Oak Bluffs has a charmingly unique seaside Victorian heritage and flavor.
Its busy harbor serves pleasure boaters, fishermen, and summer ferries from five ports. Compact and lively, Oak Bluffs has long served as a family vacation mecca. Special events are scheduled from May through October. The town, harbor, historic attractions, ferries and beach are all within easy walking distance of the Pequot Hotel.
Oak Bluffs History
Before there was even a town named Oak Bluffs — it was called “Cottage City” in the 1800s — Methodist congregations across New England would organize summer retreats to the woods north of Edgartown, where they would spend a week in revival meetings, hearing as many as four sermons a day. Many found the setting so delightful, they started coming early on their camping trips and staying late. That tradition of the “camp-meeting” really gave Martha’s Vineyard its start as a summer resort community.
As the Methodists expanded their summer visits, they built wooden platforms for their tents, then began building a community of colorful cottages around their open-air meeting center. Thus was born the island’s only truly original architectural style, known today as Campground Gothic Revival. Some 300 cottages with “gingerbread” scrollwork details and gaily-colored paint schemes still stand at the heart of Oak Bluffs, around the central Tabernacle with its graceful arches of wrought iron.
The historic path of this burgeoning summer resort so departed from Edgartown that in 1880 its residents split away, forming the town of “Cottage City.” The town took on the new name of Oak Bluffs in 1907.
From its revivalist beginnings, Oak Bluffs has grown to become the Island’s liveliest center for after-hours entertainment, with the downtown district along Circuit Avenue bustling well into the wee hours on summer weekends. Oak Bluffs is also home to such landmarks as the Flying Horses, among the nation’s oldest operating carousels, and Union Chapel, a remarkable octagonal structure that dates to 1870.
Oak Bluffs Harbor is known as the island’s favorite destination for power boaters, with its long lively pier and electrical hookup services. Oak Bluffs is also home to Martha’s Vineyard’s most impressive collection of public parks. The jewel of them all is Ocean Park, right around the corner from the Pequot Hotel, with a bandstand at the center where concerts are given on alternating Sunday nights throughout the summer. Ocean Park is also the center for the August fireworks display which traditionally draws the biggest crowds of any single island event and marks the conclusion of the high summer season.
At that point, another lovely time to visit Martha’s Vineyard begins. Late summer into autumn is a bit less busy but with beach, boating and touring activities still in full swing. Whatever season you choose to visit, from May through mid-October, the Pequot Hotel is a well-situated and uniquely authentic home base in the historic seaside destination of Oak Bluffs.