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Chatham Beaches

Updated: February 12, 2024

Chatham beaches range from expansive strands on the wild and crashing Atlantic Ocean, to small family-friendly beaches on the sedate waters of Nantucket Sound.

The Sound-side beaches are wonderful for small children, beach sports and relaxing afternoons. 

But it's the Ocean beaches that you'll photograph over and over and remember for years to come.

People relaxing on large beach, ocean and blue sky viewsLighthouse Beach in Chatham

Chatham Beaches: General Information

Beach Services & Amenities

Lifeguards, restrooms, shower facilities, and food concessions (on-site or mobile) are available at some Chatham beaches in season only.

See individual beach descriptions and handicap accessibility information below for details.

Beach Parking Fees & Stickers

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, at most beaches in Chatham non-residents may park only by paying a daily fee or showing a weekly pass issued by the town. Seasonal passes are also available.

Click here for beach parking fee and pass information. 

The Best Beaches in Chatham MA

Chatham Light Beach

If you asked me to name one beach in Chatham that's a "must-visit", I'd have to say Chatham Light Beach, for sure!

Birdseye view of the beach from atop the dune, people walking and sitting on the sand, clear sky and ocean beyond.This Beach Goes On and On! Breathtaking!!

This beautiful beach is right in front of Chatham Lighthouse. (It's also referred to as "Chatham Lighthouse Beach" or just "Lighthouse Beach".)

With its dangerous currents, major drop-offs from sand to sea, and summertime shark sightings - this is not the best swimming beach in town.

In fact, swimming is highly restricted here and sometimes not allowed at all, for just those reasons.

However, this enormous and ever-changing shoreline is perfect for hanging out in a beach chair, watching for seals, and long romantic walks.

The scenery at Chatham Light Beach is, in a word:  Phenomenal!

  • Body of Water: Atlantic Ocean

  • Crowd Factor: Busy during the summer, but so large that you won't feel crowded.

  • Amenities: None

  • Location: About 1/2 mile from downtown Chatham on Shore Road, just across the street from Chatham Lighthouse

  • Parking: The small parking area overlooking the beach has a very strictly enforced, 30-minute time limit. Parking on Bridge Street requires a town-issued sticker.

    Parking is also available at the Eldredge lot (365 Main Street). For a fee of $15/day, you can park there and take the shuttle service back and forth to Lighthouse Beach.   

  • Extremely Important: As I've said above, the waters off Lighthouse Beach can be treacherous. Please pay close attention to all posted warnings, and always make safety your #1 priority!

*Read about: Guided tours of Chatham Light and other lighthouses on Cape Cod.

Forest Beach

Looking for a nice beach that's away from the crowd?

Check out Forest Beach!

Blue sky with puffy clouds over a deserted shoreline. Gentle rise covered with sea grass. "No Shellfishing" sign.Forest Beach

This is one of the more quiet beaches in town (relatively speaking).

In addition to swimming and sunning, this is also a great place to view local wildlife and gather a bucketful of beautiful shells.

Families with small children love this beach!

  • Body of Water: Nantucket Sound

  • Crowd Factor: Quiet

  • Amenities: None, except an ice cream truck that comes by daily during the summer.

  • Location: At the end of Forest Road (off Rt. 28) in South Chatham, MA.

  • Parking: The lot is very small, but parking is free.

Ridgevale Beach

Ridgevale Beach is one of the largest and most popular south-side Chatham beaches.

Wooden walkway over a creek, leading to an expanse of sand and ocean views

One of the really neat features at Ridgevale is its little inlet creek.

The super-calm creek waters make a good splashing spot for small children, while older children and adults enjoy swimming in the Sound.

This is an excellent spot for shell collecting, too.

  • Body of Water: Nantucket Sound

  • Crowd Factor: Busy on prime beach days, but plenty of room to spread out.

  • Amenities: Lifeguards, food concession, restroom facilities.

  • Parking: Medium-sized parking lot. Daily fee or pass/sticker required.

