Boston Whale Watching Monthly Guide | Season | 8 Tips
Boston Whale Watching Monthly Guide and 8 Tips

Boston Whale Watching Monthly Guide and 8 Tips

United States
United States

When Is the Best Time

Boston, the capital of Massachusetts, is a vibrant city with many activities. One of the most popular Must-Do is whale watching from Boston Harbour. Boston and the entire New England are some of the best places to spot whales in the US—the reason for an almost 100 % guarantee of sightings in the nearby Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

Tail slapping humpback whale
This behaviour is called tail slapping - a new photo from summer 2023.

Although the season runs from late March to November, the best time for a whale-watching tour is from May to October. It is almost guaranteed to spot humpbacks, occasionally finbacks, and frequently dolphins. 

I will give you all the details of what you may spot each month, the conditions, how to prepare in my 8 Tips section for a fabulous day out in the sea and fascinating facts about the different whales you can spot.

Best Boston Whale Watching Tour

The fluke of a humpback
The beginning of the fluke dive - tour link added: booking at no extra cost. Thx for your support!

The duration of the whale-watching tours depends on the weather, wind, and sightings. It usually takes 3.5-4 hours. The vessel is a high-speed catamaran, which makes this a comfortable journey until you reach Stellwagen Bank, 25 miles east of Boston.

Whale watchers are looking to a humpback next to the boat.
New photo from summer 2023

A marine biologist will answer all your questions and share his/her knowledge about the cetaceans on your tour. Watching whales up close, perhaps breaching, is always a fascinating experience. More than one million people go on a whale watching trip from Boston, the reason the trips are likely to be sold out days in advance.

The boats depart from One Long Wharf, Boston, MA 02110 Google Maps Link

Two humpacks on the surface
It is always fascinating to watch these gentle giants.

Thanks to this huge, more than 800 square miles protected area, you spot humpbacks, finback whales, dolphins, and so much more in abundance. Humpback whales migrate to the sanctuary close to Boston, Massachusetts, in spring and back in autumn. Finbacks are mostly found in deep waters 20 km distance from the coast. They occur at Stellwagen throughout the year.

Best Day Time

Boston Harbour Skyline in the morning

Usually, the sea is calmer in the morning and a bit choppy in the afternoon; however, exceptions occur—waves build-up by the wind. Therefore, if seasickness is an issue for you, book the first-morning tour. These tours are usually less busy than others during the day.

 

 

8 Top Tips for Whale Watching from Boston
Spy hopping by a young Humpback Whale
The humpback was curiously watching us.
  1. Go in the morning to experience a calmer sea, especially if you suffer from seasickness.
  2. If you like to get the first-morning tour, staying close to the harbour in Downtown Boston is most convenient. The Boston Harbor Hotel is perfectly located next to Long One Wharf, where the trips depart.
  3. If you suffer from seasickness, don't go underdeck. Stay outside, scan the ocean, and breathe deep. Most important, don't skip breakfast. The acid in your stomach worsens the seasickness without a proper and healthy breakfast.
  4. Throughout the whale season is an additional jacket also needed in summer! Stay warm - don't get cold, which can easily happen while standing. It is at least 10 degrees colder out on the sea.
  5. Always carry a bottle of water; don't get dehydrated. And it would be a pity if you lined up to buy a bottle while a humpback was breaching.
  6. Sun protection: hat, sunglasses, sunscreen; the sun is even more intense on the sea.
  7. Comfortable shoes with good traction are best for a moving vessel.
  8. A camera with an excellent lens for fantastic memories.

Boston Whale-Watching Season and Weather

April

Humpback Whale close to the tour boat
Spotting humpbacks at Stellwagen is almost guaranteed at least 90 %

The whale-watching season starts already at the end of March. However, this is not the time I recommend. April improves a little with more humpbacks, finbacks, and white-sided dolphin sightings. On all those whale-watching tours, you frequently spot different dolphin species, and sometimes rare sightings occur, like orcas, blue whales (the naturalist told Markus one in 30 years only), sperm whales, sunfish or a basking shark.

Rare orca sighting at Stellwagen Bank
Rare sighting of a huge orca

Pilot whales appear later in the season. Minke whales and harbour porpoises are often mentioned for specific months, but honestly, these cetaceans are shy, and usually, you don’t see much of them from my own experience. I will give you an idea of what you may see on such whale-watching trips.

This is my recommended Whale Watching Tour for Boston via GetYourGuide. Tour prices are at no extra cost! Thx for booking via my website! With your support, I am able to provide all information first-hand.

May

Humpback fluke the back side
Humpback before diving deep down

Finally, temps increase and reach 68°F/20°C during the day. The first humpbacks arrive in the Stellwagen Sanctuary, especially mothers and their newborn calves. Fin whale sightings often increase in small groups. Wind and a rainproof jacket are well needed on the boat. The season starts May 16, 2024.

June

A humpback mom and her calf
A mom and her calf at Ningaloo Australia

Summer arrived with average temperatures of 77°F/25°C; however, don’t underestimate the wind on board the whale-watching boat. The chance to spot humpbacks is almost guaranteed. Also, finback sightings occur, but they have a high travel speed.

July

Humpback Breaching

Decreasing precipitation and warm temperatures above 80°F/27°C. This is one of the very best months to see a huge number of humpbacks. However, keep in mind the summer is the busiest time of the year, and advanced bookings are recommended to avoid disappointment. To spot breaching humpbacks with their entire body is always fascinating.

This is my recommended Whale Watching Tour for Boston via GetYourGuide. Tour prices are at no extra cost! Thx for booking via my website! With your support, I am able to provide all information first-hand.

