Are you planning a trip to Chatham Cape Cod? If you’re looking for things to do in Chatham, restaurants in Chatham, and the best beaches to visit, check out my Guide to Chatham.
Every summer my family stays on the Cape for a week! Cape Cod is one of my favorite places to visit in New England (read why here!). This year we rented a home in Chatham for the first time and it was wonderful! Chatham is a seaside town located on the southeastern tip (or the elbow) of Cape Cod.
The Best Things to Do in Chatham
One of the things I love most about Cape Cod are the countless opportunities for a quintessential “Cape Cod” experience. Chatham is one of the cutest towns I’ve ever visited on the Cape. I love everything from the gorgeous shop and restaurant lined Main Street to the bustling fishing pier (look for the seals!).
Where to Shop in Chatham
Chatham offers an exceptionally unique selection of small businesses for all of your shopping needs. We loved the bookstores, speciality shops, the toy stores, clothing boutiques and the candy stores! There is plenty of public parking at the heart of Main Street – you just may have to drive around if you visit on a busy day.
Here are some of the stores we visited (and made purchases at): Chatham Thread Works, Chatham Candy Manor, Where the Sidewalk Ends Bookstore, Ducks in the Windows, Chatham Children’s Shop, Chatham Collection, Gustare Oils and the Mayflower Shop.
Chatham has a variety of special events throughout the summer, like Mondays on Main and the Chatham Town Band Concert. The Art in the Park was an incredible exhibit! We also really enjoyed the live music of Mondays on Main (before it was rained out).
There are more shops around Chatham – such as Cuffy’s of Cape Cod for souvenirs – just not within walking distance of Main Street. Visit the Chatham Chamber of Commerce website for the most up to date information regarding seasonal events.
Things to Do with Kids in Chatham
- The Chatham Pier Fish Market: Not only can you grab a fresh bite to eat, there are TONS of seals hanging around the fishing boats at the pier. We spent a solid half hour watching the big adorable seals swim around the boats unloading fresh fish!
- The Chatham Lighthouse: Guess what? The Chatham Lighthouse has a working light! We visited Lighthouse Beach for a bit on a particularly foggy day and watched the light spin around and around! If you go to the Cape you must see a Cape Cod Lighthouse.
- The Shark Center: We didn’t make it to the Shark Center but it’s on our bucket list for the next rainy day visit!
- Chatham Orpheum Theater: The movie theater is another great rainy day activity in Chatham.
The Best Chatham Beaches
The beaches in Chatham are a bit different than the National Seashore beaches where my family usually stays on the Outer Cape. Even though Chatham’s saltwater beaches are located at the beginning of the National Seashore, they have the calming vibes of the Nantucket Sound. We visited Hardings Beach, Ridgevale Beach, Lighthouse Beach and Pleasant Bay (Jackknife Cove).
Hardings Beach is a family friendly beach in Chatham with smooth sand, calm warm surf, and lifeguard stations for safe swimming. We went to Hardings Beach the most during our vacation for a number of reasons – mostly related to my being six months pregnant. It’s hard for me to walk a long distance from the car to the beach or the sand to the bathroom. I’m also not allowed to lift and carry the insane amount of beach supplies a family with kids need for a day on the beach.
- It has clean public restrooms.
- The parking lot is close to the beach.
- The water is calm for kids and the sand is perfect for building sand castles.
- The ice cream man visits twice a day.
Some cons of Hardings Beach: the seaweed, a lack of waves
Ridgevale Beach is a great beach for families with calm water from the Nantucket Sound and plenty of tidal pools. Bring a paddle board or a net for crabbing in the marsh’s shallow waters. Ridgevale Beach is very similar to Hardings Beach except for the snack bar, parking, and bathroom setup. The bathrooms are port-a-potties and the parking lot is a bit farther from the ocean. These aren’t deal breakers, but I prefer the setup at Harding’s Beach.
