the words of Dr. Beach
The Best Walking
Beach in the Northeast is Moshup Beach, Gay Head on the
western end of Martha's Vineyard, where cliffs over 200
hundred feet high drop abruptly down to the sea-an impressive
and picturesque sight. The scenery is extraordinary, with a
lighthouse atop the multicolored cliffs on one side and views
of Cuttyhunk Island offshore to the right and No Man's Island
to the left. You never have to worry about getting too hot, as
a quick dip in the ocean water will cool you down in a jiffy
(but bring water and any food as there are no concessions
here). The name "gay" is derived from the lively colors of
sediments displayed in the cliff face, which were deposited
here by great ice sheets during the last glaciation (about
15,000 years ago). The green and gray colored clays were
gouged up from the ocean bottom, while the reds, whites and
yellows were carried from the mainland. The clays had about
the consistency of toothpaste when wet and squeezed under the
pressure of the great ice sheets. They are jumbled together in
a bewildering array of multicolored sediments in this high-cliffed
headland protruding into the sea. Continuing erosion keeps the
cliff face barren and the colors fresh. Last time I visited
the area, I found a large shark tooth about the size of my
hand and ran into a group of nude sunbathers.
beach is blanketed by soft white sand and an endless number of
rocks that have been worn and smoothed by the ocean's force.
This beach also has a section where clothing is optional for
sunbathers and other visitors." Read more:
icons below for additional online resources
(each link opens in
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The beach is approximately a ten-minute walk from the parking
lot on a cleared trail. There is a $15 parking fee in
A guarded swimming area is available daily from Memorial Day
to Labor Day, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Rip currents are a
common occurrence on Assateague Island. Be sure you know how
to handle them before you swim.
Click to view current marine forecast
and sea surface temperature.
At Moshup Beach,
climbing on the cliffs (Gay Head Cliffs) behind the beach or
removing the clay that forms the cliffs is prohibited by law
as this area is protected. Read more:
1-March 31: No restrictions; April 1-May 14: Dogs and pets are
prohibited within 100 yards of posted nesting habitat by
federal and state regulation; May 15-August 30: Dogs and pets
are prohibited within 100 yards of posted nesting habitat by
federal and state regulation; dogs and pets are prohibited on
all beaches between 9 am and 5 pm; September 1-September 15:
Dogs and pets are prohibited on all beaches between 9 am and 5
pm; September 16-December 31: No restrictions. Dog and pet
excrement must be picked up and disposed of properly. There is
a $50 fine for violations.
Martha's Vineyard offers ample shopping opportunities.
has no restrooms, changing rooms or other facilities such as
food sales or boat rentals.
Dr. Beach has
previously named Moshup Beach "Best Walking
Beach" in the Northeast.