Whale-watching recommendations in New England
June 14, 2015 8:28 AM   Subscribe

For my birthday in mid-July, my wife and I would like to go whale-watching somewhere in New England. Given our location (SE Connecticut), we would prefer not to drive quite so far as Maine, but Portsmouth would be OK. We're looking for recommendations/horror stories about locations, companies, and so forth. Tell us your New England whale-watching experiences!

Other random details:
  • All else being equal, closer to home would be better for us. One of us is not a fan of multi-hour car rides.
  • We've noted that there's at least one company offering whale-watching out of Narragansett, but I've gotten the impression that the watching is better north of Cape Cod; is this true?
  • Is mid-July a good time of year for this? Would there be any advantage to postponing the birthday celebration to another month?
  • We may end up making a weekend of it, so if you direct us to a location where there are other things to do, so much the better.
posted by Johnny Assay to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Stellwagen Bank is a hub for whale watching. I wouldn't worry about what town you leave from but focus on where the boat goes. There are a few feeding grounds the boats tend to go to.

The season is April to July.

As far as where to go -- book lodging now. Finding great and somewhat reasonable lodging in the short New England summer region is tough. I may make my decision on what town I go to based on that, too.

I would think Boston ot the North Shore would be good choices, depending on what you want.

I like Cape Ann a lot. You could choose Newburyport and see Rockport and Salem.
posted by ReluctantViking at 8:45 AM on June 14, 2015

Here's a list of companies that whale-watch on Stellwagen. Plymouth is probably the shortest drive, but I think the boat ride from Gloucester is shorter.
posted by mr vino at 8:47 AM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I went out of Provincetown a couple years ago with these people. - 3ish hour trip and we saw a lot of whales - especially humpbacks bubblenetting. I was in P-town for something else but it was a really good trip. They send a whale biologist on every trip and are very knowledgeable.
posted by leslies at 9:04 AM on June 14, 2015 [5 favorites]

Seconding Leslie's recommendation. We used that same company out of Provincetown and it was awesome. We saw lots of minke and finback whales when we went. Also Provincetown itself is really fun!
posted by FireFountain at 9:45 AM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Thirding leslies and FireFountain. I've been on that whale watch several times. I love the fact that they have marine biologists on board. They can often identify the specific whale you are looking at and tell you about its age, sex and history. After the first trip, there was no chance we'd go with another company. Highly educational and fun.
posted by zorseshoes at 10:26 AM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

We had a great trip with Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises, operating out of Barnstable (on the "bicep" of Cape Cod). They went up to Stellwagen Bank like everyone else. Sounds a lot like zorseshoes' trip; individual whales were identified and we got info about their history.
posted by dfan at 10:50 AM on June 14, 2015

Most of the trips out of Boston or the North Shore go to Stellwagen and it takes some time to get there one way. But if you take the fast ferry from Boston to Provincetown and stay at least overnight, the whale watches there are about a half hour or so from Stellwagen. Even without the whale watches, Provincetown is well worth a visit.

I went out of Provincetown last July and the whalewatching was nothing short of spectacular. Dolphin Fleet has a great reputation. (Stay at Admirals Landing B&B!)
posted by Sheydem-tants at 1:03 PM on June 14, 2015

Seconding Dolphin Fleet out of Provincetown. I've been on multiple trips with them and have never been disappointed.
posted by jammy at 1:34 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

We stayed in Gloucester and went on a trip out of there. Saw whales on our trip. Wasn't Alaska Spectacular but we saw them.
posted by JohnE at 2:37 PM on June 14, 2015

You mention one of you does not love long car rides. Is this related to motion sickness? Because if so, when we went out to Stellwagen via Gloucester, I got the most seasick I've ever been — when a boat is moving, I am mostly fine, but the whale watch involved being stopped, looking at whales, and I spent nearly the whole time on the non-whale, uncrowded side of the boat feeling like I was going to barf. So that's my horror story and it may not apply to you.

I also recommend the Cape Ann Museum if you go that way.
posted by dame at 3:42 PM on June 14, 2015

We had an outstanding whale watch (with boat rental) out of the Chatham Bars Inn in Chatham, MA in early August. The whales were actually jumping around our boat. I've never seen anything like it (went on a lot of whale watches as a kid too). This one was amazing. Highly recommended.
posted by luckdragon at 4:40 PM on June 14, 2015

One bonus of going out of Chatham is the possibility of seeing a gazillion seals and maybe a great white or two. There are also special charters to Monotomy Island where the seals and sharks seem to congregate.
posted by Gungho at 9:37 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thirding (Fourthing? Fifthing?) Dolphin Fleet. They invented whale watching, and continue to maintain high standards of regard for the animals and education for the people. Provincetown is the closest whale watching port to Stellwagen Bank, so you get more time to find whales.
posted by underthehat at 10:04 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Recommending Gloucester. Provincetown does have good whale watches, but the drive is basically as long (timewise) as to Maine, so just be warned. Gloucester is an extremely fun place to visit, lots of good eats, local culture, and a great little museum as mentioned above.
posted by Miko at 11:38 AM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

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