Whale Watching in Rhode Island [2024 Guide]

Whale Watching in Rhode Island [2024 Guide]

Known for its sandy shoreline and gilded age mansions, Rhode Island is a charming coastal state ideal for adventure seekers, history buffs and nature lovers alike. With a coastline that stretches out to 400 miles, there are plenty of opportunities for boating, sailing, and a little bit of whale watching. Read on to discover the best place to go whale watching and what else to do while you’re here.

RI Whale Watching Season

Whale watching season in Rhode Island runs from May through October. The majority of whale activity occurs during the summer, from June to September. During this time, the waters are warmer, and the whales are more active. Opt for May or October if you prefer a quieter or less crowded trip. Whale sightings might be less frequent during this time, but you’ll still have a fair chance of spotting them. July and August are the absolute peak months to go whale watching.

Whales do migrate past and feed in the waters off Rhode Island, but there is not as much whale activity as there is in the Cape Cod area. If you really want an unforgettable whale watching experience, Plymouth, MA is the nearest location you need to get to. You can also book a whale watch tour in Gloucester, Boston, or Provincetown. Tours from these locations all go out to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which is the absolute best place to see whales on the East Coast of the US.

That being said, you can certainly still try to go whale watching in Rhode Island, it’s just not guaranteed that you’ll see whales. It’s best to enjoy Rhode Island for what it is – a place to see colonial towns, gilded age mansions, Brown University, and the Rhode Island State House building located in the beautiful city of Providence.

Newport Cliff Walk at sunset


Whale species commonly seen off the coast of Rhode Island include Finback, Humpback, Minke, Pilot, and Sei Whales. There are also leatherback and loggerhead turtles, seals, dolphins, sunfish, sharks, tuna, marlin, and many types of birds.

Best Rhode Island Whale Watch Tours

Your best option for seeing whales in Rhode Island is to go to Frances Fleet in Narragansett. This is the only dedicated whale watch outfitter in the state. A second option is to take a harbor cruise out of Newport, but there’s no guarantee you’ll see whales.

Narragansett Whale Watching

Frances Fleet, 33 State Street, Narragansett, RI 02883. Season runs from June 27 – September 3, 2024.

Newport, RI Whale Watching

There are no dedicated whale watch tours in Newport. Sometimes you can see them from the scenic Newport Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile path along Newport city’s coastline. Hire a private charter to possibly help you find whales, or opt for a top rated harbor cruise instead:


Getting Here

Fly into Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport (PVD), the largest airport in the state. It’s located in Warwick which is just south of Providence. This is a nice central location that makes renting a car and getting to your destination a breeze.

Top Things To Do

Rhode Island State House, Providence, RI

In Providence

Providence is the capital of Rhode Island, home to Brown University, the WaterFire art installation, Roger Williams Park, and the Rhode Island State House building. The highly rated Discover Providence Guided Sightseeing Tour below takes you to all of the top destinations in Providence. Book that plus a food or boat tour, and you’ll have seen the very best of Providence.


In Newport

Newport is famous for its historic gilded age mansions. One thing you really don’t want to miss in Newport is the mansion trolley tour, which includes admission to The Breakers, a historic Vanderbilt mansion built in 1895.

Other famous mansions are Marble House (Vanderbilt, 1892), The Elms (1901), Rosecliff (1902), Kingscote (1841), Chepstow (1860), Chateau-sur-Mer (1852), Isaac Bell House (1883), and Hunter House (1748).


Easton’s Beach, also locally called First Beach, is the largest beach in Newport. It’s a long sandy beach with plenty of space to stake your claim, and there’s a board walk and surf that faces the Atlantic. It’s located on Memorial Boulevard right at the beginning of the Newport Cliff Walk, a paved 3.5 mile walk along the coast which offers a nice view of the ocean and shoreline.

Finally, if you like birds and wildlife, the Norman Bird Sanctuary in nearby Middletown is a 300-acre nature preserve that has seven miles of hiking trails. They have free guided bird walks every other Sunday morning; see the schedule here.


Ocean House Hotel in Westerly, RI

Westerly was settled in 1661 by English settlers. In addition to its old buildings and rich history, it has a beautiful sandy shoreline that makes it the perfect Rhode Island beach destination by day – and maybe a little haunted by night.


On the south end of Westerly is the quiet picturesque neighborhood of Watch Hill. It’s the most southwesterly point of Rhode Island, home to Ocean House, Napatree Point Conservation Area, East Beach and the Watch Hill Lighthouse. You can drive the whole loop in about 15 minutes, so give yourself a little extra time to pull over and explore the town. On the way out, grab some lunch at Misquamicut Sandwich Company (open 8am-3pm) in Westerly.

Block Island

Block Island off the south coast of Rhode Island is known for its beautiful sandy beaches, nature preserves, hiking trails, and panoramic ocean views. The island is accessible from Newport or Point Judith via the Block Island Ferry. There are also ferries going from Block Island to Montauk, NY and New London, CT, so there will be people on the island from all over.

Block Island has a ton of beaches, shops, lighthouses, horseback riding, and even a little airport, so there’s a lot to explore and you could easily spend a day or two here.

South East Lighthouse in New Shoreham, Block Island, RI

Each of Rhode Island’s cities and towns offers a unique experience, and there really is something here for everyone. Remember to reserve your tours in advance and dress in layers for the weather. There’s a lot to explore! Prioritize what’s most important to you and then work in a few extras. This is the best way to create a fantastic memorable vacation.

Of course if it’s really whale watching that you want to do, you’re in luck. Plymouth and Boston are an hour drive from Providence, and Gloucester is 90 minutes. These are the closest and best places to go whale watching in this part of the country.