Whale Watching in Boston and Gloucester

This post is about whale watching excursions from both Boston and nearby Gloucester, including an analysis of online reviews, tips on how to dress and what to expect.

 

 


TIPS FOR PLANNING A WHALE WATCHING TRIP

When Is Whale Watching Season?

Whale watching season runs from April to October with the summer months offering more scheduled outings. Early or late in the season schedule times for excursions are more limited with just one or two trips a day.

At peak times including holiday weekends, some companies have as many as 8 trips per day.

How Long Does a Tour Last?

To reach the prime locations to see whales, you will have to travel on the boat for about an hour. Then with time to visit various feeding spots and the return trip, your entire voyage will be between 3 and 4 hours long. 

What Will You See and Learn? 

You will likely see different whale species and many cruises have ‘naturalists’ on board to explain differences among species, educate you about spotting techniques and also whale behavior.

Some companies offer a whale sighting guarantee and if you don’t see any whales on your trip, you will be given some sort of compensation like a ticket for another trip.

Read the fine print and check the FAQ section before choosing which company to book.

Whale Watching Main Image

 

What You Should Wear

Rubber sole shoes or sneakers are best and give you the best traction on a moving boat. Depending on the season, the weather could be cold and breezy when you are out on the ocean.

In summer months, bring a jacket, sweater or hoodie. In April through November, you will likely want a winter coat, a hat (that won’t blow off!) and gloves.

What to Bring with You

A camera or smartphone (fully-charged or extra batteries), sunscreen, sunglasses, and binoculars.

Food, Beverages, and Restrooms Onboard

All boats have ‘galleys’ that serve refreshments on board for purchase. It is good to have cash since credit/debit card machines do not always function when far out from land. All boats have restrooms.

Motion Sickness

Most cruises are aboard comfortable and highly stable boats. Still, it is possible that if you have never been on a boat in the ocean, you may experience motion sickness.

One way to avoid feeling queasy on your trip is to take Dramamine (at least an hour before the trip to be effective). While on the ship, try riding toward the front of the boat and face forwards. Bring some saltines or crackers as well.

Difference Between Whale Watching Trips from Boston and Gloucester

Boston is of course where you are most likely where you’re staying. It is more convenient to take an excursion from Boston.  

The benefit of departing from Gloucester is that it is located between two of the primary feeding grounds of the whales. Excursions from Gloucester have the flexibility of going to either Jeffreys Ledge or Stellwagen Bank, allowing you to see the best whales on your trip.  

To get to Gloucester, you can travel by train on MBTA. It takes approximately an hour from North Station to Gloucester. Trains run frequently. The cost is between $7-$10. By car, the ride is approximately 45 minutes.

 


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BOSTON WHALE WATCHING EXCURSIONS

Boston Harbor Cruises

Boston Harbor Cruises takes passengers to Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary, where there is an abundance of marine life to behold. 

The 3-hour cruise is guided by a naturalist from the Whale Center of New England who will share intriguing facts about the whales and other marine life during your passage.

Riders will have a chance to view a variety of different breeds of whales including, Humpbacks, Minkes, and Finbacks, some reaching lengths up to 80 ft.

Their high-speed catamarans board up to 400 and feature three outside viewing decks. The interior cabin is climate controlled and complete with cozy seating and a snack bar. 


Reviews

Boston Harbor Cruises sports a 4.5 out of 5 stars rating on both TripAdvisor and Get Your Guide (read their reviews).

Many reviewers report seeing a great number of whales and a variety of species. Comments state that the guide is extremely knowledgeable and considerate with answering questions. Guests report that the interior cabins are very comfortable and the three decks provide ample viewing opportunity.

The word “fantastic” appears dozens of times in reviews. Over and over, guests say that it was definitely worth the money and would even take the tour a second time!  

The tiny percentage of dissatisfied guests were disappointed because they became seasick or because they did not see any whales. The company does provide a “rain check” in the event that this occurs. 


Tickets (non-refundable)

This excursion is included as part of 3 tourist discount passes, the Explorer Pass, the Go Boston Card and the Build Your Own Pass options. 

  • $57.75 adults
  • $49.35 seniors
  • $36.75 children (aged 3-11)
  • $18 kids (under 3 years)
  • More info or to book.

NOTE: Book with the ability to cancel up to 24 hours in advance. Also, enter our $100 a week giveaway contest.

Whale sightings are fully guaranteed. If you do not see any whales on your trip, the company will give you a free ticket for a future trip. 


