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Visiting the Fish Pier in Chatham MA

Updated: May 21, 2024

Why should you put the fish pier in Chatham on your list of places to visit on Cape Cod?

Because it's the best place to see seals up close, in their natural habitat. And admission is free!

Close-up of a seal with its head out of the waterJust look at that face!

Chatham Fish Pier
Need-to-Know Info

Location: 54 Barcliff Avenue Extension, Chatham, MA (at the intersection of Shore Road and Barcliff Avenue).

  • The Season: Spring, Summer & Fall

  • Best For: All Ages

  • Time to Allot: 1/2 hour+

  • Admission: Free,  reservations not required
  • On-Site Parking: Yes (free, but limited spaces)

  • Food: Yes (for purchase, seasonal)

  • Restrooms: Yes

  • Handicap access: Yes

Of course, there's more to the fish pier than just the seals. I'll tell you about that in a moment.

But first, let's have a look at the star attraction!

Seals at Chatham Fish Pier

When the Chatham-based commercial fishing fleet come to the pier to unload their daily catch, the seals are right there, waiting for the fishermen to toss fish scraps overboard.

Grey seal half out of the water, behind a boat, waiting for fisherman to throw fish scraps overboardI imagine it's thinking, "Hey, where's my lunch?"

How many seals will you see?

There's likely to be up to a dozen seals - maybe more - hanging  around the pier.

Some will be swimming just under the surface of the water, others will be poking their heads up to see what's happening.

And there always seems to be one character in the group that'll have you laughing out loud with its antics.

Gray seal in the water doing the backstrokeGetting a tummy tan???

The Observation Platform

The town of Chatham has gone all-out to make the pier user-friendly for spectators. 

After $1,500,000+ of recent renovations, there's now a big, wide  viewing platform overlooking the docks.

It's the perfect vantage point to watch the day's catch being unloaded and get great views of the seals.

Spectators on a long wide, viewing platform looking down at the waterObservation Deck at Chatham Fish Pier

There's plenty of room at the rail. And the wire mesh helps prevent young 'uns from tumbling into the water.

(That said, it's still important to keep an eye on the kids. Please don't let them climb on the wire or the rails!!)

Access to the viewing area is via a large set of stairs.

There's also a self-service elevator to bring visitors with limited mobility up to the observation deck. 

Entrance to ADA/handicap access elevator to the observation platformADA-Compliant Elevator to Viewing Platform

Pier Host Program

Seals might be the star of the show at Chatham Fish Pier. But the show wouldn't be possible without the commercial fishermen who bring the fish to the docks.

Their work is tireless and can be pretty dangerous at times. In my humble opinion, they deserve a ton of respect for what they do!

View from above of two fishing boats, fisherman in orange protective overallsCommercial fisherman at the dock

Wondering what species they catch and how they do it?

Come to the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen's Alliance's popular Pier Host Program to learn all about Chatham's fishing industry.

Several days a week from early July to mid-September, a commercial fisherman is on the observation platform, greeting visitors, answering questions, and handing out wonderful little "learning booklets" to the kids.

The pier hosts thoroughly enjoy sharing their wealth of knowledge with visitors of all ages. So don't hesitate to chat with them!

>> See: Pier Host Program schedule

What Else is at the Pier?

As I mentioned above, there's lots more to see and do at Chatham Fish Pier.

Here's what else you'll find there ...

Waterside Dining

Ready to sample the catch of the day? Chatham Pier Fish Market has you covered!

weathered shingle building with sign: Chatham Pier Fish Market

Stop in for a bowl of chowder, fish and chips, a lobster roll ... whatever suits your fancy from their extensive menu.

Then grab a seat at one of the outdoor picnic tables, and soak in the scenery and salt air as you enjoy your seafood feast!

The market also sells locally harvested lobsters (they'll cook them for you), fish and shellfish to take home.

*Note: Chatham Pier Fish Market is open seasonally from mid-April to late October.

Beach Shuttles & Fishing Charters

The Town's pier also hosts a beach shuttle service that will take you to a beautiful, crowd-free beach nearby.

Want to spend a fun day on the water catching your own dinner? A private fishing charter leaves from the pier, too! 

fish peir sign

As you might expect, the beach shuttle and charter fishing are both seasonal services.  

Reservations aren't necessary for the beach shuttle. But they are required for the fishing charters.

>>See: Beachcomber's North Beach Shuttle Service and Abdow's Magic Fishing Charters for details.

Vehicle Parking at Chatham Fish Pier

Visitor parking is limited to the upper lot. There are only about 30 parking spaces, including several for vehicles with a handicap placard/plate.

The lower lot is for permit-holders only, with a few spots reserved for patrons of Chatham Pier Fish Market.

On-street parking is not allowed.

* Important *

Chatham takes parking violations very seriously!

Expect to be ticketed if you park illegally.

That includes parking outside a parking space's marked lines. If you leave your car straddling the line, be prepared to pay a fine.

Other parking options:

  • Leave your car in one of the no-cost parking lots on Main Street. From downtown Chatham, it's only about a 15-minute walk to the fish pier.

  • Park at the Eldredge lot (365 Main St.), and take Chatham Valet's around-town shuttle service to the pier. Parking will cost you $15, but the ride is free.

Chatham Town Pier Telecam

You probably won't notice this while you're on the observation platform. But it might notice you when you're there.  ;-)

What am I talking about? The Chatham Pier telecam.

>>See: Today's views from the telecam.

Enjoy your visit to the fish pier in Chatham MA!

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