Are you wondering is Chappaquiddick worth visiting? Despite its small size, there is no shortage of things to do on Chappaquiddick.
Chappaquiddick (“Chappy” to the locals) is a small island off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. It’s a part of Edgartown and you take a one and a half minute Chappaquiddick ferry ride across Edgartown harbor to get to the island. Two ferries travel back and forth all day, taking bikes, foot passengers and three cars at a time. It’s an experience not to be missed!
I’ve visited a number of times (both in summer and the off-season) and have curated this list of the best activities and sights to see. If you’re planning a vacation on Martha’s Vineyard I highly recommend making time for a day trip to Chappaquiddick.
Top things to do in Chappaquiddick MA
Cape Poge Lighthouse
1. Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse
Cape Poge Wildlife refuge is a barrier beach and salt marsh stretching for 8 miles along the eastern edge of Chappaquiddick. The Cape Poge Lighthouse is at the northernmost tip of the island, overlooking Nantucket Sound.
To get there, drive off the ferry and follow the main road past Mytoi gardens (where it turns to dirt) until you reach Dike bridge. It’s about a 10 minute drive from the ferry. There is parking at the bridge but oversand vehicles (OSVs) with a permit can continue across the bridge to the gatehouse.
The refuge is great for birdwatching and you can see piping plovers, gulls, terns and oystercatchers. Parts of Cape Pogue are regularly closed during nesting season to allow the plovers to hatch undisturbed.
Due to the deep and soft sand surface, it is pretty much impossible to visit by bike and the 10+ mile walk on that sand is considered an “advanced” hike.
The property is managed by the Trustees of Reservations and the best way to see it is to take one of their oversand vehicle (OSV) tours. If the light house is of particular importance to you, double check before the tour that you will get to see it as it’s not always included.
Looking at Edgartown Lighthouse in the distance, from Chappy Point Beach
2. Visit Chappaquiddick Beaches
East Beach (or Leland Beach) connects Cape Poge in the north to Wasque (pronounced Way-squee) in the south. You access the beach via Dike Bridge Chappaquiddick. Park at Mytoi Japanese Gardens on Dike road and walk 10 minutes to the beach.
The water here is calm and good for swimming and the beach is a great spot to stop for a picnic lunch. There are no facilities at East Beach but you can use the porta-potties at Mytoi.
Chappy Point Beach (located immediately to your left as you get off the ferry) is another option. It’s a 700 foot strip of shoreline and can be crowded, plus there is noise from the busy harbor and cars driving on and off the ferry.
One thing I love about this beach is looking back at Edgartown and seeing it from a new angle. This is a great beach if you love people watching and seeing the sailboats pass by but all the harbor traffic means it’s not safe for swimming.
3. Wasque Reservation
This tranquil nature reserve is in the Southeastern part of Chappaquiddick and offers picturesque coastal views and walking trails. It’s a great area for nature lovers due to the variety of trees and plants like beach plums, golden heather and pines.
You can observe Osprey, shorebirds and marshbirds. Wasque is a local favorite spot for fishing and is known for bonito, striped bass and Bluefish. You’ll see lots of people fishing here during the MV Derby in September/October every year.
There are entry and parking fees for Wasque between Memorial day and Columbus day. Entry is $5 for walkers & bikers, free for Trustees members. Parking is $20 for non-members, $15 for members.
This is a beautiful beach for relaxing on the sand, but swimming here is not allowed due to the strong currents.
4. Mytoi Japanese Gardens Chappaquiddick
Of all the Chappaquiddick things to do, this one is my top pick. Mytoi is located on the road to Cape Poge and East Beach. This 14-acre, Japanese-inspired garden contains native and exotic plants, a large lake and Japanese style bridges.
Trustees members have free entry to Mytoi and it’s $5 for others. It’s easy to forget you are on an island in Massachussetts when you step into this secluded and peaceful place.
Mytoi is open to the public year-round although I once visited in January and I don’t recommend it as you don’t get to see the plants in full bloom. In the summer, the garden offers a nice shadey respite from the sun but there are lots of mosquitos here so bring your bug spray.
The Azumaya shelter at the top of the hill is my favorite shaded spot to sit and take in the stunning view of the garden and below. I recommend timing your visit just before sunset as the lighting really shows the beautiful garden colors at their best.
Goldfish day in August is a fun time to bring the kids to learn all about goldfish and do some crafts and activities.
5. Dike Bridge Chappaquiddick
No doubt you have heard the story of what happened on this island in 1969. It begins with Ted Kennedy driving off Dike bridge into Poucha Pond and ends with the drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne who was a passenger in the car.
Often referred to as the Chappaquiddick incident, what happened that night at the bridge at Chappaquiddick has been replayed in movies, books, podcasts and tv ever since.
I feature the bridge in this list of things to do on Chappquiddick because it is an undeniable part of local and American history. It is up to each individual to decide if they want to visit and to come with kindness, care and respect for those still affected by this tragic event.
