How can you experience whales in New England?
Whale species can be seen and experienced on a whale tour along the Massachusetts whale route and whale watching in and around Boston in New England. It is an impressive experience to experience when the whales exhale their breathing air as they emerge from the depths of the sea. Sometimes you can hear that over long distances. The cameras on the whale watching boats keep clicking when a whale goes down. Then he says goodbye with an elegant waving of his caudal fin, the fluke. After that, however, you need patience as a whale watcher. Depending on the species of whale, it may take minutes or more to reappear elsewhere to take a breath. It is exciting when a whale heaves its body out of the sea. In "Breaching" he often jumps far into the air and catapults his massive body out of the water. Not every time you see such spectacles during whale watching in Massachusetts. But the chances are good.
And not only that. There are also some very interesting museums in the northeastern United States, that provide information about whale species, historical whale hunting and life on board whaling ships. Massachusetts was once the center of whaling in New England. Whaling ships departed from New Bedford or Nantucket and cruised on the world's seas. Only when their storage rooms were filled with the valuable oil of the marine mammals did they return home. Today visitors can look for the animals themselves on a whale tour. These stay in the Stellwagen Bank and around Cape Cod every summer.
What kinds of whales can you see off New England?
Humpback whales are often seen on whale watching tours off the coast of Massachusetts. On a whale watching tour from Provincetown on Cape Cod we were lucky enough to be able to observe a whole group at their feeding grounds in the Stellwagen Bank.
This region in the waters off Boston is one of the best regions in the world for whale watching. The animals find a richly laid table here. Rich populations of herring, mackerel, krill and other fish guarantee them food for the summer months. No wonder they return to this place every year. The operators of the whale tours wait year after year for the whales to return, which they even name. Since every whale fin and whale fluke is different - like a fingerprint - they can easily recognize the animals they know. If one of them is spotted, there is usually a big hello on board the whale watching boats. As if the operator met an old friend again. Between May and October there are excellent conditions to watch them on their way to their feeding grounds.
What do you need for whale watching from Boston?
Arm yourself against seasickness
The feeding grounds of the whale species in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctary, the Jeffreys Ledge or the Golf of Maine are relatively far out in the sea. This means that the journey takes a little longer. Whale watching tours usually take between three and four hours. The wave conditions can often change during this period. If you get seasick easily, you should be prepared for it. Therefore, it is advisable, especially with the small excursion boats, to have means to treat seasickness. There are suitable medications that are best taken from home.
Take a warm jacket with you
Even in summer it can be quite fresh on the water. A breeze often occurs unexpectedly on a whale tour. It is therefore good to be prepared for it even in the summer months. Well suited for this are hooded sweatshirts* that you can simply pull over if necessary. If it looks like rain, windbreakers* are also a good choice.
Don't forget sturdy shoes
On the small boats it happens that water sometimes splashes into the boat, when the waves are higher. But even if it starts to rain on the way, the bottom of the boat can become damp and slippery. We therefore recommend wearing non-slip shoes on a whale watching boat. Flip flops or high heels have no place on board a whale watching boat.
Don't forget your camera for memories of your Massachusetts whale watching tour
Chances are that you will see whales on your whale tour in the waters around Boston. Therefore, you should definitely take a camera. Ideally with a telephoto lens if the whales are further away from the boat.
You should know that whale watching boats are only allowed to approach the whales up to a certain distance. If they see whales, they drive up to the prescribed distance. Then it is up to the whales, if they want to get closer to the boats. We were always lucky on our whale watching trips in New England, that the animals swam right up to the boat. You can't guarantee that. In order not to stress the animals, they are given the choice to approach the boats.
It's not just humpback whales that show themselves to whale fans. Humpback whales, fin whales, right whales, pilot whales and minke whales also like to stay in these waters. It is an exciting experience, when one of the giant fin whales swims past a small whale watching boat. At such moments, I always pray that he doesn't suddenly flip our boat with his caudal fin.
From which locations are whale watching tours offered?
Maine whale tour
- Kennebunkport, Maine
- Portland maine
- Boothbay Harbor
- Bar Harbor, Maine
Massachusetts Whale Watching
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Gloucester, Massachusetts
- Plymouth massachusetts
- Hyannis, Massachusetts
- Provincetown, Massachusetts
- Nantucket Island
- Hampton Beach
- Rye Harbor
- Seabrook Beach
A look at the history of whale species off New England
New England is a mecca for whale watchers today. However, this was not always the case. It wasn't that long ago, that whalers sailed from New England's ports out to the oceans of the world. In those days, whales supplied the valuable oil used to operate lanterns and street lamps. And not only that. Whale bones served as support rods for corsets or umbrellas. The seafarers on the whaling ships passed the waiting time until the next whale sighting with the carving of Scrimshaw. These are whale bones, which they decorated with artistic carvings.
