Imagine watching from the bow of your boat as a pod of whales leap through the water, the majestic mammals jumping alongside as if racing you to the horizon. For many, it’s one of the most memorable and evocative experiences of any North American vacation, with some of the world’s best whale watching found in New England.
The waters off New England offer endless possibilities to see many species of whales in their natural habitat, from Humpback whales to Finback, Right, and Minke whales. The whales migrate to the rich feeding grounds in the waters off the east Coast of America in the summertime, feasting on the multitude of mackerel, herring and other fish that live in the Atlantic Ocean.
One particular honeypot for whales is the Stellwagen Bank, a giant underwater plateau bursting with marine life which lies under the water 35 kilometers east of Boston. This plateau has been a constant feeding ground for whales, and is the reason why in the 18th and 19th century the lucrative whaling business was centred around the New England towns of Nantucket, Provincetown and New Bedford. Whale hunting used to be a huge business, with the mighty animals being killed to provide oil for lighting, whilst their bones were also used for everyday objects like corsets and umbrellas. Thankfully, the practice was banned in America in 1973.
Where and when to head for the best whale watching in New England
The best whale watching in New England takes place between April and October, and can be found anywhere along the east coast from Rhode Island in the south to Maine in the north. There are numerous tour operators that offer trips on large boats; however, the best way to get up close to these magnificent animals – if you can afford it – is on a luxury yacht charter around the best New England destinations with your own specialist on board.
Top three spots for best whale watching in New England
Newport is a great place to catch a glimpse of some of the biggest mammals on the planet, with Finback whales of up to 70 feet having been spotted off the coast of Rhode Island, as well as Humpback and Right whales. A word of warning however: Rhode Island’s whale watching season tends to be slightly later than other areas in New England, as whales can be spotted here as they migrate southwards to the Caribbean, where they spend the winter.
Another spot to head to for the best whale watching in New England is Cape Cod in Massachusetts; its famous ‘arm’ shape peninsula stretches out into the ocean, with pods in Cape Cod Bay never being too far away. The very tip of this peninsula is called Race Point Beach, which has become one of the best locations to see seals up close, as well as the occasional humpback whale frolicking in the waters beyond. Further south in Massachusetts, a number of tours leave from the island of Nantucket, also home to the Nantucket Historical Association Whaling Museum.
Further up the New England coastline takes you to Maine, and the town of Portland. Whale watching notwithstanding, this particular area of New England is a delight to visit with stunning shorelines, lighthouses galore and rich maritime history. But if you are looking for the best whale watching in New England you won’t be disappointed, with pods of Humpbacks, Finbacks and Minkes all having been spotted off the coasts in recent months. Visitors will also get the chance to see other wonderful creatures such as North Atlantic White-Sided Dolphins, Harbor Porpoises, Basking sharks, Ocean Sunfish and Sea Turtles.