Martha's Vineyard is a roughly 120 square mile island located several miles off the coast of Cape Cod. The island features vast unadulterated landscapes, rural farm country, quaint New England downtowns, and of course, top-rated beaches.
There is no shortage of beaches on the island of Martha's Vineyard. From family friendly easy-to-access beaches with shallow water and soft sand, to big waves, and miles long walks to rock covered secluded shorelines, there truly is a beach for everyone.
There are six towns on Martha's Vineyard, with Vineyard Haven (Tisbury), Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown generally being referred to as “down-island.” West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah make up what locals refer to as “up-island.” These colloquialisms do not refer to north and south on a compass, they actually reference population and topography, with the up-island towns being slightly higher in elevation and less densely populated. In fact, looking at a map down-island is more of the eastern side of the island while up-island constitutes the west side. If you arrive by ferry to Martha's Vineyard you will arrive in either Vineyard Haven, our year round ferry terminal, or to one of our seasonal ports in Oak Bluffs or Edgartown.
The Beaches of Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard
Owen Park Beach
Just a short walk from the Steamship Authority ferry terminal in Vineyard Haven is Owen Park Beach and Tisbury Town Beach. These beaches are family friendly and Owen Park beach is very well protected by the harbor and a large breakwater. Great views of the harbor and easy access from downtown Vineyard Haven give it great appeal for daytrippers. Handicap parking is available at Owen Park just steps from the beach which is a relatively small beach inside Vineyard Haven harbor.
Lake Tashmoo Town Beach
For views of the Elizabeth Islands and the North Shore of the island from Vineyard Haven, Lake Tashmoo Town Beach is also a popular spot open to the public. Be prepared for a long bumpy dirt road and an exhilarating drive if you plan on visiting this beach, and make sure your car's suspension is up for it. It is common to have to pull over in a turnout as this dirt road is mostly one lane, two-way traffic.
A popular place among fisherman and beachgoers alike, this beach is at the entrance to Lake Tashmoo, a deep water inlet harbor with perfect conditions for small craft boats, stand up paddleboards, and kayaks. Lake Tashmoo Town Beach is a small beach with limited parking just steps from the shore. If you can score a parking spot it makes for a very convenient day on the sand when you're parked just steps from the water. Additional appeal are the portable toilets at this beach during the season, a rare amenity at Martha's Vineyard beaches.
The Beaches of Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard
Just past the drawbridge en route to Oak Bluffs from Vineyard Haven along Beach Road, you will find Eastville Beach. This beach has very easy access from the parking lot and has become increasingly popular in recent years. It can be a bit rocky in some areas but expect mostly sandy shores. Enjoy great views of Cape Cod and the ferry boats and tall ships of Vineyard Haven Harbor coming and going.
This beach is located on the outer Vineyard Haven Harbor approaching East Chop. (East Chop refers to a residential area of Oak Bluffs, a peninsula surrounded on the North and East by Vineyard Sound and on the West by Vineyard Haven Harbor). The inner side of the channel at Eastville Beach is a great place to watch the drawbridge raise for tall sailboats entering and leaving the lagoon.
Doug's Cove Preserve
Directly across the street from Eastville Beach is Doug's Cove Preserve, a small property managed by the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank. This is a dog friendly property with a trail and beach access to the lagoon. Doug's Cove is ideal for a picnic and this protected piece of land offers a completely different landscape from Eastville Beach. This is a great place to launch a kayak or stand up paddle and explore the nearby ponds. Be mindful of the channel markers, as this is a very active passage in and out of Vineyard Haven Harbor for motor boats of all sizes. Parking is very limited at this property.
Near Eastville Beach, there's a great paddle boarding and water sports experience at Wind's Up
Oak Bluffs Town Beach
Downtown Oak Bluffs offers access to Oak Bluffs Town Beach. This beach is just steps from the Oak Bluffs Steamship ferry terminal and Oak Bluffs harbor. Oak Bluffs Town Beach is a sandy beach with generally calm water this is a popular place for families. There are staircases down to the beach along the seawall with handicap access at the end of the beach away from the ferry terminal. With access to town facilities, local restaurants, shopping, and parking along the road and throughout town, this is a great place to visit if you don't have much time on the island. If you are staying in town, this is an ideal option for a full beach day to a quick ocean dip.
While in Oak Bluffs, check out some of the famous ice cream shops like Mad Martha's and Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium
The famous Inkwell Beach is part of Oak Bluffs Town Beach. Since the 1800s the Inkwell Beach has long been a popular destination and summertime sanctuary for Black families and it is beloved by many. It is a small stretch of beach that has been visited generationally and is a hub of culture and activity in the summer months. Its name has a cloudy history with some saying it originally had a derogatory meaning, while others have more romantic views of it being inspired by the beach's notable literary visitors throughout the years. However it's name came to be, it is now an iconic and proud name that you will find emblazoned on beachwear around town.
