Going Ashore

Oak Bluffs' mid-19th century origins as a Methodist summer camp still exert considerable influence over the town's appearance. The camp's early tents were replaced in the 1860s and 70s with closely spaced cottages in the fashion of the time, an ornate gothic-revival style rendered affordably in wood thanks to pattern books, powered saws, and standard building materials. Vineyard carpenters gave their cottages a local flair.

About 300 of the cottages survive within the grounds of the Martha's Vineyard Campmeeting Association, incorporated "for the purpose of maintaining annual religious meetings. . ." in 1868. Today's cottage owners and guests continue the Association's religious and social activities, while observing comprehensive rules to maintain the architecture, along with the community's traditions. The Association's buildings were made a National Historic Landmark in 2005.

The other main thread in the town's development begins in 1866, when the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company purchased land adjacent to the Campmeeting grounds for a secular summer resort. In a twist evocative of Hawthorne, the Methodists immediately erected a picket fence between the sacred and profane, and locked the gate at night. {MVCMA}

The descendants of both 19th century resorts continue to thrive in Oak Bluffs.

mad martha's ice cream
Geoff Rand
A Vineyard institution.
elaborate victorian cottage
Geoff Rand
Oak Bluffs signature "carpenter gothic" cottage architecture dates from its flowering as a summer resort in the latter 19th century.

One Hour Ashore

The essential Oak Bluffs moment is a cocktail and maybe an appetizer in one of the many harborfront eateries. Or cross the street and walk through the residential streets in town.

Off the Beaten Path

The Flying Horses Carousel is "the nation's oldest operating platform carousel" according to its owners, the Martha's Vineyard Preservation Trust. It's been in Oak Bluffs since 1884.

Rainy Day

The Cottage Museum offers a quick glimpse into the origins of Oak Bluffs summer campmeeting culture.

Maritime History

East Chop Lighthouse is about a mile north of the harbor. The Martha's Vineyard Historical Society offers sunset tours on Sunday evenings.

Facilities

  • Launch
  • Dinghy
  • Showers
  • Restrooms
  • Trash
  • Public Transit

The marina runs a launch to its moorings when all the slips are full. The charge is per person, per ride.

Dinghy docks are under Nancy's in the back left corner of the harbor, and in the back right corner, by the showers.

Restrooms and token-operated showers are in a detached building in the back right corner. The Victorian-era Wesley Hotel overlooking the center of the harbor has a boater's shower package as well. It's a couple dollars more than the token program, but it gets consistently excellent reviews from crew members.

There are public restrooms at the big ferry terminal just south of the harbor entrance, and in town on Kennebec Street.

Dumpsters intended for use by visiting boats are located all around the harbor.

The Vineyard Transit Authority runs buses around the island on a regular schedule through the summer for something like a dollar a town. The bus stop is across from the big ferry terminal. Or you can rent bikes or scooters at a couple of harborside shops right in Oak Bluffs.