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Cuttyhunk in the Elizabeth Islands ... a slice of life preserved from centuries past

Panoramic views from the top of the island...

Take a step back in time

On planning our first trip to Martha’s Vineyard , we were surprised to find a chain of islands in our way.  The Elizabeth Islands .   Never heard of them?  They looked a little treacherous to pass between so we studied the charts and pulled out the cruising guides.  Lo and behold, we thought we’d found a slice of colonial paradise.  Hmmmmm.  Time for an unscheduled stop.  On the way back, we were definitely making a detour to Cuttyhunk, the outermost island in the chain.  And so we did.

...overlooking the Pond and outer harbor.

Our arrival on Cuttyhunk was impromptu, so we anchored in the outer harbor and proceeded to launch the dinghy for the ride to shore.  We weren’t quite prepared for the long circuitous approach to the very protected harbor strewn with pilings and moorings for tie ups inside.  There is limited space and this day, mid-summer, the harbor seemed quite full.

What to do

We landed our dinghy ashore and started our exploration.  On the dock, was an ice cream shop and a fish monger.  There were plenty of cruisers licking their cones while their orders for dinner were cleaned and filleted.  From the harborfront, there was no confusion about which way to go as there was only one choice.  Up the hill was the ticket.  To the left were some houses; to the right was the only real restaurant in town, and it had limited hours so we’d missed the last dinner seating.  Oh well. On we went.

The main street is called Broadway, and just about everything that's on the island can be found there. We stopped at the small country store/boutique/gift shop/book store and browsed for a bit, finding and buying a history booklet about Cuttyhunk which proved fascinating.  It seemed that Cuttyhunk had once been a mecca for big game fishermen and the lodge established for their comfort was still here, long after the really big fishing era had passed.  It's still a big fishing destination, but not quite like in the days of Presidents and tycoons. We wondered how far it was to the lodge, but decided to go exploring further.

On the right was the only school house which at this particularly time had two full time students.  You see, the population is about 35 in the winter.  The road was surprisingly wide and well built, like they had expected major traffic. Turns out plans for a large estate had fallen through after the road was built so now it's a grand avenue to nowhere other than the best spot on the island (perhaps in New England) from where to watch the sunset. And look out, on a beautiful evening, it's likely that the entire population of the island will make their way up to the observation platform at the top. What a view toward the mainland! It's spectacular and an easy but envigorating way to stretch those boat muscles out.

We then headed back to our boat and just by chance, noticed a skiff passing among the cruising boats at anchor. They spotted us and came over as their last stop of the night. It was the famous Raw Bar Boat and we were in for a treat. They were out of lobsters but they had plenty of oysters. We ordered 2 dozen, which they shucked for us and handed over on sturdy paper trays complete with cocktail sauce. We also partook of a delicious home-made seafood pate which they delivered with Ritz crackers for our feasting pleasure. What a treat! Fresh from the local waters, today's catch was made all the more tasty by the day's experience. Cuttyhunk was forever etched in our memories.

We later learned more about the islands, including that they are mostly privately owned by members of the Forbes family. Naushon, the largest of the islands, and Nashawena, have military observation stations constructed during WWII. Naushon Island's Tarpaulin Cove was one of few accessible deep water harbors on the treacherous Vineyard Sound and is renown as the last port of call for Captain Kidd just before he was captured for piracy in 1699. The other islands in the chain include Nonamesset, Pasque, and Penikese.

We have since visited Cuttyhunk several times to our great joy and pleasure each time. If you are in good physical condition and have a good half day to pass, a walk around the Island is a great hike. Bring lunch, drinks and good walking shoes (also water shoes if you got 'em). Because of private areas on the south and west corner of the island you must walk along the low water mark on the rocks/beach near the town. The walk around from southeast to the west tip of the Island is a good 2 - 3 hours and on small to medium rocks depending on the area. The flotsam and jetsam along the shore is wonderful for kids and young at heart collectors. Lobster pots, buoys, dead sea life, and about anything you can imagine coming from the ocean can be found. When you get to the west end of the island there is an old light house (Gosnold) and a small pond where they used to raise oysters. From there you can continue around the island on the shore OR cut inland after you pass the pond inlet.

Don't miss a chance to visit these charming spots.

Navigation: How to get there and stay there

Cuttyhunk is a wonderful harbor but very busy /crowded. The Harbor lies between Cuttyhunk and Nashawena Island to the east. To the west of the harbor there's a narrow dredged channel that leads to the deep water basin of Cuttyhunk Pond .

If you are coming from the north, it is best to approach the harbor from the east. Steer toward Mo(A) Bell RW "CH", SE of Penikese Island, then cut between RN "2E" and GC "1E" into the harbor.

From the east or south via Vineyard Sound, head into Buzzards Bay via Quicks Hole between Nashawena and Pasque Islands . DO NOT use Canapitsit Channel, which separates Cuttyhunk from Nashawena Island , without local knowledge. The channel is narrow, rocky and subject to stong currents making the passage extremely dangerous. 

