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Visit Chappaquiddick Island: Essential Travel Guide (2023)

Planning a trip to Chappy (as the locals call it) but don’t know where to start? Here’s everything you need to know before you visit Chappaquiddick Island.

Chappquiddick is a unique and beautiful island off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard and you might be surprised to learn how much there is to do there.

However, visiting an island-off-an-island requires some preparation. On my first day trip to Chappaquiddick, I wore the wrong clothes, forgot so many essentials and had no plan for how to maximise my time there.

After multiple return visits, I am happy to share my tips and advice so you don’t make the same mistakes I did! Enjoy miles of hiking trails, serene Japanese gardens, pristine beaches or even a round of golf on a stress-free visit to Chappy, Martha’s Vineyard. 

Visit Chappaquiddick Island: Fast Facts

📌 Known as: Chappy
🌎 Size: 6.145 sq miles
📍 Location: Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachussetts
📭 Chappaquiddick Zip code: 02539
📈 Year round population: 300+
📏 Distance from Edgartown: 527 feet, 90 second ferry ride
🍂 Famous for: The Chappaquiddick Incident (1969), secluded beaches, nature, Chappy Ferry featured in the movie “Jaws”

two small car ferries pass by each other travelling between Edgartown and Chappaquiddick on Martha's Vineyard. The Chappaquiddick dock can be seen in the background with a sandy beach on either side. The ferries take people to visit chappaquiddick island
Chappy ferries passing each other in Edgartown harbor

How do you get to Chappaquiddick Island?

Start in Edgartown on the “mainland” of Martha’s Vineyard and then take a ferry to Chappaquiddick.  Cars wait in line along the marked lane on Daggett Street. Foot and bicycle passengers proceed directly to the On Time ferry dock (53 Dock St).

This small ferry was made famous by appearing in the movie “Jaws” and has been connecting Chappaquiddick with the rest of Martha’s Vineyard since 1807!

The distance between the Edgartown dock and the On Time ferry Chappaquiddick landing point is 527 feet across Edgartown Harbor.  Two ferries run back and forth continuously, daily from 6.30am til midnight from the end of May to mid-October.

In the summer, the lines can be really long if you want to visit Chappaquiddick Island with your car. Only three cars at a time can fit on the Chappy ferry.

This means you could be waiting an hour or more at peak times (like weekends in July or August) so be prepared for this and plan accordingly. Thankfully, you can check the length of the car line on the Chappy Ferry webcams before you set out.

How long is the ferry from Edgartown to Chappaquiddick?

The ferry from Edgartown to Chappaquiddick takes just 90 seconds. Two ferries run back and forth all day from 6.30am to midnight in the summer months and 6.30am to 10pm, then from 11pm to 11.15pm in the off-season

How many cars fit on the Chappy Ferry?

Three cars fit on the Chappy ferry at a time. Foot passengers and bikes can also board alongside the cars. 

Is Chappy Ferry cash only?

Yes, Chappy Ferry tickets can only be purchased with cash. 

a view of a wooden japanese-style bridge over a pond in the mytoi gardens on chappaquiddick. Exotic and local trees and plants are visible surrounding the pond. Stone steps lead away from the bridge towards the front of the image

Mytoi Japanese Gardens

Things to do on Chappaquiddick Island

There is so much to do when you visit Chappaquiddick Island that you may need more than just a day trip! Read this detailed guide to things to do on Chappaquiddick to find out about all the places you can visit.

Chappaquiddick is an ideal place for those who love the outdoors and being in nature. Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge (including the Lighthouse and East Beach) on the eastern end of the island is the best place on Chappy to explore the wildlife native to the area.

Oystercatchers, terns and shorebirds like piping plovers are commonly seen here. Cape Pogue, Wasque Reservation and the Mytoi Japanese Gardens are all managed by the Trustees of Reservations.

I’d recommend purchasing a membership if you plan on visiting the Chappaquiddick properties or others on the main island of Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket & Cape Cod as this offers you free or discounted entry and parking fees.

You can also get an over sand vehicle permit from the Trustees if you want to drive your vehicle on the beaches.

