Best Things to Do in Chatham, MA: 12 Must-See Attractions

by Emil Backup
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Are you looking to visit Chatham soon? Here are some of the most fun and unique things to do in Chatham, MA. These historic sights, activities, and attractions are sure to make for a memorable vacation experience.

Chatham—where the Atlantic’s salty breeze mingles with the irresistible scent of freshly baked clam chowder, creating an aroma that’s quintessentially New England. Nestled on the elbow of Cape Cod, this charming town is a tapestry of historic lighthouses, vibrant fishing ports, and beaches that look like they’ve been plucked straight from a postcard. Imagine strolling down Main Street, where colonial architecture houses boutiques that are as unique as the seashells you’ll find on the shore. When it comes to things to do in Chatham, you’ll discover a wealth of coastal experiences and cultural delights.

But Chatham is more than just a pretty face; it’s a haven for adventurers and romantics alike. Whether you’re kayaking through serene marshlands or savoring a glass of wine as the sun dips below the horizon, you’ll find that Chatham has a way of making every moment feel like a scene from a movie. It’s a place where time slows down, and the simple joys of life take center stage. 

So, if you’re yearning for a getaway that combines natural beauty with a touch of sophistication, Chatham is your next must-see destination. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in Chatham.

The best things to do in Chatham right now.
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Best Places to Visit in Chatham

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Chatham? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this quaint vacation spot in New England. So keep reading to discover all these unique Chatham places to visit.

Are you looking for a diverse range of activities including water sports like boating and fishing? Or would you prefer exploring local art galleries and enjoying delicious seafood cuisine? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in Chatham can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Chatham that you should know about.

1. Chatham Fish Pier

If you’re wondering where to go in Chatham for an authentic maritime experience, look no further than the Chatham Fish Pier. This bustling hub is the beating heart of the town’s fishing industry. Here, you can watch local fishermen haul in their daily catch, from cod to lobster, as seagulls squawk overhead, vying for a stray fish or two.

But the Fish Pier offers more than just a spectator sport. Nearby, you’ll find Fish Pier Market, where you can sample some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever taste. Think succulent oysters and mouth-watering clam chowder, all sourced directly from the waters you’re overlooking. It’s a gastronomic journey that connects you to the very essence of Chatham.

And let’s not forget the seals! These adorable creatures often make an appearance, frolicking in the water and adding a touch of wildlife wonder to your visit. So, whether you’re a foodie, an animal lover, or someone who simply appreciates the hard work that goes into the fishing industry, a visit to the Chatham Fish Pier is among the best things to do in Chatham that offers a slice of life you won’t find anywhere else.

Sunset at Chatham Fish Pier, where colorful boats line the calm waters, creating a picturesque coastal scene.
Sunset at Chatham Fish Pier, where colorful boats line the calm waters, creating a picturesque coastal scene.

2. Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge

Picture yourself strolling through a sanctuary where nature reigns supreme. Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge is a place where you can truly disconnect from the hustle and bustle. This sprawling reserve is a haven for birdwatchers, boasting over 300 species of birds that call this place home at various times of the year.

The refuge isn’t just for the birds, though. You’ll find trails that meander through diverse landscapes, from salt marshes to sandy beaches. If you’re into photography, this is your paradise; the golden hour here is unlike any other, casting a magical glow on everything it touches.

For those who love the water, kayaking is a popular activity. Glide through the serene waters and you might just spot seals lounging or even a dolphin making a rare appearance. It’s one of the coolest activities in Chatham, offering a different perspective of the Cape’s natural beauty.

So, whether you’re an avid birder, a budding photographer, or someone who just loves to be enveloped by nature, Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge offers a tranquil escape and a chance to reconnect with the natural world. Is this among the top things to do in Chatham, MA for nature lovers? Absolutely!

Endless horizons at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, a coastal haven teeming with diverse bird species, pristine salt marshes, and scenic beauty.
Endless horizons at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, a coastal haven teeming with diverse bird species, pristine salt marshes, and scenic beauty.

3. Chatham Lighthouse Beach

Ah, the ocean! There’s nothing like the salty air and the sound of waves to make you feel alive. And where better to experience this than at Chatham Lighthouse Beach? This isn’t just a beach; it’s an experience that belongs on every list of unique things to do in Chatham.

First off, the lighthouse itself is a marvel, standing tall as a guardian of the coast. You can even take a guided tour to learn about its history and get some panoramic views. But let’s talk about the beach—miles of pristine sand that invite you to lay down your towel and forget the world.

