Boston whale watching cruises give you with the opportunity to see some of the ocean's most fascinating creatures up close, just a short distance from the city.
You'll watch the whales splash in the water, see pods of dolphins playing nearby, and observe many species of sea birds and other marine life.
How many whales will you see? Usually anywhere from 3-4 to 10 or more.
Whale cruise boat captains know how to bring you up close without disturbing or accidentally injuring the whales, so you'll have usually have execellent views as the whales frolic in the water.
As a bonus, you'll get a fascinating tour past many of the Boston Harbor Islands as you cruise out to see the whales.
You'll even pass by historic lighthouses along the way.
Whale watch trips last about 3-4 hours. Cruises depart from Central Wharf on the Downtown Boston Waterfront, located next to the New England Aquarium..
Your whale watching cruise ship - a large catamaran custom-designed for comfort and speed - will whisk you out to Stellwagen Bank, a large National Marine Sanctuary about 25 miles east of Boston.
A certified New England Aquarium naturalist sails with you on each cruise, and explains what you will see, answers your questions, and shares knowledge about the whales, dolphins, and other marine creatures who live in this sanctuary.
What to expect:
- Large whales from several different species - typically, humpbacks, fin whales, and minkes. You may even spot pilot whales, endangered right whales, and sperm whales, as well as a few other much less common species. Especially fun: watching the young whale calves play.
- Humpback whales often breach, or jump out of the water, one or more times. Have your camera ready!
- Pods of playful dolphins, seals, and harbor porpoises, along with lots of seabirds. You may also see dolphins breaching!
- Amazing views from the catamaran's 3 outside viewing decks - and good views from the climate-controlled interior cabin.
- You may hear the naturalist on board may call the adult humpback whales by names given to them by researchers who identify and monitor the whales as they migrate each year between the Caribbean and Stellwagen Bank.
- Because so many whales live in Stellwagen Bank, Boston Harbor Tours (which operates the whale watch cruises from Boston in cooperation with New England Aquarium) guarantees whale sightings for each cruise - so if for some reason there are no whales to be seen on your trip, they will give you a free ticket for a future whale cruise with them.
When you get a 3, 5, or 7-day GoBoston Discount Card, you can choose a free Whale Watching Cruise ticket. Plus, the discount card gives you the free admission to 40+ other top Boston area attractions, for savings totaling up to 55%.
- Sunscreen, sunglasses, maybe a hat - The sun reflects on the water, and may feel much stronger than on land.
- Camera (or phone) and/or binoculars - You'll find lots to photograph and watch! Make sure your camera (or phone) is waterproof, as you may get splashed while photographing.
- Sweater or jacket - light to medium-weight, depending on the season - You may feel MUCH cooler on water than on land, and there may be a breeze.
- Motion-sickness medication? No - because motion-sickness remedies such as Dramamine need to be taken at least an hour before boarding. The catamarans used for Boston whale watching cruises are designed to be highly stable, but if you think you might experience motion sickness, take Dramamine (or something similar) before you board.
- Comfortable rubber-soled sneakers or shoes - Far better and more stable than sandals or flip-flops for moving around on the decks.
- Food? No need to - you can buy sandwiches, fruit, and snacks in the ship's galley, along with non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages.
- Should you buy your tickets in advance? Yes, these cruises are very popular, have limited capacity, and often sell out, especially on weekends, holidays, and during summer months. Buy online in advance to save time, get your preferred date, and find the best deals.
- Do whale watching cruises take place year-round? No. They run through late November, stop during the winter when the whales head south to the Caribbean, and then start up again in late March after the whales migrate back to New England.
- How big are the whales? Humpback whales can be up to 50 feet long and 45 tons in weight. If you're very lucky, you may get to see them "breach" - suddenly jump out of the ocean. Needless to say, something this large makes a very big splash! Your boat will rock! Finback whales are even bigger - up to 70 feet in length and 65 tons in weight.
- How close will you get to the whales? It depends ... boat captains get as close as they can to the whales and other mammals without endangering them. You'll usually be close enough to get great views.