One of the best ways of exploring Chappaquiddick Island is by hiking the numerous trails through Martha’s Vineyard Landbank and Sheriff’s Meadow properties that cross the island.

Chappaquiddick is also known for enjoyable kayaking in the bays and Poucha Pond and fishing for striped bass at the popular fishing spot off Wasque Point at the lower tip of the island. 

Finally, you could visit the Royal and Ancient Chappaquiddick links for 9 holes of golf!

a flag in a hole on the royal and ancient chappaquiddick links golf course. flat grass surface with dark trees inthe backgrounf. The flag has a picture of a black crow on it. The mascot of the club, sir reginald

Sir Reginald, the club mascot, on the flags at Royal and Ancient Chappaquiddick Links

5 top tips for visiting Chappaquiddick MA

Here’s what I learned after my first, woefully unprepared day trip to this small island.

1. Carefully chose your mode of transport

I was not a regular cyclist on my first visit, but I had heard biking Chappaquiddick Island was the best way to get around. Chappy offers miles of roads and trails to cycle. Cycling on the paved roads was fine but I found the sand and dirt roads much more difficult to manage.

I got tired pretty quickly cycling on those surfaces but you might find this easier if you are an experienced cyclist.

I would also recommend bringing a bike that is in good working condition – mine was really old and so uncomfortable. A good bike repair tool kit is also worth having as some surfaces are not tire-friendly.

I don’t recommend walking when you visit Chappaquiddick Island. There is very little to see within walking distance of the ferry. The main things to do on Chappy – Mytoi, Wasque, Cape Poge and East Beach are 3 to 5 miles from the ferry landing. There are no sidewalks on the main road.

If you have mobility issues, are travelling with young kids and all their “stuff” or are bringing golf clubs, I’d recommend taking your car. If you want to drive on the beaches at Cape Poge or Wasque, you will need a 4 wheel drive vehicle and an OSV permit. 

4 beach huts with blue, red and white striped roofs can be seen in the distance. scrub and sand is in the forwground and a fence and sand dunes are in between

Chappaquiddick Beach Club

2. Dress appropriately

As the morning was cool, I wore long pants and a long sleeve top on my first visit. But it was the middle of summer and by lunchtime I was wishing for a lighter outfit.

Check the Chappaquiddick weather before you go and bring layers that you can add or remove as necessary. You might need a light rain jacket if there’s a chance of showers and swimwear if you plan to take a swim at any of Chappy’s beaches.

These microfiber towels pack up really small and dry quickly so they’re great for travelling and day trips. Bring a wet bag to carry your swimwear home.

a black food truck with the words Blackbird cafe in white. windows at the side and the logo towards the front. Foodtruck is located on chappaquiddick island, martha's vineyard

Blackbird cafe food truck at Jerry’s Place

3. Bring food, water and snacks

There are no restaurants on Chappaquiddick island. There is one Chappy store – Jerry’s Place – and this is usually open from 7.30 to 4pm from late June to early September.

Next to the store you will find the Blackbird cafe food truck which operates the same opening hours. There’s a limited menu at the cafe (I enjoyed the turkey sandwich!) and the store has a small selection of snacks and drinks

If you have specific dietary requirements or plan to spend a long time on the beach or hiking, you will need to bring provisions. Make sure you have a reusable water bottle and enough water to last the duration of your trip.

During the summer months, fresh water is available at the hand pump outside Mytoi

4. Pack sunscreen and bug spray

You will be outdoors the whole time you are on Chappaquiddick so sunscreen is essential. This is my favorite sunscreen as it only needs to be applied once a day. I’ve been using this since I was a child and love the convenience of not having to reapply over and over.

The Japanese-style garden at Mytoi is probably my favorite place to visit on Chappy… except for the mosquitos! They are a problem all over Chappaquiddick but I found them to be particularly bad (and BIG) at Mytoi. 

I’m really allergic and apparently very tasty to mosquitos so I prefer a strong bug spray that lasts a long time without reapplying. Bonus points if it keeps the ticks at bay too!