Now, you might be thinking that it’s just a beach, what’s so special? Well, how about seal watching? Yes, you read that right. Seals often make an appearance, frolicking in the waters close to shore. It’s a sight that will have you reaching for your camera in no time.

And for the active souls among us, the surf here is fantastic. Grab a board and ride the waves, or if you’re new to the game, there are plenty of surf schools around. It’s one of those Chatham attractions that offers something for everyone.

Golden sands stretching with the iconic red and white lighthouse standing tall against the vivid blue sky
Golden sands stretching with the iconic red and white lighthouse standing tall against the vivid blue sky

4. Atwood Museum

Imagine stepping back in time to explore Chatham’s rich history, culture, and art. The Atwood Museum is exactly where to visit in Chatham for a fascinating journey through the past. Housed in a 1752 home, the museum is a treasure trove of artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that tell the story of this charming town.

You’re not just looking at dusty relics here; you’re experiencing stories that shaped Chatham. From the maritime history that defined its early years to the art that captures its scenic beauty, every room is a new chapter. It’s a getaway where you can learn about shipwrecks and lighthouses in one room and admire local art in the next.

But wait, there’s more! The museum also hosts various events and workshops throughout the year. Whether it’s a painting class or a historical lecture, there’s always something happening. It’s not just a museum; it’s a vibrant community space.

Whether you’re a history aficionado or just someone who loves to learn, the Atwood Museum is a must-see in Chatham. It’s not just about looking at the past; it’s about understanding what makes Chatham the incredible place it is today.

A window into the rich history of Chatham, where exhibits and artifacts chronicle the town's maritime heritage and cultural evolution.
A window into the rich history of Chatham, where exhibits and artifacts chronicle the town’s maritime heritage and cultural evolution. | Photo credits: TripAdvisor

5. Chatham Shark Center

Ah, the ocean’s most misunderstood creature—the shark. If you’re wondering about the coolest things to do in Chatham that’s both educational and thrilling, look no further. The Chatham Shark Center offers an immersive experience that’ll make you see sharks in a whole new light.

You walk in, and the first thing that catches your eye is a life-sized replica of a Great White Shark. It’s awe-inspiring and a little intimidating, but that’s just the beginning. Interactive exhibits let you track tagged sharks in real-time, and you can even “swim” with virtual sharks.

But here’s the kicker: the center isn’t just about the spectacle. It’s deeply committed to shark conservation and research. They offer educational programs that debunk myths and promote understanding. You’ll leave not just entertained but enlightened.

If you’re the curious type who loves a good thrill, the Chatham Shark Center is your go-to spot. It’s not just another tourist attraction; it’s a place where learning meets adventure. And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to tell their friends they spent the day with sharks?

Discovering the wonders of the Chatham Shark Center, where visitors delve into the mysterious world of sharks through interactive exhibits and educational displays.
Discovering the wonders of the Chatham Shark Center, where visitors delve into the mysterious world of sharks through interactive exhibits and educational displays.

6. Chatham Orpheum Theater

Stepping into a vintage movie theater, popcorn in hand, ready to escape into cinematic magic. That’s exactly what you’ll get at the Chatham Orpheum Theater, a place where old-world charm meets modern-day film. This isn’t just one of those run-of-the-mill places in Chatham; it’s a cultural gem that’s been entertaining locals and tourists alike since 1916.

You might think, “A movie theater? Really?” But hear me out. This isn’t just any theater; it’s a piece of Chatham’s history, lovingly restored to its former glory. The moment you walk in, you’re transported back in time. The art deco interior, the plush red seats, and the classic concession stand—it’s like stepping into a time capsule.

Now, let’s talk about movies. The Orpheum offers a curated selection of films, from the latest blockbusters to indie gems. It’s the kind of place where you can catch a matinee of a new release and come back in the evening for a retro movie night.

Looking for Chatham things to do that you shouldn’t miss? Make sure to pencil in a movie night at the Orpheum. It’s more than just a night at the movies; it’s an experience that’ll make you fall in love with cinema all over again.

Chatham's vintage yet modern cinematic gem: the Chatham Orpheum Theater.
Chatham’s vintage yet modern cinematic gem: the Chatham Orpheum Theater.

7. Chatham Village Market

Ah, the joy of discovering local flavors! If you’re a foodie at heart, Chatham Village Market is your paradise. Perched in the heart of downtown, this isn’t just a grocery store—it’s a culinary adventure waiting to happen.

Why is it on our list of Chatham places to visit? Because it’s more than just a place to grab some snacks. It’s a local institution that’s been serving the community for over 40 years. You’ll find everything from fresh seafood caught right off the Cape to artisanal cheeses and organic produce.