Cockle Cove Beach

Tucked in between Forest and Ridgevale beaches, Cockle Cove is a small beach with gentle surf, warm water, and sweeping views.

Gentle waves lapping at the shore, footprints in the sand, pretty blue sky and ocean.Cockle Cove

I don't know for sure, but I suspect this beach was named for the wealth of pretty little cockle shells that line the shore.

  • Body of Water: Nantucket Sound

  • Crowd Factor: Rarely crowded.

  • Amenities: Lifeguard and porta-potty (in season). 

  • Parking: Small-ish parking lot. Daily fee or pass/sticker required.

*See: More about Cockle Cove Beach

Hardings Beach

Hardings is another popular Chatham beach on Nantucket Sound.

Hardings Beach

The sand is nice here, there's a designated swim area, plenty of room for beach sports, and a walking trail that leads to Stage Harbor Light.

  • Body of Water: Nantucket Sound

  • Crowd Factor: Moderately busy in the summer months

  • Amenities: Lifeguards, restroom and shower facilities, food vendor trucks.

  • Location: Barn Hill Road (off Rt. 28) to Harding's Beach Road

  • Parking: Good sized parking lot. Daily fee or pass/sticker required.

Pleasant Street Beach

This small-ish beach is great for kids and popular with kayakers who launch here to fish and paddle around the normally calm waters of the Sound.

pleasant-st-beach-chatham.jpgPleasant Street Beach

Pleasant Street Beach is also a favorite spot for windsurfering when the breeze kicks up. And the walk from here to Red River in Harwich is easy, too. Pick up some pretty shells along the way!

  • Body of Water: Nantucket Sound

  • Crowd Factor: Rarely gets too crowded

  • Amenities: None

  • Location: At the end of Pleasant Street in South Chatham

  • Parking: Very limited; no fee/pass required

Oyster Pond Beach

Just a short drive or easy walk from Main Street, Oyster Pond isn't a "pond" in the traditional sense. It's actually a saltwater inlet off Nantucket Sound.

Lifeguard stand on a nearly-empty beach, boats and houses in the distanceOyster Pond

This is a totally family-friendly beach. Little tykes can splash around in the warm, placid water. Older kids love the swim raft. And picnic tables and charcoal grills are there for anyone to use. 

  • Body of Water: Oyster River/Nantucket Sound

  • Crowd Factor: Very busy in the summer months

  • Amenities: Lifeguards, restrooms, swim raft, picnic tables, charcoal grills

  • Location: Emery Field and Apples Way

  • Parking: Small (about 40 spaces) parking lot. No fee or pass/sticker required.

Jackknife Cove Beach (a/k/a "Pleasant Bay Beach")

Jackknife Cove

The sheltered waters of Jackknife Cove (so-called because of its jackknife-like shape) are shallow, calm and warm. And the views across Pleasant Bay are lovely!

  • Body of Water: Pleasant Bay

  • Crowd Factor: Rarely busy in the summer months

  • Amenities: None

  • Location: Rt. 28 on the Chatham/Harwich town line

  • Parking: A little bit of room for vehicles at street level. More parking at the bottom of the (rather steep) hill that goes down to the beach. No fee or pass/sticker required.
  • FYI: Dogs are allowed at Jackknife Beach in the summer months. But only during the "off hours" before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m.

    *Read about: Where to find dog-friendly beaches on Cape Cod

    Handicap Accessible Beaches in Chatham

    In season, several Chatham beaches have a beach wheelchair, MobiMat and/or ramp to help visitors with mobility limitations access and enjoy the beach.

    Beach Wheelchair:

    • Hardings Beach

    • Oyster Pond Beach

    *Note - Beach wheelchair availability is on a first come, first served basis. On occasion, wheelchairs may not be available due to weather conditions or beach staffing limitations.

    For more information about accessibility at beaches in Chatham MA, contact the Recreation & Beach Department at (508) 945-5175.

    Related Pages:

    The Cape's Best Wheelchair Accessible Beaches

    Vacation Guide: All About Chatham MA

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