The first time I visited Martha’s Vineyard in September it was much warmer and I was felling much more adventurous. I rented a bicycle and rode twenty-five miles through the streets of Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, and Edgartown. It was an amazing first act in the production of my second book, In My Footsteps: Nantucket & Martha’s Vineyard.
However, the second trip would be different. Being in mid-November it was not going to be bicycle weather and this would be further exacerbated by the fact that I needed to venture all the way to the western coast of the island, about twenty-miles from the ferry dock in So I caved and decided to enlist the aid of a car to make this trip as productive as possible.
A big day is better when properly fueled. I began with breakfast at the ArtCliff Diner in Vineyard Haven. It was a fabulous meal. The diner itself is more cozy than small and was fairly crowded even in November. Opened in 1943 ArtCliff Diner has an array of offbeat memorabilia on the walls and some unique choices on the menu. I chose breakfast tacos which included eggs, chorizo, salsa and avocado. I would need several more trips to fully get a taste of what this popular spot has to offer.
After eating it was time to set off to the west coast of the Vineyard. There I would find one of the most impressive sights I’ve seen in all of my traveling, and also one of the most fragile. In the town of Aquinnah sits Gay Head Lighthouse and the appropriately named Aquinnah Cliffs. The cliffs are spectacular, 150-feet of sediment and clay from six different glaciers. They are severely endangered though due to people climbing on them and removing clay from the cliffs. From the overlook at the top of Aquinnah Circle it is hard to grasp just how immense the cliffs are, it is awe-inspiring. The cliffs are a sacred spot to the local Wampanoag Tribe.
Perched precariously close to the edge of the cliffs sits the brick Gay Head Lighthouse, it is another Vineyard treasure. It was originally built in 1799 of brick made from the clay of the neighboring cliffs. The current structure stands fifty-two feet tall and was built in 1855. It is very obvious that this lighthouse needs to be moved or it will soon topple into the ocean. There is maybe fifty-feet of land between Gay Head Light and the cliffs, it seems like a lot of room but locals know that a few large storms can quickly eliminate much of that land. I could feel the fragility of the lighthouse and surrounding land while taking in the atmosphere. The fact that someday it might be gone made me appreciate the fact that I was able to stand there.
|Gay Head Light and Aquinnah Cliffs|
After leaving Gay Head Light and the Aquinnah Cliffs behind it was off to another spot famous for a totally different reason. The fishing village of Menemsha may not sound familiar to many even though it was established in 1694. However once you pop in a copy of the movie Jaws you will connect the dots. A good amount of the all-time classic movie was filmed in Menemsha. The old fishing shacks and charter boats dotting the harbor can immediately make you feel like you’re a part of a real life movie, maybe even hearing a few notes of the infamous Jaws ‘theme music.’ This is a location where this is not a specific destination to go to, for me it was more of the atmosphere again. I enjoyed just walking around It is also home to possibly the best sunsets on the island. I was not able to stick around for that due to needing to catch the ferry home but I will be sure to witness it for myself sometime.
|Fishing shacks in Menemsha|
On South Road in the neighboring town of Chilmark is the final resting place of a Hollywood Icon, John Belushi. Though his career was short he left a huge impact on the world of comedy for sure. He died in 1982 and was buried at Abel’s Hill Cemetery that much is certain. After that it’s up for speculation. The story is that within a year of his death his wife Judy had his body dug up and moved to a different location in the cemetery due to people desecrating the grave. His actual tombstone was also moved to the cemetery gates, this makes it quite easy to find. So the tombstone is the real deal but it is not where John Belushi is actually buried, that spot is probably only known by a select few. I paid my respects to one of my personal favorites before heading back toward the ferry.
The last spot I needed to see on my second Vineyard trip was one I missed the first time. In Oak Bluffs there are the famous ‘gingerbread houses’ of Wesleyan Grove. It is also known as the Martha’s Vineyard Campmeeting Association (MVCMA). Whatever the name one thing is for sure, these cottages are like stepping into a fairy tale. The colors and architecture set off all sorts of senses and visions words will not do justice to. The 300-plus cottages were built just after the Civil War on thirty-four acres of land as a Methodist summer camp. The cottages were built around a central church tabernacle. Today many of the cottages are available to rent through the MVCMA. Wesleyan Grove has inspired some imitations with gingerbread-style cottages in places like Ocean Park, Maine and Ocean Grove, New Jersey. I was enthralled with this location and found myself taking photos of literally every single cottage. I highly recommend taking some time to walk the grounds and daydream a little.
My second trip to Martha’s Vineyard was a little colder with less daylight but every bit as fun and exciting as the first. The western side of the island is a little more remote and quiet but has some spectacular sites like Gay Head Light and the Aquinnah Cliffs.
One needs to spend some time wandering around
Menemsha and later on Wesleyan Grove in Oak Bluffs, take your time and soak in
the atmosphere you won’t be disappointed.
I am already planning a third trip back to the island and can’t wait to
see what that has in store for me. Have
fun and happy traveling!
|A few of the gingerbread cottages.|
My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at SchifferBooks.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Amazon.com, and stores everywhere! Follow me on Twitter and YouTube for more on In My Footsteps!
Directions: Gay Head Light/Aquinnah Cliffs: From the Vineyard Haven ferry take State Rd. for 5.5 miles, slight right onto N. Rd., follow it 5.7 miles. Turn left onto Menemsha Xrd, follow 1 mile, turn right onto State Rd., follow it 6 miles, and continue onto Aquinnah Circle to destination.
John Belushi’s Grave: From the ferry take State Rd., continue onto S. Rd, and follow it 2.6 miles to destination on right. The grave is located near entrance, can’t miss it.
Wesleyan Grove: From ferry head south on Beach Rd., follow 1.3 miles, slight right onto Eastville Rd., slight left onto Temahigan Ave., continue onto New York Ave., follow 1 mile, turn left onto Siloam Ave, follow it into MVCMA.
References: Gay Head Light.org