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Things to Do in Chatham

At just over 16 square miles of high ground, surrounded on three sides by the powerful embrace of the Atlantic, Chatham (Massachusetts) is not merely a town. It’s a living, breathing testament to centuries of maritime history. 

Indeed, the whispers of the past are unusually audible here, from 1620, when the course of the Mayflower pilgrims was forever changed by Chatham’s dangerous offshore waters, to the 1700s, with victorious battles against both French and British privateers. Incorporated in 1712, the “elbow” of Cape Cod soon became a hub for fishing and whaling, with a prosperity that’s reflected in the 18th-century buildings gracing its streets today.

Now, book a Chatham vacation rental, and you’ll find yourself in a town that has been called the most walkable on Cape Cod, thanks in large part to its Main Street blend of history and modern attractions – as well as a variety of activities and destinations within easy reach. 

Today, we’ll outline the top Chatham sights and activities to discover – as well as hidden gems you should experience at least once during your getaway.

Chatham Area

Must-See Sights in Chatham

The town of Chatham presents more than its fair share of must-see attractions, thanks to its unique blend of natural beauty and historical importance.

Here is where the Cape Cod National Seashore begins, and of course, a day on the beach offers quintessential Cape Cod photo opportunities. Despite its precarious perch in the Atlantic Ocean, Chatham also offers a number of calm water beaches, including sandy Cockle Cove Beach, looking out on Nantucket Sounds and Martha’s Vineyard, and the popular Harding Beach.

Chatham Lighthouse Beach is the largest of Chatham’s beautiful beaches. With its proximity to Monomoy Island (and seal-spotting opportunities!), it’s also one of its most popular. Further inland, there are other gems to explore, including Ridgevale, a marvelous inlet beach, and the exceptionally family-friendly Oyster Pond Beach. 

Chatham’s two lighthouses are a must-see for photographers in particular, especially Chatham Light, an active lighthouse that overlooks the pristine Lighthouse Beach and legendary Chatham fogs. 

Also great for photos, especially of the sunset variety, is Stage Harbor Lighthouse near Harding Beach.

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Chatham Lighthouse
Stage Harbor Lighthouse
Ridgevale Beach
Oyster Pond Beach


To capture a glimpse of the New England way of life during the 18th and 19th centuries, visit the Atwood House & Museum. Originally built in the 1750s by sea captain Joseph Atwood, the house was acquired by the Chatham Historical Society in 1925, and is exceptionally well preserved, with roughly 3,000 historical items on display. 

Also dating from the 1700s is the Godfrey Windmill. Still in working condition, this grist mill was built in 1797 by Colonel Benjamin Godfrey.

The Chatham Marconi Maritime Center is another choice destination for history buffs, as it pays tribute to the world’s first transatlantic wireless signal transmission.

Top Activities in Chatham

Seals, sharks, and a vast array of migratory birds are all part of the Chatham scenery. Along with Lighthouse Beach, you’re likely to spot seals at the Chatham Pier Fish Market around mid-day, as the fishermen come back with their catches.

As for sharks, the great white shark population off Cape Cod is surging, but in season (starting in spring) you can examine them from a safe distance at the famous Chatham Shark Center, which presents videos and interactive exhibits, as well as fascinating insight into current shark research. 

A short distance away is the roughly 7,900-acre Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, which is a haven for migratory birds featuring marshes, dunes, and ponds. It also features horseshoe crabs, tiger beetles, gray seals, and other wildlife. Guided tours and walking trails give you an up-close experience of their diverse and untouched natural habitats. 

In Chatham town proper, strolling through the charming Main Street offers numerous shopping and dining experiences, as well as a number of art galleries – and if you happen to be wandering along on a Friday night, you can also catch a Chatham Band Concert at Kate Gould Park. 

For golfers, the Chatham Seaside Links next to the Chatham Bars Inn is just minutes away from downtown and is a favorite for locals and visitors alike.

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Family Adventures in Chatham

Chatham offers enjoyable experiences for visitors of all ages, from seal tours and whale-watching charters to 

Family-friendly outings include visiting the Chatham Railroad Museum, taking a boat tour to Monomoy Island, and enjoying the beaches. Ridgevale Beach in particular is a scenic family-friendly location featuring calm tidal pools, a snack bar (in season), and sailboat rentals, as well as paddleboarding and kayak rentals. 

Special family events are a regular occurrence in Chatham, including the Chatham Fourth of July Parade and outdoor movie nights. Chatham also boasts what it calls the best movie theater on the Cape: the Chatham Orpheum Theater, featuring current and classic films, as well as live performances. 

At Veterans Field, families can take in a Cape Cod Baseball League game featuring the Chatham Anglers (known locally as the Chatham A's). 

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Pet-Friendly Chatham

As with most beaches in Cape Cod, Chatham beaches impose dog restrictions during the summer months, but leashed dogs are generally welcome from mid-September through to Memorial Day.

Many dining establishments in Chatham offer pet-friendly patios but do verify ahead of time. 

Note that Del Mar’s Chatham vacation rentals include pet-friendly rental properties!

Explore pet-friendly rental properties

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Chatham's Culinary Scene

Chatham's dining scene ranges from upscale dining to casual seafood shacks.

Chatham Pier Fish Market is famous for its lobster rolls as well as its clam shacks. Other standout dining options include the Impudent Oyster for a unique and fresh seafood experience, Chatham Squire for a casual atmosphere with local flavor, and Bluefins Sushi & Sake Bar for upscale dining. 

As always, book well in advance if you’re looking to catch waterfront dining views on the patio.


Visiting Chatham: Travel Tips

Chatham offers exceptional beauty year-round, but as with all Cape Cod destinations, the summer months are peak season, so this is when you’ll need to plan, book, and reserve well ahead of time, starting with vacation rental accommodations.

Del Mar Vacation Rentals is a favorite in the Cape Cod region and offers a rich catalog of Chatham vacation rentals, including private pools, beach access, and dog-friendly spaces.

Chatham is a great starting point from which to visit other popular Cape Cod destinations, including Orleans, Brewster, and Harwich, as well as Eastham and Provincetown – and of course Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket by ferry cruise.

If you’re going this route, it’s advisable to drive in or rent a car, although there are numerous bus, taxi, and car hire services available. In season, travelers from Boston can take the scenic route to Cape Cod aboard the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority’s passenger train.

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About the Author


In 2015, driven by his own challenges as a homeowner dealing with a rental management company and a desire for a better solution, Luke Chapman founded Del Mar Vacations. His goal was to simplify the process of managing and caring for rental homes and their guests, offering a comprehensive, full-service solution. As a lifelong Cape Codder, Luke's deep-rooted love and knowledge of the area infuse every aspect of his business. Through this blog, he shares his insider tips and local insights, aiming to transform each visitor's trip into an unforgettable Cape Cod adventure.