Ever tried a cranberry walnut pie? This is your chance. The bakery section is a dream come true for anyone with a sweet tooth. And let’s not forget the wine and craft beer selection, carefully curated to complement your Cape Cod dinner.

Wondering what to do in Chatham that’s a bit off the beaten path? Consider a visit to Chatham Village Market. Whether you’re packing a picnic for the beach or planning a cozy dinner, this market has got you covered. It’s not just shopping; it’s an experience that tantalizes all your senses.

Chatham Village Market: A bustling hub for local goods and fresh produce in the heart of town.
Chatham Village Market: A bustling hub for local goods and fresh produce in the heart of town.

8. Chatham Railroad Museum

All aboard for a journey back in time! If you’ve ever been fascinated by the romance of the rails, then the Chatham Railroad Museum is your ticket to a bygone era. This isn’t just a museum; it’s a time capsule that transports you to the golden age of American rail travel.

You’re probably thinking about cool destinations in Chatham, and a railroad museum makes the list? Absolutely! Housed in a beautifully restored 1887 railroad depot, the museum is a treasure trove of vintage memorabilia, including an authentic caboose you can actually explore.

Imagine the thrill of stepping into a real caboose, complete with its original fixtures. Feel the weight of history as you touch the worn wooden benches and peer out the windows at the modern world passing by. It’s a surreal experience that bridges the past and the present.

And don’t miss the gift shop! It’s packed with distinct, train-themed souvenirs that you won’t find anywhere else. From model trains to historical books, it’s a collector’s dream.

When looking for unique places in Chatham that offer more than just a pretty view, the Chatham Railroad Museum is a must-visit. It’s not just a museum; it’s a journey through time that’s sure to captivate your imagination.

Explore Chatham's railway heritage at the Chatham Railroad Museum.
Explore Chatham’s railway heritage at the Chatham Railroad Museum.

9. Chatham Bars Inn Farm

Looking at a farm, you ask? In Chatham? Oh, but this isn’t just any farm. This is the Chatham Bars Inn Farm, a place where agriculture meets sophistication. If you’re on the hunt for unique things to do in Chatham, this is your spot.

See yourself strolling through rows of organic produce, and the colors popping like a Van Gogh painting. It’s not just a feast for the eyes; it’s a feast for the soul. This farm supplies the renowned Chatham Bars Inn, so you know you’re in for some top-notch produce.

But wait, there’s more! Ever tried your hand at farming? Here, you can. Join one of their interactive tours and get down and dirty with some real farming activities. It’s not just educational; it’s downright fun.

And for the foodies out there, this is your paradise. The farm-to-table dinners here are legendary. Imagine dining under the stars, surrounded by the very crops you’re enjoying on your plate. It’s an experience that’s as Chatham as it gets.

Wondering where to go in Chatham for an experience that’s both rustic and refined? The Chatham Bars Inn Farm is your answer. It’s not just a visit; it’s an experience that engages all your senses. And if you want to take your Cape Cod vacation to the next level, be sure to stay at one of these top spa resorts in New England!

Experience farm-to-table excellence at Chatham Bars Inn Farm.
Experience farm-to-table excellence at Chatham Bars Inn Farm. | Source: TripAdvisor

10. Ridgevale Beach

Ah, the ocean’s call—nothing captures the essence of Chatham quite like its beaches. And if you’re scouting for the best places in Chatham to feel the sand between your toes, Ridgevale Beach is a top contender.

Why consider Ridgevale? Well, it’s not just a beach; it’s a sanctuary. The tidal pools here are a marvel, perfect for kids and adults alike to explore. You’ll find tiny fish, crabs, and even the occasional starfish making their homes in these natural wonders.

For the adventurers among us, kayaking is a must-try. The waterways leading to Nantucket Sound offer a serene yet exhilarating journey. You paddle, the kayak glides, and the world seems to stand still. It’s not just an activity; it’s a form of meditation.

And let’s talk about sunsets. Oh, the sunsets! Imagine the sky painted in hues of orange, pink, and purple, reflecting off the calm waters. It’s a must-visit in Chatham, a spectacle that no camera can truly capture.

So, if you’re compiling a list of Chatham attractions that offer both relaxation and adventure, make sure Ridgevale Beach is on it. It’s not just a destination; it’s a feeling, a moment, a memory waiting to be made.

Ridgevale Beach offers a serene and inviting coastal escape.
Ridgevale Beach offers a serene and inviting coastal escape.

