One of the main benefits to searching for waterfront properties on an island is that the entire circumference of the island offers the opportunity for waterfront property and water view property.
Martha's Vineyard has approximately 63 miles of coastal property. However, of those 63 coastline miles, 47 miles are private, while the public owns 16.
The scarcity of publicly available coastal access has helped create highly valued real estate on the island that either has its own private beach or deeded access to a private beach, or offers a view of the water.
Special Waterfront Zones
Contributing to the scarcity of available coastal property is the Coastal Zone, a Coastal District that consists of a shore zone and an inland zone that was created by the Martha's Vineyard Commission to protect a variety of island coastal resources.
Coastal zones and district have specific rules that can limit the height of buildings, the number of structures, the number of bedrooms and where homes can be located.
Thus, owning property with a private beach or beach access belongs to a precious few and the list of such properties that are for sale can be short.
What Waterfront Means
To a get a fuller understanding of what 'waterfront' means you have to dig a bit deeper. On Martha's Vineyard there are ponds, coves, inlets and harbors that offer waterfront living in addition to the ocean and two sounds. And location, of course, affects price.
If you are searching specifically for oceanfront property, then you are looking for property thusly:
- Property fronting the Atlantic Ocean – Look on the South side of the island
- Property fronting Vineyard Sound – Look on the North side of the island
- Property Fronting Nantucket Sound - Northeast side of the island
Oceanfront properties are most often the most expensive with the water access doubling, tripling or more what a property's value might be were it inland and not on the water.
Pond, Lagoon or Ocean?
For example, a West Tisbury waterfront property fronting a pond and would sell for much more if the same house were overlooking Vineyard Sound.
A waterfront home available on the Lagoon in Vineyard Haven, while on water, it is limited by its location because the Lagoon is a mostly land-encircled body of water.
Its attractiveness, though, is bolstered by its watery exit to Vineyard Haven harbor which leads out to Vineyard Sound. The Lagoon can provide attractive waterfront opportunities, but oceanfront usually provides better appreciation.
Thus, it is important to note what kind of body of water a property looks out upon. As you search for waterfront property, look for descriptive phrases such as 'North Shore,' 'South Beach' and 'Katama.' All of these locations look out on what people would generally call the ocean.
Notable Beach Locations
Many of the island's town beaches are stunning and provide a major benefit to living in one of the island six towns. The Inner Harbor beach in Vineyard Haven, for example, has a number of homes fronting it with prices from the multiple millions.
More to the point, some people will only buy in a town simply because of its—residents only—beach.
Thus, keep in mind:
- Lambert's Cove Beach (open only to West Tisbury residents)
- Lucy Vincent Beach (Chilmark residents only)
- Philbin Beach (Aquinnah residents only)
Property near these beaches is highly valued.
Beautiful Public Beaches
Overall, there are private beaches and town beaches where you need to be a resident or a renter to access them, as noted above.
But some of the most beautiful stretches of coastline are free and open to the public, such as South Beach in Katama.
And 'State Beach,' where the movie 'Jaws'** was filmed**, is a long stretch of public beach that lies between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown—fine for swimming, but there are no homes there. However, there are homes facing the body of water behind it—Sengekontacket Pond.
And Menemsha Public Beach, which is famed for its dramatic sunsets, draws large crowds for the sun's daily curtain call.
Don't Forget Chappaquiddick Waterfront Property
And finally, remember to consider waterfront property on the island of Chappaquiddick, accessible from Edgartown by a five-minute ride aboard the On-Time ferry.
The ferry can be viewed as an inconvenience, but that's your opportunity to consider beachfront property here. Chappy waterfront prices will be slightly less than oceanfront locations on the rest of Martha's Vineyard and, thus, can be a better value.
The beauty of the Chappaquiddick beaches, however, is just as spectacular.