As the sun makes its retreat into the horizon, the whales of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary come out to play. Their elephantine fins slap the waters with such zeal that the pod seems to be putting on a performance for the catamaran of whale watchers in their midst. This end-of-day nature show experienced by passengers aboard Boston's Best Cruises’ New England Aquarium Whale Watch is hardly a rarity, as the ship’s crews guarantee sightings of these gentle giants with each excursion.
Champions of the natural beauty of Boston Harbor and the area’s rich maritime history, Boston's Best Cruises’ expert crew sets sail on cruises to suit all manner of interest. Along with their whale watches, Boston’s Best Cruises whisks passengers away on Harbor Cruises that grant unimpeded views of the Boston skyline and the King Kongs pumping fists within its skyscrapers. The Salem Ferry facilitates leisurely cruises between Boston and the historic city, and aquatic outings to the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area enable activities such as sunset clambakes, hiking, and fishing.
During tours with Massachusetts Bay Lines, passengers can watch the sun dip behind the city from the middle of the harbor. Lights flicker on across the skyline, poking holes in the setting darkness and pinpointing each building's location. All the while, the water laps against the side of the boat, providing a soothing soundtrack.
Massachusetts Bay Lines has specialized in stunning views such as these for nearly 50 years. The family-owned company operates out of Rowes Wharf in downtown Boston, and its fleet includes a total of five unique vessels, instead of just one boat with a different name painted on the side each week. Customers can rent these boats out as private charters, or they can climb aboard for music and group tours of the harbor, which cruise past the 200-year-old USS Constitution and many more of the city's historic sites.
One of the largest conservation organizations in New England, Mass Audubon cares for 34,000 acres of natural land in a network of more than 50 wildlife sanctuaries across the state. Its members receive free admission to these pacific preserves, where, alongside more than 150 endangered or threatened native species, they can breathe in Mother Nature’s perfume or have a good cry on her mossy bosom. During bird-migration season, alert gazes can capture some 300 species of sky surfer at Allens Pond on the South Coast, and visitors to Lincoln’s Drumlin Farm can re-enact Charlotte's Web with a motley band of sheep, cows, goats, and pigs.
You're rarely guaranteed to see a whale, unless you go to the aquarium or you're watching Free Willy very carefully. On voyages with Plymouth Whale Watches, however, sightings are guaranteed. The expert crew helps passengers spot species from humpback whales to pilot whales during trips that traverse North Atlantic waters en route to Stellwagen Bank. On the boat's lower deck and roomy sun decks, passengers might also spot porpoises, seals, and dolphins. Between sightings, patrons can listen to the crew's historical tidbits about Plymouth, and head to a galley that's stocked with food and drinks.
The ocean's waves and a seabird's occasional rock ballad are all that interrupt the silence across the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Suddenly, a humpback whale leaps from the water and crashes back down, sending a plume of whitecaps into the air. Aboard their boat, a tour group snaps photos of the breathtaking moment as a crewmember narrates it all.
The US Coast Guard–licensed captains at Capt John Whale Watching and Fishing Tours aim to create once-in-a-lifetime experiences like these everyday. Their boats serve as floating classrooms, aboard which they teach deep-sea fishing some days and pilot groups into the habitats of everything from dolphins to minke whales on other days. The marine educators also lead kids' programs that let the students explore an on-board tidal pool to feel the texture of spider crabs, sea stars, and baby submarines.
Since 1979, the whale-watching pioneers of Cape Ann Whale Watch have escorted more than half a million spectators fascinated by the sea's magnificent leviathans on three- to four-hour treks 15 miles off the Gloucester coast. Aboard the lightning-fast 115-foot Hurricane II, passengers can witness the natural grace of humpback whales, finback whales, dolphins, and pirates disguised as mermaids feeding and frolicking just feet from the boat. In the course of the approximately 60-mile circuit, a naturalist from "Planet Whale" narrates excursions, illumining the sight of each water dweller by discussing why whales breach, how to recognize individual humpbacks, and various feeding styles.