Chatham is one of the most beautiful parts of Cape Cod, there’s a lot to do in such a small area. Unlike most of the other parts of Cape Cod, Chatham has maintained a walkable Main Street comprised of mostly small businesses and restaurants; which makes it perfect for a day trip. There’s also a lighthouse, many beaches and even a pier where you can watch fisherman unload their catch of the day.
In the past, the Chatham Lighthouse was integral to keeping ships safe; the water around Cape Cod was difficult to navigate. Today, the lighthouse and its grounds are fenced in and operated by the U.S. Coast Guard. A local told me that they do tours of the lighthouse on Wednesdays and will occasionally host an open house for public viewing.
Parking is across the street at the beach, however there is a 30 minute parking limit. If you’re planning on a short stint to the lighthouse and Chatham Lighthouse Beach, there are always free parking spots. If you plan on spending the day, though you will have to park in town and take the bus or ride a bike as they strictly enforce the 30 minute limit.
Chatham Lighthouse Beach
This is a very pretty beach known for its marine wildlife. From the shoreline you can often see the daily migration of seals, and where there’s seals there’s bound to be sharks! Almost every year there are claims in the news of shark sightings off of Chatham. Reporters also flock to this beach during hurricanes; during inclement weather, this area tends to get hit the hardest due to its orientation. That makes Chatham Lighthouse Beach a great opportunity for more than just a day in the sun.
There are Porta-Potties here but no running water. There are also no concessions, which means you will need to come prepared. The views are great and it is a big beach, but there is a lot of inconvenience involved with this beach. With 30 minute parking, no full bathrooms, no concession stand, and its distance from downtown, this beach only comes recommended as a brief stop on your trip through Chatham. If you’re looking for a better, more convenient beach, I would recommend Mayflower Beach in Dennis.
Here’s some footage I took of Chatham Lighthouse Beach from the bottom of the stairway:
If you’re really looking for a great time at/near this beach, try to book a boat tour; these usually take you out to see for some fabulous views of the ocean, city and the marine life (watching a seal sunbathe will put a smile on your face).
When you’re ready to eat and do some window shopping head toward Main Street. Finding parking can be tricky in this area. There are a lot of parking lots, but often this area is crawling with tourists doing the exact same thing you are and the parking is free which makes it even more difficult. We were able to find a spot behind Chatham Squire Restaurant. You may have to circle the area a few times before you find a spot, but hang in there, its worth it.
Chatham Squire Restaurant
This restaurant is your typical bar-by-the-water that you can find throughout most of coastal New England. The inside was decorated with funky, funny license plates. The atmosphere was loud and lively – I have to admit, it did give off a little bit of a “dive bar” vibe but it turned out to be a very chill place.
I ordered the Mayflower Melt special, it was your typical Thanksgiving sandwich but made on a buttery croissant with melted cheese yummmmm. I think I went overboard however as the sandwich sat heavy on my stomach, looking back I should have opted for something lighter and probably should have ordered fish, since we were in fishing town and I bet the fish was fresh off the boat. My friend had ordered the lobster bisque and said it was excellent.
Walking the Street
Step outside the restaurant and into the bustle of foot traffic going in all directions. On this long stretch that goes through most of Chatham you can find shops for anything you can imagine. Soft as a Grape is a great place if you’re looking for Cape Cod souvenirs. There are also a few candy and chocolate stores that looked amazing.
Chatham Pier Fish Market
And finally to finish your tour through Chatham, head to the Chatham Pier Fish Market. This perfectly located pier offers stunning views of the ocean and the surrounding boat traffic.
There is free parking here but the lot is small. Outside of this parking lot, there isn’t any other parking close by, so you may have to circle around a few times until you can grab a spot (especially on busy weekends in the summer).
The Chatham Pier Fish Market has the freshest catch around! In fact, if you hang around here long enough, you can actually watch the fishermen unload their catch onto the dock. Straight from the sea and onto your plate.
Seals often swim around the pier waiting for fishing boats to pull up. They love to eat any stray fish pieces that may fall off the boat or get washed off the deck. It always amazes me how intelligent these animals must be to learn that: a docked boat = dinner.
Chatham is a fantastic place to spend the day. There are a wide range of activities to pursue all located in close proximity to each other. Like I said above, I wouldn’t go to Chatham looking to spend the day at the beach, there are other, more convenient places for that. However, I would go to Chatham to enjoy the local sights and foods and for shopping.
Comment below and let me know what you favorite part of Chatham is!