We only stopped by Lighthouse Beach for thirty minutes since parking is very limited and timed. The beach was beautiful at low tide with small dunes, white sand, and very few waves. I read the undertow can be strong when the tide rolls in though! If you want to spend more than a half hour at Lighthouse Beach, parking can be found for a small fee downtown.
Pleasant Bay (Jackknife Cove)
Our rental home was located within walking distance to Pleasant Bay or Jackknife Cove. This beautiful saltwater cove is ideal for skim boarding, wakeboarding, or kayaking. We visited Jackknife Cove one evening to watch the sun set over the west, but a cloud covered the sky. Our daughters and nephew had fun wading in the tide pools though!
Two Must Visit Famous Cape Cod Beaches
Do you desire a beach with big waves, drastic high and low tides? Check out Coast Guard Beach in Eastham – it’s only 20 minutes from Chatham. I loved the three days spent Coast Guard Beach in Eastham but it was an easy 40 minutes from parking our car in the lot to parking our butts in the sand.
The best place to watch the sunset in Chatham is actually the town next-door! Check out Orlean’s Skaket Beach – arrive after 4:30 for free parking, but beware of gnats and no restrooms. The sunset at Skaket Beach is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen while on the Cape.
Where to Eat in Chatham
Our family usually spends most evenings cooking in our rental home when we vacation on The Cape. However, this year found ourselves going out to dinner a lot in Chatham. Here are the restaurants we enjoyed:
- Mac’s Chatham Fish and Lobster: My family loves Mac’s in Eastham and Wellfleet, so we knew we’d like their new Chatham location as well. The lobster roll is divine! They have the best selection of market fresh fish and seafood, sushi, vegan items and gluten free fried food. Looking for wine and beer? Their walk-up bar does not disappoint! Prepare to wait in line to order at the counter during the busy season; but don’t fear, it moves fast!
- The Chatham Squire: great for kids (but beware of scandalous license plates around the bar area), easy casual dining
- Wild Goose Tavern: yummy but pricey (esp. the kid’s menu), indoor/outdoor seating located on Main Street in Chatham
- New England Pizza: we grabbed a large white olive and spinach pizza and small cheese pizza from New England Pizza to-go one lazy night on vacation. It wasn’t the best pizza ever, but it was eaten! (Our tastes differ than others because we are spoiled by amazing CT pizza!)
We also enjoyed a fair share of breakfast sandwiches and sweet treats during our stay in Chatham. Here is where to grab breakfast, coffee, or ice cream:
- Chatham Village Cafe and Bakery: We saved the best place for our last day and regretted this move! Chatham Village Cafe has the best bagels and donuts in Chatham. They also have a wide selection of coffee and espresso drinks!
- Snowy Owl Coffee Roasters: Our first taste of Snowy Owl coffee was in Brewster last fall, so I made a beeline for the stand while shopping in Chatham on Main street. I love the Blood Orange Pomegranate Iced Tea too!
- Emack and Bolios: vegan ice cream options, yummy flavors, CASH ONLY
- Chatham Ice Cream Bars had a pop-up shop at Mac’s one night – they are absolutely DELICIOUS!
- The Ice Cream Cafe: the girls’ FAVORITE ice cream shop in Orleans (close to Chatham) has blizzards, vegan hot fudge sundaes, and fruit smoothies
More restaurants we enjoyed near Chatham: casual kid friendly waterfront dining at Brax Landing in Harwich Port; The Beacon Room in Orleans has beautiful outdoor seating, no kids menu but can make pasta!
Need provisions for lunch or your rental home in Chatham? Stop at the Chatham Village Market, Stop and Shop in Harwich, or CVS.
Want to capture your family’s trip with a Cape Cod Photography session?
We had the pleasure of meeting up with Brie Anderson at Skaket Beach during our last night of vacation for a complimentary mini family photo session! Brie is a New England Mom living in Cape Cod with a fabulous photography business. She captured a few sweet moments at sunset on Ailey’s birthday!