- Places to Explore
- Fodor's Choice
Low-key, well-heeled Chatham feels like a sliver of Nantucket that's floated over to the Cape. It's neatly groomed and blue-blooded yet artsy, prim but eccentric, straight-arrow but with loads of personality. Originally populated by Native Americans, Chatham came into the hands of white settlers from Plymouth in 1656, when William Nickerson traded a boat for the 17 square mi of land that make up the town. In 1712 the area separated from Eastham and was incorporated as a town; the surnames of the Pilgrims who first settled here still dominate the census list. Although Chatham was originally a farming community, the sea finally lured townspeople to turn to fishing for their livelihood, and the industry has held strong to this day.
At the bent elbow of the Cape, with water nearly surrounding it, Chatham has all the charm of a quietly posh seaside resort, with plenty of shops but none of the crass commercialism that plagues some other towns on the Cape. And it's charming: the town has gray-shingle houses with tidy awnings and cheerful flower gardens, an attractive Main Street with crafts and antiques stores alongside dapper cafés, and a five-and-dime. It's a traditional town (said to have more registered Republican voters than any other town on Cape Cod), where elegant summer cottages share the view with stately homes rich in Yankee architectural detail. In fact, this tiny town by the sea is where you'll find some of the finest examples of bow-roof houses in the country. Chatham's nowhere near as kitschy as Provincetown, but it's not overly quaint, either—it's casual and fun, in a refined New England way.
Because of its location at the elbow, Chatham is not a town you just pass through—it's a destination in itself. During summer months, the town bursts into bloom as hydrangeas blossom in shades of cobalt blue, indigo, and deep violet. And although it can get crowded in high season—and even on weekends during shoulder seasons—Chatham remains a true New England village.
Chatham at a Glance
- Atwood House Museum
- Chatham Glass Company
- Chatham Light
- Chatham Marconi Maritime Center
- Cockle Cove Beach
- Eldredge Public Library
- Fish Pier
- Harding's Beach
Free Fodor's Newsletter
Subscribe today for weekly travel inspiration, tips, and special offers.
Fodor's Trip Planning Ideas
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Go List: Fodor's Top 25 Places to Go in 2013
- Hotel Awards 2012: Fodor's 100 Top Hotels
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Best of Europe: Fodor's Picks the Best Places to Visit in Europe
- $99 -- Maine: Historic Seaside 'Great Country Inn', $100 Off York Harbor Inn