Whale Watching on Cape Cod: An Adventure of a Lifetime

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We are lucky to live in an area of such incredible natural beauty. Cape Cod’s diverse ecosystem supports an abundance of exquisite flora and fauna, much of which is unique to our area. But perhaps nothing piques the curiosity of our Inn guests as the annual return of whales to Cape Cod Bay.

Humpbacks, and certain other species of whales, feed for about six or seven months along Stellwagen Bank, an 842-square-mile section of shallows lying in the Gulf of Maine just off the mouth of Cape Cod Bay. A prime fishing area, Stellwagen’s unique conditions and topography enable it to support a tremendous diversity of marine life, from single-cell organisms to great whales. A protected National Marine Sanctuary since 1992, Stellwagen Bank attracts whales due to its abundant food supply, which includes plankton, squid, herring, and sand eels.

For many, humpback whales are the most popular species to watch because they are inquisitive enough to come very close to the whale watching boats and have an engaging tendency to perform. On our most recent whale watching adventure in August of 2010, our onboard naturalist pointed out several whales by name. Identified by unique markings on his fluke, our guide introduced us to Bandit, a particularly charming and entertaining whale who liked to jump out of the water, spin in mid-air, and land with a thwack on his back to the delight of those of us onboard that afternoon. Salt, Crystal, Apostrophe, Compass, Persied, Cajun, Firefly, Tear, Pele, Milkweed, Alphorn, Belli, Draco, Bolide, Nile, Barb, Ampersand, Jabiru, Glo, and Poobah are but a few who also made regular appearances last season, many with calf in tow.

The Hyannis Whale Watcher departs from Barnstable Harbor, just 15 minutes from our inn on Cape Cod. We recommend this trip because it is so convenient for our guests. Other excursions depart from Provincetown, which is about an hour’s drive from us, but most of our guests prefer more time on the boat and less time in the car. Typically the boats run from mid-April through the end of October and are 3 ½ to 4 hours in length. All whale-watching excursions guarantee sightings during the season, so on the off chance that no whales are spotted, you’ll be given a rain check to use at another time. None of our guests has ever been disappointed, however, and several have told us stories of mothers and calves breaching together, humpbacks seeming to wave their fins, and once, of the captain having to turn off the engines while a humpback scratched its back on the bottom of the boat.

One guest in particular happened to catch a spectacular whale watching adventure a couple of summers ago and was able to document it for us with his sophisticated camera equipment. He generously shared his photos with us recently, and I have complied them into a short video that I uploaded to YouTube for your viewing pleasure.

We offer the “Whale of an Adventure” package from mid-May through mid-October, which includes two nights at the High Pointe Inn, breakfast each morning, afternoon tea, after dinner drinks from our cordials bar, 3-course gourmet dinner for two one night, plus two adult whale watch tickets. Visit our Special and Packages page for more details.