A few miles further down beach road you will find Joseph Sylvia State Beach, or simply State Beach. This beach is a two mile long barrier beach that runs alongside Beach Road, and protects Sengekontacket pond. This beach is in both Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, while the Edgartown side is called Bend in the Road Beach.
Short sandy pathways lead down to this shallow, approachable beach. There is one universal access ramp on the Oak Bluffs side of the beach.
The water is generally calm, and there is access to Sengekontacket Pond, a great place for stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, and small craft boating. There is often a strong current near the bridges as the tide moves in and out of the pond, so if you are enjoying the beach with your family, keep an eye out for fast moving water.
The Famous Jaws Bridge
The Bridge that separates the Oak Bluffs and Edgartown sides of this beach is known to many as “Jaws Bridge,” after its memorable moment in the 1975 classic film “Jaws.” Though there are signs that warn you not to, many people take the plunge and jump from the bridge into the fast moving water flowing in or out of Sengekontacket Pond. It's a rite of passage for many and an exciting time for all that take the plunge.
State Beach is also a popular area for all kinds of outdoor recreation, from fishing and waterskiing to kitesurfing. On windy days it is common to see a dozen or more people catching big air kitesurfing both in the pond and the ocean. Note there are no facilities available at State Beach with the exception of watercraft rentals at nearby Sengekontacket Pond so plan accordingly for a packed lunch and strategic bathroom breaks.
The Beaches of Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard
Just a short walk from Main Street in downtown Edgartown is Lighthouse Beach. This iconic beach is at the entrance to Edgartown Harbor and Katama Bay, and is home to the stately and historic Edgartown Lighthouse. There is no dedicated parking for this beach, however it is very easy to access from North Water Street. There is ample parking in the surrounding areas of downtown Edgartown but again spots fill up very quickly in the summer months.
Lighthouse Beach faces Chappaquiddick Island, and offers plenty of room to spread out without leaving town. It is not uncommon to see fishermen enjoying this beach alongside beachgoers. Be prepared for a sandy path and wooden walkway down to this beach. This is a great place to watch the sunrise, as well as sunset.
With views of the lighthouse and the bustling harbor, this beach is a lovely place with serene views and a truly authentic Martha's Vineyard experience. Note there are no facilities available at Lighthouse Beach and the closest public restroom is located at the Church Street bus stop several minutes away.
For a look at the open ocean, head out of town to rural Katama, home of South Beach (Katama Beach), and Norton Point Beach. South Beach is a very popular beach with soft sand and southern views of the open ocean. Waves can become quite large on the south shore, and there is often a strong undertow. Lifeguards are on duty in season at South Beach beach, however it can be a dangerous place for inexperienced swimmers at times because of its waves, so children should be watched very carefully when near the shore.
Norton Point Beach
Norton Point Beach is managed by the Trustees of Reservations, and is open for over sand driving, with proper permits. This is a very popular beach which does reach capacity almost daily in peak season. It's a great way to spend the day, take your well equipped four wheel drive vehicle on the beach with you. This beach is loaded with expert beach set ups, with many vehicles rigged with grills, rod racks, and cooler carriers specifically for long days on the beach. Sunrise and sunset are popular times with anglers, though you can almost always find someone with a line in the water.
Driving on the sand can be an exciting experience, but remember that this is not an activity for every vehicle (and most rental vehicles are prohibited from trying). You must purchase an Over-Sand-Vehicle Permit from the Trustees before driving on the beach. All vehicles must:
- Have four wheel drive
- Deflate tires to 15 psi
- Avoid driving on dunes
- Stay to the fixed paths for driving
It is not uncommon for vehicles to become stuck in the sand, so it is very important to adhere to these regulations. Although Norton Point Beach connects to South Beach, there are no lifeguards on duty at this beach, and it shares the same potentially dangerous conditions as South Beach. Swim at your own risk.
East Beach on Chappaquiddick
East Beach is a part of the Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge and Wasque Reservation located on Chappaquiddick or “Chappy.” Take one of the world's shortest ferry crossings via the Chappy Ferry from downtown Edgartown to Chappaquiddick island to visit this secluded and expansive beach.
Chappaquiddick is an extremely rural island (or peninsula depending on the tides and shoreline) that is part of Edgartown. There are no stores or major facilities on Chappaquiddick, so be sure to stock up before you make the ferry crossing. Cape Poge offers desolate stretches of beaches that go on for miles and miles. It's a place you can go any time of year and feel like having your own private beach on Martha's Vineyard.
