Travel

5 things to do when visiting Chatham

Hit the beach, enjoy the arts, explore a historic windmill, and more.

The Chatham Lighthouse in Chatham. Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

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Julie Smith, a lifelong resident of Chatham and town clerk for 22 years, said her town’s waterfront is unique.

“We are surrounded by water on three sides,” said Smith. “We are as close as you can get to an island without being an island.”

Chatham has 66 miles of coastline, which she said “is quite a bit for a small town.”

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However, the town’s offerings go far beyond its beautiful waterfronts, Smith said, with 1,000 acres of conservation land and rich opportunities in the arts. Chatham was recently named among the 15 best small towns to visit in 2022 by Smithsonian magazine.

“We have an amazing downtown area, a really walkable Main Street with tons of shops and restaurants,” Smith said.

Ahead, Smith offers her picks for what to see and do in Chatham.

Stage Harbor Lighthouse at sunset. flickr/Ted Kerwin – flickr/Ted Kerwin

1. Go to the beach

Smith’s favorite beach in town is Harding’s Beach, which she called one of the most family-friendly beaches on the Cape due to its ample parking, restrooms, lifeguard stations, food trucks, and warm, calm water on Nantucket Sound.

“It also has beautiful sunsets,” said Smith. “I’ll go down with my camera, and I’m not alone. There’s quite a few people there taking pictures of that beautiful sunset.”

The beach offers a great view of Stage Harbor Lighthouse, also called Harding’s Beach Lighthouse. Built in 1880 and billed as the youngest lighthouse on the Cape, it is a privately-owned lighthouse and not available for tours.

Another popular spot is Chatham Lighthouse Beach, the largest beach in town, where guests can view the scenic Chatham Lighthouse, the town’s iconic landmark. The lighthouse is occasionally open for tours during the summer months.

Chatham Fish Pier Market. flickr/Mattia Panciroli

2. Watch fishermen at work

Visitors can watch fishermen bring in the day’s catch from an observation deck at the historic Chatham Fish Pier, Smith said. It is her favorite family-friendly activity in town.

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“People enjoy seeing that,” she said. “It’s not something they can see at home.”

Boats arrive daily between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and hungry visitors can watch while eating lobster rolls, fish & chips, and steamed clams from the Chatham Pier Fish Market, open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“You can have a seat at the picnic table and have a fresh seafood meal,” she said.

Here is the market’s menu.

3. Enjoy the arts

Art lovers will find plenty to do at the busy Creative Arts Center, a nonprofit organization established in 1969 that offers painting, drawing, pottery, and jewelry classes, Smith said.

“It’s a really fantastic facility,” she said.

The center also sponsors workshops by nationally known artists.

The Festival of the Arts, a juried fine arts and crafts festival with more than 120 artisans nationwide, is held every August at Chase Park in Chatham. This year’s 51st Festival of the Arts will take place Aug. 19-21.

Smith also loves meeting friends for a movie at the Chatham Orpheum Theater, which originally opened in 1916.

“It runs major motion pictures, art house films, documentaries, pretty much everything,” she said.

The Godfrey Windmill at Chase Park in Chatham. Julie Smith

4. Explore a historic windmill

Chase Park, which features a historic windmill, labyrinth, bowling green, and picnic tables, is a great place for an afternoon stroll or picnic, Smith said.

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“It’s just a really historical, beautiful area,” she said. “It was restored in 2012 so it’s in lovely condition.”

Guests can take free tours of the Godfrey Windmill, built in 1797. The windmill, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is open for tours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between July 1 and Sept. 2 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“They have guides who demonstrate the workings of the grist mill,” Smith said.

The Chatham Labyrinth is a replica of the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in France and a gift by the clergy of the local churches in honor of the town’s 300th anniversary.

A trail at the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Chatham. – Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce

5. Reader recommendations

“Its a beautiful place!!” wrote @aledealfaro. “Love it… I’m from Guatemala and been there two times… lighthouse, shopping, eating delicious food, walking around.”

“It’s perfectly located to get to either part of the Cape and I love the lighthouse,” wrote @katken5585.

For food and drink:

Bluefins Sushi & Sake Bar@travellikealocalma

Buffys Ice Cream@lovealwayslaura.ks

Chatham Candy Manor @travellikealocalma, @cmbonde31, @kathleentayman, @aclillie, @melissa.schirmer, @amacattack12, @barbaramcgovern

Chatham Cookware Cafe@astpierre157

Chatham Penny Candy@elizabeth.falvey15, @aenigmati

Chatham Pier Fish Market@tsimm4, @travellikealocalma, @ali.aassi, @debahl, @a.ross813, @katefinii, @townenarrator, @crmarchetti

Chatham Squire@cmbonde31, @travellikealocalma, @debahl, @mettagiese, @elizabeth.falvey15

Chatham Village Cafe & Bakery@cmbonde31

Del Mar Chatham Bar & Bistro@aclillie

Impudent Oyster @travellikealocalma, @chathamcandymanor, @c_hawkinson

Marion’s Pie Shop@capecodder.ma

Red Nun Bar & Grill @markwisnes, @kcol77

Short ‘n’ Sweet @yuliamurray

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Snowy Owl Coffee Roasters@travellikealocalma

Viera on Main@theeastcoastguidetoliving

For activities:

Cape Shark@jassalynpickering, @amacattack12

Chatham Anglers @travellikealocalma, @nickkondek

Chatham Band Concert @susanjyoung5, @marisa.parrotta

Chatham Bars Inn@cmbonde31, @travellikealocalma, @aclillie, @sarahkoessel, @a.ross813, @kellyjean_austin

Chatham Clothing Bar @chathamcandymanor

Chatham Lighthouse Beach@marioboston1972, @travellikealocalma

Chatham Orpheum Theater @chathamcandymanor, @debahl

Chatham Wayside Inn@travellikealocalma

Ducks in the Window@stasya_eremina

Fisherman’s Daughter@travellikealocalma

Harding’s Beach@cmbonde31

Mahi Gold @yuliamurray

Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge@capecodder.ma, @seaglassgirl32

Oyster Pond @a.ross813

The Chatham Home @travellikealocalma

The Mayflower Shop@travellikealocalma

Shopping @tsimm4, @amacattack12, @a.ross813

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