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!
A Whale of a Tail on Cape Cod Bay
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!
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!
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.
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!
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:
Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises
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.)
Dolphin Fleet of Provincetown
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.
Provincetown Whale Watches
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.
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
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Photo Credits: Northern Right Whale and Greater Shearwater courtesy of NOAA