Facts About Cuttyhunk

  • Cuttyhunk Island rests about 6 miles south of New Bedford , MA across Buzzard’s Bay, 8 miles west of Gay Head on Martha's Vineyard across Vineyard Sound, and 3.5 nm from Quicks Hole. Navigation is tricky so be sure to consult navigational charts and heed notices.
  • Cuttyhunk is a place to do a whole lot of relaxing. It is a quiet, beautiful, isolated island environment, perfect for spending quality time with your family or just catching up on your reading! 
  • Cuttyhunk Island has a beach, a great harbor, outstanding fishing, awesome shellfish, a few houses, one church, one school, some great ice cream, a couple of shops, a museum, an island-top sunset viewing platform, and some beautiful hiking trails.
  • Cuttyhunk does not have discos, bars, malls, a party scene, video arcades, parking lots, traffic, or much action. There is no liquor sold on the island.
  • The town of Gosnold incorporates all of the Elizabeth Islands

Useful Links & Contacts

Moorings The inner harbor mooring field in Cuttyhunk Pond is highly sheltered, and accessed via the channel between GC "9" and the North Jetty.Town mooring are available on a first come first serve basis. 2/3 boats rafts are permitted in good weather.Cuttyhunk Marina Town Wharf 508-990-7578 VHF Ch. 9/10
There is also a mooring field in Cuttyhunk Harbor , just North East of Cuttyhunk Island. Taking a mooring in the outer harbor is advisable as the holding ground is not always great if the wind picks up, especially out of the North. That said, we have anchored there very comfortably on several occasions. The two mooring fields are on opposite sides of the channel.

Frog Pond Marine Moorings
VHF Ch 72

Jenkins Moorings
VHF Ch 9

Note: They do not accept advance reservations.

“Dining” (well, food) With restaurants almost completely absent from the Island now, some boaters simply stop over and may not realize that there is a small market on the Island for provisions and sandwiches and an adjoining gallery of interesting artwork in wrought iron. Worth the trip! A wonderful full breakfast can be purchased at the Cuttyhunk Fishing Club on most summer mornings. The Fishing Club is a bed and breakfast with rich history and numerous sitting presidents have visited from Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton. The vistas and views are unequaled from this site and it's remained unchanged since the 1860's. The Club serves breakfast to many boaters who talk a short walk from the town docks. Busy on weekends. (See contact info below.)

Cuttyhunk Shellfish Farms

Now in their 24th years of business, Cuttyhunk Shellfish Farms distribute locally grown and harvested Cuttyhunk Oysters all over New England but they are freshest right there from either the Harbor Raw Bar Boat or at the Fish Dock. The menu and pricing is on their website.

Raw Bar BoatHarbor "Raw Bar" Boat

Cuttyhunk oysters, clams, shrimp, chowder, and other specialties delivered right to your boat in the harbor, pond and marina from 5:15-7:30 pm by enterprising local fishermen. Order by VHF on channel 72 or at the shack on the Fish dock.

Fish Market
The Town Dock

Serving lunch (chowder, stuffed quahogs, and raw bar specialties) at the dock between 11:00 am and 1:30 pm. Excellent.

Take out lobster and fresh fish ONLY between 3:00 and 6:00pm:  Place orders in the afternoon, pick up cooked lobster at 6PM SHARP. Ask about locally caught sea bass.

Soprano's Pizza

Pizza to go or to stay “family style”. Oven in the garage, picnic tables on the driveway. Only “restaurant” on the island last year.


Lodging is mainly available as rental homes. Two inns offer nightly guest accommodations if you or your crew is in need of a warm shower and soft bed.

Cuttyhunk Fishing Club Bed & Breakfast
8 inn rooms plus a 3 bdrm apartment

Avalon, the Inn at Cuttyhunk
Rent individual rooms or the entire house. Self catering. Discounts available for weekly rentals and off season. Kayaks, golf carts, and sports equipment ar available.
508-997-8388 or cell 361-774-6262.


Lisa G Charters
Capt. Russell Wright
PO Box 53
Cuttyhunk , MA 02713

Charles Tilton, Jr.
23 Broadway
Cuttyhunk , MA 02713

Asa Lombard IV
Captain Bruce Borges

SeaHawk Charters
Captain Duane Lynch
508-971-6867 cell
508-301-1843 pager
508-997-6867 home

Gosnold Town Hall Movies
Features DVDs on a big TV, with a popcorn machine..... kid plus teen/adult fare.

Cuttyhunk Historical Society
23 Tower Hill Road, 508-984-4611
Seasonal museum open Wed-Sun July-Sept. Admission is free. Exhibits feature the interesting history of the Elizabeth Islands.

Shopping Cuttyhunk Corner Store

Four Corners
PO Box 54
Cuttyhunk , MA 02713

Clothing, gifts, mail order.

Cuttyhunk Yacht Club
on the road to the beach.
Sunday 11-12
Monday 8.30-10
Friday 11-1pm
CYC merchandise available.

Hole in the Wall Gift Shop
Cemetary Road
Just off 3 corners on the road to Fishing Club.
Home made baked goods (yummy) and nautical stuff.

The Pea in Your Pants Gallery
Molly Conway
Works by local artists in a museum-like setting.

Getting there if you don’t have your own boat or want to meet up with crew

Cuttyhunk Water Taxi
Captain John Paul Hunter
PO Box 151
Cuttyhunk , MA 02713
508-789-3250 Booking
508-758-3999 Billing
508-992-4332 Fax

Cuttyhunk Ferry Company
Capt. Jono Billings
66B State Pier
New Bedford, MA  02740
Phone: 508-992-0200 

We leave from State Pier in New Bedford and you can get better details on our site.

Bayside Air Service
New Bedford Regional Airport
New Bedford , MA 02740

History Read this interesting account of the colonial period in the Elizabeth Islands.

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