Complete Cape Cod Whale Watching Guide [2024 Edition]

Complete Cape Cod Whale Watching Guide [2024 Edition]

Cape Cod is a wonderful and charming place to visit, and it’s home to some of the very best whale watching on the planet. When you’re not on the water, you’ll find an abundance of pristine beaches, fresh seafood, shopping, golfing, spas, restaurants, hotels, and resorts to keep you busy. No matter how long you’re here or what you have planned, the whale watching excursions are one activity that’s not to be missed.

Cape Cod in Numbers

Geography of Cape Cod

Cape Cod is a hook-shaped peninsula extending off the southeast coast of Massachusetts. The Cape is comprised of 15 towns and can be divided into four sections:

Upper Cape: the area closest to mainland Massachusetts. Sandwich, Mashpee, Falmouth and Bourne make up the Upper Cape.

Mid Cape: Barnstable, Dennis, and Yarmouth make up the Mid-Cape. Barnstable itself contains seven villages, one of which is the popular Hyannis. Hyannis is not a town on its own; it’s a neighborhood community within the town of Barnstable.

Lower Cape: Brewster, Harwich, and Chatham.

Outer Cape: Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro, and Provincetown make up the Outer Cape. Provincetown sits at the far north tip and is the absolute farthest you can go out on the Cape.

Whale Watching Season

Whale watching season on Cape Cod runs from mid-April through October. The best months to go are from June through September because that’s when the majority of whale migration activity occurs. However, April, May and October are still excellent whale watching months that offer the advantage of fewer crowds. There are so many whales here that you’ll find it hard not to see them. People come from all over the world to visit Cape Cod, so reserve your tickets in advance for the best availability.

Whale Species and Other Wildlife

The most commonly sighted whale species around Cape Cod are Humpbacks, Fin Whales, Minke Whales, and North Atlantic Right Whales. Less frequently spotted are Sei Whales, Blue Whales, Pilot Whales, Beluga Whales, and Sperm Whales.

The area around Cape Cod is rich with all sorts of marine wildlife. Dolphins, porpoises, seals, sharks, sea turtles, orcas, fish, crabs and birds are just some of the animals you can expect to see while you’re here.

Humpback whale breaching in Cape Cod waters

Choosing The Perfect Whale Watch Experience

There are multiple options available for your whale watching tour. First decide if you want a large commercial tour or a smaller, more intimate experience. Large tours have big boats with a hundred or more people onboard, and small tours are usually around 20 people or less. Both are excellent options for sighting whales, but smaller tours are typically the better experience overall.

Whichever size tour you choose, one of the most important things is to select a reputable tour operator. Whale pods are very sensitive to noise and boating activity, and they are bothered when tour groups come through that don’t give them enough space. Do your part to protect whales by sticking with experienced captains who employ marine biologists and naturalists on tour.

We never recommend outfitters who use outdated fishing equipment or have questionable ethics. Eco-friendly tour operators respect whales and their environment by employing whale-friendly gear such as quiet, low emission engines and propeller guards. The next section covers tours in Cape Cod that are committed to responsible whale watching.

Best Whale Tours from Cape Cod

All tours leaving Cape Cod go out to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. If you’re planning a trip to the Cape solely for the purpose of whale watching, it’s faster to simply catch a tour directly from Gloucester, Boston or Plymouth. These tours go straight out to Stellwagen as well and spare you the travel time it takes to get through Cape Cod.

However, if you want to see the Cape too then you’ll find it’s a fantastic summer destination with plenty of additional things to do. All whale tours worth taking leave from Provincetown because it’s closest to Stellwagen Bank, with the exception of one tour that leaves from Barnstable. Here are your top tour options:

From Provincetown

Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch offers large boat tours for around $75 per person. The season runs from April 13 – October 20, 2024, tentatively.

