Located on the southern coast of Martha’s Vineyard in the heart of Wampanoag country, the town of Aquinnah is known for its dramatic clay cliffs rising up from the coast, a bizarre landscape not generally seen on your typical New England beach.
While walking by the cliffs, streams of red and orange clay mix with the sand, creating a beautiful rainbow effect. This natural wonder, formed by glaciers millions of years ago, attracts visitors from all over the island to Aquinnah (formerly called Gay Head), which is also home to the Gay Head Lighthouse that was featured in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.
Adding to the unique character of this place, the remote section of Moshup Beach directly underneath the cliffs is an unofficial nude beach. Although the law here (and most places) requires you to wear clothing, those who choose to go nude have by and large remained unbothered on this strip of sand for decades. Signs do forbid you from taking any clay away with you or applying it to your body because the clay is the property of the local Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe. The tribe believes the clay is red because their legendary founder, Moshup, used to feed them by bashing whales against the cliff and the whales’ blood dyed the clay red.
Know Before You Go
Parking is now $30 a day as of July 2020.