Whale watching is one of the classic activities for families to take part in during a Cape Cod vacation, and its not too hard to see why. Between the sun, the surf, and of course the great Atlantic humpbacks, anyone who ventures out onto the water is in for a treat. However,determining when to go, who to watch with, and how to stay comfortable can be a bit of a question for some planners. Here are some tips and tricks from locals to help you sort out the best way to watch.
1. Don’t Worry About Location
There are two main companies and two locations for whale watching, The Dolphin Fleet out of Provincetown, and the Hyannis Whalewatcher out of Barnstable Harbor. The thing is, both of these trips actually end up at the same area of water. This means that there is absolutely no difference in the general amount of whales you see on-board, no matter where you cast off. There is a common misconception that more whales are seen out of Provincetown, but this is purely that, a myth. Whale numbers vary based on luck and of course spotting skills of the Captain, but each voyage no matter the provider, will treat you to about the same number of sightings.
Getting to Provincetown will take about an hour from the main hubs of Cape Cod lodging, but is a great point of departure if you are already considering a day trip up to the colorful town or the lower Cape seashore. Barnstable Harbor however, is only a short, relatively traffic free, drive from West Yarmouth hotels, where most of the Cape Cod family hotels or Cape Cod motels are located.
2. Bring a Jacket AND some Sunscreen
Most days throughout the summer either company will offer two trips a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. There is no one time where whales are more numerous so whichever session works best for your family and your vacation schedule, most remember a jacket leaving in the morning, however even in the afternoon with the sun full in the sky, winds can pick up quite a lot offshore. Equally important is sunscreen, its an obvious necessity for beach days and such, but the sun can be out on the water even when it is cloudy or rainy back on the mainland.
3. Bring a Snack
Most boats (all for Hyannis Whalewatcher) will have handy snack bars aboard, however, with trips lasting an upwards of 3-4 hours, it could be a long time for little ones to hold out on a small selection. Packing a few bottles of water and some lunch could be the key to keeping up the great time (and the key to saving some money as well).
4. Be Ready to Learn
It can take up to a 45 minutes to reach the cruising sight, so a good Captain uses that time to help keep passengers informed and entertained by sharing information about the ecosystems, whale types, and conservation efforts, that they will be privy to during the day. If you choose to ignore the fun and facts, the ride can get a little boring for kids, so if listening and learning isn’t quite vacation style, try packing a deck of cards or something to keep them occupied until the whales are found.
5. Check for Deals… and not just on Groupon
When booking, ask about specials, family rates, senior discounts, and AAA. Many companies offer these incentives for passengers who take the time to have a chat. In addition, the Cape is complete with a very close-knit community of businesses, interactions that extend far beyond just online deal websites. With this, a few Cape Cod hotels and Cape Cod motels can offer special discount rates for their guests. If this is something you are after in your vacation, try searching for Cape Cod accommodation that offers discount whale watch rates like the Mariner Motor Lodge in West Yarmouth which has great options for a massive discount build your own whale watch package.