Another substance, that certain whale species provided, was worth as much as gold. On the Dutch island of Texel one found so much of it in the belly of a whale, that the profit even financed an entire museum. Amber is a gray, waxy mass, that sometimes develops in the digestive tract of sperm whales. This was used in the manufacture of perfume.
Have you thought about applying for ESTA?
To enter the USA as a non-US-citizen from Europe you need an ESTA entry permit. You can buy this directly at the US embassy or consulates for a price of $ 14. Do you need help with this? Then you can get your ESTA application here at a higher price.
You can find out which role the whale species played in New England in the course of history in one of the museums. We got to know several of them on our travels, which we are happy to recommend here:
New Bedford Whaling Museum
One of the most famous is the New Bedford Whaling Museum. In the 19th century, this town replaced Nantucket as the center of whaling. Here wooden ships were built, that were used for hunting whales. You can learn a lot about whaling and whale species in general at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The information about Herman Melville's New Bedford is also interesting. He describes the port in his masterpiece about Captain Ahab and Moby Dick, the whale that chased him on his whaling tour across the oceans.
New Bedford Whaling Museum
18 Johnny Cake Hill
New Bedford, MA 02740
Buy your ticket here * and save the waiting time at the check-in.
The Nantucket Whaling Museum
Even though whale watching tours are offered from Nantucket today, the island is better known as the former center of whaling in New England. In the Nantucket Whaling Museum you can learn a lot about the history of whaling, but also about the whale species that played a role. We found the whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling in the exhibition hall particularly impressive.
Nantucket Whaling Museum
13 Broad St
Nantucket, MA 02554
Whale watching on the island of whalers - Nantucket
Traces of that time can still be seen in Nantucket today. There are balcony-like structures on numerous roofs, the captains lookouts. From there, the whalers' wifes kept an eye out for their husbands' ships. They never knew, when they would return from their whaling tour. Sometimes this could take years. Today visitors can go on whale watching tours from Nantucket.
A visit to Martha's Vineyard
Even if Nantucket's neighboring island Martha's Vineyard did not play the same prominent role in the history of whaling, there are traces from the whaling era. In Edgartown you can see the Old Whaling Church. Near the ferry to Chappaquiddick Island, a whale sculpture commemorates the importance of these marine mammals in the region.
The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem (not just about whale species)
There is a museum in Salem north of Boston, that is not exclusively dedicated to whaling and whale species. However, there are very interesting exhibits in the Maritime Art Gallery, that date from the time of the whalers. These include paintings, that show how dangerous the hunt for whales was. The seamen's scrimshaw works are also worth seeing. The museum is mainly dedicated to shipbuilding in the region and merchant shipping. All topics, that are interesting for whale watchers in New England.
Peabody Essex Museum
161 Essex St
Salem, MA 01970
- Whale species commonly found in New England: fin whales, minke whales, humpback whales, and North Atlantic caper whales. This is how you can identify them.
- Information about the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
- You can learn interesting facts about whale species from the Cetacean Society International
With these tips you are well prepared for a whale tour around Boston in New England. Whale Watching Massachusetts and an exploration of the traces left by the different whale species in the region to this day make a trip to New England a varied and exciting experience.
The nearest international airport is Logan Airport in Boston. Several airlines fly there. You can also rent a car there.
Hotels and accommodations in and around Boston * You can also book through our partner booking.com.
Source for where and how you can see and experience whale species in New England: our own research on site. We financed the trip ourselves. The article was sponsored by Apply for an ESTA visa.
Text: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Photos © Copyright TravelWorldOnline
Monika Fuchs and Petar Fuchs are the publishers of the Trips to Savor and Slow Travel Blog TravelWorldOnline Traveler , They have been publishing this blog since 2005. TravelWorldOnline is online since 2001.
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Monika Fuchs has been working in tourism since 1990. She has been a tour guide on four continents for 17 years and has accompanied high-class trips through North and Central America, Australia, southern Africa and Europe. Since 2001 she has been a writer and photographer for TravelWorldOnline and writes as a freelance journalist for DIE ZEIT Online and travel magazines such as 360 ° Medien, TRIVAGO, Expedia, travador, etc. She also writes travel guides about destinations and enjoyment destinations all over the world. Your guide about Canada's east was released in 2020. Petar Fuchs produced the videos on this blog as well YouTube.
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