At the western most point of Martha's Vineyard sits the town Aquinnah with its famous colored clay cliffs, now a National Landmark. The salty scents of New England linger in the air. Once called Gay Head the present day Wampanoag Native Americans changed its name to Aquinnah, meaning "High Land", in 1997. The tribe members and their descendants had lived on Martha's Vineyard for centuries before the white settlers arrived. The story of their arrival is unusual for its lack of bloodshed and for the community accord with the Wampanoag. In 1642, under the leadership of Thomas Mayhew Jr., laws were such that the Wampanoag's land could not be taken without consent and fair payment. The Wampanoag taught farming and whaling techniques to the settlers, and were in high demand as boatsteeres for whaling vessels.
The tribe and their descendants were recognized as a federally recognised tribe in 1987 and today they make up about one third of Aquinnah's 344 plus residents. The Wampanoag trust lands encompass 485 acres – 160 acres privately held and 325 acres common lands
One is struck by the splendor of high, mile long colored clay cliffs, towering above sandy, rocky beaches. Waves crash against the shore. Choose a clear, sunny day to fully appreciate the panorama from the top of Aquinnah Cliffs and or while strolling along the two public beaches: Moshup Beach to the southwest and Lobsterville Beach along the Sound side of town. From the sand, your eyes will be drawn first to the majestic cliffs, rising steeply to flaunt their colorful striations, and then to the beach-goers, in bathing and birthday suits, prancing in and out of the water and often wallowing —illegally — in the clay pits. There is a web-cam at one of the beaches for you to enjoy =
One can also enjoy the biking and walking trails that wind through roads, beaches, and vegetation.
The Gay Head lighthouse: John Quincy Adams had a wooden lighthouse constructed at Gay Head and it opened in 1779. Refurbished, it stands to this day as a beacon to those at sea as they. The lighthouse is overseen by the Martha's Vineyard Museum, and is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from one hour before sunset to a half hour after sunset, from the summer solstice to the fall equinox. If you are fishing on or off-shore, it'll feel like the Old World, where countless fishermen, whalers, Wampanoag, have been before you.
In closing…While you may not sleep in Aquinnah, you'll want to visit this ancient jewel. While much of the rest of Martha's Vineyard, hums the tune of day and night life, Aquinnah awaits you with its low-key, low-profile, serene atmosphere.
Information of Importance: Martha's Vineyard Transit System buses serve Aquinnah and connect it to the Island's other towns and it may be the best way to go as parking is difficult at the cliffs and beach. Be prepared to drop guests and continue around the circle to the parking lot.