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Boston whale watching cruise
Photograph: Shutterstock Boston whale watching cruise

The best whale watching tours near Boston

Here’s how to get out on the water to see whales up close

By Eric Grossman
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Just east of Boston—between Cape Ann and Cape Cod—is Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, one of the best spots on the planet for whale watching. Each summer, around 50 humpbacks return to this hotbed of biological activity. If you've been putting off going on a whale watch, now is the time—prime whale watching season is March to November. There are plenty of whale watching cruises departing from Boston and surrounding harbors, and all make a beeline for Stellwagen Bank. If getting within spraying distance of the largest mammals on earth isn’t your thing, stick closer to shore with one of the best cruises in Boston, or simply have a meal at one of the best waterfront restaurants in Boston.

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Best whale watching near Boston

Boston sunset cruise
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Kunal Mukherjee

1. Boston Harbor Cruises

Boston Harbor Cruises has partnered with the New England Aquarium for their whale watching tours. Not only will you cruise along in comfort on their speedy catamarans, you’ll also be joined by naturalists from the Aquarium who are there to share their whale knowledge and answer your questions. Snacks, sandwiches, drinks, and even cocktails are available.

Whale watching
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2. 7 Seas Whale Watch

Setting sail from Gloucester, 7 Seas Whale Watch makes two daily trips to Stellwagen. Each trip is staffed and narrated by an experienced Marine Biologist. The spacious Privateer IV offers a spacious, comfortable whale watching experience. The low profile hull design means you’re closer to the water for better views of the whales.

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Whale-watching
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3. Cape Ann Whale Watch

Cape Ann Whale Watch has been operating from Gloucester for more than 40 years. You’ll enjoy smooth sailing aboard the Hurricane II, an immense yet super-fast vessel that gets you to Stellwagen in less time, meaning more time for spotting humpbacks, pilots, minkes, and more.

Pacific Whale Foundation
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4. Capt. Bill & Sons

Now in its 60th year, Capt. Bill & Sons tours depart from the historic Harbor Loop in Gloucester. On your tour, on-board naturalists will give you spotting techniques for different species while teaching you about habitat, biology, and behavior. Before or after your tour, you can check out the Blue Ocean Society’s informational whale exhibit.

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whale watch
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5. Captain John Boats

Captain John Boats in Plymouth has one of the biggest fleets in New England, offering cruises, deep sea fishing, charters, and more. Their exhilarating, educational whale watching cruises depart from Town Wharf and sail to Stellwagen and Cape Cod Bay. Another option departs from Provincetown.

Humpback whale
Photograph: Pixabay

6. Newburyport Whale Watch

Newburyport Whale Watch'sspacious Captains Lady III departs from Newburyport’s historic waterfront then travels down the Merrimack River and into the Gulf of Maine. Cruises head to Stellwagen and Jeffrey’s Ledge. Passionate, expert naturalists share their whale knowledge during your trip.

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