On a summer day in Oak Bluffs, Circuit avenue can some times feel like a circus. If you’re looking for some relief from the hot pavement and bustling crowds, follow the road down to the end of the main shopping area and turn right. You’ll stumble into Wesleyan Grove, a shady oasis filled with colorful cottages pulled straight from the pages of a storybook. This is the Camp Ground of the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association.

Mary Newsom with photo of original house. The tower was relocated. — Jeanna Shepard

The regal Tabernacle with its stained glass windows and majestic clerestory sits in the center. A few narrow roads allow vehicle access, branching into cottage-lined walking paths that wander through the Camp Ground, sometimes leading to a cul-de-sac or simply a dead end. Residents sit on their porches, sipping cold drinks and watching the tourists make their way down the paths. Tall oak trees fill the spaces between the tightly packed cottages, lending their shade to the neighborhood’s collective effort to stay cool.

The Camp Ground is quiet. Janice Merrill and Beth Currie sit on the porch of their cottage, called Bonnie Castle. They chat with passers-by, discussing the latest news and ways to beat the hot weather. This is how the pair will spend most of their day, and that’s just how they like it.

“I’ll sit here and chat with tourists all day,” said Ms. Merrill, a retired schoolteacher from California. “If they have questions, I’ll answer them. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll make one up! I love my porch life.”

Never has a person named Bonnie lived in the house, Ms. Merrill and Ms. Currie explained. The name comes from the Scottish word for pretty ­— an apt description of the light blue cottage. A handsomely engraved wooden sign bearing the name hangs over the front door. Ms. Merrill’s brother, who lives in the cottage next door, carved it and several of the other signs hanging on nearby cottages.

Family seems to be a central theme of life in the Camp Ground, and many of its residents have deep ties to their cottages. Ms. Merrill and Ms. Currie represent the fifth generation of their family to live in Bonnie Castle, which was built in 1876. The cottage was given to their grandfather by his cousin as payment for being the executor of her will. Their grandchildren, with whom they share the cottage, are the seventh generation to grow up in the house.

“I love to sit here and watch my grandchildren do the same things I used to do,” Ms. Merrill said.

Staying true to its nautical roots. — Jeanna Shepard

The Camp Ground was established in 1835 as a summer retreat for Methodists who would flock to Wesleyan Grove — and later the Tabernacle ­— in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment and good company. Although meeting attendees first pitched large “society tents,” the tents were replaced by the iconic gingerbread cottages in the late 19th century. Although at one time the Camp Ground was host to over 500 cottages, Camp Ground resident, realtor and unofficial historian John Newsom said that only 315 remain.

Mr. Newsom lives year-round at 2 Clinton avenue in a cottage built in 1868. His family is the 13th to own the house. The house was twice as large at the time it was built, with a grand tower in the middle. At some point the tower was razed and the other half of the cottage was relocated. Mr. Newsom suspects that it was moved to Pennacook avenue. He said that his cottage and the other half have matching “gingerbread” adornments.

Although cottages can be remodeled and expanded, as Mr. Newsom’s was, it is rare that they are ever completely rebuilt. The land a cottage sits on is owned by the MVCMA and leased to the cottage’s owner. To become a leaseholder and a member of the Camp Meeting Association, prospective cottage owners must submit an application and three letters of recommendation. One of these letters must be from the leader of a faith organization. Membership is no longer limited to Methodists and, according to MVCMA president Craig Lowe, any organization will do. Mr. Lowe said that applicants must also complete an interview with members of the residential lease committee to ensure that they will be a good fit for the Camp Ground.

Adam Ickler blends in with blue hair at his grandma's house. — Alison L. Mead

“We want to know if a new owner will fit well and understand the nature of the community,” Mr. Lowe said.

Cottage owners pay an annual lease for their lot. The cost of the lease also includes the fee for membership in the Camp Meeting Association. The cost of the lease varies by the size of the lot and the fee is calculated based on the square footage of the cottage. Mr. Lowe estimated that the average annual lease for a lot in the Camp Ground is about $1,600 per year but noted that a lease could be as much as $5,000, depending on the lot. Obtaining a loan can sometimes be a challenge, as the Camp Meeting Association’s annual lease has a way of scaring off banks.

“Most regular banks won’t touch it,” Mr. Newsom said. “You have to get a variable rate loan from one of the Island banks.”

The price of a cottage can as variable as the lease. Mr. Newsom estimates that a cottage can range in price from $200,000 to as much as $600,000. He said that pricing a cottage is a relatively simple matter.

“It’s all about location, location, location and condition, condition, condition,” Mr. Newsom said.

Njal Hostmalingen from Norway has rented in the Camp Ground for 18 years. — Jeanna Shepard

And although tradition has a way of keeping cottages “in the family,” so to speak, there are still ways for newcomers to join the Camp Ground community. Njal Hostmalingen, from Oslo, has rented a cottage in the Camp Ground for 18 years. He was first exposed to the Camp Ground while visiting a friend in her cottage and has come back ever since. Mr. Hostmalingen said he enjoys the Island climate and the friendly Camp Ground community.

“It’s a great place for the kids,” he said. “There aren’t people out partying on their porches until four in the morning.”

The Camp Ground’s residents seem satisfied with their simple lives. Ms. Currie said she appreciates being isolated from the hustle and bustle of life on Circuit avenue. Ms. Merrill sat back in her wooden rocking chair and gazed out at her neighborhood. The cottages lit up in the early afternoon sunlight. A young boy rattled down the walking path on his skateboard. A light breeze blew across her porch. It was peaceful.

“I think the perfect way to go would be sitting right here, on this porch,” Ms. Merrill said.