There’s no need to venture to the North Shore or Cape Cod to spend a few hours in the company of whales this summer. You can get close to the Atlantic’s gentle giants from comfortably appointed boats right out of Boston Harbor.
Boston Harbor Cruises, in partnership with the New England Aquarium, offers three- to four-hour outings on sleek catamarans, with expert commentary from Aquarium staff naturalists and educators who know their finbacks from their minkes. Equipped with several viewing decks, the boats leave the harbor destined for Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, a teeming marine habitat and rich feeding ground for whales as well as dolphins at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay, between Cape Ann and Cape Cod.
In these waters, whale watchers are likely to see humpback whales, iconic for their tail-up acrobatic breaching, whose length can span up to 55 feet, as well as finbacks, which can be as long as 80 feet. Watchers might also catch a glimpse of smaller (up to 30 feet long) minke whales slicing the water, and perhaps even get a look at the rare North Atlantic right whale, a stocky, mostly black creature up to 60 feet long.
Tickets are $45 for adults, $40 for seniors, and $35 for children ($15 for children under 3) and can be purchased at either Boston Harbor Cruises or the Aquarium. The whale watches leave from Central Wharf, adjacent to the Aquarium. There are two to four trips daily on the summer schedule, with sunset cruises on weekends and holidays. The boats sell food and offer comfortable indoor space. But all the action is on the observation decks, with the chorus of oohs and aahs familiar to anyone who has experienced the thrill of seeing a whale close enough to feel the splash of its weight on the water.
Schedules and ticket info for whale watches can be found at Boston Harbor Cruises and at the Whale Watch booth at the Aquarium.
To get to Central Wharf and the Aquarium by MBTA, take the Green Line to Government Center, transfer to the Blue Line outbound, and get off at the Aquarium station.
This story was originally published on June 22, 2011; it has been recently updated to include current information as of 2013.