A Day trip to Chappaquiddick, Massachusetts
On the east end of Marth’s Vineyard, separated from the main island by a small channel at the north and a long, narrow, periodically breached beach at the south, Chappaquiddick, Massachusetts is the perfect place to get away from it all. Though functionally a part of Edgartown, the island (or peninsula) affectionately known as “Chappy” has its own unique story. Its long stretches of beach, quiet nature trails and raw wilderness make it a peaceful retreat and Chappy is an ideal place to relax, explore, or do nothing at all.
Formed by glaciers, the name Chappaquiddick means “separated island”. Its position between the Atlantic Ocean and the Martha’s Vineyard “mainland” offers some protection for the rest of the island from harsh storms. Though the island has had a few houses and farms since European settlers arrived, it hasn’t been a hub of activity like neighboring towns of Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. It wasn’t until the ferry from Edgartown started operating in the 1930s that Chappy gained more seasonal visitors and residents. The island was, and is to this day, still remote enough that it remains rugged and natural. There is no business district, the ferry carries three cars at a time, and there is only one shop on the island. The Chappy Store (now Jerry’s Place, The Chappy Kitchen) is open seasonally and has an understandably limited selection. Be sure to bring along everything you need for your visit to this once unheard-of escape. It took the unfortunate events of Ted Kennedy’s accident in 1969 to thrust Chappaquiddick into the spotlight, but even that hasn’t completely removed Chappy’s atmosphere of solitude.
Chappaquiddick’s real allure is nature. The Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge wraps around Cape Poge Bay to the north and then down to the Gut, where the harbor opens to Edgartown Bay. The refuge has 14 miles of walking and over-sand vehicle trails plus miles of beach to explore, with a diverse array of salt marsh, pond, shoreline, and inland habitat. You can even book a kayak tour for a guided adventure through the area. You’ll also find an iconic Cape Cod lighthouse, the Cape Poge Light, at the northern tip of the island and with open water to the east and west, the sunrises and sunset views are incredible. The shorelines and open waters alike are an irresistible invitation for anglers and the healthy populations of striped bass and bluefish will not disappoint.
Further inland, MyToi offers a stunning tribute to nature. The 14-acre Japanese garden is nestled in among the oak and pine trees. Peaceful paths take you through the skillfully landscaped property with its colorful flower beds and picturesque settings featuring exotic and native plants. The woods, pond and island attract a wide variety of birds and provide a home to turtles, frogs, and the resident goldfish. MyToi is a fun, relaxing way to spend an afternoon on the island.
To the south, Wasque has a half mile of trails in its 200 acres of oceanfront wilderness to explore. Storms and currents are constantly reshaping the landscape of Wasque’s soft cliffs and dunes, making it a new experience on every visit. This reserve is a gem for birdwatchers with its sandpipers, piping plovers, ospreys, herons, egrets, and more thriving on the beaches and in the marshes and ponds. Seals and fish are also attracted to the waters around Wasque, and don’t be surprised to see a shark in the vicinity.
Chappaquiddick is accessible enough for a fun day trip. The nature reserves and much of the beach are open to the public with an affordable admission fee in-season and the Cape Pogue Wildlife Refuge is free to pedestrians in the off-season. There are also homes and cottages available to rent for a vacation getaway. For the day, a weekend, or the entire season, it’s well worth the trip. Whether you want to spend time on a secluded beach, in the water swimming or fishing, or in the shade hiking and bird-watching, Chappy has a place for you.