August

Pilot Whale
Pilot Whales are very social, occurring in huge pods - sightings are rare; common in Tarifa and the Canary Islands, Spain.

August is also a lovely summer month with excellent humpback sightings, occasional finback, and the first rare pilot whale sightings. The pilot whales are night-active, resting on the surface during the day, increasing the chance of a sighting. This is a super busy month book your whale-watching trip in advance!

September

Breaching Humpback in the distance
A playful breaching humpback whale - Whale Watching Tour booking at no extra cost!

Autumn will arrive soon. Temperatures have dropped already, being slightly above 72°F/22°C. This is still a great month for humpbacks, occasional finbacks and pilot whales. 

October

A pod of bottlenose dolphins
Bottlenose Dolphins are catching the waves.

Autumn arrived temps are below 64°F/18°C, and precipitation increases slightly. It is still a good time to spot whales on a trip, but fewer. Humpbacks start to migrate, leaving Stellwagen Bank. Finbacks can be found in New England throughout the year, with occasional sightings until November.

No Tours Are Offered From November to March!

The Geology of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Boston Harbor Islands State Park with historic lighthouse

What makes this sanctuary so unique? 

Stellwagen Bank is an underwater plateau stretching 19 miles. It is much deeper around the plateau. This causes deep water currents to rise upwards, containing nutrition and minerals. This attracts all kinds of fish species, even blue and yellow-fin tuna, codfish and sharks. Because of its importance for marine life, it became a National Marine Sanctuary protected zone in 1992.

Am I getting seasick?

When you get slightly seasick it helps to sit in the rear of the boat and focus on the horizon to reduce nausea. In case this is not possible I would recommend an Anti-Nausea Wristband instead of taking any kind of medicine.

To enjoy your whale tour and you’re looking for a safe and effective way to prevent and relieve nausea and vomiting caused by seasickness, look no further than EmeTerm Explore. With its clinically proven technology, FDA-cleared, stylish design, and waterproof construction, EmeTerm Explore is the perfect solution for anyone looking to enjoy a nausea-free journey on the high seas.

Must-Do Activity in Boston

Learn the highlights and where American History started on this cruise in Boston. Enjoy the outstanding views from the boat, and the sea breezes, and listen to stories from former times.

Boston Harbour and aquarium to the right
Historical Sightseeing Cruise in Boston Harbour 

My recommended tour via GetYourGuide with 24 24-hour advance cancellation policy. Thx for booking via my website! With your support, I can provide all the information first-hand. Tour prices are at no extra cost!

If you are interested in learning about whales, dolphins, and porpoises, I highly recommend “Handbook of Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises of the World”. This comprehensive guide features nearly 1,000 colour illustrations with detailed annotations, 90 distribution maps, and helpful facts about behaviour, life history, and conservation. It is an indispensable resource for every whale watcher and cetacean enthusiast.

 

Best Months to Visit

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Location and Tips

Boston, Massachusetts
United States
United States

The entire whale-watching cruise from Boston is an experience. It starts with an excellent view of the Boston skyline; you pass by historic lighthouses and the Boston Harbor Islands State Park in the tour boat. The nutrition-rich Stellwagen Bank is a unique place to watch humpbacks near the boat. Learn all about this. National Marine Sanctuary, my 8 Tips for Whale Watching and 11 Humpback Whale Facts.

Two Humpback Whales breaching

  1. Average lifespan 45-50 years
  2. Length of 14 up to 19 meters - 46 up to 68 feet
  3. Weight 25-30 tons on average max. 40 tons
  4. They can dive up to 200 meters / 656 feet, being underwater on average for 15 minutes.
  5. Newborn calf weight one ton
  6. Feeding on small fish like sardines, herrings, mackerel, krill, plankton
  7. Humpbacks are baleen whales that are filter feeders.
  8. They are famous for their whale song, especially during the mating season in tropical waters.
  9. The humpbacks at Stellwagen migrate to the Caribbean roughly 1.500 miles / 2.400 km in the winter to mate and give birth.
  10. Humpbacks are playful. but it is still not clear why humpbacks breach.
  11. Spotting humpbacks at Stellwagen is almost guaranteed at least 90 %.
Two humpbacks blowing
If you are close by, you are smelling some fishy whale breath

13 Finback Whale Facts

Finback Whales

  1. Finbacks are mostly found in deep offshore waters, diving deep up to 1.500 feet / 450 m for approximately 15 minutes. 
  2. They are common east of Cape Cod and east of Boston and Cape Ann.
  3. Finbacks have a high travel speed, one of the fasted cetaceans at least 25 mph/40 kmh.
  4. Their main diet is fish; herring and mackerel, crustaceans, and squid - filtering mouthfuls of water.
  5. This baleen whale species migrates in groups.
  6. Lifespan of 80-90 years.
  7. Weight at least 40 tons.
  8. Finbacks are the second-largest animal after the blue whale. The average size ranges from 22-26 m /72-85 feet. Females are slightly larger.
  9. Females get one calf after 11-12 months. Calves are born in warmer waters in tropical and subtropical waters, measuring 21 feet/ 6.5 m and weighing already more than one ton.
  10. They are still endangered because of commercial whaling until 1977. The number of finbacks was significantly reduced until whaling got prohibited.
  11. Finbacks have two blowholes in the middle with a 5-meter high blow. 
  12. They can dive deep up to 450 meters for approximately 15 minutes. 
  13. As already mentioned, finbacks are shy and fast, therefore, difficult to spot.

Markus and I took all these pictures on several whale-watching trips in the last ten years. Contact me if you wish to use any, but we take action against picture theft! Why do I write this here? Hundreds of my pictures are used worldwide without any credit, nor did they get my permission. I don’t mind giving permission, but I want to get asked for it and to be mentioned. 

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