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Cape Cod Whale Watching
Season, Ports, Fares, Parking & More

Without a doubt, Cape Cod whale watching cruises are our #1 off-shore attraction. There's nothing that quite compares with being out on the water, up close and personal with Mother Nature at her finest!

WHALE UPDATE: April 14, 2014

This past week, a large school of rare Northern Right Whales was spotted near the eastern entrance to the Cape Cod Canal.

On Saturday, my hubby and I took a ride down to the Canal, hoping that we'd see whales spouting offshore. No luck ... but it sure was a beautiful day for our stroll on Scusset Beach!

Today I heard that aerial spotters were also out on Saturday, checking out the whale population in Cape Cod Bay. They found 145 Northern Rights,  9 Fin whales, 4 Minkes, 2 Humpbacks, and a number of dolphins.
 
Looks like it's going to be a great whale watching season! 


A Whale of a Tail on Cape Cod Bay


About Cape Cod Whale Watching



Imagine seeing a large pod of whales feeding and frolicking right before your eyes - so close that you feel the salt spray as their tails break the water's surface.

Add some Atlantic Dolphins following at boatside, flocks of sea birds cruising and diving, and the occasional appearance of harbor seals and sea turtles ... It's truly an experience like no other!


When is Whale Watching Season on Cape Cod?

Whales can be spotted in our waters most any time of year. But the "season" begins in earnest during early spring, with the migration of hundreds of these gentle giants to their summer feeding grounds off the New England coast.

For you avid whale watchers, one of the best times to visit the Cape is mid-April to early May. That's when you'll have the best chance of seeing one of the most rare species in existence - the endangered Northern Right whale.

Right Whale at the Surface

It's awe-inspiring to see these enormous (up to 60+ feet long!) creatures up close and personal. And it could well be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are only a few hundred Northern Rights left in the world!

The height of Cape Cod whale watch season is from June to September.

During the summer months, the Humpbacks are here, as are Finbacks, Minkes, Sei whales, and their colorful "cousins" - the Atlantic White-sided dolphin.

Just to let you know ... sightings are quite reliable virtually all season. I can't remember the last time I heard of a Cape Cod whale watch cruise returning to port without finding any whales!


What You'll See on a Whale Watch Cruise

Whale watching in Cape Cod waters is a full-fledged nature experience, through and through.

Sure, the whales are the main attraction ...



But they aren't the only attraction, by any means. From pier to pier, all along the way, there's so much more to see.

Avid birdwatchers - be sure to bring you binoculars. Among the many species common to our waters, you might spot Wilson's Storm Petrels, Northern Gannets, Greater Shearwaters and Laughing Gulls, just to name a few.

Greater Shearwater


And kids of all ages - keep an eye out for harbor seals, porpoises, dolphin, and perhaps a giant ocean sunfish or a basking shark along the way.

That's the beauty of being on the water in New England. You never know what you'll see. It's always an adventure!

Where to Find Cape Cod Whale Watching Cruises

Although some sportfishing charters also offer whale watching, I generally suggest a specialized cruiseline for the best all-around (and most affordable) tour.

Whale watch cruises leave from:

  • Barnstable Harbor in the mid-Cape region; and

  • Provincetown Harbor at the farthest tip of Cape Cod.


Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises
Barnstable Harbor
Barnstable, MA
(508) 362-6088
www.whales.net

Despite the name, these excursions don't really depart from Hyannis. They go out of Barnstable Harbor. That's about 5 miles north of Hyannis, on Cape Cod Bay.

Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises features a state-of-the-art, high-speed, water-jet driven ship that's designed and built especially for whale watching. It's a good-sized vessel measuring in at 130 feet in total length, with comfy interior cabins, a well-stocked galley, and outdoor decks for up-close viewing.

The naturalists onboard do a great job of narrating the sights, explaining the whales' behaviors, and even introducing you to some of the whales by name. (Yes, the same whales return to our area year after year, and individuals are easily recognized by their distinctive markings.)

  • Operating Season: Mid-April to late October (Opening Day is April 22, 2014)
     
  • Time Onboard: About 4 hours

  • Tickets: $49 per adult; $28 per child 4-12; Free boarding pass for children 3 and under.

  • Discounts: Seniors

  • Parking: Parking is available in the lot just past Millway Marina ($15 per vehicle)

  • $ Saving Tip: About 3/4 mile from the pier, there's a big parking lot at the Barnstable County Courthouse Complex (marked with the yellow pin on the map below). Parking is free, and it's an easy 15 minute walk to the pier.


View Whale Watch Pier and Parking - Barnstable MA in a larger map




Dolphin Fleet of Provincetown
MacMillan Pier
Provincetown, MA
(800) 826-9300
www.whalewatch.com

Dolphin Fleet is docked at MacMillan Pier in downtown Provincetown, MA.

An up-side of sailing from with the Dolphin Fleet is that it's the closest to the whale grounds. A downside is that Provincetown is at the far end of the Cape. So getting to the pier might take you a while, unless you're staying in Provincetown or in one of the nearby towns (Truro, Wellfleet, or Eastham).

Dolphin Fleet has multiple ships, each with climate-controlled cabins, open viewing decks, and a galley serving a variety of meals, snacks and beverages. Onboard exhibits and hands-on displays will entertain and amuse the kids - and adults, too - during travel time to the whalegrounds.

  • Operating Season: Mid-April to late October (Opening Day is April 12, 2014)

  • Time Onboard: About 3-4 hours

  • Tickets: $46 per adult; $31 per child under 12; Free boarding pass for children 4 and under.

  • Discounts: AAA, seniors, groups, $2 discount coupon at company's website

  • Parking: Parking can be a real headache in Provincetown, especially during the summer months. If you get there early enough, you might find a spot in the parking lot adjacent to the pier. If not, check the side streets a few blocks away from the pier. You can usually find a spot in one of those lots. (Expect to pay from $15-$30 or more for parking, depending on the time of year and where you park.)

  • Suggestion: If you'll be whale watching during June, July or August, be sure to get into town early enough so you'll have plenty of time to park the car, walk to the pier, and be on time for your Provincetown whale watch excursion!



Provincetown Whale Watches
F
isherman's Pier
Provincetown, MA
(800) 225-4000
www.ptownwhalewatch.com

Provincetown Whale Watches also leaves from ... I'll bet you guessed it ... Provincetown.

Docked at Fisherman's Pier, this Cape Cod whale watching company has a shorter operating season than the others and only one departure a day. 


  • Operating Season: Mid-June to early September (Opening Day is June 21, 2014)

  • Time Onboard: About 3-4 hours

  • Tickets: $40 per adult; $25 per child ages 6-12; Free boarding pass for children 4 and under.

  • Discounts: AAA, seniors, large groups, online discount coupon

  • Parking: Parking may be available in the Fisherman's Wharf lot, if you get there early enough. Otherwise, be prepared to park elsewhere in town and walk to the pier.



Related Pages:

Aimee's Day of Whale Watching on Cape Cod

Other Places to Go Whale Watching in Massachusetts

Whale Watching on New England's Northern Coastline

Activity & Attraction Gallery - Main Page

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Photo Credits: Northern Right Whale and Greater Shearwater courtesy of NOAA

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