Before there was even a paved road in town, the Aquinnah Circle has been a destination for tourists traveling to Martha’s Vineyard. From far and wide people have come to see the vibrant colored clay cliffs, meet the Wampanoag (American Indian) residents, and admire the famous Gay Head Lighthouse. In the late 1800s, visitors would arrive by ship, docking just below the face of the cliffs, and then would be hauled around by oxcart to explore the lighthouse, stroll the shoreline, and dine in one of the restaurants offering fresh-caught seafood.
Aquinnah Circle is located in the small town of Aquinnah (formerly known as Gay Head) on Martha’s Vineyard Island. The town is homeland to the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), one of only two federally recognized tribes in the Commonwealth. Aquinnah has been a refuge place for the island’s original inhabitants, and they have a long tradition of welcoming others that might not have had a place elsewhere. To this day, the Town’s residents celebrate the unique character of those that choose to live here, surrounded by immense beauty, yet somewhat removed from many modern amenities.
Many thousands of people come to experience the tranquil beauty of the Circle and surrounding area each year. The most popular attraction is the cliff overlook, which is a must for any Vineyard visitor, especially those also seeking a spectacular evening sunset. For adventurous types, there are hiking trails leading to the unparalleled Moshup Beach, as well as along the top of the cliffs, offering incredible scenic views of Vineyard Sound, the surrounding islands, and all the marine activity going on.
Two outstanding historic places to visit at the Circle, the Gay Head Lighthouse, and the Aquinnah Cultural Center (a Wampanoag Museum), both offer daily programming and tours throughout the warmer months. Additional community and public events are hosted in or around the Circle throughout the year.
Dining options include sit down service at the Outermost Inn, and the Aquinnah Shop Restaurants, both run by well-known local families. There are also several excellent take out options available for those on the move or in search of a picnic lunch.
The Circle offers great shopping from April through November, for those searching for anything from casual T-shirts, to fine Wampanoag hand-crafted art. Local artists are particularly well known for their wampum work (purple and white beads & ornaments made from the quahog shell), which is sought out by those from neighboring tribes, the chicest islanders, and other collectors of fine jewelry.
There is something for just about everyone at Aquinnah Circle—whether you are looking to learn about a different culture, in pursuit of an excellent dining or shopping adventure, or just seeking a relaxing day at the beach—Aquinnah Circle will provide you with an experience you’ll not soon forget!