Martha’s Vineyard LINGO: Up-Island & Down-Island

On Martha’s Vineyard, we speak our own island language…
When you arrive on the island, you’ll discover quickly that the island has been divided, more or less, into two parts: up-island and down-island.

When you hear someone say ‘up-island,’ they are referring to the towns of West Tisbury, Aquinnah, Chilmark and it’s small fishing harbor, Menemsha. The up-island towns are quiet, quaint and slow with each town center consisting, primarily, of town hall, the library, the post office and a few choice stores, galleries, restaurants and inns.

The houses up-island are spread out and often secluded, and the landscape features forests, rolling hills, farms and beach highlights like the cliffs in Aquinnah. When you’re up-island, you’ll spend time in your car or on your bike fetching groceries and glimpsing civilization…but, only if you want to.

Down-island refers to Edgartown, Vineyard Haven (Tisbury) and Oak Bluffs. These three towns are known for their bustling and unique ‘downtowns’ packed with dynamic shopping, art, food, dining and entertainment. With an abundance of summer traffic, people and cars, their is also an endless list of things to do and see.

While there are quiet beaches to be found, the main down-island beaches, State Beach in Oak Bluffs and South Beach in Edgartown/Katama, are bustling with people, beach games and surf from dawn to dusk.

And…just to make things a little more interesting, there’s a small island off the coast of Edgartown called Chappaquiddick, or ‘Chappy’, that serves as the ‘up-island’ of Edgartown. It’s small and quiet. There aren’t many cars, houses are spread out and the beaches are incredible.

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