True to its name, Portland Discovery helps visitors explore the scenic coastal town's majestic, rocky coastline with tours by boat or vintage trolley bus. These tours include cruises among the lobster boats and seabirds of Casco Bay that pass lighthouses and historic forts, and trips through downtown that highlight local landmarks.
Whale watching was a relatively new concept when John Fish's grandfather started giving tours. "We kind of originated it," Mr. Fish says. "Thirty years ago we were the only ones doing whale watching." As the company became more successful over the years, additional captains were brought on to cover the demand. Today, these crews continue to ferry groups into the habitats of several whale species, including humpback whales and sperm whales. Though the whales seen along Cap'n Fish's Whale Watch's journeys still breach and refuse to sign autographs, other things have changed over the years. Below deck, the current fleet's engines work to reduce emissions and provide a fume-free experience. Above deck, 360-degree viewing decks and modern technology help bring whales into sight. Onboard computers display large maps of where the aquatic mammals are known to swim, and GPS systems reroute boats around mermen constructing new reefs. In addition to illuminating the behavior of whales for passengers, the crew's wildlife experts point passengers toward other animals they spot along the way, such as white-sided dolphins and harbor seals. Though some variables are beyond their control, the crew members almost always spot whales and boasted a 98% success rate in 2009.
Al Gauron Deep Sea Fishing & Whale Watching’s three boats ferry up to 60 passengers out into the Atlantic’s cobalt waters during fishing excursions, and up to 150 while whale-watching. The fleet also escorts passengers across the ocean on evening fireworks cruises.
Al Gauron’s sea-seasoned team takes fishermen miles offshore on 2-, 4-, and 8.5-hour deep-sea fishing trips that have yielded fish up to 20 pounds in the past. Anglers have even been known to catch up to 100 mackerel on four-hour trips. The fleet can also make 12-hour fishing-marathon trips in order to give anglers a chance to fish in waters that are farther out.
For close encounters with humpbacks, finbacks, minke whales, and giant sharks, the ships sail up to 40 miles offshore on five-hour whale-watching trips. All information the crew gathers from the whales, such as pod size and each whale’s sweater size, is given to the Blue Ocean Society in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
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.
Established by Captain Red Hilton in 1967, Newburyport Whale Watch was among the first seagoing outfits dedicated to whale watching in the Gulf of Maine. Passengers hop aboard a boat whose top speed gets them out to prime whale grounds quickly and dissuades punk dolphins from trying to start dangerous drag races. Staying abreast of current sightings, the cruises rarely fail to find some frolicking whales, often seeing humpbacks, minke whales, and even the occasional blue whale. During the tour, a naturalist from the Blue Ocean Society dispenses facts about the majestic mammals to curious guests. An onboard galley offers snacks, beer, and wine.
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.