A Winter Cape Escape
With its scenic sea shores and nautical surroundings, Chatham is a quintessential Cape Cod town. Visit historic sea captains’ homes, and explore the walkable downtown lined with art galleries and independently owned shops. While bustling in the summer, this small town is lively year-round, bursting with creativity and culture.
My favorite time to visit is the off-season when the crowds of summer ebb away and you can almost hear the town give a sigh of relief as it settles into the peaceful pace of winter. Unlike some of the surrounding towns, the shops and restaurants in Chatham remain open in the winter. So you can relax, renew, and restore, surrounded by one of the most inspiring landscapes—all at an unbeatable value.
Where to Stay
Chatham Bars Inn
The Chatham Bars Inn, known as the “quintessential Cape Cod Experience,” has been offering true luxury and spectacular service since its opening in 1914. This oceanfront property has a wide selection of rooms and suites, many with full ocean views. Known for its unrivaled summer scene, CBI (as the locals say) is open year-round with a full-service spa, daily fitness classes, and excellent on-site restaurants. The hotel offers activities such as wine tastings, mixology classes, and trivia nights, as well as packages such as Relax, Recharge, Renew and a Girls’ Getaway. Winter rates are significantly more affordable.
Chatham Inn at 359 Main
After a complete renovation in 2016, the 18-room Chatham Inn at 359 Main quickly became an AAA rated 4 diamond property that Trip Advisor calls “One of the Top 10 Most Romantic Hotels in the US.” Perfectly located on Main Street, Chatham Inn at 359 Main is just a short stroll to Lighthouse Beach. Luxurious Matouk bed linens, Frette bath accessories, spa-level amenities, and fireplaces in many rooms bring an air of quiet elegance. You may find yourself wishing for a winter storm. This is the perfect snowed-in spot. A lovely breakfast is included and the in-house Chatham Wine Bar is rated #1 in the Cape. Call to book early.
What to Do
Chatham Lighthouse Beach
There’s no shortage of beauty at this expansive and magnificent beach. It seems to go on and on—so you can walk to your heart’s content. In the summer you would see hundreds of people unrolling their towels for morning yoga. But in the off-season, you will find it serene and quiet. Turn off your mind, tune into nature, and enjoy the wildlife. (You may even see some of Chatham’s resident seals from the shore.)
Hardings Beach Lighthouse Walk
While Chatham Lighthouse Beach is most synonymous with the town, my favorite walk will always be at Hardings Beach. If you park in the second lot at Hardings Beach (parking is free after Labor Day), you will see a path through the dunes on your left as you are facing the beach. Follow that path all the way to the end of the lighthouse where the ocean meets the entrance to Oyster River. Dotted with sea grass and lined with sweeping views, this walk is the definition of a peaceful seaside escape. The path splits and either direction will take you to the beach. But I find myself always heading left and looping back around to walk past the fishermen casting off the shore.
Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge
Observe wildlife and take some photos at the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. This scenic spot has a ¾ mile trail that begins on Morris Island and winds through various coastal habitats. The Visitors Center is close in the offseason, but the trail has overlooks and informative signs along the way. Surf fishing and shellfishing are permitted and can be spotted any season.
Chatham Fish Pier
Stop by the town pier off of Shore Road to learn more about Chatham’s rich fishing tradition and watch the fleet unload all year long. You can also pay a virtual visit to the Cape Cod Fishermen’s Alliance and buy a souvenir in support of the maritime tradition to help preserve the viability and future of Cape Cod fisheries.
Shine Center Yoga
Find your zen at Shine Center a new yoga and meditation studio that opened in the Fall of 2018. Shine Center offers flow yoga, guided meditation, EFT tapping, and special workshops on the year-round schedule. Walk-ins will find a warm, welcoming environment suitable to all yogis (beginner and experienced alike).
Get your cozy on at the Orpheum Theater. Owned and restored by a local nonprofit group, this community treasure not only hosts first-run movies, but also documentaries, lecture series, and other local events. The two state-of-the-art theaters feature an in-house cafe with a full bar. Settle in on a winter evening with a flick and a glass of wine. (Oh, and the carrot cake bomb is a must try.)
Chatham boasts not one independent bookstore, but three. So if your idea of downtime means being buried in a book (like me), then your options will be endless. Where the Sidewalk Ends is a mother-daughter-owned shop with a wonderful selection and substantial local author section. You may even score a signed copy. Then, there’s Yellow Umbrella Books, which somehow manages to fit an incredibly large collection into an incredibly narrow shop. Their knowledgeable staff is always on standby to offer a recommendation. If you like to buy used books, A Great Yarn is for you. Owned by a husband-wife duo, this shop has a top-notch selection of gently used books all amidst one of the best yarn and knitting shops on the Cape.
Where to Eat
This super-hip spot has been praised by everyone from the New York Times to Yankee Magazine. Located on the second floor of the Chatham Airport, owner Tracey Shield and her team serve up classic breakfast and lunch dishes with a twist, and, new this year, evening take out. All of the dishes feature unique combinations that you would never have thought of—but won’t ever forget. Everything, from the locally roasted coffee to the trio of homemade jams, is fresh, organic, and beyond delicious. And their collection of t-shirts, sweats and other merchandise is just as good. Check their facebook page before you go - hours vary in the winter.
The Corner Store
While the Corner Store in summer sees lines out the door pretty much non stop, in the winter you can usually pop right in to get one of their uber fresh and generously sized burritos, panini and homemade desserts. Open from 6:30 am to 5:30 pm in the off season (they stay open until 6:30 pm in the summer) their regular menu is extensive but they also have some terrific specials.
Del Mar Bistro
Chatham locals and frequent visitors often eschew Main Street’s many restaurants and head to the Del Mar Bistro for dinner. With a slightly urban vibe and a lively bar scene, their ever-changing menu features in-season produce, wood-fired pizza, and creative cocktails. (The fig and prosciutto is a personal favorite.) Call to book a reservation in advance.
The Impudent Oyster
Tucked just off of Main Street, the Oyster is open for lunch and dinner almost all year round. (They sporadically close in the offseason, so it’s always good to check ahead). Their lunch menu lets you pick your pleasure—from Cape Cod favorites like the Lobster Roll to healthy eats like the Buddha Bowl. The dinner menu is a little bit more upscale and their bar offers craft cocktails and oysters.