Also managed by the Trustees of Reservations, there are Over-Sand-Vehicle Permits available for Cape Poge. Drive to iconic Cape Poge Light** **for exceptional views. This secluded area can make you feel as though you are thousands of miles from civilization, an amazing place to get away from the crowds and soak in some solitude.
You can also walk onto this beach without a vehicle from Dike Bridge. There is limited parking at Dike Bridge, and nearby Mytoi Japanese Gardens, which are also worth a visit! The gardens are handicap accessible, however beyond the bridge there are no facilities of any kind, just vast wild stretches of beach, and pond.
Fuller Street Beach
Right around the corner from Lighthouse Beach is Fuller Street Beach, accessible at the end of Fuller street with limited Handicap access. Fuller Street dead ends onto the beach, so there is almost no walk to the beach. Parking is very limited, and the water is extremely shallow as a large flat is located here. You can access Lighthouse Beach by simply walking down Fuller Beach toward the lighthouse.
If you walk to the left on the beach from Fuller Street, you will find a large pile of inspirational rocks adorned with custom messages. This location is part of the “Kindness Rocks Project,” an initiative to spread kindness and that it does. The rocks are intended to spread joy, to be taken when needed, and for people to make and leave new ones. Have fun exploring the rocks or be inspired to bring your own to contribute.
The Beaches of West Tisbury, Martha's Vineyard
Lambert's Cove Beach
West Tisbury has limited options for public beaches if you are not a resident of this town, or staying in a rental home with a pass to Lambert's Cove Beach. Lambert's Cove Beach is a coveted North Shore beach with crystal blue water, soft white sand, and famously calm water (it's the closest thing you'll find to the Caribbean on Martha's Vineyard).
A great way to enjoy Lambert's Cove Beach without a permit is to access the beach during the off-season or to make an early trip before 10am in the summer or later in the evening for sunset. The sunsets at Lambert's Cove Beach rival those at Menemsha Beach and the unobstructed view from the North Shore is one of the best on-Island.
From 7am-10am during the summer months dogs are welcome on Lambert's Cove Beach. There is a large section of beach that is designated for off leash dogs. Dogs must be fully vaccinated, and be under voice control of their owners. No dogs outside of these hours and beach passes are regularly checked beginning at 10am.
Long Point Wildlife Refuge
Long Point Wildlife Refuge Beach is a vast secluded beach on the South Shore of the Island. This property is managed by the Trustees of Reservations, and is subject to their regulations. Reservations are often required during peak season, and the parking lot can reach capacity quite early. If you do make it to Long Point, take a lovely walk from the parking lot, past a series of duck blinds, and Tisbury Great Pond to this quiet beach.
With access to both the warm protected pond, and the ocean, there is plenty of opportunity for the whole family to enjoy. Note that the official beach entrances change with the season so be sure to get the most accurate directions to the corresponding location given the time of year you will arrive.
The Beaches of Chilmark, Martha's Vineyard
Menemsha Public Beach
Menemsha Public Beach is located in the heart of the Island's historic fishing village, Menemsha. This beach is the most iconic place on the island to watch the sunset. Famous for its unobstructed west facing views, people of all ages flock to this place before the sun goes down (and many of them give it a round of applause!).
Just steps from shopping, and fish markets serving fresh fish, and cooked meals, this beach is a great place to spend the whole day. You'll frequently find fishermen dropping off their catch to be cooked and served fresh. This is one of the few beaches on the island that has public restrooms in the parking lot. Easily accessible to all ages and abilities, a visit to Menemsha is a must. Parking is limited in Menemsha, and can fill up quite quickly.
The Beaches of Chilmark, Martha's Vineyard
Lucy Vincent Beach
Some of Chilmark's most exceptional beaches are private which means you cannot access them in the summer months without a town issued beach pass. If you are fortunate enough to be a town resident, or staying in a home with a beach pass, Lucy Vincent Beach is an iconic beach just past the Allen Farm on South Road. Lucy Vincent is known for the dramatic sand and gravel formations that pepper its landscape, which have shifted dramatically over the years due to coastal erosion. Lucy Vincent Beach is a photographer's paradise and you'll find plenty of tripods set up at sunrise eager to catch the magic of the sky here in the early morning.
Lucy Vincent Beach has been a town beach for almost fifty years, but prior to the establishment of a town beach access, this legendary beach was technically private property. For nearly thirty years prior access was only available by crossing through a woman's yard onto the beach. Though the story goes that some had asked for permission over the years, most visitors would simply run past her house to get down to the beach. Three years after her passing the town of Chilmark opened the beach to town residents and named the beach after the woman who watched over it for most of her life, Lucy Vincent.
There is a section of this beach that is famously clothing-optional. Legend has it that Ms. Vincent wanted certain standards maintained on her beach, and nudity was not up to her standards, some believe that the tradition of disrobing on this beach harkens back to the free wheeling attitude of those that visited the beach before it was public.
