Town Profile: Oak Bluffs
Oak Bluffs is one of the hottest towns in Massachusetts during the summertime, and one of Martha’s Vineyard’s most popular hubs. It’s historic yet modern, quiet but loud – it manages to vary depending on how exactly you want your visit to be. It’s super easy to walk around OB since it is so compact, as Vineyard towns tend to be. So spending a day in Oak Bluffs is easy and fun. Here are a few of the activities and places to see on your visit.
The Flying Horses Carousel is open from 10AM-10PM in the summertime. It boats the title of oldest carousel in the United States and was first operated in 1876 on Coney Island in NYC. It is also recognized as a historical landmark. To me, it’s a childhood memory. It wasn’t until 1884 when the carousel was relocated to Oak Bluffs. The horses still have their original eyes, but their original horsehair manes have been replaced. As you go around the carousel, admire the original artwork surrounding you and try to capture as many brass rings as you can – because the last one is the brass ring which gives you a free ride! Otherwise rides are $1.50 for a single ride.
Oak Bluffs is known for its vibrant (non-edible) gingerbread houses, and traditionally decorated with lanterns for the annual Illumination Night. However, the cottage museum is the only gingerbread house that the public is invited to see. It’s a great opportunity to see the 1800s furnishings that most Vineyard houses would have had during those years. The tour also provides a history of the campground and its background. The gift shop sells jewelry, postcards as well as the aforementioned lanterns. The hours of operation are Monday-Saturday 10AM – 4:30PM.
Pond shores, sloping grasslands, salt marshes and a freshwater pond are some of what you’ll find at the Pecoy Point Preserve. Located near Oak Bluffs, this all-natural land serves as an escape from the suburban. It’s a perfect place for outside activities such as hiking, mountain-biking, horseback-riding, dog-walking, fishing, and kayaking.
You’ve probably seen a picture or twenty of the big white gazebo located in Ocean Park, the heart of Oak Bluffs. It’s a beautiful little park that has views of some of the gingerbread houses, and Oak Bluffs Town Beach which overlooks the sea. Here you can fly a kite, or watch the fountain or play with your dog. The gazebo is especially beautiful at night when it’s lit up.
Circuit Avenue offers quite the potpourri of shops to the ordinary traveler. It is also flush with bars, restaurants, ice cream stores and great people watching. Some places you should stop on Circuit Ave include:
While unfortunately it is not a bakery, Johnny Cupcakes is a fun place to find graphic tees. They’re sold out of industrial size refrigerators, with Martha’s Vineyard specific designs, even though it’s an international brand. Think skull and bones prints, but with cupcakes. Nothing better.
Every piece of jewelry in this store is made from people on island. A nod to the Wampanoag tribe on island, a solid amount of the jewelry is made from wampum. Martha’s Vineyard shaped necklaces and accessories can be found here.
This store is a casual contemporary clothing store, for those looking for something more relaxing to lounge in, compared to some of the more high-end retailers on the island. Slip77 in Oak Bluffs is its flagship store, and therefore draws its name from its location. The store is near the boat slips in the harbor, as well as the revolutionary year of ’77.
Good Dog Goods is the cutest little shop for dogs and dog lovers everywhere. Decorated with dog-themed paraphernalia, this shop offers mugs, pillows, frames amongst other things with almost every breed of dog imaginable. They also have a cute little bakery in the back with delightful biscuits shaped like lighthouses to whales. I do not recommend eating (although tempting) because they’re only for dogs.
An old-timey arcade located in the middle of circuit avenue, where you can win big with their various games. A perfect rainy day activity to tire out your kids. They have the traditional skee ball machines, hunting simulators and toy grabbers for those who think they’re especially lucky.
Oak Bluffs Town Beach
The Oak Bluffs Town Beach is located just a quick walk from Ocean Park and where the Steamship Authority’s dock in town. It is a clean beach with calm waters whip lap the shore very gently. Here you can lounge, play and swim – only a walk away from several in-town restaurants.
Giordano’s has been a popular hub in Oak Bluffs since the 1930s. It’s a four-generation long family restaurant with, as voted by Martha’s Vineyard Magazine for several years in a row, the best pizza on island. They also have a convenient take-out pizza window, and a seafood window for those who are on the go – or want to sit in Ocean Park instead of the restaurant.