Cathcart Beach

Cathcart Beach

Current Driving Status: Open to oversand vehicle traffic

Emergency Beach Access Number: 

Current Beach Conditions:  

beach signs

Rules & Regulations 

  • Fishing is permitted with a state license, which can be purchased here
  • Dogs are allowed, providing they are leashed and licensed. Dogs and owners are not allowed in any dune vegetation, marsh grass, protected wildlife and other fenced areas at any time.
  • Bonfires, campfires, and fireworks are not permitted.
  • No kites (of any kind) or drones within 200 meters of any fenced shorebird habitat.
  • Alcohol is not permitted on public property.
  • Glass is not permitted on public beaches.
  • Smoking is not permitted on public property.
  • Please do not dig holes deeper than the waist. Fill in any holes before you leave the beach.
  • Beachgoers must stay at least 150 feet away from any marine mammal.

Basic Information

Cathcart Beach is a tiny, out-of-the-way driving beach on the shore of Nantucket Harbor, tucked in between the Monomoy and Shimmo areas of the island. It is popular with kayakers and families with children. The water of the harbor is warm in the summer, shallow, and calm which makes it an ideal place to relax and splash around. It is accessed via a series of dirt roads and there is a small parking lot just before the beach. Both parking lot and beach are small, so access by vehicle can be extremely limited during busy summer months. This beach offers beautiful views of the many boats moored in the harbor, and it is a good spot to watch the ferries go in and out from afar. There are seasonal restrooms provided by the Nantucket Land Bank in the summer, however there are no other amenities nearby.  

Directions and Access Information

Reaching Cathcart Beach is slightly less direct than some of the other island beaches, and involves traversing dirt roads that occasionally are flooded with large puddles, so make sure that you have a vehicle with off-road capabilities if you plan to go to Cathcart Beach. From the Milestone rotary, go down Milestone Road and take a left turn onto Monomoy Road. Follow Monomoy almost to the end until you reach a small intersection. Turn right onto Boston Ave and follow it until the road forks and turns to dirt. Stick to the left onto Cathcart Road and continue all the way to the end. There is a small dirt parking lot on the left just before the beach access. On busy summer days, this parking lot can fill up quickly. The section of drivable beach is also very short and can reach capacity quite quickly.  

Beach Driving Information

Cathcart Beach is open for beach driving year-round. The sand here is heavily trafficked and can be very soft, so only vehicles with 4 wheel-drive should attempt to drive onto this beach. Please make sure you are well equipped with a tire gauge, shovel, tow rope, and jack with jack boards. The recommended tire pressure is between 12 and 15 PSI and please operate in the “4 HIGH” setting. Additionally, if your vehicle is equipped with a “traction control” setting, please turn it off to prevent interference with the 4WD system. A beach driving permit, which can be obtained from the Town of Nantucket Police Department by clicking here, is required in order to drive onto Cathcart Beach. There is a strict speed limit of 20mph when driving on the beach, which is reduced to 5mph when you are anywhere within 100 yards of a pedestrian. Cathcart is a small beach and can fill up very quickly, so please attempt to park in a considerate manner that allows space for other visitors to the beach. Please respect boundaries and rules established by private property owners on private property.

Swimming and Recreation

The perfect beach for families with small children, the swimming at Cathcart is usually calm and gentle. The water in the harbor is generally shallow and warmer than on the Sound or Atlantic, with few waves especially on a calm day and no dangerous currents. Despite the calm conditions, there are no lifeguards at Cathcart Beach, so swimmers should be vigilant and make sure they always have a buddy. Cathcart is only a short walk away from the nearby Creeks, which offer beautiful views of a large saltmarsh ecosystem. This beach is a good place to look for shells or interesting stones and is a popular launching place for kayakers and paddleboarders who want to explore the saltmarsh and the harbor. Grilling on the beach is allowed, preferably with a charcoal or propane grill (please do not leave charcoal briquettes on the beach). Small, enclosed cooking fires located away from any flammable material or dune vegetation are allowed without a permit – please click here for further regulations on fires. Keep this beautiful beach clean - all trash and items are “carry in, carry out”, there are no trash receptacles on the beach so please bring any trash you create with you when you leave.

Shellfishing and Water Quality

To ensure the safety of Nantucket’s beaches during the busy summer season, the Town of Nantucket Department of Health and Human Services conducts weekly sea water testing. Done in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the samples are collected weekly for analysis at the Barnstable County biolab, and coliform bacteria levels monitored to ensure safe swimming conditions. Should levels exceed safe margins for two consecutive weeks, the beach will be closed to swimming and monitored until it’s safe to return.  

The recreational scallop season runs from October 1 – March 31 and is open to all who carry a recreational shellfish permit from the Town of Nantucket. Permits are $35 for residents and $125 for non-residents, and are available at the Public Safety Facility at 4 Fairgrounds Road. Scallops taken must have a legal raised growth ring a minimum of 10mm from the hinge or are larger than 2.5 inches (63.5 mm) from hinge to shell. Quahogs and oysters can be harvested year-round under a recreational shellfish permit. Soft-shell and razor clam shellfishing is prohibited from June 15th – September 15th. A comprehensive list of Town of Nantucket Shellfishing Policy and Regulations, including daily harvest limits and shellfish sizes, can be found here. A shellfish classification area map for the Cathcart shore is available here. For questions about any shellfishing closures, please contact the Department of Marine Fisheries directly. 


There is plenty of wildlife to be found even on the shores of Nantucket’s harbor. Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls dot the shores year-round, looking in the shallow water for one of their favorite prey – the spindly spider crab. Children will delight in finding hermit and fiddler crabs in the summer months, and lovers of ecology should keep an eye out for the native and endangered Purple Marsh Crab. Those venturing west from Cathcart for a swim in the Creeks should beware of the infamous Blue Claw Crab, which has a powerful pinch. Cathcart is also a great place to see Horseshoe Crabs, which often come onto shore to lay their eggs. Horseshoe Crabs are an ancient species that have existed on Earth for over 445 million years. They are a harmless, slow moving crab. It can be tempting to pick them up, especially for children, but please leave this special marine species alone. It is a popular myth that the tip of a Horseshoe Crab’s tail sports a “stinger” with toxic venom – this is completely false. A Horseshoe Crab’s tail is used solely as a rudder for navigation through the water. In the winter months, many other bird species can be found in this area, including the Red-Breasted Merganser and various species of sea fowl like Brants. For a complete list of the bird life that can be found on Nantucket, click here

Important Phone Numbers & Web Addresses

Nantucket Police & Fire Department (emergency) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 911

Nantucket Police Department (non emergency) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(508) 228–1212

Nantucket Fire Department (non emergency) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(508) 228–2324

Beach Hotline/ Marine Dept . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(508) 228–7261

Natural Resources Department . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(508) 228–7230

Coast Guard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(508) 228–0388

Environmental Police . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(800) 632–8075

Marine Mammal Stranding Team (via Police) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(508) 228–1212