Spring trips offer some of the best chances to see North Atlantic right whales.

Early spring is a great time for a New England Aquarium Whale Watch, and the daily excursions to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary offer good opportunities to see several different species of large whales and some of the best chances of the year to see the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.

According to Laura Howes—Director of Research and Education for our whale watch partner, Boston Harbor Cruises—adventurers on earlier trips this spring to the marine sanctuary, a rich feeding ground for whales, dolphins, sea birds, and other marine creatures, have spotted humpback, sei, minke, and fin whales.

North Atlantic right whales are also in the area this time of year because they travel up from the calving grounds in the south to their summer feeding grounds off the coast of Canada. A pair of these beautiful behemoths were spotted skimfeeding a couple of days ago. 

But whales are not the only marine animals that can be observed in the spring. Several sea birds, such as scoters and alcids, migrate this time of year, said Laura, who saw a dovekie alcid earlier this week. Other birds spotted on recent watches include eiders and gannets, and making appearances too were harbor and grey seals, dolphins, and porpoises.

a whale breaches during a whale watch
Spring is a great time to take a New England Aquarium Whale Watch. You never know what excitement awaits.

While it can be cold on a spring whale watch, the catamarans have heated cabins, allowing for whale watchers to pop in and warm up if necessary.

The decision to cancel a boat trip on any day is conditional on the state of the ocean; waves of more than 5 feet will cause a cancellation.

“We have gone out when it is raining, snowing, in the fog,” said Laura. “People usually think that if it is raining, we cancel the whale watch. But I have had great trips in the rain.”

Laura suggests that people dress warmly as it is usually 20 degrees colder on the water, even in the heat of the summer. She also reminds whale watchers to bring sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat as one can still get sunburned this time of year. Even though the catamarans are designed to be highly stable, be prepared for motion sickness and take Dramamine an hour before boarding if necessary. There are other sea seasickness tips available on the Boston Harbor Cruises website, bostonharborcruises.com.

A New England Aquarium naturalist is aboard each whale watch to share knowledge, answer questions, and explain the behaviors of the these magnificent mammals, including some pretty interesting feeding habits of the different whales. The naturalists also share messages about conservation and how to inspire guests to take their own actions in their communities to help the ocean. On every trip, the naturalists collect research, which they share with various local, nonprofit organizations.

whale sighted on whale watch
New England Aquarium naturalists help whale watch-goers know what to look for and explain what they are seeing.

The whale watches leave Central Wharf on Boston’s waterfront weekdays at 10 a.m. and weekends at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. until May 4. Beginning May 5, another weekday trip is offered at noon, and two additional weekend trips are added at 11 a.m. and noon. On Memorial Day Weekend (May 26-28), there are six trips daily. During the heart of the summer, there are five trips on weekdays and eight trips on weekends.

So buy your tickets today to see the animals that are too big to fit in the Aquarium.

“Every day is different, and the mystery of what you might see that day adds to the excitement. Just because we didn’t see a humpback whale or a particular species the day before doesn’t mean we won’t see it the next day,” said Laura.

For more information on a New England Aquarium Whale Watch, visit our website. And to see what has been seen on the latest whale watches, visit the blog.

whale tail surrounded by birds
As the weather warms, Boston Harbor Cruises offers more and more New England Aquarium Whale Watch trips.