Note: Some companies on this list may have limited operations due to COVID-19. Check with operators about availability before you book.
From April through October, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, plays host to several whale species, including humpback, pilot and blue whales. For a memorable whale watching experience in Cape Cod, consider one of these tour companies, rated by experts and travelers alike as the best available. Many of the tours will travel to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which sits about 25 miles off the Massachusetts coast and serves as an important feeding ground for whales.
Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises – Barnstable
Offering whale watching tours since 1980, this company, which operates out of Barnstable Harbor, takes participants to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary on a boat specifically designed for whale watching and maneuverability. There are three levels for viewing, as well as bench seating throughout the boat. Plus, a naturalist accompanies each trip to provide educational commentary. Tours last about 3 1/2 to four hours and often feature sightings of minkes, humpbacks and finbacks. Reviewers report seeing lots of whales and say the captain is skilled at positioning the boat so everyone has a view. The company offers tours once or twice daily, depending on the month, at varying times between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets start at $65 for ages 13 and older, $45 for ages 3 to 12 and are free for children younger than 3. The company also offers chartered cruises.
Dolphin Fleet – Whale Watch
Don’t let the company’s name fool you: Dolphin Fleet is all about whales. And because it departs from Provincetown – the closest port to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary – whales are often spotted as soon as the boat leaves port. During the three- to four-hour cruise, the onboard naturalist will help passengers identify whales and other animals like dolphins and sea birds. Tourgoers say guides are very informative and that they see plenty of whales. Tours, which depart from Provincetown’s MacMillan Pier, run mid-April through October at multiple times throughout the day, depending on the month and season. Dolphin Fleet also offers a sunset trip that is available June through August only. Along with two decks and an indoor heated and air-conditioned cabin, there is also an informational science center on board. Tickets cost approximately $65 for adults, $40 for ages 5 to 12 and are free for children 4 and younger. If no whales are sighted, you can return for another tour.
Boston Harbor Cruises – Whale Watch
If a daytrip to Boston is already on your Cape Cod itinerary, consider hopping on a whale watching cruise in Beantown. Go in search of minke, humpback, right and finback whales on this trip to the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary aboard a catamaran that can hold up to 400 passengers. The boat has three outdoor decks and an indoor climate-controlled area. Plus, naturalists from the New England Aquarium accompany the tour to explain whale behaviors and answer questions.
Reviewers highly recommend this cruise, praising the friendly crew and numerous whale sightings. Tickets start at $60 for ages 12 and older, $40 for ages 3 to 11 and $23 for children younger than 3. Tours operate daily from late March through mid-November at varying times, depending on the day and season, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Because Boston Harbor Cruises partners with the aquarium for these tours, you could save some money by purchasing a combo cruise and aquarium ticket. The company also offers harbor cruises and ferry services.
Take a four-hour whale watching tour out of either Plymouth or Provincetown with Captain John Boats. The Plymouth tour heads to Cape Cod Bay and Stellwagen Bank in search of various species of whales, while the Provincetown tour departs from Macmillan Wharf on a quest to find right and pilot whales, among others. If no whales are spotted, you’re invited to return on a future tour free of charge. Reviewers say they learn a lot about whales and see both whales and calves, as well as dolphins.
Tickets for the Plymouth tour cost approximately $65 for ages 13 and older and $45 for ages 4 to 12, while tickets for the Provincetown tour cost approximately $65 for ages 13 and older and $40 for ages 4 to 12. Both are free for children 3 and younger. Plymouth tours general run daily at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. June through August; in May and September, tours are available select weekdays and weekends. The Provincetown tour is only available in July and August Monday through Friday at noon. Captain John Boats also operates a few cruises on its paddlewheel boat the Pilgrim Belle.
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