From mid-April through October, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, plays host to several whale species, including humpback, pilot and minke whales. For a memorable whale watching experience in Cape Cod, consider one of these tour companies, rated by experts and travelers alike as the best available. Many of the tours will travel to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which sits about 25 miles off the Massachusetts coast and serves as an important feeding ground for whales.

Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises – Barnstable

Price: Adults from $75; kids from $3
Duration: 3.5 to 4 hours

Offering whale watching tours since 1980, this company, which operates out of Barnstable Harbor, takes participants to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary on a boat specifically designed for whale watching and maneuverability. There are three levels for viewing, as well as bench seating throughout the boat. Plus, a naturalist accompanies each trip to provide educational commentary. Reviewers report seeing lots of whales and say the captain is skilled at positioning the boat so everyone has a view.

Tours last about 3.5 to four hours and often feature sightings of minkes, humpbacks and finbacks. The company offers tours once or twice daily, depending on the month, at varying times between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Tickets start at $75 for ages 13 to 61, $65 for senior citizens, $55 for youths ages 4 to 12, and $3 for children 3 and younger. The company also offers chartered cruises.

Phone: 800-287-0374

View & Book Tickets: Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises

Dolphin Fleet – Whale Watch

Price: Adults from $75; kids from $50
Duration: 3 to 4 hours

Don’t let the company’s name fool you: Dolphin Fleet is all about whales. And because it departs from Provincetown – the closest port to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary – whales are often spotted as soon as the boat leaves port. During the three- to four-hour cruise, the onboard naturalist will help passengers identify whales and other animals like dolphins and sea birds. Tourgoers report seeing plenty of whales and say the guides are very informative.

Tours, which depart from Provincetown’s MacMillan Pier, run mid-April through October at multiple times throughout the day, depending on the month and season. Dolphin Fleet also offers a sunset trip that is available June through August only. Along with two decks and an indoor heated and air-conditioned cabin, there is also plenty of educational material on board. Tickets cost approximately $75 for adults, $65 for senior citizens (ages 62 and older) and $50 for kids ages 5 to 12; children 4 and younger are free. If no whales are sighted, you can return for another tour.

Phone: 508-240-3636

View & Book Tickets: Dolphin Fleet

Captain John Boats

Price: Adults $70 to $73; kids $45 to $53
Duration: 3 to 4 hours

Take a three- to four-hour whale watching tour out of either Plymouth or Provincetown with Captain John Boats. The Plymouth tour heads to Cape Cod Bay and Stellwagen Bank in search of various species of whales, while the Provincetown tour departs from Macmillan Wharf on a quest to find right and pilot whales, among others. If no whales are spotted, you’re invited to return on a future tour free of charge. Reviewers say they learn a lot about whales and see both whales and calves, as well as dolphins.

Tickets for the Plymouth tour cost $73 for ages 13 and older, and $53 for ages 4 to 12. Senior citizens (ages 62 and older) pay $63. Tickets for the Provincetown tour cost approximately $70 for ages 13 and older, and $45 for ages 4 to 12. Both tours cost $3 for children 3 and younger. Plymouth tours generally run once a day early and late in the season, and twice daily at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. June through August. The Provincetown tour is only available in July and August Monday through Friday at noon. Captain John Boats also operates a few cruises on its paddlewheel boat, the Pilgrim Belle.

Phone: 508-556-1426

View & Book Tickets: Captain John Boats

Additional tour options:

  • Cape Ann Whale Watch. View & Book Tickets on Viator »

Frequently Asked Questions

Whale watching season in Cape Cod is from mid-April to October.

Temperatures can dip by 10 to 15 degrees out on the water, so be sure to dress in layers and bring a lightly insulated jacket to stay warm – even in the summer. Sneakers or rubber-soled shoes are recommended for safety on the ship deck, and sunglasses and sunscreen will protect from the sun. If you plan to wear a hat, be advised that it may be difficult to keep on your head if there is wind.

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