Cape Cod seems like such a small region, in a small state, but once you begin exploring, you realize how different each individual town is. Although we spend much of our Cape Cod vacation time in the Yarmouth area, we do love to travel on day trips throughout the region. One of our favorite towns to visit is Chatham MA, an elegant seaside town located on the lower Cape. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Chatham MA.
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Fun Things To Do in Chatham MA
Where is Chatham MA?
Chatham is located in the “lower Cape” section of Cape Cod. It’s thought of as the elbow of Cape Cod, based upon the shape of the region and location of the town. Cape Cod is one of our favorite places to visit on the East Coast of the United States, and Chatham is definitely worth the trip.
This lighthouse, which is still operational under the US Coast Guard, is one of the signature sights in the town of Chatham. While tours have been offered in the past, they are not currently available due to maintenance. However, you can still park outside and view the exterior of the beautiful lighthouse from afar.
Originally two separate light towers, there is now only one Chatham lighthouse. It’s adjacent to the US Coast Guard station, and across the street from the Chatham Lighthouse Beach. Short-term parking (not for beach guests) is available for 30 minutes so you can view the exterior of the lighthouse and take some photos.
During our visit, it was very cloudy and foggy in the area. However, it was still fun to see the lighthouse and I look forward to when tours will once again be offered.
Chatham Fish Pier
Want to watch the fishing vessels return to shore with their catch for the day? The Chatham Fish Pier is an active fish pier, with “pier hosts” available on Wednesdays through Fridays from 10 am to 1 pm in the summer months. You can ask questions or just stand on the observation deck watching the action.
My favorite element of the Chatham Fish Pier, however, is watching the seals that love to frolic in the water below the deck. On a recent visit, we stood for about 20 minutes and saw at least a dozen seals swimming and playing in the water. It’s the perfect place to visit with kids on a nice day.
Parking at the fish pier is free and is available at the upper lot. It’s not a huge lot, however, so it’s best to visit during the weekday when it may be less busy. Parking in the lower lot is reserved for permit holders only.
Eating in Chatham
You can’t leave Cape Cod without trying seafood – especially a famous lobster roll. There are a number of fantastic restaurants in Chatham, including lobster shacks, fine dining establishments, casual restaurants, and raw bars.
One of our favorites is Mac’s Chatham Fish and Lobster, a restaurant with a raw bar located in Chatham. It’s a delicious restaurant with a huge menu, including sushi, a kids’ menu, seafood, and more. They also have beer and wine, and ample outdoor seating.
There’s also Kream ‘N Kone, which also has a restaurant located in Dennis, MA. Kream ‘N Kone offers golden fried clams, broiled dinners, fresh fish, lobster rolls, and much more along with soft-serve ice cream. While they are known for their fried seafood, I really enjoy their broiled fish.
Visiting near the Chatham Fish Pier? The Chatham Pier Fish Market is located adjacent to the Pier and offers lobster rolls, fried seafood, sandwiches, and chowder. Seating on outdoor picnic tables is available, but fairly limited.
The Chatham Squire is located on Main Street. It’s an institution in Chatham, and also offers live music on the weekend evenings. It’s a fun place for lunch, dinner, or a drink.
Shopping on Main Street
I love shopping in quaint towns, and Main Street in Chatham Massachusetts is a beautiful downtown area with gift shops, restaurants, art galleries, and more. It’s a great place to walk around and shop. Stores include more popular stores like the Black Dog, Fatface, and Lily Pulitzer.
However, there are also some fun unique shops, including Ducks in the Window, the world’s largest retail rubber duck shop. There are plenty of stores where you can pick up unique souvenirs including tee-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, and home decor. There’s also the Chatham Candy Manor with chocolate, fudge, and more.
Parking in town and on the street is free. However, you may need to drive around a little bit to find a spot. There are several lots in the area as well.
Cape Cod Baseball League
The Cape Cod Baseball League is an amateur summer league that plays in ten different towns, including Chatham. Games are played at local venues from late June to early August, and there are no tickets. You just have to look at the schedule online and then show up (donations are sometimes accepted, however).
It’s a great option for families who may not know how their kids will like baseball. With no ticket commitment, no expensive parking, and the option to leave whenever the kids are ready, it’s a low-risk evening. Check out the schedule and venue information on their website. The home park of the Chatham Anglers is Veterans Field.
You can watch the seals from the Fish Pier, but there are also seal tours offered which are great for families. Take a boat ride in the area while you search for seals in the Chatham area. I always love getting on the water in the summer, and a seal tour is a fantastic way to explore the local sea life.
Before leaving for your tour, check to find out what amenities are offered onboard. In most cases, you’ll want to pack sunscreen, snacks, water, and your camera for your excursion.
Chatham Orpheum Theater
The Chatham Orpheum Theater is a beautiful historic theater that was built in 1915 and reopened as the Orpheum about ten years ago. It’s located downtown right on Main Street and shows movies and live events. If you want to see a movie or show while on vacation, it’s a fun, historic place to check out – especially when the weather isn’t cooperating with your outdoor plans.
Chatham Shark Center
Learn all about Great White Sharks at the AWSC Shark Center in Chatham. It’s a family-friendly museum offering interactive exhibits, displays, and videos focused on the conservation of these giant animals. Currently, reservations are required for a visit, so check out their website before going.
Beaches in Chatham
Of course, you’ll definitely want to check out one of the popular Cape Cod beaches while you are on your Chatham vacation. There are several gorgeous Chatham beaches offering daily, weekly, or seasonal parking. Passes can be purchased in-person (with cash) at Harding’s Beach, Ridgevale Beach, and Cockle Cove Beach or online on the town website.
Chatham Lighthouse Beach
One of the more popular beaches is Chatham Lighthouse Beach located right across the street from the Chatham Lighthouse. There are no lifeguards at this beach, but it definitely is popular. A flag post flies a red flag when conditions are bad and swimming is prohibited.
Cockle Cove Beach
Located in South Chatham, Cockle Cove Beach is a small beach located on Nantucket Sound. It’s a gentle beach with lifeguards and warmer water. Passes can be purchased online or with cash in person.
Like Cockle Cove Beach, Harding’s Beach is located on Nantucket Sound and has a view of Monomoy Island. This family-friendly beach offers public restrooms, food service, lifeguards, and two public parking lots. Parking passes can be purchased online or in person at the beach with cash.
Other popular attractions in Chatham include the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge and the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center.
Where to Stay in Chatham
One of the most popular resorts in the area is the Chatham Bars Inn, located close to the Fish Pier on the waterfront. This luxury hotel offers pools, a beach, restaurants, a spa, tennis, and several nearby golf courses. There are several accommodation types offered at the resort.
Other top-rated resorts include the following:
Looking for more Cape Cod travel tips? Click to see our guide with town recommendations, things to do, restaurants, and more in Cape Cod.