One of the reasons my husband and I decided to leave our stationary life behind for the RV lifestyle was to experience things that we normally wouldn’t when living in the Midwest. Having grown up landlocked between corn fields, water-related experiences are always at the top of our list. While staying near Boston, we knew we had to get out on the ocean and see some whales.
Booking a Whale Watching Adventure
The waters off Gloucester, Massachusetts are home to two main whale feeding grounds, Stellwagen Bank and Jeffreys Ledge, making it the go-to place for whale watching in the Boston area. There are several whale watching companies that will take you out on the water. We choose Cape Ann Whale Watch. They had a Groupon at the time, but always offer AAA discounts on the adult tickets and reduced rates for seniors, children, and military families.
I recommend calling to make reservations ahead of time. I called just two days before we wanted to go out, which happened to be the Saturday before Labor Day. They had a couple spots left, but said we got lucky as they are usually booked up by then. So, reserving sooner rather than later is advised.
Viewing the Whales
Gloucester is about an hour’s drive north of Boston. We got to the port around 12:40 pm, just in time for the 1:00 pm boarding on to the “Hurricane II”. We departed at 1:30 pm after being acquainted with the rules of the boat. As we left the port, we had great views of the new brick buildings in Gloucester. It was quite picturesque! We could also see the hazy silhouette of downtown Boston on the horizon. Volunteers came around with samples of whale baleen and some facts about the whales we would be seeing.
Once we reached, Stellwagen Bank, an underwater plateau about 15-20 miles off the coast, we saw humpback whales right away! Everyone gasped and pointed. It was so exciting! Of course, everyone wanted to see the whales and tried to pile to that side of the boat. I was impressed that the captain was very mindful of making sure everyone on both sides of the boat got a chance the view the whales, while always putting the whales’ safety first.
The Naturalist on board, Chris, shared his knowledge of whales with us and even pointed out individual humpback whales that he could identify by their markings. We saw about 15 different humpbacks, some surfacing several times. Some would be close to our boat, others were a bit farther out. Seeing the humpback whales’ shiny black backs and their majestic tails coming out the water was breathtaking!
One highlight was watching a calf keep slapping his tail on the water over and over, most likely just playing around or practicing what his mother had taught him. Another major highlight was seeing one breach the water. It is amazing to me that these creatures who are the length of a bus and the weight of a fully-loaded semi-truck can launch their bodies out of the water like that!
After watching the whales for about 3 hours, we headed back to shore. We passed a couple lighthouses on the way back, which are always beautiful. The whole trip lasted about 4.5 hours and was well worth the money!
Enjoying the City of Gloucester
Since the pretzel that we purchased from the boat’s concession stand while aboard didn’t stave off our hunger, we set into town to find somewhere to eat. We found the Cape Ann Brewing Co. We sat outside on the patio overlooking the water and shared a couple flights of their locally brewed beer in addition to our dinner. The beer, food, and service were good, and we left satisfied.
Just when we were thinking that we didn’t want our time in this quaint town to end, we found out that Gloucester’s annual Schooner Festival is Labor Day Weekend, and we were just in time for Boat Parade of Lights and fireworks. We love when life works out that way! We grabbed some camp chairs from the truck and headed to the beach to find a spot. It was a great atmosphere. The sun was just setting and there was music from a stage just down the beach from us. It was a wonderful surprise ending to an awesome day!
That day will forever be one of our favorite memories. I highly recommend whale watching off the coast of Gloucester and then sticking around to see what the town has to offer. The best time for whale watching in Massachusetts is from April to October. Depending on the time of year, it could be cnew and breezy out on the ocean, so bring a jacket or sweatshirt late June through September or a winter coat, hat and gloves for March, April, May, October and November trips. Rubber sole shoes or sneakers are best for walking around the boat. And don’t forget your camera and binoculars!
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