The Beach Times

What is Chatham's South Beach Shrine?
Posted by Kinlin Grover | Monday, November 18, 2019

Chatham Beach Shrine

One of the best things about spending time in Chatham during your Cape Cod vacation is that you'll find a variety of secluded beaches to explore just minutes from downtown.

If you have a boat, you can head over to the Monomoy Islands or North Beach Island, both of which are off the mainland, but if walking is your only option, there's always South Beach.

Heading south from the Chatham Lighthouse, you'll quickly exit the bustle of Lighthouse Beach and enter an undeveloped region with a few trails and some dunes. While you're likely to come across at least a few other people during your travels, you'll have the chance to experience some wide-open spaces and great views of the ocean on South Beach.

Depending on how far you walk, you might also run into the South Beach Shrine, also referred to as the Lighthouse Beach Shack or Occupy Chatham South Beach. Truthfully, this mysterious structure, that's only about a third of a mile from the Lighthouse Beach parking lot, doesn't have an official name. Nevertheless, it has captured the imagination of Chatham locals and visitors alike.

Here's what we know about this structure that popped up in January of 2015 and has quickly become a part of Cape Cod lore.

How it Got There

The exact origins of this shack are unknown, although it's believed that it started as a two-seat outhouse that was built on North Beach Island and later swept into the ocean during a storm. The shed then floated to South Beach, where a group of friends found it while walking their dogs.

This group then propped the outhouse up against some other debris they had found, took a few pictures, and went on their way. They later returned with some tools to make the structure a little stronger and added some more pieces.

In the coming months, more people came across the structure, adding additional pieces and expanding it.

Since that time, the structure has grown to the point where it is visible on Google Earth and has become a local beach landmark. Multiple engagements have occurred at the shrine, too, as it's becoming better known with each passing year, and is something that many visitors to the Cape want to include in their selfies.

There's a little bit more to the structure than some random pieces of debris, however, as it has some meaning to the people who maintain it.

The Meaning Behind the Shrine

What started as a spur of the moment decision to prop up an old outhouse for a photo-op has turned into a small protest for the people of Chatham.

The underlying reason is the debate between the town of Chatham and officials from the Cape Cod National Seashore over who has control of South Beach.

There has been some bickering over the beach in recent years, and the founders now call the project "Occupy Chatham South Beach" to highlight the debate.

At the same time, the shack isn't political in nature and isn't meant to stir controversy; it's just a fun place to visit when exploring the beaches of Cape Cod.

Can You Visit?

When you first see the shack on South Beach, it doesn't look overly welcoming. If you didn't know better, you might think that someone lives there and that you shouldn't approach it.

You might also be a bit worried about the signs reading "Go Away" and "Private" but, rest assured, you aren't doing anything wrong by visiting because the founders have maintained it for that very reason.

When you're on the Cape and looking to wander the beaches of Chatham, make sure to visit the South Beach Shrine at some point to check it out for yourself.

Before heading out, grab something to leave behind to make your own mark on this piece of Cape Cod lore. Better yet, leave something from your hometown so that future visitors know that someone from another part of the country visited, too.

You might also take the time to sign the guestbook. You'll have to find it first, however, as it's often buried in the sand somewhere around the structure to make it more difficult.

Yes, you can visit the shack on South Beach, and make sure that you take some pictures and share your stories on the Occupy Chatham South Beach Facebook page. After all, other people want to know about your experiences and see how you enjoyed this piece of Chatham charm.

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