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Your Guide to Whale Watching on the Cape

Of all the many attractions of Cape Cod, whale watching is certainly at the top of the list. Why wouldn't it be? Whales are the largest creatures on the planet, and many visitors to the Cape & Islands have probably never seen these awesome marine mammals in the wild. Set off on an adventure that takes you around the tip of the Cape, along our scenic coastline, past Coast Guard stations and historic lighthouses, and out to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, to see these legendary animals up close.

If it's your first chance to go whale watching, get ready for an amazing experience. Here are some suggestions to help you plan your excursion.

The Best Whale Watching Trips

The charter or tour you end up choosing will be ultimately up to you, but these are some of the closest charters to Handkerchief Shoals Inn..
  • The Provincetown Art Association Address: 307 Commercial St #1,
  • Provincetown, MA 
  • Phone: 508-240-3636

Known Cape-wide for exceptional customer service, Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch will grant you a peek into the daily life of these beautiful creatures. Guided by marine biologists, you'll have access to a knowledgeable crew, a perfect view of a variety of whales, and in case you get snacky, enjoy a host of menu options from the on-board snack bar. For an unforgettable sunset over the ocean, their sunset cruise is not to be missed! Pack your sunscreen, some water, and a sweatshirt, and head to MacMillan Wharf in Ptown, from where the Dolphin Fleet departs multiple times a day on the ideal family-friendly whale watching excursion. Reservations are available on the website or by phone, and tickets may be purchased at their office conveniently located next to the Provincetown Information Center. Schedules may vary throughout the season, so be sure to check the web.

Excellent Cape Cod Beaches

The beaches near Provincetown are among the best. Race Point Beach, along the northernmost shore of Cape Cod, is the main attraction. The beach is immense, curving along the outer shore between Old Harbor Life Saving Station, nestled in the dunes, to Race Point Lighthouse at Hatches Harbor. Race Point Lighthouse, accessible by a walking trail at low tide, encapsulates all the history and scenic charm of the New England coastline.

For a truly unforgettable experience, pack a sturdy hiking shoe for a walk across the Provincetown Causeway to Long Point Beach. An isolated stretch of sand at the extreme end of Provincetown, Long Point offers a retreat from the bustle of Commercial Street, with all the scenic beauty of Provincetown Harbor. With Long Point Light Station and Wood End lighthouse, the breakwater leads to a unique option for beach lovers. For a shortcut, just jump on the boat shuttle from the marina!
  • Phone: 508-746-264

Please Note: If vacationing on the mid to lower Cape, be sure to book their cruise departing from MacMillan Pier in Provincetown. (Capt. John Boats also depart from Plymouth.)

Captain John will take you and your family on a four-hour whale watching experience. The on-board naturalists will give you expert commentary on the multiple species of whale. Enjoy full galley service including alcoholic drinks on a highly educational, comfortable, and quite fun excursion.

(If your whale watch is departing from Provincetown, the closest port to the protected marine habitat where the whales feed, be sure to factor some extra time for parking, as you will be navigating slow-moving pedestrian traffic in Provincetown center. Likewise, be sure to leave time after your whale watch to enjoy the charming shops, unique entertainment, and fabulous food that Ptown has to offer!)
  • Address: 436 Old Queen Anne Rd, Chatham, MA
  • Phone: 508-737-7915
  • Prices: $950 for 2.5 hours

BlueWater Entertainment is a private charter that offers a number of different cruise options. While it is more expensive than some of the other options, you can make the trip your own since you're renting the ship out for your personal travel party. Leave the crowds behind and enjoy a unique adventure of your own design!

Seal Tours

Address: MacMillan Pier, Provincetown, MA

Tickets: $25 per person, Cash Only

Harbor seals are the most common species of marine mammal that swims around Cape Cod. If you want the chance to see some of these blubbery boys, this is one of the best places to do so. Boat tours for this have a maximum capacity of 12 people, and it's a popular excursion, so get here early for your best shot.
Address: 100 Ryder's Cove Rd, Chatham, MA
Phone: 508-469-0077
Prices: $850 for 2.25 hours

If you want a whale watching tour with a little bit of everything, then Monomoy Sportfishing might be the best fit for you. It's a private boat, so with your own group, in a unique and private setting of no more than 6 passengers, you can see all manner of wildlife including whales, seals, sharks and waterfowl. Be sure to check out their website for some amazing photos of the magnificent mammals that dwell in Cape Cod waters.

Whale Watching FAQs

When is whale watching season?
Whales migrate to Cape Cod to feed in warmer months. June - October is usually peak season for whale watching! But sometimes spouts and tails are visible even from shore in Spring.

What species of whale will I see?
Cape Cod is a beacon for whale watchers, as several species of whale thrive in the Atlantic Ocean here. You may have a chance to see:
  • Humpback Whales
  • Finback Whales
  • Minke Whales
  • Pilot Whales
  • Right Whales

On a whale watch tour, you will learn to distinguish multiple types at a glance. The on-board naturalist can also identify and point out individuals with distinguishing markings, known to researchers from previous seasons.

Do they have bathrooms on the charters?
Yes, most fishing charters and tour boats have bathrooms on board.

What should I bring on the tour?
Some people bring binoculars, but these are by no means necessary. Photography buffs may want to bring a camera, but if bringing your good gear, be sure it has a good strap! Hang onto your phone if taking pictures over the side of the vessel. (Some tours have a professional videographer on board who can document your day for you). You may also wish to pack:
  • A sweatshirt, jacket, or windbreaker
  • Snacks and water
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a cap

Is whale watching safe?
With a skilled captain at the helm, you have nothing to worry about when whale watching. A remote risk to whale watchers may arise if a small craft ventures too close to these gargantuan sea dwellers, who are apt to surface unexpectedly while feeding, but mishaps are quite rare.

Will I get seasick on a whale watching tour?
For those who get motion sickness easily, going on a whale watching tour in the northern Atlantic Ocean might activate your seasickness. Even for those who have strong sea legs, the occasional choppy waters can make the stomach churn, especially in smaller boats.
Whale watching vessels tend to be larger, but even so, in certain weather conditions that result in choppier water, tours may be rescheduled by the tour operator. (Make sure they have your accurate contact information when making your reservation and check your text messages before heading to the boat).

Art's Dune Tours

Address: 4 Standish St, Provincetown, MA
Hours: 9:30AM - 6PM

Are you more into high- speed thrills? Enjoy a one- to two-hour sand dune tour with a professional driver. Art's Dune Tours offers a few tour packages, including a ride through the Provinceland dunes to the beach at dusk, where a jaw-dropping sunset awaits you. You can also try out the Dune and Water package where you'll be able to ride the dunes and then ride the waves.

Art has a little bit of something for everyone. Book a tour with him today.