Charts: NOAA 13251, 13250, 13246
Barnstable Harbor is located on Cape Cod Bay between the barrier beach of Sandy Neck and an extensive saltmarsh estuary between Sandwich and the Cape Cod Canal to the northeast and Wellfleet to the southeast. It’s roughly 9 nautical miles from the entrance of the Cape Cod Canal to Barnstable Harbor and approximately 11 nautical miles to Wellfleet Harbor. Enter Barnstable Harbor at red-and-white “BH” bell buoy, but it’s important to note the tide and other conditions. If it’s particularly nasty, you may want to pass on because of the entrance’s shallow water and east-west tidal currents that shift north to south in the harbor channel. A shallow, sandy bottom and strong currents make the harbor prone to shoaling. Once in the harbor channel, stay well within the markers, as the areas off Beach Point and Sandy Neck Light are very shallow and prone to strong currents. Follow the channel through Horseshoe Shoal before turning to port between Salten and Blish Points into Maraspin Creek and the harbor’s marinas and waterfront proper. Finally, while boaters would be wise to avoid Barnstable Harbor’s tricky network of creeks and marshland, kayakers and paddlers will love it. However, if embarking on an unguided trek, be sure to take along a GPS and/or a cell phone, as it’s easy to become stranded or lost in the Great Marshes’ maze of creeks.
- Note: Caution advised when an outgoing tide from the harbor opposes strong winds from the north, northwest or northeast, which can create steep standing waves in the channel off Sandy Neck. Also, be aware that the entire harbor including the mouth off Sandy Neck is prone to shoaling, particularly after large storms. Check with the harbormaster before entering the harbor. Lastly, be aware that the main channel is bordered by shallow sand and mud flats, so follow the markers carefully.
All of the harbor’s marina services—including a whale-watch boat, a good restaurant and a handful of charter boats—are clustered together in Maraspin Creek.
- Millway Marina (508-362-4904): A full-service facility specializing in engine repair. Gas, restrooms and water available.
- Barnstable Marine Service (508-362-3811): Offers dockage, rack storage and full-service boat, engine and electronics repair, as well as gas and diesel. Ice, bait, restrooms and showers.
- Barnstable Harbor Marina (508-790-6273): Operated by the town, this marina occasionally has slips available. Hail the harbormaster on VHF 16 to check on availability. Offers pumpout and water.
An unofficial anchorage in approximately 9′ of water (mean low tide) is located just west of Beacon R “12”, but be sure to anchor north of the main channel.
- Blish Point State Landing on Millway Road is a paved ramp with ample parking and an attendant. The lot fills up early, especially in summer, so get there early. Note that some boats may be unable to use the ramp at low tide. Fees: $8 weekdays; $10 weekends; $100 season pass. Webcam of parking lot may be seen HERE.
- The Scudder Lane town landing, off 6A, is a town ramp (sticker parking only), with access to the shallow western part of the harbor, but most boats can only launch and retrieve on upper stages of the tide. Also, parking is limited.
- A small ramp providing access to the east side of the harbor is located at Grays Beach/Bass Hole in Yarmouth.
- Sesuit Harbor, roughly 5 nautical miles east of Barnstable Harbor in the town of Dennis, has a large public ramp with ample parking.
- Kayakers can launch at the Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary at the end of Bone Hill Road (off Rte. 6A), at the east end of the harbor.
- (508-790-6273; VHF 16)
- Millway Marina (508-362-4904): Rents 5 different powerboat models, from 18′ to 25′. Half-day rentals range from $250-$400. Full-day, $375-$600.
- Great Marsh Kayak (508-775-6447): Offers lessons and guided kayak trips in the Great Marshes. Launch and pickup provided.
- The Mattakeese Wharf Restaurant (508-362-4511): Features fresh seafood and steaks and offers lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, right on the harbor.
- Village Landing Restaurant (508-362-2994): A small but busy place near the harbor off Route 6A. Serves breakfast and lunch.
- Dolphin Restaurant (508-362-6610): Located in the center of Barnstable Village on 3250 Main St.
- Barnstable Restaurant and Tavern (508-362-2355): Located at 3176 Main St., the Barnstable dishes out traditional New England cuisine.
Barnstable General Store (508-362-4457) offers a variety of groceries, fine wines and beer, as well as an in-store breakfast bar and deli. In West Barnstable, the Old Village Store (508-362-3701) has been around since the late nineteenth century. Supposedly the Beatles stopped here for some smokes during their 1960s North American concert tour.
Barnstable is home to several bed-and-breakfasts, including:
Barnstable offers some of the best beaches, boating, hiking and fishing on the Cape.
- Leading the way is Sandy Neck Beach (508-362-8300) and the Great Salt Marshes Conservation Area. The bayside of the 6-mile-long barrier beach consists of a public beach with lifeguards and snack bar and a campsite area that allows off-road vehicles to access the various trails on Sandy Neck. Vehicle traffic is strictly regulated on Sandy Neck, and permits required by the town are available at the ranger station—or gatehouse—at the entrance of Sandy Neck Beach.
- Great Marsh Kayak Tours (508-775-6447): Offers guided nature and fishing tours of Barnstable Harbor and the marshes.
- Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary (508-362-7475): A 110-acre wildlife preserve with walking and hiking trails that abut the harbor.
- Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises (888-942-5392): Whale watch cruises to Stellwagen Bank.