The Ultimate Guide to Cape Ann Whale Watch: Best Tours & Tips, 2023

Cape Ann Whale Watch: Best Tours & Tips

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While planning a New England trip, I highly recommend scheduling a whale watch trip. The tours give you a rare glimpse into the life of these majestic animals. 

Cape Ann is a rocky cape that extends 11 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. This area is ideal for whale watching, near two prominent New England whale population feeding areas. 

Cape Ann is near the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, similar to an underwater national park. Legislation in the 1990s created a sanctuary to protect the various marine life in the Atlantic Ocean, and it is a prime spot for viewing whales. 

Short on time? Book the best whale-watching tour in Cape Ann here.

Top Cape Ann Whale-Watching Trips

Cape Ann, MA

If you are staying in Boston or surrounding areas, you are close to Cape Ann, and a tour would be the perfect addition to your New England visit. 

As a side note- even if you are tight on time, the tours last a few hours and leave plenty of time to sightsee. So you will be glad you added a whale tour to your New England trip.

Cape Ann, MA

1. Cape Ann Watch

Located in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Cape Ann Watch offers tours out of Stellwagen Bank. The area is known as one of the top 5 whale-watching destinations in the world, so you want to take advantage of this opportunity. 

The company operates an impressive ship, Hurricane II, allowing faster entry to whale territory. In turn, guests have more time than on other tours for whale-watching. 

whale watching in New England

An educational lesson for adults and kids accompanies each tour. Tour guides provide hands-on lessons to learn authentically. If traveling with kids, this would be a lifetime memory.

Tours typically range from 3-4 hours from April-October. In the shoulder season of spring and fall, they operate once (10 am) on the weekdays and two on weekends. In the summer, they offer two daily tours seven days a week. The tours generally start at 8:30 and 1/1:30.

Tour prices vary due to age but are very reasonable. However, there is a $5 fuel surcharge due to rising gas prices. Check their website to confirm current pricing and fuel surcharges. 

Cape Ann Watch, MA

One of my favorite perks is the 100% guarantee rate. If you do not spot a whale on your tour, you have a pass with no expiration date. You can schedule tours until you spot a whale. Luckily the company boasts a 98% rate of whale sightings.    

2. 7 Seas Tour

7 Seas Tour is another great option for a whale-watching tour in Gloucester, MA. As a company with four generations of experience, you will need to take advantage of this option.

A marine biologist and/or naturalist operates each tour, providing authenticity vs. a cheesy boat ride on the water. 7 Seas Tour operates a new vessel, PRIVATEER IV, that provides a quick and comfortable ride. In addition, it has a wrap-around deck that allows for extensive ocean views.

Gloucester, MA

The schedule starts in spring and runs through late October. In the shoulder season, there is a one-weekday tour and two tours each weekend. In the busy summer season, there are two tours each day. 

Gloucester, MA

Tickets are very reasonable and discounted for seniors, students, AAA, and military members. I recommend booking in advance. 

You must park in a city lot and pay a small parking fee.

Insider Scoop: Cape Ann Watch vs. 7 Seas Tour

If I had to choose between Cape Ann Watch & 7 Seas Tour, I would prefer 7 Seas. Read below to see why.

7 Seas Tour

✅ Although their boat can carry 300 people, they keep it at a smaller capacity, so you have more run to spread out, which makes the trip so much more enjoyable

✅ tour operated by a marine biologist or naturalist 

✅ Affordable tickets starting at $60 per adult 

✅ Trip Advisor Traveler’s Choice Award 

Cape Ann Whale Watch: Best Tours & Tips

Cape Ann Watch 

✅ Lifetime guarantee ticket 

✅ Lessons during the boat ride 

✅ Affordable tickets starting at $60 per adult 

Cape Ann Whale Watch: Best Tours & Tips

Best Whale Watching Tour in Cape Ann: 7 Seas Tour

Both companies offer similar trips to Cape Ann, but while reading reviews of both companies, 7 Seas Tour had more robust reviews overall. Guests raved about the ease of the boat ride and professional and friendly tour guides. Of course, you can’t go wrong with either company, but I’d schedule a tour with 7 Seas if I were booking. 

Suggestions for Whale Watching In Massachusetts

Would you be interested in whale watching outside of Cape Ann? Don’t worry; I have several suggestions for great companies in other coastal areas of Massachusetts. 

The Cape Cod region has many great options. Adult whales are migrating north to the Cape by April for mating season.  Consider Cape Cod for fantastic whale-watching trips too.

Cape Cod, MA

✅ Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises

The Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises Company is located about 2 hours south of Cape Anne in Barnstable, MA. This company has decades of tours under its belt. Grab a hearty breakfast in the Cape and hop on the boat!

Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises operates a large vessel with three viewing levels and two sundecks. In addition, the boat provides a handful of bathrooms and a snack bar. 

Barnstable, MA

Reviews of these tours rave about the educational lesson that accompanies the time. In addition, the crew passionately shares their love and admiration of the whale community. 

Due to the popularity of these tours, I would book in advance. While you are here, stop in Chatham, Cape Cod, for their gorgeous beaches.

✅ Captain John Boats

If staying in the Plymouth area, I suggest Captain John Boats. This tour company offers 4-hour adventures searching for magical creatures. Captain John Boats leaves from 2 locations-Plymouth and Provincetown.

Plymouth, MA

Captain John Boats has a large fleet of 5 ships. Each tour comes with a snack bar, so pack cash! Lastly, they offer excellent customer service perks. If you don’t see a whale on your trip, they provide complimentary passes for another booking.

