Exploring Pulicat Lake in a day

Visiting Chennai during cold winter days has been on my agenda for a while. Last year around December was no different either. After stuffing my backpack with essentials and clothing, I was on my way to my aunt’s house located in Chennai CBD. I had a travel checklist for some of the popular places in Chennai. Being a light traveler and having been familiar with the place as I used to visit during school holidays, it was easy for me to navigate around the city. And I did not want to inconvenience my aunt, so I had to rent a dependable and licensed car in Chennai. This time, I also did a one day picnic near Chennai which was truly worth the experience, as I could leisurely browse through the city enjoying the local beauty of the bustling city.

Chennai Railway Station – Photo by Vellupura from Pixabay

Travel to Pulicat Lake

Surprisingly, many places in Chennai could be ideal for an impromptu day trip. My aunt suggested one such day out to Pulicat lake. And so during the last few days of my stay in Chennai, I with all my family members set out to Pulicat. She recommended Pulicat as winter is the ideal time to watch the many migratory birds like the flamingo, seagulls, sparrows, etc, that frequent the place. This historic seashore of Pulicat on the Coromandel Coast is towards the north of Chennai. I wanted to catch a glimpse of the famous sunset as well as watch the birds that are best found during the wee hours of the mornings. My uncle and aunt suggested that we leave before sunrise for bird watching and head back to Chennai after the sunset. I then went on to book a reliable outstation cab from Chennai to Pulicat for the road trip as per our convenience.

Hitting the road

Pulicat, an overview

I was very keen on visiting the Pulicat Lake during this one-day outing as I had heard a lot of tales from cousins who claimed that the sunset viewed from the lighthouse here is a sight to behold. And I also wanted to spend some fun-filled birdwatching time with my cousins. My uncle woke us up at around 4 a.m. so that we could start our trip by 5 a.m. sharp.

Chennai highways

Although my cousins and I were grumpy for missing out on sleep, I found it worthy when I spotted different species of exotic birds. The local boating villages surrounding the lake is where we found fishers who sell fresh seafood. It definitely attracts seafood lovers like me. The fishermen who guided us also insisted on cooking food for us, for which we had to of course pay. After enjoying the delicious food, we were on our way to enjoy the nearby places like the Dutch cemetery and the Dutch Fort.

Pelicans spotted at Pulicat

Our driver spoke of the Sriharikota island that separates the Pulicat Lake from the Bay of Bengal. I made sure to mark it in my calendar to explore the region on my next visit to Chennai. The Pulicat bridge and the Pulicat lighthouse was next on my agenda as I did not want to miss the sunset. And true to the tales, it was a breathtaking view which will forever be ingrained in my memory; perfect for weekend getaways near Chennai.

Fleet of Pelicans – Photo by Bill Williams on Unsplash

How to reach Pulicat- Cabs from Chennai

Reaching Pulicat and back to Chennai while taking a detour to Sriharikota was surprisingly a gala road trip that I have enjoyed the most with my maternal aunt and cousins. The outstation cab driver was amicable and knowledgeable. He told us that although Pulicat was a noted Dutch settlement, the culture and heritage was also influenced by the Arabs, Portuguese, and the British, who colonized the seashore town of Pulicat during some time in the history.

Highways through the coast

Pulicat is approximately an hour and a half cab ride away from Chennai. That comes to about 54 km from the city. Typically, there are two routes to reach Pulicat from Chennai by a cab that is via SH 104 or through SH 56. My driver recommended the SH 104 route, and after receiving a nod from my uncle, we started our journey in the early hours of the morning to reach the bird sanctuary before 6 a.m.

Distance and Time Taken

The Chennai International Airport is the nearest airport to Pulicat at a distance of 74 km. As Chennai airport connects to major cities like Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi, etc. finding a flight available to Chennai was quite an easy task for me. This was a perfect example of a budget vacation near Chennai. Our cab driver during our day out to Pulicat said that many tourists directly hire cabs from the airport to Pulicat. I met some of the Chennai residents at Pulicat who had taken the trip via bus. Apparently, there are quite a few state and private buses that ply between Chennai and Pulicat. But I am glad that my visit to my aunt’s place at Chennai led to a fun-filled road trip along with cousins to the exotic seashore town. The wonderful birds captured on my camera and the amazing insights provided by the cab driver will go in my Pulicat dairy.

This article is a Guest Post by Archana Permi


  1. I have heard you can see Flamingo’s at Pulicat lake, did you see any or is there a specific season when they come?

    • Flamingos come during the winter. And stay around till almost march till their babies are ready for flight. they come here to nest. Actually we can see them in Chennai pallikaranai area too during winters.

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