A wild animal show awaits just a few miles off the Maine coast.
Stand on a promontory in Lubec or Monhegan and stare out at the horizon long enough, and chances are that you’ll see the telltale spout of a whale. Each summer these denizens of the deep return to the rich waters of the Gulf of Maine, some staying the season while others make their way north to feeding grounds off Canada and Greenland. If you’re fascinated by these magnificent mammals, you owe it to yourself to hop aboard one of the many whale-watching boats operating out of ports from Ogunquit to Lubec. Even if the whales are shy about showing up on any particular day, it’s a rare voyage that doesn’t turn up seals, ospreys, porpoises, or maybe even a puffin or two. The following boats and companies, listed alphabetically by town, are among the growing number offering whale-watching trips, but the list is by no means comprehensive. Contact local chambers of commerce and harbormasters for other possibilities. Generally, reservations are recommended, and it’s always a good idea to call ahead anyway to make sure weather conditions haven’t caused delays.
Bar Harbor Whale Watch, Bar Harbor
These fully narrated trips leave from 1 West Street at the town pier and tend to run about three and a half hours long. You may also be treated to the sight of dolphins, porpoises, and seals, as well, so don’t forget the camera. Trips begin June 21 through August 20 at 1 p.m., August 21 through October 2 at 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., October 3 through late October at noon, and July 13 through August 21 at 4:30 p.m. $56 for adults, $28 for ages six to fourteen, $8 for kids five and under. Call 207-288-2386 or visit www.barharborwhales.com for more information.
Boothbay Whale Watch, Boothbay Harbor
Board the Harbor Princess on a leviathan quest, with trips narrated by a naturalist and an onboard galley serving hamburgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches. Trips are approximately three to four hours long, and if for some reason you don’t sight any of the creatures, they’ll issue you a standby pass (that doesn’t expire) for another trip. Even if Moby Dick fails to show himself, you’re sure to see seals, possibly a porpoise, and all types of flying creatures. There is one trip daily June 12 through July 2 at 11 a.m. and 12:30 on Sunday; from July 3 through September 5, trips are twice daily at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., except on Sunday when there is only one trip at 12:30 p.m.; and from September 6 through October 10, there’s one trip daily at 11 a.m. $38 for adults, $32 for eleven to sixteen, $25 for six to tens, and free for kids under five. Call 207-633-3500 or 888-WHALEME for more information or visit www.whaleme.com.
Cap’n Fish’s, Boothbay Harbor
Whales and other Maine marine wildlife abound beyond the rails of the Pink Lady, the Pink Lady II, or the Island Lady. Wildlife experts narrate the trips, which last between three and three-and-a-half hours. From July 3 to September 5 trips run twice daily Monday through Saturday at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., and at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. Starting September 6 until October 10, trips run daily at 11:30 a.m. except for Sundays, when they leave at 12:30 p.m. $38 for adults, $32 for children eleven to sixteen, $25 for children six to ten, and free for kids under five. Plus, there’s a snack bar in case all that salt air makes you hungry. Call 207-633-3244 or 800-636-3244 or visit www.mainewhales.com
Eastport Windjammers, Eastport
The Sylvina W. Beal, a fifty-passenger windjammer out of Eastport, runs daily whale watching trips leaving at 1:30 p.m. and lasting until 4:30 p.m. Visit whale feeding grounds and admire the other creatures, such as porpoises, seals, and eagles, along the way. You may also catch a peek of the Old Sow, the largest whirlpool in the western hemisphere (don’t worry, captains know to stay at a safe distance). $37 for adults, $20 for those twelve and under. Call 207-853-2500 for more information or visit www.eastportwindjammers.com/beal.html
Cape Arundel Cruises (Nautilus), Kennebunkport
One daily four-hour trip at 10 a.m. from Memorial Day through Columbus Day, plus a sunset whale watch in July and August. Call 207-967-0707 or 877-933-0707.
First Chance Whale Watch, Kennebunkport
Four to four and a half hour trips. From June 28 through September 12, daily departures are at 10 a.m. and noon on Sundays, and from September 13 through October 3, weekends only at 10 a.m. $48 for adults, $28 for children three to twelve, and $10 kids up to three. 207-967-5507 or 800-767-2628. www.firstchancewhalewatch.com
Seafari Charters, Kittery
Private charters aboard Seafari are available from April 1 until the end of November for up to twenty people for an hour of steaming time. The ride also includes an on-board mammal library and videotapes. $30 per person. 207-439-5068. www.seafaricharters.com
Atlantic Adventures, Portland
Whale watching,deep-sea fishing,and scenic cruises with lobstering.May 1 through October 15. Trips by reservation only. 207-838-9902. www.atlanticadventures.biz
This whale-watch cruise on Casco Bay leaves Long Wharf at 10 a.m. Cruises are June 10 through October 31, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday at 10 a.m. The boat ride takes about six hours. Adults $47, children twelve and under $38, and infants two and under $9. 207-775-0727. www.odysseywhalewatch.com
Photograph by ©IStockPhoto.com/RodKaye