11. Chatham Marconi Maritime Center

Ever wondered about the history of wireless communication? Well, you’re in for a treat! Situated in the heart of Chatham, the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center is a hidden gem that’s both educational and fascinating.

Step inside, and you’re immediately transported back in time. The museum showcases the life and work of Guglielmo Marconi, the genius behind the invention of the wireless telegraph. The museum also delves into the maritime history of the area, making it a fun thing to do in Chatham that offers a blend of science and local culture.

For the tech-savvy, the interactive exhibits are a playground. You can send your own Morse code message, listen to radio transmissions, and even explore the world of undersea communication. It’s not just a museum; it’s an experience that sparks curiosity and wonder.

And if you’re a fan of scenic views, the museum’s location offers a panoramic vista of Ryder’s Cove. It’s a dream destination in Chatham to snap some Instagram-worthy pictures.

So, if you’re wondering what to do in Massachusetts that’s a bit off the beaten path but incredibly rewarding, don’t miss out on the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center. It’s a journey through time, technology, and the sea that you won’t forget.

Chatham Marconi Maritime Center: Where history meets innovation on the Cape Cod coast.
Chatham Marconi Maritime Center: Where history meets innovation on the Cape Cod coast.

12. Harding’s Beach

Ah, the ocean breeze, the sound of waves crashing, and the golden sand beneath your feet—welcome to Harding’s Beach, one of the best places to go in Chatham to unwind and soak up the sun.

You see, Harding’s Beach isn’t just another beach; it’s a sanctuary for those who crave a bit of serenity away from the hustle and bustle. Picture yourself laying on a beach towel, book in hand, as the sun gently kisses your skin. Sounds like a dream, right?

But hey, if you’re more of an active soul, this beach has got you covered too. From paddleboarding to beach volleyball, the coolest things to do in Chatham are right here. And let’s not forget the walking trails that offer stunning views of Stage Harbor Lighthouse.

For families, the calm waters make it a safe haven for kids to splash around. It’s a must-see in Chatham, especially if you’re traveling with little ones.

Whether you’re a beach bum, an adventure seeker, or someone in between, Harding’s Beach offers a slice of paradise for everyone. It’s the epitome of what a New England beach should be—charming, picturesque, and utterly relaxing.

Harding's Beach: A coastal haven where sandy shores meet the sparkling waters of Chatham.
Harding’s Beach: A coastal haven where sandy shores meet the sparkling waters of Chatham.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Chatham

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Chatham? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Chatham:

What’s the best time to visit in Chatham?

Ah, timing is everything, isn’t it? For the best weather and a lively atmosphere, aim for the summer months, from June to August. But if you’re a fan of quiet charm, the shoulder seasons—spring and fall—are equally delightful.

Is Chatham family-friendly?

Absolutely! With its calm beaches, educational museums, and a plethora of outdoor activities, Chatham is a playground for kids and adults alike. It’s a destination that truly offers something for everyone.

How do I get around Chatham?

While walking is a fantastic way to explore the town center, you’ll need a car to fully experience all the unique places in Chatham. Bike rentals are also a popular option for those looking to add a bit of adventure to their trip.

Planning your visit to Chatham, where New England charm, coastal beauty, and rich history await.
Planning your visit to Chatham, where New England charm, coastal beauty, and rich history await.

Are there any hidden gems in Chatham?

You bet! Beyond the popular spots, Chatham is filled with hidden trails, secluded beaches, and charming shops that only locals know about. So don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path—you’ll be rewarded with some of the coolest things to do in Chatham.

Is Chatham worth visiting?

Absolutely, Chatham is a New England treasure worth every moment spent there. From its idyllic beaches to its quaint shops and historic landmarks, it offers a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure. It’s a must-see in Chatham for anyone looking to experience the quintessential Cape Cod charm.

How do I spend a day in Chatham?

Start your day with a sunrise walk on Hardings Beach, then head to Main Street for some boutique shopping. Grab a lobster roll for lunch and spend the afternoon exploring the Chatham Windmill. End your day with a scenic sunset at Oyster Pond. It’s a perfect day in Chatham!

What is Chatham known for?

