A Stroll Around Chatham

A stroll around Chatham, taking you from one end of Main Street to the other and to interesting sites nearby, can give you a great feel for this picturesque town. The walk covers a distance of approximately 2 1/2 miles and takes 2 to 3 hours, depending on how many stops you make along the way. Parking on Main Street can be a challenge at the height of summer, so pretend you're a turn-of-the-20th-century traveler and start out at the Chatham Railroad Museum, on 153 Depot St. (closed mid-Sept to mid-June), 1 block north of Main Street, at the western end of town. You can't miss it: It's a gaudy 1887 Victorian station in the "Railroad Gothic" style, painted yellow with fanciful russet ornamentation. The building itself is full of railroading memorabilia, and the big exhibits -- antique passenger cars -- are out back.

If you've got children along, they'll surely want to stretch their legs (and imaginations) at the Play-a-Round Park, opposite the Railroad Museum. Dreamed up by prominent playground designer Robert Leathers, it's a marvelous maze of tubes, rope ladders, slides, and swings. The only way you'll get going again is to promise to come back.

Head west to the end of Depot Street, and turn right on Old Harbor Road, which, if followed past Main Street, becomes State Harbor Road. About a mile farther along, past Oyster Pond, you'll encounter the Atwood House Museum, at 347 Stage Harbor Rd. (tel. 508/945-2493; www.chathamhistoricalsociety.org); closed October to mid-June. The 1752 house itself shelters the odds and ends collected by the Chatham Historical Society over the past 7 decades; piece by piece, they tell the story of the town. The Society even managed to save an entire 1947 "fishing camp," a run-down cottage that looks as if the occupant just stepped out to check a line.

Heading back toward Main Street, bear right on Cross Street and look for Chase Park and Bowling Green, presided over by the Old Grist Mill, built in the late 18th century. You might actually try some lawn bowling along the lovingly tended greens before returning to Main Street, where the shops are too prolific and special to pass up.

Main Street veers right when it reaches the shore. Continue along for about one-quarter mile to view the Chatham Light, an 1876 beacon not open to the public but still in operation: Its light shines 15 miles out to sea. This is a good vantage point from which to marvel over the "break" that burst through Chatham's barrier beach in 1987. In the years since, the newly created island, South Beach, has already glommed onto the coastline, becoming a peninsula. This is one landscape that rarely stays put for long.

Retrace your steps northward along the shore. In about three-quarters of a mile, you'll pass the grand Chatham Bars Inn, at 297 Shore Rd. (tel. 800/527-4884 or 508/945-0096), which started out as a private hunting lodge in 1914. Passersby are welcome to look around the lobby, restored to reflect its original Victorian splendor. Linger on the porch over coffee or a drink, if you like, before pressing on to the Chatham Fish Pier, about a quarter-mile farther along Shore Road. If you've timed your visit right (from noon on), the trawlers should just now be bringing in the catch of the day. You can observe the haul from an observation deck. Also have a look at The Provider, an intriguing outdoor sculpture by Woods Hole artist Sig Purwin.

Winding Down -- When you've had enough, or the insects insist that you head on home, go back to Main Street, down Seaview Street, past the Chatham Seaside Links golf course. One long block later (about 1/2 mile), you're back in the center of town. You can relax and unwind at the Chatham Wayside Inn, at 512 Main St. (tel. 508/945-5550). Secure a table on the greenery-curtained patio and watch the world go by, as you fortify yourself with regionally inspired snacks and sweets on the large screened porch.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.