From the calm, protected waters of the north and east shores to the crashing surf along the south shore, the Vineyard offers miles of beaches to suit beach-goers of every age and mood. With 125 miles of shoreline, sunbathers can choose from family-friendly beaches on Vineyard or Nantucket Sound, or the more challenging ocean beaches.
They range from totally private (requiring a key to enter) to those open to the general public. Between are town beaches such as those in West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah. Many of these are restricted to residents or summer visitors of the town who must show proof of residency or tenancy in order to obtain necessary parking stickers or walk-in passes.
Just as Vineyard visitors can rattle off their favorite restaurants, long-time Island residents have their favorite beach getaways. Kathy and Paul Domitrovich, the owners of the popular Lola's Restaurant in Oak Bluffs, enjoy Long Point Wildlife Refuge in West Tisbury, when they have free time, but are regulars at The Inkwell, the stretch of Oak Bluffs Town Beach along Beach Road at the bottom of Waban Park.
"We try to get to the beach once a day," Kathy said, "even if it's just for coffee in the morning.".
Photographer and West Tisbury resident Nina Bramhall prefers the beaches of Cape Pogue Wildlife Refuge & Wasque Reservation on Chappaquiddick. "There's an edge-of-the-world quality about those beaches that is unlike anywhere else on the Island."
Her husband, Paul Schneider, author of "The Enduring Shore: A History of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket," recommends driving or biking up-Island to the beaches of Menemsha, Lobsterville, or Aquinnah. "There's nothing in the world like the beach under the Aquinnah Cliffs," he said. And, for those who'd rather fish than bask, he suggests Coop's Bait & Tackle on West Tisbury Road in Edgartown for "all you need to know about fishing Island waters."
Jeff Ciciora, a hard-working real estate appraiser in Oak Bluffs, is a fourth-generation Islander who spent years developing his tan and his expert knowledge of Vineyard beaches. "My favorite beaches are all in Aquinnah," he confessed. "I love both the north and south shore." He also recommended the Tashmoo opening in Vineyard Haven and West Basin, a small cove on the Aquinnah side of Menemsha Creek.
A last bit of Vineyard beach advice comes from Jeff's wife, Sandy Ciciora, whose maiden name, no joke, was Shore. She has fond memories of spending 9-hour days with friends and kids on Joseph A. Sylvia State Beach in Oak Bluffs. "It's a great place for young children because it's so calm," she said.
The best way to get the most out of a Vineyard vacation is to be adventurous. Grab a bike, a kayak or your car keys and find out which of the following 22 beaches is your favorite. Read the details carefully, however, because some are restricted to town residents or guests.
South Beach State Park/Katama. A south shore barrier beach, South Beach is known for its crashing surf and views of Katama Bay. Popular with teenagers and 20-somethings, it's also great for families who enjoy big waves and summer crowds. It features soft sand, three miles of beach and dunes. Check for swimming conditions; there are undertows and riptides. Parking is abundant. Lifeguards on duty, but no concessions. Public welcome.
Bend in the Road Beach. Located on the Edgartown end of Joseph A. Sylvia State Beach on Beach Road, this is a great spot for families with young kids with its gentle, shallow water, nearby parking and lifeguards. Bike path is adjacent. Public welcome.
Fuller Street Beach. At the end of Fuller Street, near the Edgartown Lighthouse, this beach overlooks the harbor with views of Chappaquiddick and the elegant Captains' houses of Edgartown. Parking limited. No lifeguards. Public welcome.
Lighthouse Beach. Just off N. Water Street downtown at Starbuck's Neck. Very limited parking. Great views of Chappaquiddick, Cape Pogue and the harbor. Lifeguards on duty. Public welcome.
Cape Pogue Wildlife Refuge & Wasque Reservation (East Beach). Located on the eastern edge of Chappaquiddick Island, these extraordinary but somewhat remote conservation areas are owned and operated by The Trustees of Reservations. Miles of unspoiled beaches, walking trails and sandy roads accessible only by over-sand vehicles (permits required).
In addition to the beaches, you can reserve a spot on a fishing discovery, natural history, lighthouse, kayak or canoe tour.
Public welcome but subject to the regulations of The Trustees of Reservations. Fee for non-members. Visit thetrustees.org for more information.
Oak Bluffs Town Beach. A short stroll to downtown, this beach begins near the Steamship Authority terminal and continues off and on along Beach Road until it connects with Joseph A. Sylvia Beach.
Popular with families, it offers ample parking and the calm, gentle water of Nantucket Sound. There are public restrooms and concessions nearby but no lifeguards. Public welcome.
