Chappaquiddick, or simply “Chappy” in the local vernacular, is an island (sometimes) at the eastern end of Martha’s Vineyard. It is connected to the rest of Martha’s Vineyard (sometimes) via the barrier beach at Norton Point. This barrier gets breached by the sea during big storms every 30 years or so and Chappy is then a bona-fide island. Then over 5-7 years sand accretion closes the breach and Chappy is no longer an island. The frequency of the breaches is increasing more and more due to the effects of climate change. When connected it is possible (sometimes) to drive an OSV along Norton Point onto Chappy at Wasque (pronounced: Way-sqwee”). Wasque is a sanctuary for shorebirds including three types of terns, oystercatchers and piping plovers and during egg laying and fledging there is a prohibition on vehicles. So to get to the point Chappy is to all intents and purposes an island and to get there you need to get a ferry.
Here are the must do things on Chappaquiddick:
- Cape Poge Lighthouse Tour
- Mytoi Gardens
- Royal & Ancient Chappaquiddick Links Golf Course
- Wasque Nature Reserve
- East Beach
- The Gut
Carrying reading for all the details.
The ferry shuttles 3 cars at a time back and forth across the short channel between Edgartown and Chappy and drops you off with a beautiful view back towards Edgartown Lighthouse.
Once there these are the top things to do on Chappaquiddick:
- Take a tour with the Trustees of The Reservation to Cape Poge Lighthouse
A significant portion of Chappy is under the control and management of the Trustees of The Reservation. They provide 90 minute tours on an oversand vehicle out to the tip of Cape Poge to visit the lighthouse. You’ll drive out along the Atlantic side beach or the interior trail looking out over Cape Poge Bay. The lighthouse is still operational and has been there since 1801. It has been moved a whopping 7 times during its history due to the creeping shoreline and beach erosion. Fortunately its wooden structure and small stature mean that it’s not too difficult to move. In fact it’s so light that it has metal tension tethers securing it in place so that it doesn’t get blown down by strong storm winds! From the top you can see, on a good day, Edgartown Lighthouse, Oak Bluffs and Nantucket.
- Mytoi Gardens
Also managed by the Trustees of The Reservation, these pristine Japanese gardens are a zen-like and relaxing space in which to wander. It’s easy to forget you are on a glacial sand spit as you stroll through the exotic Asian shrubbery and bamboo lines trails.
- Royal & Ancient Golf Club
A 9 hole “pitch and put” public golf club is hidden away on the island near to John Oliver Point. The course is links style and is in a very natural state. Simply turn up and join the line to tee off at an extremely casual golf course.
- Wasque Nature Reserve
The reserve includes serene Poucha Pond and is situated at the southern tip of the island. This is a spectacular beach and nature reserve with abundant birdlife. You can bring OSV’s out onto the sand and head up towards East Beach. Great area for fishing with sandbanks and shifting tides and channels.
- East Beach (and yes Dyke Bridge)
If you travel on past Mytoi Gardens you will come to the Trustees parking at East Beach. OSV’s can head out over Dyke Bridge onto the sand and head up towards Cape Poge Lighthouse, and all the way round to The Gut, or head right towards Wasque. Dyke Bridge is so called as this was originally a dyke that protected a fresh water pond. But in the early 1900’s the dyke was removed to create brackish conditions for shellfish farming. The bridge was added and became infamous when Ted Kennedy drove off it leading to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. East Beach is a long sand beach extending as far as the eye can see in either direction. Seldom busy you feel like you at the end of the earth.
- Visit The Gut
If you travel on the dirt track past the golf course (and maybe past Meg Ryan’s house, or maybe not, it would be rude for me to say) you’ll come to a town parking lot before you hit the end of John Oliver Point. Walk the trail to the beach, you’ll have to descend a wooden staircase, and at the bottom you’ll find a stony beach that borders The Gut. This is a narrow inlet that brings water rushing into Cape Poge Bay and is a famous spot for fishing. It separates Cape Poge Wildlife Reserve from John Oliver Point. You can also reach The Gut by boat or by taking a long (very long) drive with an OSV from East Beach past the lighthouse and along Cape Poge Elbow.