As you might have heard, some glamorous washashores have been spotted in Chatham lately. “The Perfect Couple,” a limited Netflix series about a murder that disrupts a wedding on Nantucket, is filming around town and is scheduled to shoot through June. The cast includes Nicole Kidman (who is also a producer of the six-episode show), Liev Schreiber, Meghann Fahy, Billy Howie, Dakota Fanning, and Eve Hewson.
The story, based on Elin Hilderbrand’s 2018 novel, focuses on a lavish wedding in Nantucket. On the morning of the event, the maid of honor is found floating in Nantucket Harbor, dead. Everyone in the wedding party is a suspect. Reportedly, a private home in Chatham’s Eastward Point neighborhood will be a main location, while a Chatham retail space will stand in for the Nantucket police station, and other local businesses will be temporarily transformed by the production crew. They’re even bringing in Nantucket beach sand for a realistic touch, reports say.
If you’re a die-hard Nicole Kidman fan, you’re probably already planning a jaunt to Chatham. But truth be told, the town doesn’t need movie stars to add gloss. To many folks, this fetching seaside burg is pretty perfect just the way it is. “Chatham is what people expect when they think of Cape Cod,” says Marstons Mills resident Paul Kelley. “It’s got that rural, fishing-town vibe, and charm for days.”
Located at the elbow of Cape Cod, the most easterly point in Massachusetts, Chatham is about 90 miles south of Boston. The town’s year-round population of around 6,000 swells to nearly 30,000 in the summer months. Of course it does. With its luxurious inns and eateries, lovely beaches, and cool local businesses, Chatham offers the quintessential Cape escape. Here are some classic places to check out during your visit. (Nic and Liev, are you reading this?)
The Chatham Fish Pier, at the corner of Shore Road and Barcliff Avenue, is an authentic working pier. During summer months, folks gather daily to watch fishing boats unload their catch of haddock, cod, flounder, bluefin tuna, and shellfish. The rustic, on-site Chatham Pier Fish Market (508-945-3474; www.chathampierfishmkt.com), operates a no-frills seafood market, with a kitchen that serves up lobster rolls, chowder, and their famous “seahound pie.” Grab a seat at a picnic table and watch the action as you dig in.
Even on an imperfect weather day, Lighthouse Beach, on the Atlantic side, is a great place for a stroll. The largest beach in town, just a mile from downtown, it sits just below Chatham Light, an active lighthouse (currently closed to visitors). The strong currents and tides, and lack of lifeguards, make this beach less appealing for a swim; for that, head to Harding’s Beach in West Chatham. Set on Nantucket Sound, the water here is warmer, with calmer conditions, making it the family-friendly choice. Bonus: Views of Stage Harbor, Oyster River, Bucks Creek, and Monomoy.
For a really special ramble, wander the Morris Island Trails of 7,604-acre Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge (www.fws.gov/refuge/monomoy). You’ll walk a quarter-mile right-of-way on Tisquantum Road to reach the Morris Island Loop trail head, accessing three miles of trails along a tidal marsh and flats. Some 285 species of birds have been identified here, and if you’re lucky, you’ll encounter more birds than people.
There’s also a bike path in Chatham — the paved, eight-mile Old Colony Rail Trail. It runs from Chatham to Harwich on an old rail line, and connects with the Cape Cod Rail Trail. It’s a pretty ride, but count on plenty of company on summer weekends.
Eat (and maybe sleep)
That was a lot of exercise, no? You deserve a good lunch. The Chatham Squire (www.thesquire.com) is a no-brainer. Part bar, part restaurant, 100 percent local gathering place, it’s worth a visit if only to see the crazy collection of license plates that make up the décor. The menu leans on classics like fish & chips and burgers; come in the evening for live entertainment.
We’re partial to Mac’s seafood restaurants, a fixture on the Cape, so we had to check out Mac’s Chatham Fish & Lobster (www.macsseafood.com), open for lunch and dinner. Just as expected, the food was first rate — the blackened sushi-grade tuna sandwich with pickled red onion and Old Bay aioli compared favorably to our favorite version of the same in Bonaire.
A couple of local favorites deserve a shout-out, too. Open for lunch and dinner, The Impudent Oyster is a cozy spot to indulge in Wellfleet oysters, Chatham littlenecks, and an especially delightful Moules Na Cataplana — fresh local mussels with chorizo steamed in a spicy diablo sauce (www.theimpudentoyster.com). Del Mar Bar & Bistro (www.delmarbistro.com) is known for craft cocktails, seafood, and pizzas.
Just need a treat? We’ve mentioned Chatham Candy Manor (www.candymanor.com) so many times, you probably think they’re paying us off with salted caramels. No such luck! This downtown perennial (open since 1965) is chock-full of sweet, hand-dipped deliciousness; everything in the display cases (those turtles!) is made right here.
Although its roots are “old-school fishing village,” Chatham has its posh side. It can deliver a fancy dinner like nobody else, along with elegant, understated lodgings. The 18-room, adults-only Chatham Inn (from $459; www.chathaminn.com), the only Relais & Chateaux property on the Cape, is home to Cuvée, a fine-dining restaurant led by Chef Isaac Olivo (of Jean-George’s). The farm-to-table restaurant uses produce from the inn’s own garden to create contemporary versions of traditional Cape Cod cuisine. Epicurean travelers, take note: They’re also offering a Michelin Star Dinner series, featuring six-course chef’s tasting menus. The inn itself, in the heart of downtown, is a haven of quiet coastal luxury.
To many, a trip to Chatham means a stay at the venerable Chatham Bars Inn (from $725; www.chathambarsinn.com). The inn’s 217 accommodations are located in 30-plus separate buildings spread across a 25-acre estate. In addition to a quarter-mile of private beach, this amenity-loaded resort offers an Orvis fly-fishing school, boating excursions, a spa, and its own custom gin and bourbon. STARS is the resort’s fine-dining hot spot, featuring multicourse wine dinners and produce from their own eight-acre farm.
Where the locals go
Got some time to spend in Chatham? Yay, you. You’ll have time to dig a little deeper, and experience some local activities that reveal the salty, small-town heart of the place. Chatham Town Band Concerts, free at Kate Gould Park on Friday nights in July and August, are a highlight of summer. And who can resist a lobster roll supper, held at Chatham’s First United Methodist Church (www.chathammethodist.org)? Cape Cod Baseball League games, free, offer spirited, fresh-air fun, so try to catch a home game of the Chatham Anglers, a.k.a. Chatham A’s (www.chathamanglers.com), at Veterans Field, behind the Chatham Community Center. A rainy day is a great excuse to check out Shark Center Chatham ($10; www.atlanticwhiteshark.org), with exhibits created by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy that will teach you everything you want to know about this apex predator, and then some — ”a jawesome experience,” they call it.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at email@example.com.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org