Oak Bluffs Area Information
With something for everyone, the unique town of Oak Bluffs, formerly called "Cottage City", features whimsical Victorian "gingerbread" cottages built in the 1800s, which vie with one another for charm and originality. In the 1800's, before it was known as Oak Bluffs, the area was a center of revivalism among members of the Methodist and other religious faiths. Hundreds flocked to the Island to enjoy sermons and sunshine, pitching tents for temporary shelter. Over time, these tents were replaced by permanent cottages, most of which circle the open-air and recently renovated Tabernacle. It is home to the unique Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association (http://www.mvcma.org/), consisting of hundreds of imaginative and colorful gingerbread cottages containing the most perfectly preserved collection of Carpenter Gothic style architecture in the world. It was built as part of this Methodist summer retreat and now designated a National Historic Landmark. One curious note: although the families can buy or sell the homes, the land remains under ownership of the Camp Meeting Association. The renaming marked the coalescence of all the elements that make Oak Bluffs unique as an oceanfront resort and distinguish its character in relation to the other Island towns.
Outside the Campgrounds a secular community grew up along Circuit Avenue. It was often the center of the celebration of summer's pleasures, and was oft times referred to by the scandalized Methodists as "Sin City." Many original buildings such as a big seaside hotel (since burned down), the Tivoli, a dance and recreation hall. And the railroad station (yes, there was a train to Edgartown!) are now gone.
Oak Bluffs operates the largest marina on Martha's Vineyard, which not only has the most slips, but is situated in the midst of the historic gingerbread campgrounds, and offers easy access to the rest of the Island. "OB", as it is sometimes referred to, also is home to several beautiful public beaches, a teaming shore of wildlife, fish and shellfish, fabulous public parks, a golf course and even a microbrewery.
East Chop, another special area of Oak Bluffs, begins at the private East Chop Beach Club and ascends in a triangle to Telegraph Hill, and one of one of the Island's five lighthouses and then down to Eastville Beach. Many of the houses along East Chop Drive are large, old, mid 1800’s mansions with turrets and spires.
Very popular with our country’s African American community, Oak Bluffs was one of the first black-oriented resort areas in the country. The village became host to some of the most prominent African American leaders in the country, to famous black writers, politicians, judges and artists.
Not only is it a classic, old fashion beach town, filled with fun, music, and arcades and it offers some of the Island's most incredible ocean vistas over Vineyard Sound and off to Cape Cod, but it is also home to many historical and nationally recognized landmarks. It has waterfront restaurants and bars, wonderful coffee shops, pizza carryout spots, walk-in clam, eclectic shops and instant access to water. In addition to relishing the many restaurants and shops, visitors enjoy concerts in Ocean Park and rides on the National Landmark “Flying Horses Carousel” the oldest continuously operating platform carousel in the country, its horses hand-carved in New York City in 1876 by Charles W.F. Dare in 1876. In 1884, the Flying Horses were brought to Martha's Vineyard and this treasured carousel has been enjoyed by Vineyarders and visitors for more than a century.
Oak Bluffs has a wonderful harbor and wonderful beaches such as Inkwell Beach (a town beach right near the center of things) and Joseph A. Sylvia State Beach stretching eastward toward Edgartown.
Events in Oak Bluffs include band concerts biweekly in the summer at Ocean Park. Each August, on Illumination Night, always a Wednesday, residents of the Campgrounds light their houses with hundreds of Japanese-style lanterns, and there is a final season-end celebration at the Tabernacle. Days later, the Island's end-of-summer fireworks celebration is held in Ocean Park, marking the end of the Vineyard's season. A final September fling called Tivoli Day has been a regular event for almost three decades, with the town blocking off Circuit Avenue and many merchants selling their wares along the sidewalk and harbor front.
Come and enjoy!