Schedule of Tours

Mar 21st to May 2nd

  • Mon-Fri: 10 am
  • Sat/Sun: 10 am, 2:30 pm

May 2nd to 22nd

  • Mon-Fri: 10 am, 12 pm
  • Sat/Sun: 10 am, 11 am, 12 pm, 2:30 pm

May 23rd to May 25th

  • Daily: 9 am, 10 am, 11:30 am, 12 pm, 2:30 pm, 5 pm

May 26th to June 19th

  • Mon-Fri: 10 am, 12 pm, 2:30 pm.
  • Sat/Sun: 10 am, 11 am, 12 pm, 2:30 pm, 3:30 pm, 5 pm

June 20th to September 7th

  • Mon-Fri: 9 am, 10 am, 11 am, 12 pm, 2:30 pm
  • Sat/Sun: 9 am, 10 am, 11 am, 12 pm, 1:30 pm, 2:30 pm, 3:30 pm, 5 pm

September 8th to September 20th

  • Mon-Fri: 10 am, 12 pm
  • Sat/Sun: 10 am, 11 am, 12 pm, 2:30 pm

September 21st – October 30th

  • Mon-Fri: 12 pm
  • Sat/Sun: 10 am, 12 pm

Oct 31st – Nov 15th

  • Daily: 12 pm

 


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GLOUCESTER WHALE WATCHING EXCURSIONS

TIP: Before booking be sure to check Groupon and Living Social for specials. They don’t always have deals, but when they do you can save almost 50% on the cost of a ticket. 


7 Seas Whale Watch

On TripAdvisor, 7 Seas Whale Watch is the top tour out of 27 tours in Gloucester. Operating since 1983, 7 Seas is home to three generations of sea captains. While each trip is unique, 7 Seas boast a 99% sightings record with a tremendous amount of marine life to be seen.

 

 

Partnered with one of the world’s most renowned whale and dolphin conservation organizations, Ocean Alliance, 7 Seas Whale Watch’s goal is to educate and inspire passengers, and provide a deeper understanding for the marine environment.

Their boat is complete with a sun deck for panoramic views, and wrap-around low profile hull design which allows for unobstructed views close to the water. The inner cabin features a full galley with snacks, sandwiches and a full bar. While it is designed to hold 300 passengers, The Privateer IV will only carry a maximum of 149 passengers to ensure safety and comfort. 


Reviews

7 Seas has a solid 5 out of 5-star rating on TripAdvisor. The overwhelming majority of reviews for this tour strongly praise the friendly staff and boat itself.

The Privateer IV is said to be kept very clean and comfortable. Many reviewers were very pleased that the staff did not cram many people on the boat, which allowed for ample viewing spaces for everyone aboard.

The tour guides receive high praise for their abundance of knowledge and desire to answer questions. The sound system is said to be top-notch and easy to hear anywhere on the boat. Users report seeing countless whales and dolphins and generally are in favor of the 4-hour duration period. 


Tickets

  • $48 adults
  • $45 seniors
  • $35 children (ages 4-16)
  • Free for children 3 and under
  • Discounts available for AAA members, military members, and students
  • Click here to purchase tickets. 

TIP: Before booking be sure to check Groupon and Living Social for specials. They don’t always have deals, but when they do you can save almost 50% on the cost of a ticket. 


Schedule

April 15th to June 24th

  • Daily: 1:30 pm

June 25th to September 2nd

  • Daily: 8:30 am, 1:30 pm

September 3rd to 31st

  • Mon-Fri: 1:00 pm
  • Sat/Sun: 1:30 pm

October

  • Daily: 1:00 pm

 


Cape Ann Whale Watch

Cape Ann

Boasting their Hurricane II, a 115 ft. length boat with over 400 ft. of whale watching space, Cape Ann Whale Watch promises passengers a speedy trip to their destination.

Their 3-4 hour long expedition is designed to spend as little time as possible on the actual journey, to allow travelers to spend an extended amount of time with the whales.

From Sperm Whales to Blue Whales, this cruise aims to showcase the many different breeds that migrate to Massachusetts every year.

Their heated-indoor cabin features a full-service galley offering snacks, hot meals, and a full bar. Cape Ann’s vessels communicate with one another to ensure they’re following the whales wherever they choose to go. From the North and South shores of Massachusetts to Salem, Cape Cod, Peabody, and Swampscott, this cruise is dedicated to providing guests with the best opportunity to whale watch.

A perk from Cape Ann is free parking, something other companies don’t offer. Additionally, Cape Ann sells seasickness pills on board for those with weaker stomachs for just $1.


Reviews

Cape Ann Whale Watch is rated as the #2 tour in Gloucester on TripAdvisor where they boast a 4 ½ out of 5 stars rating. The majority of reviews suggest the cruise is well worth the price, citing an informative crew and plenty of whale sightings.

Some users report the boat was too crowded and the trip duration too long. Keep in mind this cruise is intended to maximize on their generous availability of space and duration lengths can vary between the 4 and 5-hour mark. 


