Chatham Bars Inn: An Idyllic Cape Cod Family Vacation
They had me at lob-stah (roll).
Even if you've lived in New England your whole life, it's easy to still fall under the spell of those idyllic Northeast summers -- perfectly cooked lobster rolls, sticky salt in the air from dawn to dusk, entire days spent exploring the beaches, and just the right amount of chill at night for a light sweatshirt.
This article will detail everything you need to know to plan your own Cape Cod family vacation at Chatham Bars Inn. Built in the early 1900’s, this former hunting lodge was converted into a luxurious summertime escape...over time guests traded in their hunting gear for hydrangea lined walkways, and Adirondack chairs overlooking the calm waters of Aunt Lydia’s Cove.
Chatham Bars Inn has everything a family could ask for on summer vacation – spacious suites, a lively kids’ club, relaxing pool, and private beach access. If that wasn’t enough, there are plenty of delicious restaurants on-site, and you’re just a few minutes walk from charming Chatham when you’re ready to shop and explore.
For your Planning Purposes
Getting there: Chatham Bars Inn is located 4-5 hours from NYC, and 2 hours from Boston. Everyone uses I-6 to enter/exit the Cape, which means traffic builds in summertime. To avoid the masses, leave early in the morning or late at night.
Getting around: The best way to explore Cape Cod is by car so that you can visit nearby towns, beaches, and restaurants.
When to visit: Summertime is most popular -- there are countless beaches, restaurants, and shops to check out. While you can snag a great hotel room in the off season, many of the restaurants and stores have limited hours.
Where is Chatham Bars Inn located?
Cape Cod is separated into the Upper Cape, Lower Cape, and Outer Cape. The most popular towns include Chatham, Provincetown, Brewster, Falmouth, Mashpee, Yarmouth, and Dennis.
As the name implies, Chatham Bars Inn is located in Chatham; we loved the iconic “All American” feel of this particular region. If the setting of Gilmore Girl was on a beach, it would be in Chatham -- every local knows one another by name, and mom-and-pop stores fill the historic Main Street. It’s small enough to explore in a day, but you'll most likely come back a few times to try the different restaurants and meander through the town's boutiques.
Hotel Highlights For Families
In a hurry and interested in a quick run-down of why this resort is great for families?
- Suite accommodations - Families looking for more space to spread out will want to book one of the cottage options. There are private porches and separated living/bedroom areas. Room tip - ask for Room 273 if booking an OceanView Master Suite.
- Private beach/pool: The beach in front of the hotel is part of a protected cove; the water is calm and perfect for small kids. The seals also float close to shore, which made for some exciting mornings! The zero-entry pool is another swimming option, and beautifully designed cabanas are available to rent in both spots.
- Kids’ club- The kids’ club at Chatham Bars Inn is all about exploring the outdoors for kids 4-12 years old. There are beach walks, athletic games, rides on the boat, and supervised strolls into town. The hotel offers a few sessions to choose from: a morning, late afternoon, and early evening block.
Keep reading to find out more details about these features, as well as more information about other amenities at CBI.
Chatham Bars Inn Amenities
You could check into Chatham Bars Inn, never leave the property, and have all your luxurious vacations needs met. While you may want to eventually explore the nearby towns and beaches, the hotel itself is its own destination with plenty of on-site activities. Here are some of the amenities to look forward to during your Cape Cod family vacation.
Check In / Welcome
A summertime arrival at Chatham means you’ll first be greeted by the striking hydrangeas layered throughout the property – pops of white, blue, purple and pink are Cape Cod’s formal announcement that summer has arrived.
The bellhop staff was excellent! As we completed our 4-hour journey and rolled out of the car, they took over seamlessly – helping with bags, and providing directions to the lobby and room.
After checking-in, we explored the gorgeous grounds – have you ever walked through a hotel and wanted to sit in EVERY chair because each one looked that relaxing?
Rows of adirondack chairs overlooked the gardens, which had panoramic views of the Cape Cod National Seashore. The wicker chairs in The Veranda were the perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely lunch and cool drink.
Even the inside of the hotel whispered a warm welcome. Large, leather chairs surrounded a crackling fireplace. On cooler nights, this was the go-to spot to play backgammon, chess, or read and relax.
A Cape Cod family vacation in the summertime is all about the beach! Right outside your door you can enjoy both baby waves and body surfing ones too.