Squibnocket Beach is also a Chilmark town beach that is also located along the shore of Chilmark. This is a very popular place among surfers, and a legendary place for striped bass fishermen. Squibnocket Beach at high tide is limited to the space in front of the parking lot, though its reach expands when the tide falls, there are large rocks and cliffs on the up island side.
The Beaches of Aquinnah, Martha's Vineyard
Aquinnah (formerly Gay Head) is the least populous town on the island. Home to the storied Aquinnah cliffs, and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). Moshup Beach (Gay Head Public Beach) is open to the public, and offers stunning views of the multicolored clay cliffs.
Soft sand with large rocks, endless south facing views of the ocean, and the beautifully cliffs towering behind you create a truly majestic landscape on this beach. Parking is available in a large public lot for a daily fee. Facilities are available near the parking lot. The beach itself is about a ten minute walk down a dune path to the sand.
For those feeling the need to sun it all, head toward the cliffs and you will come upon a sign that is uncommon on many beaches in the U.S. “Beyond this point you may encounter nude sunbathing.” Beyond this sign, well, you guessed it, you may see folks sunbathing sans clothing.
Philbin Beach is another beloved town beach in Aquinnah but it is only accessible to homeowners and renters in town. In 2012 the local government decided land ownership was not enough to earn a parking spot at this beautiful beach, after someone sold their home and retained a small non-buildable piece of land in order to maintain access to this beach. So you might say Martha's Vineyard is serious about its private beaches.
On Aquinnah's North Shore you'll find Lobsterville Beach across the channel from Menemsha, and stretching for miles up to Dogfish Bar. This stretch of beach is very secluded. While there are sometimes closures on the beach to protect migratory bird nests, parking is extremely limited, and there will always be plenty of room to stretch your legs. Lobsterville Beach's West Basin can also be accessed by the bike taxi in Menemsha, this is a privately run service that runs from Menemsha, to West Basin boat launch. Once you are on Lobsterville Beach there are no facilities or amenities of any kind so plan accordingly.
There are a number of beaches that are not suitable for a beach day, but offer exceptional views, interesting geology, and shore fishing access, making for great hiking destinations. Much of the land on Martha's Vineyard is protected land with hundreds of miles of hiking trails. Sheriff's Meadow, The Trustees, and the Land Bank manage many of the island's trails. A fantastic resource for finding and navigating the many trails on-Island is the TrailsMV app. Some of our favorite hiking trails that also offer beach access include Menemsha Hills, Great Rock Bight Preserve and Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary.
If there's one thing we can tell you about accessing Martha's Vineyard beaches in the summer, it's get there early. Things are pretty relaxed on Martha's Vineyard, and things wind down fairly early in the towns at night. This makes for a lot of early birds so expect beach parking to be limited after 10 AM just about anywhere you go in season. Don't get discouraged if you can't find a spot right away, there is plenty to do on the island, and you can always check back in a bit, as people come and go all day long.
One important thing to remember before planning your trip to the beach on Martha's Vineyard is, not all beaches are public. There are a handful of “town” beaches, which simply means you must be a town resident and have a pass to access these beaches. These beaches include:
- Philbin Beach (Aquinnah)
- Lucy Vincent Beach (Chilmark)
- Squibnocket Beach (Chilmark)
- Lambert's Cove Beach (West Tisbury)
These are all great beaches, some of our best in fact, and many rentals in these towns come with beach passes. Note that even if you have a beach pass you are not guaranteed a spot at the beach. Parking at all is limited and even passholders can be turned away due to capacity restraints.
In the summer season these beaches are staffed with lifeguards as well as parking lot attendants to ensure compliance during the season. If you are on the island in the winter, you can enjoy a stroll on almost any of the Island's beaches, and that alone is enough of a reason to plan a Martha's Vineyard winter getaway.
It's also important to note that many of the Trustees' managed beaches require permits, or may have closures because of erosion, or migratory birds. If you are visiting a Trustees property, it is always wise to check the Trustees' website, as well as their social media for current conditions and information.
Many of the beaches on the island offer very limited facilities if there are any at all. There has been considerable effort over the years to maintain the rural character of the island. This only adds to the beauty of the place, and many people are seeking desolate beaches, but it can leave you feeling a bit stranded if you are not prepared.
Be sure to pack plenty of sunblock, snacks, water, and anything else you may need throughout your day. There are plenty of options in the down-island towns to stock up on supplies before you head to the beach, but options become more limited up-island and also on Chappaquiddick. Additionally most island beaches are carry-in carry-out so be prepared to take all of your trash and belongings with you, to help ensure the beauty of Martha's Vineyard beaches for generations to come.