do this loop in a week, though it's better if you give it two weeks, and you could easily spend a month or two doing it, exploring all that the many islands and harbors have to offer. However long you go for, enjoy Nantucket Sound!