Tickets

  • $50 adults
  • $45 seniors
  • $35 children (ages 4-16)
  • Free for children 3 and under
  • Discount $5 off for AAA, CAA, AARP, college students, military personnel
  • *Discounts for groups are available through their website

*Whale sightings are fully guaranteed. If you do not see any whales on your trip, the company will give you a free ticket for a future trip.

TIP: Before booking be sure to check Groupon and Living Social for specials. They don’t always have deals, but when they do you can save almost 50% on the cost of a ticket. 


Schedule

April 13th – 30th

  • Saturdays: 1:30 pm (Call for midweek schedule)

May 1st – June 30th

  • Mon – Fri: 10 am only
  • Sat/Sun: 8:30 am and 1:30 pm

July 1st – Sept 2nd

  • Every day: 8:30 am and 1:30 pm

Sept 3rd – Sept 30th

  • Mon – Fri: 1 pm
  • Sat/Sun: 8:30 am and 1:30 pm

October 1st – 30th

  • Every day: 10 am only

 


Captain Bill & Sons

Captain Bill & Sons is a family-operated company celebrating over 50 years in business. Their 3-4 hour whale watching tour explores both Stellwagen and Jeffrey’s Ledge. You’ll be guided by a naturalist from the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation who will share insight on whale spotting.

The tour offers passengers a chance to spot many different breeds of whales including the Northern Right Whale. Captain Bill & Son’s guarantee an uncrowded boat without lines to the onboard bar, galley, and restrooms.

Teamed with The Whale Center of New England, Captain Bill & Son’s goal is to make your trip an educational and of course fun experience. For a preview of the tour, click here for a video.


Reviews

Captain Bill & Son’s is rated at  4 1/2 stars on TripAdvisor and a Certificate of Excellence. Guests are most impressed with the smaller style boat, compared to its larger, commercial-style competitors. Many say the boat never felt overly crowded which made for a relaxing experience.

The departure from Gloucester is also preferred to typical Boston departures, cutting the time to reach destinations down significantly.

It is consistently reported that there are many whale sightings, most commonly the Humpbacks. The guide/naturalist is said to be a tremendous benefit to the tour, offering expert knowledge about the marine life. The boat is described as comfortable and the trip calming.


Tickets  (Online reservations highly recommended)

*Whale sightings are fully guaranteed. If you do not see any whales on your trip, the company will give you a free ticket for a future trip.

TIP: Before booking be sure to check Groupon and Living Social for specials. They don’t always have deals, but when they do you can save almost 50% on the cost of a ticket. 


Schedule

May and June

  • Monday-Friday 10:30 am;  Sat/Sun 9 am and 2 pm

July 1 to September 4

  • Every day 9 am and 2 pm (additional trips may run at 1:00 p.m. Inquire to find out)

September 5-30

  • Monday-Friday 11 am
  • Sat/Sun 9 am and 2 pm

October to end of season

  • Monday-Friday 10 am, Saturday 1 pm,  Sunday 10 am

 


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DEALS AND DISCOUNTS

The following section provides details about various opportunities to save money on whale watching excursions, including information about tourist passes and other discount options.


Tourist Passes

The New England Aquarium Whale Watch (provided by Boston Harbor Cruises) is currently included with two tourist passes.

Depending on how you use these services, you could save anywhere from 20% – 50% off general admission prices for this activity and many others.

The easiest option is a Build Your Own Pass, which allows you to save 20% off several fun tours and attractions when you purchase at least 2 tickets.

As long as there is at least one additional activity on their list that you find of interest, you can save money on both by purchasing admission at the same time!

 

If you’re interested in multiple attractions or activities, you may want to consider an all-inclusive Go Boston Card instead.

This option includes admission to dozens of attractions, tours and more for one low price. All-inclusive passes are only valid for a specific amount of time (1, 2, 3, 5, or 7 days).

Although this is an excellent option for those who want to see everything possible while visiting Boston, unless you plan to use the pass for at least 4-5 activities per day, you probably won’t save much money with it.

That said, if you manage to use an all-inclusive pass for 5-6 attractions or tours per day, you should be able to save around 50% off everything.

Here are a few of the most popular additional activities included with both passes:

If you want to learn more about how you can use these services to save money, please read our post covering Boston tourist passes.


Discount Sites

For those who only want to enjoy a whale watching adventure, you may want to consider checking a site like Groupon or Living Social to see if they have any deals on this activity.

These services often provide discounts on at least a few whale watching tours, allowing you to save some money on tickets.

In addition to the deals you’ll find on these sites, they also frequently provide coupon codes you can use to save an extra 10% – 20% off local activities.

To get the biggest possible discount, check both the top and bottom of the page for banners which may provide coupons you can use to save more money.


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