5. Don’t rely on your phone

Cell service on Chappy is spotty and gets worse as you go further east or north. The island is easy to navigate as there are only a few roads, but I’d recommend having offline access to maps on your phone or bringing a physical map with you.

You should also ensure you have maps of any trails you wish to hike and of Wasque and Cape Poge. Do all your research about your visit (opening hours, trail closures etc) before you get to the island.

There is wifi at the Chappaquiddick Community Center if you really need it and cell service improves as you get closer to the ferry.

Chappaquiddick Day Trip Packing List (Free Download)

Download This Essential Chappaquiddick Day-Trip Packing List to help you prepare. Having all these items organised in advance when you visit Chappaquiddick Island will make for a smooth and stress-free trip.

A packing list for a day trip to chappaquiddick island broken into 6 categories. Transportation, food and drink, Tech and communications, outdoor activities, safety and misc and others

Places to stay – Chappaquiddick Hotels?

There are no hotels on the island but there are plenty of Chappaquiddick vacation rental homes. Because the island is so small, many are within walking distance to the public beaches on Chappaquiddick or have their own private beach.

Some rentals have outdoor pools, hot-tubs and ocean views. Some owners will include ferry reservations to Martha’s Vineyard for your car and can provide bikes and kayaks when you visit Chappaquiddick Island.

There are a few locations on Martha’s Vineyard you can stay if you really want to get away from it all. Although, not many can match the privacy and seclusion of staying on Chappaquiddick. Edgartown is just a short ferry ride away if you want to go shopping or out to eat.

an old fire station building with 2 tall wooden doors. 2 American flags hang infront

Wrapping It Up: Visit Chappaquiddick island

From the serene Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge to the hustle and bustle of Chappy Point Beach, Chappaquiddick is more than just a day-trip destination. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, hiker, golfer, angler or beach lover, Chappaquiddick offers activities for you.

However, it’s essential to prepare in advance for your visit to Chappaquiddick Island. Choose your mode of transport wisely, pack sunscreen and bug spray, and keep an offline map handy.

Join our Martha’s Vineyard Travel Tips group on Facebook for help on planning your trip

Frequently Asked questions about Visiting Chappaquiddick Island

Is there anything on Chappaquiddick?

Yes! Chappaquiddick is home to Cape Poge wildlife refuge and Cape Poge lighthouse, Wasque Beach, Mytoi Japanese Gardens and the infamous Dike Bridge. You can also play golf at the Royal and Ancient Chappaquiddick links, enjoy lunch at the Blackbird Cafe and hike the MV Landbank or Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation trails

What is Chappaquiddick Island known for?

Chappaquiddick Island is known for its natural beauty, tranquil Mytoi gardens and the iconic Chappy Ferry (featured in the movie, Jaws). It is most famous as the scene of the Chappaquiddick incident in 1969 when Ted Kennedy drove his car off Dike Bridge, resulting in the death of his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne.

Can you drive on Chappaquiddick Island?

Yes, you can drive on Chappaquiddick Island. The main roads are paved however, when you branch off to a side road, it often turns to dirt. You will need a 4-wheel drive vehicle and an over sand vehicle pass if you wish to drive on the beaches.

Is Chappaquiddick connected to Martha’s Vineyard?

Sometimes! Chappaquiddick is occasionally connected to Martha’s Vineyard by a narrow barrier beach called Norton Point, Storms and tides often burst through this beach, creating a narrow inlet. The beach will reform over time until the next weather event opens the breach again. 

Does anyone live on Chappaquiddick Island?

Yes, there are more than 300 year-round residents on Chappaquiddick Island.

What does the name chappaquiddick mean?

“Chappaquiddick” comes from the Algonquin word “Tchepi-cquiden-et”, meaning “the separate island.”

Can you drive to Chappaquiddick?

Yes, you can drive to Chappaquiddick, but first you must drive on to the Chappy Ferry in Edgartown and travel the 527 feet across the water to Chappaquiddick point.

Where is Chappaquiddick bridge?

The Chappaquiddick “bridge” refers to the Dike Bridge, the site of the 1969 incident with Ted Kennedy. It is located on Dike road (past Mytoi) on the eastern side of the island of Chappquiddick, Massachussetts

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