Going Ashore

Vineyard Haven is the island's year-round commercial center, and much of the waterfront is given over to everyday business. It's an easy walk to Stop & Shop, a building supply store and a gas station. The big ferry terminal (busiest on the island) is the harbor's central feature. North of the terminal is the public Owen Park Beach; to the south are the marinas and boat yards.

Just inshore from the Black Dog Wharf is Five Corners, the town's retail crossroads, featuring an internet cafe. Walk a block further in to Main Street for the widest choice of restaurants. Vineyard Haven is a dry town. Restaurants are byob, and while it's possible to get to Oak Bluffs to reprovision, the prudent mariner arrives prepared.

For an old coastal town, Vineyard Haven feels unusually open. Fire destroyed over 70 houses, shop and barns on Main Street in 1883. Today, the buildings near the harbor are spread out, sometimes by great parking lots and sometimes by unbuilt land. There are few crisp borders. The beach mixes with grass as it reaches between the buildings, pushing sand across the roads.

It's not quite the up-island, open space vibe of Menemsha, but on a recent June visit I half expected to see a tumbleweed of spartina alterniflora blow past. The press of visitors in high summer would preclude such fantasies.

black skiff moored to marshy shoreline
Geoff Rand
The town, even its commercial districts, blend casually into the shoreline.
marine railway on beach
Geoff Rand
On the beach between the Black Dog Wharf and Martha's Vineyard Marina is the Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway, a highly regarded yard specializing in the design, construction and repair of traditional wooden boats. A number of the loveliest sailboats in the region are G&B originals.

One Hour Ashore

The essential veni, vidi, vici in Vineyard Haven is the Black Dog t-shirt. Maybe it falls short of Hello Kitty in the contest for world domination, but you can't throw a tennis ball in Tisbury without hitting a Black Dog emporium.

Off the Beaten Path

The Lake Tashmoo Town Beach is just over a mile from town. Or rent bikes and head west.

Maritime History

The floating division of the Black Dog empire includes the harbor's two large schooners. Shenandoah was built in 1964 by Harvey Gamage in South Bristol, ME, using traditional methods and materials. Alabama was built in Florida in 1926 and extensively restored in the 1990s. Both work the local waters, offering charters and kids programs. www.blackdogtallships.com

Facilities

  • Launch
  • Dinghy
  • Showers
  • Restrooms
  • Trash

Launch service is available from the private mooring providers. Don't count on launches out of season.

There are dinghy docks on the north sides of the Steamship Authority Dock and the Town Dock. Or you can land on the beach to the north of the Town Dock.

Martha's Vineyard Marina and Black Dog Wharf have showers and restrooms for customers. There are public restrooms at the ferry terminal and showers (?) along with trash facilities at the harbormaster's office in Owen Park.