The hotel has front row seats to Aunt Lydia’s cove – a calm inlet protected by the Cape Cod National Seashore. Small fishing boats and hundreds of (friendly) seals filled the still waters in Aunt Lydia’s cove. Kids can easily play along the gentle shoreline, or wade into the waist deep waters. Beautifully furnished cabanas line the seashore and are available for rent. There are also plenty of beach chairs, which the staff helped to set up for guests.
Beyond the cove sits a thin stretch of beach along North Beach Island, with the refreshing Atlantic waters on the other side. Hop on one of the complimentary boat shuttles across the short channel to North Beach Island. You can pack a picnic and enjoy the waves. Boats run every 20-30 minutes and it’s only a 10 minute ride.
Heated Pool / Jacuzzi
The pool at Chatham Bars Inn is zero-entry on one side, and 8 feet deep on the other -- so it's perfect for both "slow-enterers" and cannonball crazies (we all have one of each...).
In my “pre-kids days” I never really noticed zero-entry pools, but as a traveling mom, I can say this aquatic design makes all the difference. Small kids can run freely in and out of the water and fountains, splashing for hours.
In addition to the main pool, Chatham Bars Inn also has a small-kiddie pool and kid-friendly hot-tub. The entire pool complex screams "Welcome moms and dads -- bring on the splashes and lively loud giggles!"
Similar to the beach, there are private cabanas for rent. Each ones includes two private lounge chairs, a large sofa, and plenty of towels and snacks. While we did not splurge for this, they looked like excellent options for families – I even saw one couple set up a pack and play in there for nap time! Whatever works, right?!
Lastly, there’s a small Vineyard Vines sponsored shop, with bathing suits, some toys for sale, and the best beach blankets I’ve purchased so far – sandless Sand Cloud towels!
Tennis and Golf
Chatham Bars Inn has Har-Tru tennis courts for guests to use. The tennis rec area is adjacent to the pool, but felt private and quiet. You’ll want to reserve your court ahead of time if you’re hoping to work on your swing.
There is also a family-friendly 9 hole golf course on property. If you’re hoping to play a full round of 18 holes instead, the hotel can arrange for tee-times at nearby courses.
The spa at Chatham Bars Inn is a small, intimate space where you can rest and unwind. On a summer day, you’ll enter through a walkway of colorful hydrangeas, which empties into a peaceful zen garden. Outside, you’ll find a small adults-only pool area, and outdoor treatment rooms. Inside there is a relaxation room, sauna, and nail boutique.
Chatham Bars Inn offers complimentary kids’ club services for children 4-12 years old. The activities highlight the local attractions to Chatham, including adventures such as beach scavenger hunts, boat trips to look for Harbor Seals, and organized lawn games. The morning and afternoon sessions are complimentary for guests; the early evening session is $70/child, and includes beach bonfire bashes.
The hotel owns and operates a private 8 acre farm, and showcases the produce across their various restaurant menus.
As hotel guests, you can tour the farm, which is only a short drive away. In the summer months, it’s also possible to sign up for a 4-course tasting menu. You’ll enjoy your meal under a canopy of stars, enjoying a family-style meal. Advance reservations are required and tables sell out fast!
The gym at Chatham Bars Inn comes fully stocked weights, Peloton bikes, and anything else you may need. There are also classes available and personal training.
Boat Rides and charters
Are you in the mood to have that salty summer air whip through your hair? There are a variety of boating and sailing experiences to take advantage of on property.
Need an option that’s short and sweet that you can do with small kids?
There are complimentary harbor cruises (60 min) where you’ll learn more about the coastline, and you’ll explore the protected waters of Aunt Lydia’s Cove. I was surprised to learn the cove only reaches a depth of 25 feet, but most of the waters are an average of 7 feet – making it a hot-spot for seals to hang out.
Are you hoping to spend the day on the water?
Chatham Bars Inn also offers hour long sailing excursions, lobstering and fishing trips, and even private charters to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
Dreaming to witness some of the largest (and deadliest) marine life up close?
Through the hotel you can book a private expedition to search for Great White Sharks! You’ll sail the waters with a member from the Atlantic White Shark Conservatory and learn about one of the ocean’s largest predators. While I didn’t sign us up to do this with little kids, it sounds pretty exciting to participate in with an older, more adventurous crowd.
