Martha's Vineyard offers spectacular beaches, historic villages, pristine natural settings, and a wide range of shopping, restaurants and entertainment. While spanning nine miles wide, twenty-three miles long and located just seven miles off the Cape Cod coastline, it is one of the largest islands in New England. This unique community consists of six towns; each offering their own distinctive character and worldly charm.
Before the arrival of English colonists, Aquinnah was inhabited by the Wampanoag, a Native American people, related to the larger Algonquin Nation of Southern New England. First settled by English colonists in 1669, it was officially separated from Chilmark and incorporated in 1870 as Gay Head, Massachusetts. In 1997, by popular vote of 79 to 76, the town changed its name to Aquinnah, which is Wampanoag for "land under the hill." Throughout its history, the town has been home to a Wampanoag community and controls tribal lands in the town. The most outstanding feature this small town has is its brightly colored clay cliffs.
Chilmark was first settled in 1660 by James Allen, William Peabody and Lt. Josiah Standish (son of Captain Myles Standish) in the southern portion of Tisbury. The town officially incorporated on September 14, 1694, the first town to separate from the two original towns of Tisbury and Edgartown. Today the town is mostly residential, with a small working harbor along the Vineyard Sound side of the town.
Edgartown is an old whaling town that re-emerged in the 20th century as a summer sailing and beach town. It is characterized by 18th and 19th century homes, including well-preserved whaling captains' homes and historic churches.
Originally incorporated in 1880 as Cottage City, Oak Bluffs is home to many historical and nationally recognized landmarks. The Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association, located in the center of Town offers a unique experience for visitors. Consisting of hundreds of imaginative and colorful gingerbread cottages containing the most perfectly preserved collection of Carpenter Gothic style architecture in the world. These truly unique Victorian "gingerbread" cottages are just a stone's throw from the famed Tabernacle.
West Tisbury was first settled by English settlers in 1669 as part of the town of Tisbury. The town was officially incorporated in 1892, the last town on Martha's Vineyard to be incorporated. Despite its separation from Tisbury, the original settlement of the town is still located in West Tisbury. Historically, it has been the agricultural heartland of the island.
Known by the original Wampanoag inhabitants as Nobnocket, this area was first referred to by the colonial settlers as Homes Hole; "Homes" from a Wampanoag term for "old man," and "Hole" meaning a sheltered inlet. In 1871 the village officially changed its name to Vineyard Haven. Though the name Vineyard Haven technically refers only to one section of the town of Tisbury, the names are used interchangeably, with Vineyard Haven now being a commonly used title for the whole town. Vineyard Haven is the main port of entry to Martha's Vineyard.
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