Fishing Traditions and Marine Ecology in Martha's Vineyard - June 13, 2019 - Atlas Obscura Trips

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Fishing Traditions and Marine Ecology in Martha's Vineyard

Set sail with a seasoned local fisherman, reel in the ocean’s freshest fare, and explore the history and ecology of Martha’s Vineyard’s beaches, hatcheries, and wildlife sanctuaries.

While Martha’s Vineyard is famed for the impressive roster of politicians and celebrities who have flocked to its restorative shores, there is so much more here to explore. This is an island steeped in the history of the Wampanoag tribe, the whaling industry, and—at one point—secessionist politics. From rich fishing traditions to intricate coastal ecology, join us as we experience another side of Martha’s Vineyard in the company of the people who call it home.

This trip is best for people who are...

  • Curious to learn about New England’s unique ecological and maritime history.
  • Comfortable spending time on and around water, including in a kayak and aboard a fishing boat.
  • Excited to explore a vibrant fishing culture up close and enjoy freshly caught fare.
  • Ready to walk 2 to 4 miles a day, whether along sleepy New England streets or windswept beaches.

Join us for an intimate exploration of Martha’s Vineyard as we uncover the island’s hidden local treasures, edible and otherwise. We’ll venture out to sea to reel in catches of our own alongside seasoned fishermen, explore local oyster beds, and see how shellfish aquaculture and ecological research are making waves. Along the way, we’ll enjoy plenty of seaside strolls, salt breezes, and seafood while learning about the history of the island and the ebb and flow of its relationship with the ocean.

This trip is limited to 10 inquisitive island explorers.


  • Local perspectives: Meet with members of the Wampanoag Tribe, share a meal with local fishermen, and learn all about island history, ecology, and geology from our local guide.
  • Ocean excursions: Get out on the water to fish, visit an oyster bed, and gaze at some stunning sunsets.  
  • Marine ecology up close: Say hello to native shellfish, meet folks working on the forefront of aquaculture, and take an ecological tour of the island.
  • Ocean fare: Fill up on some of the freshest seafood in New England.


Zak Martellucci is a storyteller and science communicator who grew up exploring the woods and waterways of Martha’s Vineyard. Those days were just the beginning of a serious love affair with the natural world that has led him into environmental and outdoor education, allowing him to continue pursing his passions for science, hiking, and natural history. Most recently, he served as Senior Creative Associate and Tour Guide at Museum Hack. He has also led renegade tours at both the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Photo by McKayla Crump
Day 1
Enchanted Edgartown, Past and Present
  • Welcome to Martha’s Vineyard—full steam ahead! Our host will meet us at the Martha’s Vineyard Steamship docks in Woods Hole, Massachusetts to guide us by ferry to the island.
  • After settling into our charming Edgartown homes, we’ll begin exploring the neighborhood, starting off with lunch at one of the local eateries.
  • Following lunch, we’ll meet an island educator and guide from the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary for an ecological tour of the island. 
  • In the late afternoon, we'll have the opportunity to kayak through the waters that surround the Wildlife Sanctuary, and admire the famously romantic Martha’s Vineyard sunset.
  • This evening, we’ll feast at the Seafood Shanty in Edgartown, where ocean-fresh sea scallops and clams abound.
Photo by Manuel Sardo
Day 2
Hatcheries and Sunset Fishing
  • Before we gather as a group, ease into the morning by combing the expansive Katama beach or grabbing breakfast on your own.
  • We’ll then meet for an introduction to the history of the island followed by a walking tour of Edgartown, its oldest colonial settlement. Founded in 1642, the town has now been a hub for maritime activity for centuries. We’ll learn more about the town's past, including the key role it played at the height of the whaling industry.
  • Next, we’ll get the chance to dive into cutting-edge research at the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group. While touring their hatchery, we’ll learn about the exciting research projects they’re currently working on in their nurseries, and develop an understanding of shellfish aquaculture and the historical and contemporary role it plays on the island.
  • We’ll enjoy a late lunch/early dinner at a local staple, the Martha's Vineyard Chowder Company, where slurping is definitely allowed.
  • Afterward, we’ll head to the beach and meet up with a local fisherman for a sunset fishing trip. We’ll cast our lines while enjoying the beautiful island views and some evening snacks.
Day 3
Fish ‘n’ Cliffs
  • We’ll start our day with a morning stroll through Oak Bluffs, former Methodist campgrounds home to the island’s iconic “gingerbread cottages.” Painted in brilliant pastels and boasting intricately carved bargeboards, these 19th-century Carpenter Gothic homes look as though they’ve been plucked out of a fairytale and set by the sea.
  • Our next stop is The Aquinnah Shop Restaurant for a lunch overlooking the red clay cliffs sculpted by glaciers millions of years ago. We’ll explore the cliffs, peruse local shops, and learn the story behind the centuries-old Gay Head Lighthouse.
  • We’ll then meet with a member of the Wampanoag tribe to learn about the history of the Wampanoag people. Their relationship with the island and its surrounding waters traces back thousands of years; carbon dating has shown several Native American camps dating back to 2270 B.C.
  • Tonight, we’ll rejoin our fisherman guide from yesterday’s voyage for a festive dinner in his home. We’ll enjoy a taste of home-cooked island eats over a family meal featuring your very own catch.
Photo by chuttersnap
Day 4
Goodbyes and Good Bivalves
  • Start the morning off on your own with a leisurely brunch at one of the many local restaurants.
  • Today we’re getting back out on the water for a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the island's booming oyster farming industry. We’ll chat with a local biologist about aquaculture and get the scoop on native shellfish. Most importantly, we’ll learn how to shuck an oyster like a pro Islander.
  • We’ll say farewell over a lunch of oysters and cocktails. Our guide will then accompany us back to the Woods Hole ferry for our final departure.
The Fine Print