6. Royal and Ancient Chappaquiddick Links
The Royal & Ancient Chappaquiddick Links, colloquially known as Royal Chappy golf course, is a 9-hole links course and has been in operation for over 100 years.
This is one of the most interesting things to do on Chappaquiddick and a chance to play golf on Martha’s Vineyard without the usual high pricetag
Holes are par 3 or 4 and non-members are welcome to play. They only have two golf carts but plenty of push carts for wheeling your bag around.
Book a tee time online for $60 per person. There are no obvious signs on the main road to direct you to the course and it’s easy to miss your turn. Make sure you have the address with you – 36 North Neck Road.
My husband has played here a few times and recommends a visit to Sir Reginald’s Royal Stuffe Shoppe after your round. He is a fan of the golf shirts but you can also snag a hat or golf ball featuring the iconic image of Sir Reginald.
Top tip: This is also a great place to stock up on birthday or Christmas gifts for the golfer in your life!
7. Run the Chappy Point to Point Road Race
This is a 5 mile run from Wasque point to the Chappy ferry which takes place at the end of June every year. It is a fundraiser for projects of benefit to Chappquiddick and its residents.
If you’re not a runner, you can buy race merchandise at Soft as Grape, Edgartown or raffle tickets to support the cause. This might be one of the most beautiful and unique road race courses you’ll ever run on!
Sign up early as there are only 300 spots available and they fill up fast.
8. Explore Miles of Walking Trails
The Martha’s Vineyard Landbank and the Sheriff’s Meadow foundation manage 13 properties on Chappaquiddick. The Trails MV app will guide you through all of these, providing details on parking, distances, terrain and more.
The trails are all worth exploring, but if you’re really feeling adventurous, you can walk the Cross Chappy Trail. This trail is four miles (4.8, to be exact) and leads you from one side of Chappy to the other.
It starts at North Neck Highlands Preserve at the top of the island, travels past Cape Poge Bay, through the Poucha Pond Reservation and down to Wasque in the south.
9. Visit Slipaway farm stand
Slipaway Farm provides locally grown organic vegetables, fruits and stunning flowers. It’s open seasonally, from June to September, Wednesday to Saturday from 10-5. You can get veggies like radishes, peppers and tomatoes and big bunches of local, seasonal flowers.
Check on their website before your visit for the most up to date hours and pick up some beautiful blooms or fresh, delicious food on Chappaquiddick before you head back to the ferry.
The farmstand operates on the honor system and is located in the original one-room Chappaquiddick school house at 199 Chappquiddick road, not far from the Community Center.
Picking up snacks at the store, Jerry’s Place
Planning a trip to Chappaquiddick
Now you know all the things to do on Chappaquiddick, you’ll need to plan how to get there, how to get around and what to bring.
Read my detailed Chappaquiddick travel guide to find out how to get there and more top tips for planning your visit.
You get to Chappaquiddick by taking the On Time ferry (seen in the movie “Jaws”) across from Edgartown and the best way to get around the island is by car or bike.
There is only one shop on the island (open seasonally) and no bars or restaurants so you’ll need to bring some supplies with you.
If you want to stay for more than a day trip, you won’t find any hotels on Chappy but there are lots of Chappaquiddick vacation rentals to choose from.
You can also download my free Chappaquiddick day trip packing list to make sure you bring everything you need, like sunscreen, bug spray (essential!) and snacks.
Final Thoughts on Things to do on Chappaquiddick
Chappaquiddick is a bit of a hidden gem just waiting to be explored. The picturesque beaches are often quieter than on the main island because it takes a little work to get to them.
There are abundant options for outdoor activities like hiking, biking and fishing. If you are looking for peace and solitude, Chappaquiddick offers some distance from the summer hustle and bustle of Edgartown and Oak Bluffs.
Plan your visit today with the help of my essential Chappy visitors guide and enjoy your trip!
Frequently Asked Questions about Things to do on Chappaquiddick Island
Is Chappaquiddick worth visiting?
Yes, Chappaquiddick is worth visiting for its natural beauty, beaches, wildlife and historical significance. You can see much of this small island in a day trip from the Martha’s Vineyard ‘mainland”.
Stay there for your whole vacation if you truly want to be surrounded by nature and enjoy fishing, kayaking, birdwatching and hiking
Do you need a car on Chappaquiddick?
No, you don’t necessarily need a car on Chappaquiddick; many areas can be explored on foot or by bicycle. However, I recommend bringing a car if you can.
There are no bike paths so cyclists share the roads with drivers. In addition, not all roads are paved so you may have to cycle on sand or dirt which can be difficult and tiring for novice cyclists
Where is Chappaquiddick Island?
Chappaquiddick Island is located to the east of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
How to get to Chappaquiddick from Edgartown?
From Dock Street in Edgartown, you take the ferry to Chappaquiddick. It’s a short, 1.5 minute ride across the mouth of Edgartown Harbor.