Beth Ann Charters offers a private four-hour whale watch for groups of up to six people. Choose which boat you want to take and enjoy a private and luxurious whale watch trip. The season runs from April 15 to October 22, 2024 with prices ranging from $625-$750 plus tax.

Sea Salt Charters offers both private and shared whale watching tours lasting 3-4 hours. Private tours cost $725-$825 and are available from May 1 – October 13, 2024. Shared tours cost around $175 per person and are a great option for singles and groups of four people or less. Shared tours run May 15 – October 13, 2024.

From Hyannis / Barnstable

If you’re near Barnstable, choose Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises for your whale watch experience. At $75 per person, you can’t go wrong with their large boat and decades of experience. Tours run tentatively May 16 – November 3, 2024.

What to Wear

Dress in layers because ocean breezes can be chilly even when it’s a hot summer day on land. Bring a jacket or sweater, spf, lip balm, binoculars, sunglasses, and your camera. Remember you can get sunburned from the sun reflecting off the water, so even if you’re sitting in the shade, you still need UV protection for your skin and eyes.

Where To Stay

Whether you’re looking for a trusty Holiday Inn, a seaside bed and breakfast, or the full resort experience, Cape Cod has it all. We’ve done all the searching for you and found that Priceline consistently has the best deals on Cape Cod hotels.

Other Things To Do

  • Take a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket Island
  • Visit the Cape Cod Maritime Museum in Hyannis, MA
  • Drive out to the Whaler’s Museum in New Bedford, MA. It’s outside of Cape Cod but worth it if you have a car and you’re interested in the history of the whaling industry.
  • Check out the Whydah Pirate Museum in West Yarmouth, MA.
  • Golfing
  • Shopping
  • Spa
  • Private helicopter tour from Hyannis Airport
  • Beaches. There are over 100 to choose from! Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown is a favorite because it’s on the bayside of Cape Cod, so the waves are more gentle. Ballston Beach in Truro is a gorgeous must-see and Coast Guard Beach in Eastham if you want to meet new people.
  • Kayaking
  • Lighthouse and Highland House Museum Tour (June 5 – October 31, 2024). Tour leaves from Provincetown.
  • Coffee Shops
  • Juice Bars
  • Nightlife
  • Local tours. There’s something for everyone:

Lighthouses on Cape Cod

Listed from oldest to newest:

  • Chatham Lighthouse. Chatham, MA. Built in 1808.
  • Race Point Lighthouse. Provincetown, MA. Built in 1816.
  • Sandy Neck Lighthouse. West Barnstable in Barnstable, MA. Built in 1826.
  • Long Point Light Station. Provincetown, MA. Built in 1826.
  • Nobska Lighthouse. Falmouth, MA. Built in 1829.
  • Hyannis Harbor Light (serves Lewis Bay, sometimes called Lewis Bay Lighthouse). Hyannis in Barnstable, MA. Built around 1849.
  • Monomoy Lighthouse. Chatham, MA. Built in 1849.
  • West Dennis Light (formerly known as the Bass River lighthouse). Dennis, MA. Built in 1855.
  • Highland Lighthouse. Truro, MA. Built in 1857.
  • Wood End Lighthouse. Provincetown, MA. Built in 1872.
  • Stage Harbor Lighthouse. Chatham, MA. Built in 1880.
  • Wings Neck Lighthouse. Bourne, MA. Built in 1889.
  • Three Sisters Lighthouses. Eastham, MA. Built in 1892.
  • Nauset Lighthouse (also known as Nauset Light or Nauset Beach Light). This is the same red and white lighthouse you see on bags of Cape Cod potato chips. Eastham, MA. Constructed in 1923 from a tower that was built in 1877.
Nauset Lighthouse in Eastham, MA

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a fun summer escape, Cape Cod has it all. Between the beaches, whale watching, shopping, and history, there’s something here for everyone. That’s probably why over five million tourists come here every year. If you love food, the ocean, and whale watching, then it’s definitely a place that should be at the top of your travel list.