Great Rock Bight Preserve

Discover one of Martha’s Vineyard’s better-kept secrets—a set of wide, graceful trails that wind through open meadows and woodlands to a sandy beach as well as looping around upland ponds. This property managed by the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission also serves as the first stop on the Martha’s Vineyard African American Heritage Trail.


Great Rock Bight Preserve offers the opportunity to sample a variety of habitats in a quiet, secluded preserve that makes the experience all the more magical. Located just east of well-known Menemsha Hills and The Brickyard, the preserve is reached via Brickyard Road, a narrow, dirt lane that runs about a half-mile to the parking area.

The beach at Great Rock Bight features a large boulder (a glacial erratic) just beyond the surf that gives the place its name, and it offers a quarter-mile stretch of sand that is just perfect for lazing away a sunny afternoon. Sit back and gaze out over the brilliant blue waters of Vineyard Sound toward the Elizabeth Islands or try your hand at casting for stripers. If the water is warm, it’s a great place for a swim, though be aware that there is no lifeguard on duty here. This also may be the best spot anywhere on the island to watch the sunset, as long as you head back up the trail to your car quickly before night falls.

The preserve includes fields that were once owned by Rebecca Cooper, an African American woman who lived on the island in the 18th century and for whom a commemorative plaque has been placed alongside the trail. It is the first stop on the Martha’s Vineyard African American Heritage Trail, which was established in 1998.


The roughly two miles of trails at Great Rock Bight make for pleasant walking–wide, graceful, and relatively smooth (download trail map). The path toward the beach turns rocky as it descends toward the shore, with several sections of steps to reach the sand. While the hill is steep in a few spots, it is a relatively brief section, with an overlook at which you can pause and savor the views of the Sound.

The reserve also harbors a series of small ponds that can be reached via a half-mile loop trail. The path to the ponds begins with a gently winding track through open meadowlands. Marl Pond, the easternmost of the property’s chain of ponds, is of special interest: its natural acidity was used to preserve the baskets and hemp ropes of early settlers.

Habitats & Wildlife

The reservation includes mixed oak woods, open grass fields, and coastal shrublands. From the trailhead, the main path winds through a carefully managed woodland of specimen trees, hollies, and open meadow. The ponds host populations of rare clam shrimp, which are the only places where they have been documented on the island.

Property Owned By

The land bank is an independent public authority dedicated to preserving open space for the benefit of the entire Martha’s Vineyard community.

Size: 28.5 acres
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Parking: Medium-sized, unpaved parking area
Cost: Free
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Dogs: On leash (June 15 to Sept. 15, dogs are not allowed on beach between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.)
Facilities: None
Lifeguards: None

Please follow all posted rules and regulations at this property.

Address & Contact Information
Brickyard Road
Chilmark, MA 02535
41.379566, -70.735946

Please follow all posted rules and regulations at this property.

Great Rock Bight Preserve
Chilmark, MA
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Upcoming Events

Holiday Crafternoon!
Fri, December 16
5:30PM - 7:30PM
Onset Bay Center,
Ugly Sweater Hike – Acushnet Sawmill
Sat, December 17
12:00PM - 1:00PM
Acushnet Sawmill,

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Great Rock Bight Preserve

Great Rock Bight Preserve offers a secluded beach great swimming, sunbathing, surfcasting and sunsets, plus other habitat treasures.