Joseph A. Sylvia State Beach. This family favorite, framed by grassy dunes and wild roses, offers several miles of calm Nantucket Sound beach with sandy bottom. Located along Beach Road between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, State Beach is adjacent to the bike path and features abundant parking along the road. It also offers scenic views of Sengekontacket Pond which runs parallel to the beach. There are nearby concessions but no restrooms. Public welcome.
East Chop Beach. Located just to the west of the entrance to Oak Bluffs harbor, this small, calm beach offers pubic access off East Chop Drive next to the East Chop Yacht Club. Enjoy Nantucket Sound and harbor views. Public welcome.
Eastville Beach. A quiet, small stretch of beach with calm water located at the drawbridge between Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven. Walking distance from downtown Vineyard Haven with ample parking. No lifeguards, restrooms or concession stands. Public welcome.
Tisbury Town Beach (Owen Little Way Town Beach). Next to the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club within walking distance from town. Calm Nantucket Sound waters with a lifeguard. Public welcome.
Owen Park Beach. A short stroll up Main Street to this quaint park with a harbor beach ideal for wading. Calm water and a lifeguard make it a convenient, safe place for families with small children. There is a playground and a bathhouse. Ample parking and frequent evening entertainment at the bandstand. Public welcome.
Lake Tashmoo Town Beach (Herring Creek Beach). This off-the-beaten-path scenic beach area offers lake or open water swimming or fishing. Moderate surf in the open water, and no swimming in the fast-moving channel. Popular with families seeking a tranquil beach experience. Lifeguard on duty daily. Public welcome.
Lambert's Cove Beach. Located on Lambert's Cove Road. One of the best beaches on the Island for its fine sand, clear water and spectacular views of Vineyard Sound and the Elizabeth Islands. Restricted to West Tisbury residents and guests during summer. Lifeguards on duty. (508) 696-0100 or visit westtisbury-ma.gov/.
Long Point Wildlife Refuge Beach. This beautiful white sand barrier beach located off Edgartown-West Tisbury Road offers visitors the best of both worlds - serene swimming in Long Cove Pond on one side and the exhilaration of south shore Atlantic Ocean surf on the other. Owned and operated by The Trustees of Reservations. Limited parking with a fee. Two miles of walking trails and guided kayak and canoe tours. Lifeguards and bathhouses but no concessions. Beach passes and membership to the Trustees are available. Public welcome. Visit thetrustees.org.
Uncle Seth's Pond. A popular destination for families with young children, Seth's is a small freshwater pond located on Lambert's Cove Road. Free but very limited parking along the road. No lifeguard. Parking restrictions. Public welcome. 508-696-0100. westtisbury-ma.gov/.
Menemsha Public Beach. Don't miss sunset at Menemsha, a historic fishing village with a working harbor in Chilmark. Located on the north shore and popular with bathers and fishermen, the beach offers calm Vineyard Sound water and views of Menemsha Harbor. Lifeguard on duty. Ample parking. Restrooms and nearby concessions. Public welcome.
Lucy Vincent Beach. One of the Island's most popular beaches, with spectacular bluffs and great surf. This south shore beach is open to Chilmark residents and guests only with permits required and strictly enforced. There is a clothing optional section of the beach after the first 1,500 feet of beach entrance. No lifeguard on duty. ci.chilmark.ma.us/
Squibnocket Beach. This Atlantic-facing beach is known as the surfer's beach but is open to Chilmark residents and guests only, permit required. No lifeguard on duty. Open to Chilmark residents only, permit required.
Aquinnah Public Beach (Moshup Beach). This five-mile long stretch of beach is really a combination of four beaches: Aquinnah, Moshup, Philbin and Zack's Cliffs. The last two are private. The first two are situated near the base of the Gay Head cliffs, which rise 200 feet in vivid striations of color. The further south you walk along the beach, the fewer people you'll encounter. While you'll experience a sense of solitude in much of the area, there are restrooms and concessions located at the head of the cliffs. No lifeguards on duty. Parking, $15 per day. Climbing on the cliffs or removing the clay is illegal. The beaches offer soft white sand and often tricky surf. You may encounter nude bathers although it is technically not allowed. Public welcome (see above for restricted areas). For information on Philbin Beach and Zack's Cliffs, call Aquinnah Town Offices at 508-645-2300.
Lobsterville Beach (includes West Basin at the end of the beach). This quiet little gem along Lobsterville Road is a two-mile dune beach overlooking Vineyard Sound. Although parking is prohibited on the road, it's well worth it to bicycle in and enjoy this local favorite swimming and fishing spot. No lifeguards. Public welcome.
The Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce is a great resource for maps and information. Visit mvy.com or call 508-693-0085 or 800-505-4815.