A Tank Away

The calm before the crowds in Chatham

Steps leading to the beach at the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.
Ellen Albanese for the Boston Globe
Steps leading to the beach at the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.

Known best for its beaches and lighthouse, this town at the elbow of Cape Cod is sleepy at this time of year. But the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge yields lovely views on a sunny winter day, restaurants offer creative and upscale cuisine, and there’s room to browse in the many shops and galleries. Be sure to check out the Orpheum Theater, the culmination of a two-year effort to bring movies back to Main Street in a restored a 1916 cinema that stands as a monument to the town’s artistic sensibilities and community spirit.


Overlooking the ocean, the Chatham Bars Inn (297 Shore Road, 800-527-4884, 508-945-0096, www.chathambarsinn
.com, winter rates $260-$1,200) offers rooms in the 1914 main inn, cottages on its private quarter-mile beach, and adults-only spa suites with oversize hydrotherapy tubs, saunas, steam showers, and fireplaces. The inn has several dining options, and it’s within walking distance of downtown restaurants and shops. For an elegant bed-and-breakfast experience, try the Captain’s House Inn (369 Old Harbor Road, 508-945-0127,, winter rates $185-$325). In addition to gourmet breakfasts, the inn is known for its afternoon tea; cream tea is offered to all guests, and a classic English tea is available to guests for $7.50 and visitors for $20. In the heart of downtown, the Wayside Inn (512 Main St., 508-945-5550, 800-242-8426,, winter rates $125-$310) was built in 1860 as a sea captain’s home; today it’s a 56-room inn with a full-service restaurant. Family-friendly suites offer two queen beds and a pullout sofa. Another historic downtown property, the Cranberry Inn (359 Main St., 508-945-9232, 800-332-4667,, winter rates $130-$190) has been welcoming travelers since 1830. A short nature trail on the property leads to a cranberry bog and pond.


The talk of the town is the new Vers Restaurant and Patisserie (637 Main St., 508-776-8448,, dinner $20-$28), helmed by executive chef and owner Jonathan Haffmans. Vers, which means “fresh” in Haffman’s native Dutch, is three restaurants under one roof. Housed in the historic Chatham Orpheum Theater, Vers on the street level offers all-day dining, including late-night snacks and beverages for theatergoers. The lower level space is a French patisserie and coffee shop by day and fine dining restaurant by night. Everything is made on site, including breads, pastries, and ice cream; the restaurant even smokes and cures meat and fish for its menu. Closed for the month of January, the lower level of Vers will reopen Feb. 1 Thursdays through Sundays. The Impudent Oyster (15 Chatham Bars Ave., 508-945-3545, dinner $24-$32, half orders available) specializes in seafood, and on weekends you’re likely to wait for a table at dinner even in the off-season. A relative newcomer to the restaurant scene, Del Mar Bar & Bistro (907 Main St., 508-945-9988,, pizza $13-$15, dinner $22-$32) is known for creative cuisine and wood-fired thin-crust pizza. Since a craving for sweets rarely diminishes in winter, the Chatham Candy Manor (484 Main St., 508-945-0825, is open year round with fudge, hand-dipped chocolates, penny candy, and candies for special diets.



Thanks to a dedicated friends group, the visitors center at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge (30 Wikis Way, 508-945-0594, is open most weekdays in winter from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Even if the center is closed, though, you can park and follow the marked three-quarter-mile Morris Island trail through woods, dunes, and salt marsh. Look for birds and seals, and consult a tide chart before you go; the stairway from the beach may be inaccessible for up to an hour on either side of high tide. On the last Wednesday of each month from 5:30 to 7 p.m., “Meet the Fleet” brings together fishermen and chefs at the Fishermen’s Alliance headquarters (1566 Main St.,, $10 nonmembers, reservations 508-945-2432 ext. 111). Fishermen talk about what’s in season and how it is harvested, while chefs offer cooking tips, tastes, and recipes. Cod is featured on Jan. 29, and river herring on Feb. 26. Several downtown shops stay open year round, though midweek hours may be limited. Among our favorites are Yankee Ingenuity (525 Main St., 508-945-1288,, showcasing the landscape photography of owner Jon Vaughan, along with cards, jewelry, puzzle boxes, glassware, ceramics, fountains, and clocks; and The Artful Hand (459 Main St., 508-945-5681,, with its high-quality American-made handcrafts, gifts, and home accessories.

Ellen Albanese for the Boston Globe
The recently restored Orpheum Theater.


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Movies are back on Main Street at the renovated Chatham Orpheum Theater (637 Main St., 508-945-4900, After raising $3.4 million in less than two years, Chatham Orpheum Theater Inc. restored the 1916 building and opened it last July. In the lobby a 240-square-foot mural depicts scenes from Hollywood’s classic films. Along with first-run movies, the Orpheum shows independent films, classics, and documentaries on its two screens. Seats are comfortable, with high backs and plenty of leg room. There’s live music on weekends at the Chatham Squire (487 Main St., 508-945-0945,, a friendly neighborhood restaurant and bar that’s popular with locals.

Ellen Albanese can be reached at