Edgartown , Martha’s Vineyard, 02539
When you think of classic Martha’s Vineyard, the imagery that comes to mind might just be the stark white painted, whaling captain homes in Edgartown. Once a major whaling port that was home to hundreds of whaling captains and crews, now a coveted tourist destination offering luxury accommodations, award-winning restaurants, and gorgeous natural trails to explore, Edgartown is a must when visiting the island.
However, it wasn’t always as luxurious as it is today. Settled in 1642 by English Settlers, “Edgar Town” as it was once known, was the city center for the island’s whaling history, as crews came and went from Edgartown Harbor. As the whaling industry declined through the years, settlers discovered other ways of life in town, focusing on agriculture mostly.
Fast forward to modern times and Edgartown is now a bustling destination! Starting with the Edgartown Lighthouse that once upon a time led the way for many sailors, is now a picturesque moment to capture with friends and family. As you stroll up North Water Street where the lighthouse is located and walk into proper downtown and the Edgartown Harbor, you’ll get a sense of what those historic times were like – because not much has changed. The houses are still painted white with black shutters and brick chimneys, and the brick-laid sidewalks give a sense of place to the area. Walk into The Carnegie Heritage Center, ran by the Vineyard Preservation Trust, a landmark of island history worth taking the time to explore.
Once you walk down North Water and turn left to enjoy the water, the iconic Edgartown Harbor, where boats of all sizes dock, gives you a sense of the island community as you walk around the busy harbor. The combination of salty fishermen catching squid off of Memorial Wharf, paired with visiting shoppers in the local retail stores, is a sight to be seen because of how seamlessly they go together.
Edgartown Harbor showcases incredible restaurants like the Seafood Shanty, the Edgartown Yacht Club, and the Atlantic, just to name a few. Find yourself craving something sweet and know you’ll find 2-3 ice cream shops just a stone’s throw away. In addition, not too far from
Edgartown’s unique shops, is an easy access to Chappaquiddick Island, a small island and occasional peninsula on the Eastern end of Martha’s Vineyard. Visitors love to take the quick, two-minute ferry from Edgartown Harbor to “Chappy”, as locals refer to it, for cycling, hiking, birdwatching, and walking through the gorgeously maintained Mytoi Gardens. The peaceful nature of this small island is one that must be part of your trip to Martha’s Vineyard, because there is nothing else like it on the Island. Bring your bike, car, moped, motorcycle, on the ferry and explore all that Chappaquiddick has to offer. Note: this is a three-car capacity ferry.
After exploring Chappy, continue your walk up Main Street in Edgartown, discover the cute shops, restaurants, and boutique inns in town. Make a stop at the Pagoda Tree, America’s Largest Japanese Pagoda Tree. Brought to the Island by a prominent ship captain in 1837 as a seedling, it continues to grow strong on South Water Street, towering over buildings around it. Sprinkled with so much history, taking a few steps in Edgartown will always bring you to interesting sites.
For the movie buffs, Edgartown is best known for being the site where Steven Spielberg filmed Jaws, 48 years ago, and as you walk around town, you’ll get flashbacks from scenes you recall from the movie. Step back into history as you walk into the Edgartown Town Hall, where key scenes of the movie were filmed with local actors in the mix. Some of them which you can still find around the Island! Like Edgartown’s former Police Sergeant and new Police Chief of Oak Bluffs, Jonathan Searle who along with brother Steven, appeared as the ‘Amity Island’ pranksters who created panic on the beach with a fake cardboard fin!
As you continue your walk up Main Street, you’ll start moving into what is called “Upper Main Street” Edgartown, where we move from more tourist-driven establishments, to more locally-focused businesses. A living, breathing New England town has this always – a part of town with the grocery stores, post offices, and other essentials that not only locals need, but also travelers. This area is called “the Triangle” where Beach Road and Edgartown Vineyard Haven Road converge. These roads are your landlines to the other island towns such as Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven.
Another large part of Edgartown is a town within itself, called Katama, the south-central portion of Edgartown that is home to large expanses of land used for farming, animal agriculture, and also one of the most popular beaches on island, South Beach. The word “Katama” derives from the Wampanoag word meaning “crab-fishing place”. Now a popular vacation destination and home to one of the largest resorts on island, the Winnetu Resort, Katama is a great spot for relaxing whether at the beach or poolside as a hotel guest. Also home to the Katama Airfield, where small biplanes fly in and out of, and visitors can also enjoy the thrill of a ride aboard these tiny planes. Not into thrill seeking? Watch them ride into the horizon from the comfort of a seat at a table at Katama Kitchen, a family-owned restaurant right next to the landing strip. Katama is worth the car drive or bike ride – so make sure to put it on your bucket list!
Without a doubt, Edgartown is a truly diverse town with something for everyone, whether you are traveling solo or visiting with a group of friends and family. To stay up-to-date on the latest happenings in town, make sure to check out https://www.visitedgartown.org.
Funded, in part, by the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.