With only 6 square miles of land and 35 square miles of sea to its name, Aquinnah is the smallest town on the Vineyard, but it is jam packed with gorgeous sights, beautiful beaches and a rich history.
The Wampanoag tribe, a subset of the Algonquin Native Americans located in Southern New England, originally settled Aquinnah. English colonists settled there in 1669 and sought aid from the Aquinnah Wampanoag, who were recognized as exceptional boat steers on whaling ships. Indeed, a character in Moby-Dick is an Aquinnah harpooner.
Today, many of the 311 people comprising Aquinnah’s year round population are descended from the Wampanoag tribe.
The most notable feature of Aquinnah is the Gay Head Cliffs, and the Gay Head lighthouse that sits atop them. A geographic time capsule, the cliffs are layers of clay, sand and gravel that tell the story of the island’s natural progression, from glaciers to wildfire to erosion and everything in between. Native American legend dictates that the spirit Moshup, who smashed whales on the cliff side, created the colorful layers.
Regardless of origin, the cliffs attract visitors from all over. A small cluster of shops and eateries have popped up around the observation point, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the ocean, cliffs and lighthouse all in one.
As the majority of Aquinnah is actually water, the beach is a main focal point of the town. Moshup beach is located below the cliffs, giving you an up close view of the exquisite natural clay formations. At Moshup you’ll find clear aqua waters and marvel at the stacked-rock sculptures other beachgoers have left decorating the shore.
Philbin and Lobsterville are additional beaches in the town where you can enjoy fishing, swimming and sunbathing all summer long.