Chatham can refer to several places around the world, but I’ll assume you’re referring to Chatham, Massachusetts, located on Cape Cod. Here’s what Chatham is known for:

  1. Chatham Lighthouse: One of Cape Cod’s iconic landmarks, the Chatham Lighthouse overlooks the beautiful Lighthouse Beach and offers guided tours.
  2. Fishing Industry: Historically, Chatham was a thriving fishing community, and it remains an active port today. The Chatham Fish Pier is a popular spot to watch commercial fishermen unload their catch.
  3. Seal Watching: The waters around Chatham are home to a large population of seals, making it a popular spot for seal watching tours.
  4. Shark Sightings: Due to the abundance of seals, Great White Sharks are often spotted off the coast of Chatham, drawing interest from both researchers and tourists.
  5. Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge: Located just south of Chatham, this refuge is a haven for migratory birds and offers hiking trails, beaches, and opportunities for wildlife viewing.
  6. Chatham Railroad Museum: Housed in a restored 1887 railroad depot, this museum offers a glimpse into the history of rail travel on Cape Cod.
  7. Historic Downtown: Chatham’s Main Street is lined with boutique shops, art galleries, and restaurants, all set against a backdrop of historic New England architecture.
  8. Cape Cod-style Architecture: Chatham boasts many well-preserved homes and buildings in the traditional Cape Cod style.
  9. Chatham Band Concerts: A beloved summer tradition, the Chatham Band holds free outdoor concerts that draw both locals and visitors.
  10. Beaches: Chatham has several beautiful beaches, including Lighthouse Beach, Hardings Beach, and Ridgevale Beach, which are popular for sunbathing, swimming, and beachcombing.

What is special about Chatham MA?

Chatham, Massachusetts, located on the southeastern tip of Cape Cod, holds a special allure for both residents and visitors alike. Here’s what makes Chatham unique and special:

  1. Natural Beauty: Chatham boasts some of Cape Cod’s most picturesque landscapes, from its sandy beaches to its marshlands and conservation areas.
  2. Chatham Lighthouse: An iconic symbol of the town, the Chatham Lighthouse offers panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and is a favorite spot for photography.
  3. Historic Charm: The town’s Main Street is lined with beautifully preserved historic buildings, boutique shops, and quaint restaurants, offering a glimpse into New England’s past.
  4. Fishing Heritage: Chatham has a rich maritime history. The Chatham Fish Pier is a testament to the town’s deep-rooted fishing industry, where visitors can watch fishermen unload their daily catch.
  5. Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge: This sprawling refuge is a haven for migratory birds and offers pristine beaches and hiking trails. It’s a perfect spot for nature enthusiasts.
  6. Seal Tours: The waters around Chatham are home to a significant seal population. Several tour operators offer boat trips to see these playful marine mammals up close.
  7. Shark Activity: Due to the abundance of seals, Chatham has become a hotspot for Great White Shark sightings, drawing interest from researchers, enthusiasts, and tourists.
  8. Cultural Events: From the summer band concerts at Kate Gould Park to the annual First Night celebrations, Chatham hosts a range of cultural and community events that bring people together.
  9. Unique Boutiques and Shops: Chatham’s shopping scene is distinct, with many local artisans and unique finds that you won’t see in big-box stores.
  10. Community Spirit: One of the most special things about Chatham is its tight-knit community. The town’s residents take pride in their local heritage and are welcoming to visitors.

How many days is enough in Chatham?

The ideal duration for a visit to Chatham, MA, largely depends on your interests and how you plan to spend your time. However, for most visitors:

2-3 Days is a common recommendation. Here’s a general breakdown:

  • Day 1: Explore the historic Main Street with its boutique shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Visit the Chatham Lighthouse and take in the panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. In the evening, enjoy a seafood dinner at one of the town’s renowned restaurants.
  • Day 2: Spend the day outdoors. Head to one of Chatham’s beautiful beaches, such as Lighthouse Beach or Harding’s Beach. If you’re interested in wildlife, consider a boat tour to see the seals or even a trip to Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge for birdwatching and hiking.
  • Day 3: Delve deeper into Chatham’s maritime heritage with a visit to the Chatham Fish Pier. Watch fishermen unload their catch and maybe even spot some seals in the harbor. In the afternoon, consider attending a local event or festival if one is taking place during your visit. Round off your trip with a relaxing evening, perhaps attending a summer band concert if you’re visiting in the warmer months.

Final Thoughts on Visiting Chatham

And there you have it, folks! Your ultimate guide to making the most out of your trip to this New England gem. From the salty sea air that greets you as you step into town, to the unforgettable sunsets that bid you farewell, Chatham is more than just a destination—it’s an experience. Whether you’re here for the history, the adventure, or simply to unwind, Chatham places to visit are as diverse as they are captivating.

So pack your bags, grab your loved ones, and come see for yourself why Chatham is the epitome of New England charm. Trust me, it’s a trip you won’t soon forget.

Best Things to Do in Chatham for all types of travelers.
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