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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!

A Whale of a Tail on Cape Cod Bay

Need to Know Info

  • Open: Mid-Apr. to mid-Oct.

  • Best For: Ages 5 and up

  • Time to Allot: 5+ hours
  • Food Available: Yes

  • Restrooms: Yes

  • Reservations: Recommended 

About Cape Cod Whale Watch Cruises

Imagine gigantic whales (and little ones, too!) feeding and frolicking right before your eyes.

They're so close, you feel the salt spray as their tails break the water's surface.

Atlantic Dolphins follow along at boatside. Flocks of sea birds are cruising and diving. And every now and then, a harbor seal or an ocean sunfish makes an appearance.

It's an experience of a lifetime!

When is Whale Watch 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. The experts estimate that there are only a few hundred Northern Rights left in the world!

The height of Cape Cod whale watch cruise 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. They're out there, too! 

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

Despite the name, these excursions don't depart from Hyannis. They go out of Barnstable Harbor. That's about 5 miles north of Hyannis, in the village of Barnstable 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 23, 2016)
  • Time Onboard: About 4 hours

  • Tickets: $49 adult; $40 senior 62+; $28 child 4-12; free boarding pass for children 3 and under; active military free (with valid ID).

  • Discounts: May be offered. Check site for details.

  • Parking: Paid parking is available in the lot just past Millway Marina
  • Accessibility: Can accommodate smaller manual wheelchairs. Rest room on first deck. Call the company for details.

  • $ 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

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

An up-side of sailing 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 15, 2016)
  • Time Onboard: About 3-4 hours

  • Tickets: $47 per adult; $31 per child under 12; Free boarding pass for children 4 and under. Reservations recommended.

  • Discounts: Check company website for discount offers

  • 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.)

  • Accessibility: Smaller manual wheelchairs can be brought onboard, but rest rooms cannot be accessed. Call the company for details.

  • Suggestion: If you'll be whale watching in 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
Fisherman's Pier
Provincetown, MA
(800) 225-4000

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 25, 2016)

  • Time Onboard: About 3-4 hours

  • Tickets: $42 adult; $37 senior; $26 ages 6-12; free boarding pass for children 4 and under.

  • Discounts: See company website for discounts

  • 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.

  • Accessibility: Smaller manual wheelchairs can be brought onboard, but rest rooms cannot be accessed. Call the company for details.

Related Pages:

Aimee's Day of Whale Watching on Cape Cod

Other Places to Go Whale Watching in Massachusetts

Ask Me a Question About Cape Cod Activities & Attractions

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