If shark-searching isn’t really your thing, then you can instead book a private Chatham Bars Inn charter to go whale watching (that would be my pick!). Keep your eyes peeled for Humpback Whales; you'll even be able to sail closer to them compared to larger boats, giving you and up-close-and-personal experience!
Both of these activities require advanced booking, and cost more than other whale watching options found nearby. However, it's a more private, personalized experience!
Chatham Bars Inn Accomodations
The 200 rooms and stand alone cottages are sprinkled across the 25-acre property -- some have ocean views, and others are tucked into quiet garden corners. Given the historic nature of the property, many of the accommodations have a unique layout. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, or seeking more room for a larger family gathering, you’ll find everything you need for your Cape Cod family vacation.
- Historic Main Inn - The rooms in the historic inn include rooms with both king-sized or 2 queen beds. The inn itself was constructed in 1914, but each guest room has been recently renovated with modern amenities.
- Spa suites - Spa-suites are located near the wellness center. These rooms do not allow children, and are designed for an adults-only escape. If you’re heading to Cape Cod for a spa-focused weekend, these would be a good option (note: they do not have ocean views, and are a bit farther from the beach and pool).
- Cottages - Sprinkled across the quarter mile of beach are the stand-alone beach cottages, all with panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. The luxury lodges offer privacy and space. Inside you’ll find a spacious living area, and separated bedroom. Each cottage also has its own private patio.
We selected an Ocean View master Suite and stayed in room 273.
This particular room was the bottom floor of a historic building; we had our own entrance, private covered porch and spacious lawn. It was perfect for families! However, there was a small staircase inside –something to keep in mind if traveling with newbie-walking toddlers.
Chatham Bars Inn Restaurant & Food
Foodies won’t have to search far for an unforgettable meal at Chatham Bars Inn. There are plenty of options, but make sure to make reservations ahead of time. Our favorites included Stars for breakfast and Beach House Grill. Here's a little info about each on-site restaurant.
- Stars - Stars is a fine dining restaurant that you'll want to save for a date night or special occasion. The menu takes inspiration from the Atlantic waters and the hotel’s farm fresh ingredients. Stars is also the location for breakfast every morning, where the posh dinner plates transform into bowls of overnight oats, fresh fluffy pancakes, and rows of lip-licking pastries.
- Beach House Grill - Beach House Grill is not only the most popular spot for hotel guests, but it’s also a go-to local hangout. Nestled right along Aunt Lydia's Cove, it has a welcoming, lively vibe. The lobster nachos were a family favorite, as well as the fried calamari, and lobster rolls.
- The Veranda - I could spend all day enjoying the views from the Veranda. This is the spot to enjoy your breakfast after you grab your buffet items from Stars each morning. Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while watching the sleepy seashore wake up. It’s also a great location to enjoy an afternoon cocktail or refreshing drink in the summer heat.
- Bayview Terrace - Bayview Terrace is where you'll find guests enjoying a leisurely drink and kids playing tag, chasing each other in the summer night. Live music plays every night, comfortable couches lay under the stars, and adirondack chairs line the overlook.
- The Sacred Cod - The Sacred Cod has what I would call “elevated pub cuisine.” You’ll find dishes that highlight the Atlantic seafood and you can enjoy your meal in a cozy interior atmosphere.
The bellhop staff at Chatham Bars Inn stood out as the stars of the show! While it was a smidge surreal being called “ma’am” for the first time in my life, the young staff did an excellent job delivering a 5-star welcoming experience.
That's a Wrap
We selected Chatham Bars Inn so that we could experience that quintessential New England summer as a family. Even though Cape Cod is filled with many charming small towns, Chatham was the perfect choice for our family; it was just big enough to keep us entertained, but not too much go-go-go for the kids. With the town being only a stone’s throw away from Chatham Bars Inn, we were able to enjoy both the perks of a hotel, but also local experiences too. If you’re looking for your next summer destination inspiration, be sure to check out Chatham Bars Inn for your Cape cod family vacation.
I hope this article has inspired your own family getaway to the Cape Cod, MA. If you have any questions, or your own travel tips, please leave them in the comments below. Also, don't forget to sign up for the monthly newsletter, packed with travel tips, upcoming news, and access to FREE destination itineraries.
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