  • Three nights of lodging in double-accommodation rooms in a spacious, shared house.
  • Daily lunch and three dinners, as well as snacks and cocktails as listed.
  • A local Martha’s Vineyard guide and tours from various local experts.
  • Ferry transportation to and from the island.
  • All on-island transportation in local taxis.
  • Entrance to all tours and excursions, including a sunset kayaking trip and a fishing expedition.
  • Recommended reading materials, packing list, and pre-trip information packet.
  • A great group of fellow Atlas Obscura adventure enthusiasts, excited to learn more about ocean ecology, sustainable fishing, and conservation.


This itinerary is subject to change—and the weather! We expect to do everything listed in the itinerary, though the order may be rearranged based on availability and other local conditions.


We recommend you have a medium fitness level to fully participate in this trip. You should be comfortable staying on your feet for long stretches at a time, and walking anywhere between 3 to 5 miles a day. We will be out and about most of each day, with time to rest at lunch and dinner. We’ll also spend significant time on small boats, so this trip is not recommended for travelers who experience severe seasickness.


We'll be staying in a pair of spacious and comfortable shared homes with communal bathrooms, kitchens, and living spaces. Single travelers should be prepared to share a room with another traveler of the same gender, depending on the composition of the group.


Our trip begins at the Martha’s Vineyard Steamship docks in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Travelers should arrive at the Steamship docks by 10:15 a.m. on June 16 to meet the group before the 10:45 a.m. ferry. Our trip concludes in the afternoon on June 16. Your guide will accompany the group back to Woods Hole via the ferry. You'll have the option of taking the 2:30 p.m., or 3:45 p.m. ferry back to the mainland (depending on how many oysters you want to stay and eat).

Woods Hole is located about a two-hour drive from Boston, Massachusetts and an hour and a half from Providence, Rhode Island. If arriving by air, we recommend Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) or Providence's T.F. Green Airport (PVD). There is shuttle bus service from both airports to Woods Hole.


A $500 deposit is required to hold your space. This deposit is nonrefundable after three days. The trip will cost $2,280 (the $500 deposit plus $1,780 final payment) and will cover all fixed costs including accommodations, group transport, and meals and activities listed below.  The final payment of $1,780 will be due by April 30, 2019. All reservations will be final after these dates and subject to our cancellation policy. By submitting your deposit, you agree to the Terms & Conditions.

This trip helps support the conservation of Martha’s Vineyard’s unique ecology. We recommend purchasing the optional carbon offset when making the trip payment.


  • Transportation to and from Woods Hole, Massachusetts. 
  • Travel insurance (recommended).
  • Additional meals and drinks outside of Atlas Obscura offerings, including all alcoholic beverages beyond those listed in the itinerary.
  • If applicable, applying for a U.S. visa.

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