These are the best things to do in Chatham, Massachusetts! Includes historic Chatham Main Street, Chatham Lighthouse, and Chatham restaurants!
*A big thank you to the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce for assisting us in our trip planning and to the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center and Atwood Museum for providing us free entry in exchange for a review.*
Best Things To Do In Chatham, MA
Chatham is located on the “elbow” of Cape Cod and is surrounded on three sides by water. Easy to get to, but not along Cape Cod’s busy Highway 6, it’s a bit off-the-beaten-path. With a rich maritime history and active fishing port, it’s a fun place to explore year round.
After a few visits, we’ve put together a list of what we think are the best things to do in Chatham…
Map Of Things To Do In Chatham, MA
Below is an interactive map listing our recommendations for things to do as well as Chatham restaurants.
Chatham Marconi Maritime Center
We can all thank Guglielmo Marconi for his development of wireless communication! The Marconi Maritime Center celebrates his accomplishments and the museum itself is on the grounds of the old Marconi-RCA Wireless Receiving Station.
During WWII, the receiving station was used by the military and it played a huge role in intercepting Enigma-encrypted wireless messages. There’s a whole section of the museum dedicated to this important mission.
We really liked this museum because it was very hands-on. There are vintage radio receivers, transmitters, and teletype machines. You can even practice Morse code at their interactive kiosks!
We loved the Atwood Museum and seriously could have spent all day there. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Chatham. The museum is located in the house that was built by John Atwood in the 1750s and was occupied by the family for five generations. The house itself is mostly unaltered and is cool to explore.
The Chatham Historical Society purchased the house in 1925 and since then has made it their mission to preserve records and objects related to the history of Chatham. Once established, their collection quickly grew. This led to many expansions to the museum over the years. It’s definitely bigger than it looks from the outside!
There are many exhibits inside, including some that rotate throughout the year. During our visit, the main exhibit was about the historic main streets of towns around Cape Cod. It was really interesting to see what made each one unique. There were also exhibits on the fishing history of Chatham, military history, and more.
Outside, visitors will find a lighthouse turret that once was part of the southern tower of Chatham’s twin lighthouses. In 1969, the lighthouse was modernized and the Fresnel lens was taken out and donated to the Chatham Historical Society.
Speaking of the Chatham Lighthouse, it’s another popular Chatham attraction. Chatham had its first set of wooden twin lights in 1808. Twin lights were built so that they could be distinguished from the Highland lighthouse at North Truro. By 1841, the towers were in bad shape and were replaced by twin lights built of brick.
In 1877, a third set of twin lighthouses were built of cast iron and, due to erosion concerns, were placed further inland. The twins were separated in 1923 when the north light was moved to Eastham, becoming the Nauset Lighthouse. Next to the remaining south light, the former two-story keeper’s house is now an active U.S. Coast Guard station.
Pro Tip: Check out the Best Lighthouses On The East Coast!
Walk Along Chatham Main Street
Chatham Main Street has been dubbed the “Fifth Avenue of Cape Cod” because of its upscale boutiques, art galleries, antique shops, and restaurants. It’s a cute place to walk, shop, and explore.
Chatham Candy Manor
Another of the best things to do in Chatham is to visit Chatham Candy Manor. The wonderful aroma of chocolate hits you as soon as you enter and your mouth will automatically start to water. Located on Chatham Main Street, they’ve been part of the community for over 60 years and it’s easy to see why!
Inside there are all kinds of fudge, candies, and of course chocolate. We walked up and down and although it was a tough decision, we bought two things. One was a white chocolate covered Oreo and the other was a dark chocolate covered Ritzies, which was two Ritz crackers with a peanut butter center. We can’t say which we liked more; they were both delicious!
Gustare Oils And Vinegars
Another yummy place we recommend is Gustare Oils And Vinegars. Inside you can sample various flavors of extra virgin olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars. Because we travel light, we only allowed ourselves to buy two small bottles. But if we could have, we would have bought a few big bottles lol!
First Crush Winery
Not exactly in Chatham, but only a 15 minute drive away, is First Crush Winery. Located in Harwich, they have a fun tasting room inside their wine making facility. Although you won’t see vineyards because their grapes are grown in California, you will see stainless tanks, wine barrels and equipment.
A tasting of their award winning wines costs $15 and you get to taste five wines. It was nice to sip on their wines while looking at some of their equipment. They even have some historic wine making items on display!
During our visits, we tried two Chatham restaurants that came very highly recommended…
Chatham Filling Station
Serving the best breakfast in Chatham is the Chatham Filling Station. Full of vintage memorabilia, it’s what all American roadside diners aspire to be. Besides the decor, we also loved the hand-painted mural by Helen Kelsey that celebrates “Old Cape Cod.”
They serve breakfast all day and many of their dishes have Southern roots with a Cape Cod twist. During our visit we had two eggs (scrambled with cheese), cheesy grits, and a popover. We also ordered a One Eyed Jack which was a sunny side up egg on country white toast with grilled tomato. And to complete our order, we added a side of corned beef hash.
Everything was really good, but we were particularly intrigued by the popover. It was our first time trying one and we really liked the texture and flavor of it.
Perhaps the most famous of Chatham restaurants is the Chatham Squire. It’s a popular hangout for locals and visitors alike. Inside, the ambiance is that of a pub and you get the feeling that some of the other patrons have been going there for years.
During our visit we had the Manicotti Bolognese which was made up of house-made manicotti with ricotta, meat sauce, ground beef, sausage, provolone, and garlic bread. We really liked the flavor of the sauce and meet and especially liked how cheesy it was!
Additional Things To Do In Chatham
Even after a few visits, we didn’t get to visit all of the Chatham attractions that we would have liked. So although we didn’t get a chance to visit these ourselves, they are highly recommended and we’d like to bring them to your attention:
- Chatham Shark Center – Has interactive exhibits, videos, displays, and virtual reality experiences that offer an in-depth look at the Great White Shark.
- Monomoy Natural Wildlife Refuge – Established in 1944 to provide a habitat for migratory birds. It stretches for eight miles off of Chatham.
- Chatham’s Railroad Museum – Located inside a former railroad station, the museum contains hundreds of exhibits and the New York Central model locomotives used at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
- Godfrey Windmill – Wind-powered grist mill that was built in 1797. You can tour the windmill during the summer months.
- Maps Of Antiquity – Fun shop that has over 18,000 maps, prints and charts.
Where To Stay In Chatham, MA
Because were were house sitting during our stay on Cape Cod, we didn’t stay in any hotels or B&Bs, but we recommend you check some of the rates below…
Final Thoughts On Things To Do In Chatham
We really enjoyed our visits to Chatham and only wish we could have spent even more time there. Because it’s slightly off-the-beaten-path, it’s a bit less touristy than some of the other towns on Cape Cod. This gives it a wonderful sense of community that you can feel as you explore the town’s many attractions and restaurants.