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Chatham Lighthouse

Chatham lighthouse

Chatham, Massachusetts
Built in 1808


Chatham light marks the southern entrance to Chatham Harbor, in Chatham. It is off Main Street from Route 28.

Latitude: 41° 40' 17" N
Longitude: 69° 57' 01" W


Historic Stories:

Chatham originally had a pair of range lights used to guide the increasing whaling and shipping traffic around what is known as Cape Cod's "elbow".

early chatham light 1830 construction

Chatham Range Lights (1830)
Courtesy US Coast Guard

The Chatham Range lights were built at Chatham Beach as two wooden light towers in 1808 to mark the dangerous shoals offshore around this area and to distinguish the site from the single light at Highland (known today as Cape Cod Light) to the north.

In 1841, these original wooden lights, which were gradually decaying and becoming dangerous for the keepers to climb to the tower, were replaced by a set of brick towers on the bluff.

With Chatham's location, it was constantly exposed to the powerful storms that caused dramatic changes to the shoreline and produced rapid cliff erosion. It was also one of the foggiest areas on the Massachusetts coast. A fierce storm in 1870 caused a break in the offshore sandbar, and dramatically eroded the bluff beneath the towers. The towers survived until 1879, when too much erosion caused the south tower to collapse over the bluff and onto the beach below. Later, erosion destroyed the North Tower and Keeper’s house in the Spring of 1881. Again, another pair of lights were installed at Chatham—this time of brick-lined iron design, and located much further back from the water.

In 1923 the north light at Chatham was relocated up the beach to become what is known today as Nauset Light, leaving the single light used today as Chatham lighthouse. 

Erosion still continues along Chatham's sandy shores.


Places to Visit Nearby:

The best views of the lighthouse are by land. The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers frequent tours inside Chatham Lighthouse; the grounds are open year round. Keep in mind it is extremely busy in the area during the summer season and parking may be an issue.

The town of Chatham sits on the elbow of Cape Cod with many well-preserved 18th century historic homes and buildings, and museums.

Chatham offers free Friday night band concerts in the summer months, beaches, parks, a scenic 4.5-mile bike trail, and nature trails for wildlife enthusiasts.

Chatham lighthouse beach

Chatham's Atwood House Museum features the lantern house from Chatham’s twin light with its original Fresnel lens, which flashes its beam whenever the museum is open.

Visit the Chatham Railroad Museum, housed in a restored 1887 depot, and there are three other local museums to explore.

For enjoying natural wildlife, visit the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.





Contact Info:
U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary


Local Boat Tours and Ferries For Visitors

Boat cruises and ferries mentioned below may offer many types of cruises that may pass by Chatham Light, although the best views are achieved by driving to the lighthouse.

Monomoy Island Excursions
Guided wildlife and lighthouse tours that go past Chatham Lighthouse and Stage Harbor Lighthouse. They also offer wildlife refuge tours that pass by the Monomoy Point Lighthouse, and ferry passengers to Nantucket Island.

702 Main Street
Route 28
Harwich Port, Massachusetts 02646
(508) 430-7772


Beachcomber Boat Tours
Seal watching excursions that may pass by Chatham light.
174 Crowell Road
Chatham, MA 02633
(508) 945-5265


Books to Explore

book of the rise and demise of the largest sailing ships

To order a signed paperback copy:

Available from bookstores in paperback, hardcover, and as an eBook for all devices.

my ebook on apple books

The Rise and Demise of the Largest Sailing Ships:
Stories of the Six and Seven-Masted Coal Schooners of New England

In the early 1900s, New England shipbuilders constructed the world’s largest sailing ships amid social and political reforms. These giants of sail were the ten original six-masted coal schooners and one colossal seven-masted vessel, built to carry massive quantities of coal and building supplies, and measured longer than a football field!

This book, balanced with plenty of color and vintage images, showcases the historical accounts that followed these mighty ships. These true stories include competitions, accidents, battling destructive storms, acts of heroism, and their final voyages. Many of these ships sought refuge off Chatham Harbor when storms were approaching.



Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Southern New England: Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, provides special human interest stories from each of the 92 lighthouses, along with plenty of indoor and outdoor coastal attractions you can explore, especially all around Cape Cod.

Look inside!

book about lighthouses and local coastal atttractions in southern New England





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