Whale Watching in Provincetown MA

Whale Watching in Provincetown MA

A long stretch of sunny serene beach.

Just three miles north off the shore of Provincetown, Massachusetts lies Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, a federally protected area rich with whales and other wildlife. Provincetown itself is a delightful place to visit, with miles of world class beaches and beautiful coastline, quaint shops, delicious seafood, unique galleries and landmarks, and tons of events. There’s always something going on here – but more importantly, it’s one of the best places in the world to go whale watching.

Whale Watching Season and Best Time of Year to Go

Whales spend most of their time in the spring, summer, and fall months feeding off the coast of Massachusetts, so the best time to go whale watching in Provincetown is from mid-April through the end of October. No matter what time of day you head out on a whale tour, there’s a very good chance the whales will be active in these waters.


Humpback whales feed off the coast of Provincetown from April to October. In the spring months of April and May, there are often critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whales passing through the area. During this time, the waterways around Cape Cod place speed restrictions to protect these visiting right whales. Fin whales, Sei whales, and Minke whales are seen for the entire season. Pilot whales are sometimes seen from August to October. In addition to whales, you may see dolphins, porpoises, ocean sunfish (Mola Mola), seals, several types of sea turtles, blue sharks, white sharks, bluefin tuna, and jellyfish.

MacMillan Pier in Provincetown

Best Whale Watch Tours in Provincetown

All whale watching tours from Provincetown go out to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. This area of the Atlantic is a haven for marine mammals, and whales spend their summers here feeding and socializing. The sanctuary is so busy with ocean life that tour operators sometimes guarantee you’ll see whales when you’re there. This prime Atlantic location coupled with the magical warmth of Provincetown makes it one of the best places for whale watching in the United States. Here are the top whale watching tours you can choose from:

Sea Salt Charters

Sea Salt Charters offers both private and shared whale watching tours. The tours travel to Stellwagen Bank and last 3-4 hours. A private tour takes your group of up to six people and ranges in price from $725-$825 depending on when you go, with July and August being slightly more expensive. You also have your choice of boat: a 32-foot or 47-foot boat, with the larger costing at the higher end of the price range. Private tours start May 1 and run through October 13, 2024. These private tours actually end up being cheaper per person when you have at least five people, so they’re a great option if you’re traveling with friends or family.

The shared tours cost $175 per person and run May 15 – October 13, 2024. These tours have a max of six people but it allows you to share the cost of the boat with another group. This is ideal if you are going by yourself or have four people or less in your group. The downside is that if there are less than four people booked for a tour, they will cancel the trip and notify you the night before that it’s been cancelled.

Beth Ann Charters

Beth Ann Charters has private four-hour whale watching tours for groups of up to six people. This year’s tour season runs from April 15 to October 22, 2024. Prices range from $625-$750 plus tax, depending on how many people are in your group and which boat you choose. 

There are two boats to choose from – Bethie (29-foot Dyer; $625-$700) and Beth Ann (38-foot Wesmac; $675-$750). In our opinion, Beth Ann is the superior option because she has more room to walk around, and the cabin is larger with bigger windows in case you want to lounge inside during the ride out. Whichever you choose, be sure to book in advance to make sure you get the time and boat you want.

Many tour operators won’t let you bring your own snacks, alcohol, or other beverages, but Beth Ann and Sea Salt both let you. They have ice coolers you can use as well as dry storage areas onboard for your personal items. 

Two dogs sitting outside a cafe in Provincetown.
Two dogs sitting outside a cafe in Provincetown

More Things To Do

Provincetown is known for its eclectic vibe and friendliness towards the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a free and safe space where everyone is welcome to enjoy the coastal lifestyle. There are an abundance of shops, galleries, restaurants, landmarks, old lighthouses, and walkable streets to explore. When you’re not whale watching, get a taste of the town and its stunning coastline with any of these unique local tours:


Provincetown Bucket List

  • Catch the sunset from Race Point Beach. 
  • Walk along Commercial Street in downtown Provincetown. The street is packed with neat little shops, restaurants, and art galleries that capture the essence of this unique place.
  • Visit a lighthouse. There are three in Provincetown, but the Race Point Lighthouse is the oldest. It was built in 1816 and is still active today.
Race point lighthouse in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Race Point Lighthouse in Provincetown, Massachusetts
  • The Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown has a number of whale-related educational events, including:
    • Whale Week 2024 (August 4-10, 2024). Learn all about marine wildlife, conservation, and protecting the coastline.

Getting Here

Provincetown is located on the far north tip of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It’s about a 2.5-hour drive from Boston if you don’t make any stops – which is hard to do with all the cute towns and iconic coastline. If you decide to drive, give yourself at least a half day to make the trip out here. Check out Plymouth, where the Pilgrims first settled in 1620, or head down to New Bedford to visit the whaling museum to learn about whale conservation, the history of whaling, and also to see some real whale skeletons which are pretty spectacular. Finally, don’t miss the Mass Audobon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary in South Wellfleet, where you’ll find salt marshes, hiking trails and an aquarium.

If you want to fast-track your travels and just relax, opt for the sleek and luxurious catamaran ferry from Boston. It takes 90 minutes and costs around $65 per person. It will often sell out on weekends, holidays, and during peak season, so be sure to book tickets in advance.