|What to See & Do in Chatham MA|
|Chatham is known for its elegant old historic houses and its fine beaches, but there's lots more to do, both indoors and outdoors, in this Cape Cod town.|
Go east on Main Street and turn right (south) on Shore Road to the lighthouse, right next to the Coast Guard Station (map). On the other side of the street is a place to park while you look at the view through some pay telescopes, and down below, a fine beach. The first lighthouse was erected on this point of land in 1808. The present lighthouse dates from 1878.
The view is pleasant, looking out to sea across Lighthouse and Nauset Beach (the sand bar, actually a peninsula, you see out in the water). The cool sea breeze in summer and the nautical blast in winter make it incredible to think that Rome, Italy is at almost exactly the same latitude as Chatham—but 4,200 miles/6775 km to the east.
Follow Main Street east to Shore Street, then go left (north) to reach the Fish Pier (map), operated by the town for licensed Chatham fishing boats.
Chatham is proud of its fishing fleet of small boats, which the townspeople boast brings in the freshest fish. The use of little boats means the catch is brought in every day. Larger boats stay out to sea for days, refrigerating their catch on board.
Pier Hosts, often retired fishers, are on hand Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 10 am and 1 pm, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, to explain the workings of the boats, the pier, and the livelihood of ocean fishing. It's a program of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen's Alliance. More...
From mid-morning until afternoon, you may see boats of the fleet come in and unload. You can buy the day's catch right there.
Rent a boat at Fish Pier for a day's hunting for bass, bluefish, and tuna out at sea. Or simply buy it fresh from the Chatham Pier Fish Market, right there by the dock. They'll cook you a fine lnch of fish seafood, also.
The town of Chatham has wonderful public beaches (fee payable), many of them barrier beaches backed by warm-water lagoons. More...
On a hilltop by Shattuck Place in Chase Park less than 10 minutes' walk south of Chatham Town Hall stands the Godfrey Grist Mill, built in 1797 and recently restored to working condition—meaning it even grinds grain! the interior is only limited hours in July and August, but you can admire it from the outside anytime. To find it, take Cross Street south off Main Street to Shattuck Place, which winds down to the mill (map). More...
Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary
Chatham is a particularly good place for seeing birds. Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, on Monomoy Island, south of the town, has been a refuge since 1970. Over 300 species of birds have been spotted on its 7600 acres (31 square kilometers).
Some areas of Monomoy are off-limits to visitors during nesting season. Details on current possibilities for Monomoy visits are available from the town's information booth.
One of the nicest things about Chatham in July and August is the schedule of band concerts (every Friday evening at 8 pm) in Kate Gould Park, just past the Chatham Wayside Inn on Main Street (map).
Everybody comes to the concerts, and on a typical Friday evening the crowd may reach into the thousands. Most of the musicians in the town band are year-round residents of Chatham who live and work in the town and enjoy providing a little free entertainment for their fellow citizens and visitors once a week.
The Monomoy Theatre, 776 Main Street (tel. 508-945-1589), not far west of the intersection with Old Harbor Road, is the summer-stock operation of Ohio University and offers a different play each week from mid-June through August. More...
Museums & Historic Houses
Chatham has its share of antique buildings open to the public, each highlighting a part of the town's interesting past.
The Atwood House Museum (tel 508-945-2493), 347 Stage Harbor Road, is run by the Chatham Historical Society and feature over 2,000 exhibits, including an outstanding shell collection, a good number of pieces of Sandwich glass, and a crewel bedspread which took townspeople six years to make.
Also on display is a set of French lighthouse lenses used in the Chatham Light from 1923 until recently.
The Chatham Railroad Museum is located in the old station 153 Depot Road (take Old Harbor Road north off Main Street, and Depot Street is a short distance up on the left).
The station was built in 1887 by the Chatham Railroad Company and was turned into a museum in 1960. Among the railroading exhibits is a completely restored 1910 wooden caboose, used by the New York Central until that company gave it to the museum.
—by Tom Brosnahan