✅ New England Aquarium

Boston Harbor

Working with Boston Harbor City Cruises, the New England Aquarium organizes whale-watching tours. This is a must-do if you stay in Boston for a few days!

Tours are offered from May-November, leaving from the Central Wharf. This tour is also on the lookout for dolphins, sea birds, and other marine life. 

The New England Aquarium offers a unique perk too. When you book a combo ticket for a whale-watching tour and the aquarium, you receive a 10% discount. 

New England Aquarium

If traveling with kids, I recommend the aquarium. Even if traveling with adults only, it is still worth a visit. My sisters and I visited while in college and loved it.

Best Tours & Tips for Whale Watching In New Hampshire

Although you are visiting the Cape Ann area, remember New England is tiny compared to other regions. Therefore, driving to New Hampshire is not as crazy as you imagine.

whale-watching in New Hampshire

In Particular, if you are staying in the Boston area, visit New Hampshire. Portsmouth is a short drive if you are staying further north in Maine. If interested in learning more about Portland, read about 15 things to do in Portland, Maine, with kids.

✅ Granite State Whale Watch

If you are staying in the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, area, consider booking a tour with Granite State Whale Watch. Like other companies, they run a seasonal calendar that opens in May and through fall.

New England

At the start of summer, they tend to offer one tour a day, but as the summer tourist season picks up, they offer two times a day, especially on the weekends. The trip typically ranges from 4-5 hours.

On the two tour days, you can choose between an early morning or early afternoon tour, which leaves plenty of time for additional sightseeing in Portsmouth.

One unique perk of this company is the location of their tours compared to the Cape Ann area. Granite State Whale Watch operates trips to the Jeffreys Ledge area, which boasts cold and nutrient-rich water ideal for supporting a large whale population. As a result, Jeffreys Ledge has one of New England’s largest whale communities. 

New England whale-watching

Lastly, the guides for Granite State Whale Watch are naturalists with extensive knowledge of the whale community. In addition to a content-rich tour, there are educational materials for young kids to enjoy the trip. This would be ideal if booking a trip with kids. 

✅ Al Gauron

Al Gauron is another option if visiting coastal New Hampshire or Southern Maine. Cruises start at $50 and operate from spring through fall. Before your trip, you could grab a yummy breakfast in Ogunquit, Maine.

marine sanctuary

On the boat tour, you can purchase snacks, lunch, and beer with cash. So plan if you want a snack. 

In addition, this company also provides deep-sea fishing tours too and kayak rentals. They also operate nighttime cruises with a fireworks show and pirate theme trips. 

deep sea fishing, New England

FAQ & Tips For Whale Watching

If you’ve never been whale watching, you may have questions about what to wear and when to visit. Read below for helpful tips to guide you in planning your whale-watching adventure.

What is the best month to whale watch in Cape Ann?

June, July & August are the best months for whale-watching in Massachusetts.

What time of year is best for whale watching Cape Cod?

April through October is whale watching season in Cape Cod. Therefore, operate in this range. 

In the shoulder season, tours typically run once a day during the week and twice on the weekends. However, during the busy summer season (usually starting mid-June), tours pick up to twice a day.

Cape Cod, MA

As a side note, New England schools are in session till mid-June and pick back up by Labor Day. So if you are a fellow Southerner like me, early June is a great time to visit as it is less crowded. Just be aware that the tour availability may be more limited.

You could build a fun New England trip, include a few days in Portland, Maine, and check out the best lobster rolls in Portland, Maine.

What months are whales most active?

June thru September is the most active time for whale-watching. The shorter period is the migration period which increases the likelihood of spotting not just one whale but multiple!

whale spotting in New England

What time of day are whales most active?

Twilight is the best time to spot a whale—select tours before sunrise or after sunset.

What should you wear?

Since you’ll be on a boat, consider the conditions and dress for them. For instance, it will be slightly colder than on the shore, so you may want a light jacket during the shoulder season.

Also, you could get a little wet, so consider a rain jacket. Finally, remember you’ll be on a boat so wear appropriate shoes. I recommend shoes with a rubber sole and avoiding heels or dressy shoes. You don’t want to run the risk of falling on the boat. 

Cape Ann Whale Watch: Best Tours & Tips

You’ll also be on the water and will want to have sunglasses. You could bring a hat but be aware of strong winds and tuck it away for the boat ride. 

Lastly, remember to pack sunscreen! You’ll be on the water for several hours and must reapply. 

Are kids welcome?

Most tour companies allow all ages but keep in mind the length of these tours. Toddlers could be challenging to entertain for 4-5 hours on a boat, especially if the trip interferes with nap time. 

kids and whale-watching tour

I would recommend bringing older kids and teens. Also, consider packing dramamine if your child hasn’t been on the open water for extended times.

New England has the most fascinating facts that kids love to learn.

Should you tip?

Tipping is not required but is always appreciated by your guides. If you enjoyed your tour, a tip is an excellent way to say thanks.

Final Thoughts: Cape Ann Whale Watch

A summer trip to New England is one of my favorite vacations. I love the beautiful coast and crisp cool mornings, especially since it is so hot in the South. If I were traveling to Cape Ann in the spring, summer, or fall, I would book a whale watch trip.

Whale-watching in Cape Ann

Cape Ann provides a unique opportunity to experience a marine wildlife tour. You will see the majestic whale community and other species, such as dolphins, while learning about the Stellwagen ecosystem.

The tours reviewed in this blog offer decades of experience paired with a highly knowledgeable staff. As a result, visitors of all ages are guaranteed a trip of a lifetime.