One of the most popular things to do in Chatham is paying a visit to the town’s iconic lighthouse. There are few lighthouses in the U.S. that retain their original use as a navigational aid, and Chatham Lighthouse is one of them. A beacon has stood at this spot, warning sailors off the dangerous shoals on Chatham’s coast – knows as the “bars” – since 1808. The current brick lighthouse was constructed in 1844 and is still an active U.S. Coast Guard Station. Afternoon tours of the lighthouse, which afford a spectacular view from the top, are offered on select days every week (varies by season). Lighthouse Beach is always “open for business,” but mind the 30-minute parking limit (especially in the peak summer months). Should you have time, make sure you visit the famous beach shack located about a quarter mile from the lighthouse. It’s a wonderful labor of local love, piled with flotsam, jetsam and other debris, and it’s always evolving.
Chatham Fish Pier
When it comes to things to do in Chatham, a visit to the Chatham Fish Pier is another absolute must. Located less 1.5 miles from our Chatham inn, the fish pier offers an up-close look at one of the busiest harbors in New England. This working pier is full of activity, with fishermen coming and going, and the view from the second-story observation deck is one of the best in town. Having learned that the occasional fish will escape a fisherman’s grasp and fall into the water, Chatham’s resident seals are always hanging around looking for an easy meal. With the Chatham Pier Fish Market next door serving up classic Cape Cod fare, spending time at the pier is something you won’t want to miss.
Chatham Bike Trail (Old Colony Rail Trail)
Wondering what to do in Chatham, and game for a little exercise? The Old Colony Rail Trail awaits, and it’s just minutes from our Chatham hotel. Like its cousin, the Cape Cod Rail Trail, much of the Old Colony Rail Trail was built on an old railroad bed, so it’s wide, fairly level, and virtually free of traffic (street crossings are the exception), the perfect biking experience for everyone. The bikeway was built as a spur to the Cape Cod Rail Trail, so if you’re looking to make a day of biking, you can hook up to the longer trail. Bike rentals are available for the whole family at Wheelhouse Bike Co., Chatham Hood Bikes, and Monomoy Sail & Cycle.
Chatham Seal Tours
Can’t decide on a Chatham sightseeing tour? A Chatham seal watch is a fun way to get out on the water, and get up close and personal with the captivating whiskered critters that play in the waters off of Chatham. And unlike a whale watch, which is typically four hours long, a seal watch is just over an hour, perfect for families with young children. Beachcomber Boat Tours, just a half-mile from our Chatham inn, will take you on a beautiful journey from Pleasant Bay along the picturesque Chatham Harbor waterways. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge
Stretching for eight miles off the “elbow” of the Cape is the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, a protected habitat of inlets and shoals for Cape Cod’s migratory birds. Head to the visitor center at Morris Island for a map before hitting the trails to explore the beach (they’re delightfully deserted even on a gorgeous summer day). The visitor center also offers educational programs on preserving the Cape’s natural beauty.
Atlantic White Shark Conservancy
Take a short drive from our Chatham hotel to visit the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, often referred to as the “Chatham Shark Center,” which is dedicated to shark conservation, research and education. Bring the whole family for an in-depth learning experience about these magnificent animals. And if you want to keep on top of local shark sightings, download Sharktivity.
Chatham Band Concerts
If Norman Rockwell were to create a list of the best things to do in Chatham, we’re quite certain the Chatham Band concerts at Kate Gould Park would make the cut. Every Friday evening, all summer long, the band dons their red-and-blue marching band uniforms and assembles in the bandstand. Throughout the evening, the crowds – and we do mean crowds (stake out your spot early) – savor the sounds of Souza marches, show tunes, American classics, and dance tunes. Each week, kids are encouraged to get on their feet and march around the bandstand with Tom Jahnke, the band’s director, leading the pack.
The waters surrounding Cape Cod are filled with fish just ready to be caught. There are many charter boats in the Chatham area and beyond that can help you do just that. Here is a handy guide to find the right boat for you.
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Shopping Main Street
One the many things that makes our village so charming is its eclectic mix of independently owned shops. Regardless of when you visit Chatham, shopping on Main Street should be at the top of your to-do list. Some of our faves include: Yankee Ingenuity for its mix of local art and fun, funky things for the home; Mark August for its curated collection of must-have home décor items; Ducks in the Window because, well, you know, little rubber duckies; and Chatham Candy Manor for the best homemade chocolate ever. And don’t worry about carrying all those bags — our Chatham inn is only a short walk away.
Select photos courtesy of Kain DeFoe Communications