Chappaquiddick is a small island off Martha’s Vineyard easternmost point. Five miles out to sea from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, this beautiful triangular island is known for its upland woods, protected bays, lovely salt marshes and ponds and long stretches of sandy barrier beaches. With thousands of acres of preserved lands open to the public, Chappy is truly a special place.
Chappy is only about 3 miles long and is home to a small island community. There is only one small store and no restaurants on Chappy. But you will have plenty to explore including the famous Dyke Bridge which will bring you to beaches and dunes, the Cape Poge Light and Wasque Wildlife Preserve. Discover the diverse history and ecology of this island.
The word “Chappaquiddick” comes from the Wampanoag word “Tchepiaquidenet” which means “place of separate island”. It is politically a part of the town of Edgartown, the most historic village on Martha’s Vineyard. Until the winter of 2007, Chappaquiddick and Martha’s Vineyard were connected by a narrow two-mile (3 km) strip of beach (Katama Beach), which from time to time would become breached due to weather. In April 2007, a strong storm broke through this strip of beach and dunes and made Chappy a separate island again. It is truly an island off an island.
Relax and enjoy the many attractions in this fascinating place.
History & Ecology
Martha’s Vineyard and Chappaquiddick have a rich cultural and natural heritage evidenced in both historic structures and preserved natural areas. You will enjoy the charming towns, Native American culture, beaches and ponds, unusual museums and historic sites with friendly people.
Martha’s Vineyard is 7 miles off the coast of Cape Cod and hosts the classic New England sand dune landscape as well as coastal ponds, salt marshes, tidewaters, wildflowers, and abundant wildlife. Prior to being named after an explorer’s daughter, Martha’s Vineyard was known by the Wampanoag Tribe as “Noepe” or “In the Midst of the Sea.” It is 20 miles long, 9 miles wide, a few feet above sea level. Chappaquiddick is much smaller but reflects the same ecology and history as the “big island.”
Chappaquiddick is currently an actual island since the barrier beach at the south end of Katama Bay was breached by a storm in the Spring of 2007. Every few decades, this barrier beach fills in and connects the two islands together. Katama Bay named after a beautiful Indian maiden, Katama, the chief’s daughter, who was promised to marry an allied tribe’s chief, whom she hated. She loved the chief of a neighboring tribe, Mattakessett, who was raided. In the battle, Katama and Mattakessett both lost their lives. The Bay has since been called Katama Bay and to the south on the big island is Mattakessett Creek.
Both islands have rich history that can be explored in many of the bookstores and libraries on Martha’s Vineyard.
The piece of modern history which has been given abundant press coverage was “Chappaquiddick incident” which refers to the national scandal in July 1969 when Mary Jo Kopechne drowned off Dyke Bridge in an overturned car belonging to Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy. Today, the bridge is secured with guardrails and is part of the idyllic scene of the Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge.
More than a thousand acres on Chappaquiddick are being actively preserved by a handful of conservation organizations and most are open to the public. This unique island ecosystem is home to a variety of wildlife which are accessible by the tours offered by the Trustees of Reservations. You can watch wonderful shore birds like heron, osprey and terns, migrating flocks like Canada geese, and huge swirling flocks of cliff swallows.
Some of the flora of this sea and land include: wild grape, may flower, beach pea, bayberry, scrub oak, rosa rugosa, beach plum, marsh grass, dusty miller, and black pine.
Swimming among the seaweeds of kelp, rockweed, chenille weed and sargassum weed are the variety of fish including bluefish, striped bass, american cod, tautog, herring, swordfish, skate, pipefish and squid.
The crustaceans hiding in the coves and harbors include horseshoe crabs, scallops, mussels, razor clams, false angle wings, oysters, sand shrimp, lobsters, quahogs, fiddler crabs, periwinkles and starfish.
There is so much to explore and we invite you to use our cottage as your home base.