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Martha's Vineyard-Home to More Than Famous People

Updated on September 23, 2011

Largest Island on East Coast?


Martha’s Vineyard is known for being the home and summer home of some famous people like: Diane Sawyer, David Letterman, Lady GaGa, Meg Ryan, Stephen King, Carly Simon, but did you know it is the largest island not connected to mainland by a bridge or tunnel on the East Coast of the United States? Martha’s Vineyard has many other interesting facts.

The island is made up of six towns, Tisbury, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, West Tisbury, Chilmark and Aquinnah. The island is home to one of the earliest known deaf communities in the United States. A special sign language called Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL) was first developed on the island.


Is it Tisbury or Vineyard Haven?

Tisbury is the most commercial harbor on the island. It is the location where most of the ferry boats land and depart. Tisbury is better known as the Vineyard. Vineyard Haven is the hub of tourism where the famous Black Dog Restaurant was started. Tisbury is the legal name for Vineyard Haven, but the official post office for the town of Tisbury is Vineyard Haven. That should be enough to confuse you. Lake Tashmoo is in the town of Tisbury. It was here where the first public water supply system was formed. The lake was filled by natural springs. This water was sold as bottled water in the late 1800’s. Cumberland Farms located in the center of Vineyard Haven is the only store that stays open past 11:30PM in the winter.

West Tisbury is the agricultural center of the island. More than ½ of the town is the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest. The Martha’s Vineyard Airport is also located in West Tisbury. Cedar Tree Neck is the location that inspired Narnia. That was the setting for The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

Healing Powers in the Clay

Aquinnah was formally called Gay Head. The Wampanoag Tribe had the name legally changed. The clay cliffs are 150 feet above the sea. The clay cliffs resemble wave-like folds that are believed to have been formed from glacial ice. Archaeologists have found fossils of: whale bones, monstrous shark teeth, tooth of a rhinoceros and the bones of a camel in the cliffs. People believe the clay had healing powers and would rub the clay all over their bodies. It is now illegal to use or take the clay. You will be heavy fined if caught. Michael J. Fox enjoyed this area so much; he named his daughter, Aquinnah.

Chilmark is home to the fishing village, Menemsha. The center of Menemsha is also called Beetlebung Corner. It was named for the tupelo trees. The trees were called beetlebungs by the local people. The wood from these trees was used to make mallets or beetles for driving the corks or bungs into the oil barrels in whaling days.

Edgartown is one of the two original towns on Martha’s Vineyard. The other town is Tisbury. Chappaquiddick Island is part of Edgartown. The homes here are larger, the restaurants more expensive, and the shop more exclusive.

Plan Ahead to Enjoy Your Visit

Oak Bluffs is the home to the flying horse’s carousel, the cottage city homes, and the Tabernacle. It is the smallest harbor, but one of the busiest when hosting illumination night or the annual fireworks in August.

Martha’s Vineyard does have the finest beaches, the wonderful artisan fairs and the bike paths, but it also has many other sites. Be sure the check local papers for event when you plan your visit.

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    • nybride710 profile image

      Lisa Kroulik 6 years ago from Minnesota

      My family and I usually start tossing around ideas for our summer vacation the fall before. I think this one will be up for consideration. Thanks for all the info about MV.

    • profile image

      Husky1970 6 years ago

      A nice overview of the island I live on. No, I am not one of those famous seasonal residents. Seasonal resident, yes. Famous, no. I have lived there seasonally for over 30 years and did live there year-round for 4 years when I was the high school athletic director. Do you have any connection to the island, dianemae? And have you read my 4 hubs on the Gingerbread Cottages, the Lighthouses, the Population, and the Seastreak? You might find them interesting, as I did find yours. Voted up and interesting.

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