As a resident of Martha’s Vineyard for over twenty years, I have had the pleasure of exploring this beautiful, diverse island, and I love sharing this place with my clients. I’ve discovered so many picturesque locations for family portraits and am constantly amazed with the variety of unique settings our Island home offers.
When a family portrait client first reaches out about their session, I do my best to get to know them in order to determine the most appropriate place to capture their family. Depending on the time of year, the age of their family members, and the type of background that appeals to them, I can help a family determine the ideal location that best fits their needs.
Martha’s Vineyard is only twenty two by nine miles wide, not to mention it’s surrounded by water on all sides, meaning you don’t have to go very far to find the picture-perfect spot. “Down-Island” is what the locals refer to as the towns of Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven, and these are generally the most accessible family portrait locations, depending on where the family is staying.
“Up-Island” or the west side of the Island, is usually a longer drive, but is home to some of the most scenic locations on-Island. Sometimes no traveling is required and a family determines that their home away from home is the ideal setting for their Martha’s Vineyard family portraits, offering an even more personal and nostalgic setting.
For those looking to get out of the house take a trip to the south-east tip of the island, In Edgartown’s Katama area, to South Beach, a three mile stretch of pristine beach, and one of my favorite family portrait locations. Separated from the parallel road by a vast swath of dunes, this location is convenient, requires minimal walking, and showcases the natural, raw beauty of Martha’s Vineyard–with expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean and Nantucket Sound. I recommend this location for its sunsets and secluded, yet accessible location.
Nearby in historic downtown Edgartown is Lighthouse Beach, an iconic Island location with boats, beaches, docks, dunes and pathways, making it one of my favorite locations for its diversity of portrait backdrops–not to mention its stunning views of the Edgartown lighthouse, Vineyard Sound and Chappaquiddick Island. For those that don’t know, Chappaquiddick Island or “Chappy” as it’s called locally, is a small peninsula and occasional island (depending on breaches due to storms) located on the eastern end of Edgartown. The Chappy Ferry runs across Edgartown harbor, transporting cars and passengers across the short 527 foot stretch to Chappaquiddick, a rural island with only one main road.
Another “down-island” treasure is the town of Oak Bluffs, which offers a vast array of family portrait locations all within easy walking distance. From the East Chop marina to the Oak Bluffs Harbor, the Flying Horses Carousel, expansive State Beach, scenic Ocean Park, the charming gingerbread cottages and the beloved Jaws Bridge, Oak Bluffs offers a little bit of everything. The Steamship Authority operates seasonally out of Oak Bluffs as well as the Island Queen, Hy-line, Seastreek and Rhode Island Fast Ferry, making it an extremely accessible location for day trippers too.
The next town over, due west, is Vineyard Haven or Tisbury. Historically the area was called “Nobnocket” by the Island’s original settlers, the Wampanoags, and was first referred to by the colonial settlers as “Homes Hole,” and eventually Vineyard Haven. The storied town is home to one of my other favorite locations, Owen Park, a little-known spot with a casual intimate beach and boat dock. An ideal family portrait location, as it allows clients to relax in the sand, play on the grassy hill or pose along the harbor, offering a wide range of backdrops in very close proximity.
For those families who prefer to head “up-Island” and are looking for an authentically Vineyard experience, I recommend a family portrait session in Menemsha, the quintessential fishing village within the town of Chilmark. Classic and charming, Menemsha boasts a wide variety of nautical backdrops for photos: stacks of lobster traps, long-line fishing boats, colorful shacks along the docks, and beautiful Menemsha Beach.
Visitors flock to the beach in the summer for their breathtaking sunsets, where they get a front-row seat at these daily phenomenons, while enjoying the freshest seafood from the village’s local fish markets. A portrait session in Menemsha allows families to connect with each other while appreciating the timelessness and beauty of one of the Vineyard’s most historic harbors.
Even further “up-Island,” is the town of Aquinnah which lines the southwest point of Martha’s Vineyard and offers some of the best landscapes on the entire Island. The town was known as Gay Head until 1997 when it was formerly renamed to Aquinnah, which is Wampanoag for “land under the hill.” Aquinnah has become celebrated as a center of Wampanoag culture, and is known as one of the earliest sites of whaling, where the Wampanoag first harvested whales by harpoons, long before the 19th-century whaling boom on Martha’s Vineyard. Today, Aquinnah is most known for its colorful clay cliffs, perhaps the most striking and well-known natural feature of the Vineyard, and stunning views of Vineyard Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. For families that are up for a little hiking during their visit, Moshup Beach is a must-visit and results in a majestic backdrop that really captures the scenic beauty of Martha’s Vineyard.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that so many unique settings exist on our small Island–it really is a photographer’s dream. I’m so fortunate to have access to such amazing locations, and nothing makes me happier than sharing them with my clients. Over the years I have collected dozens of other secret spots to keep in my arsenal, and along with the more popular locations, those hidden gems really show off the diversity of the Vineyard, while complementing a family’s dynamic.
Visiting the Island this summer? Get in touch and we’ll work together to discover the most picture-perfect spot for your family’s portraits.