When you get as far north as New Jersey, or more specifically the city of Cape May, whale watching on the East Coast becomes more of a live option. South of New Jersey, there are a couple of scattered whale watching cruises, but most of the states along the East Coast have close to no whale watching cruise opportunities. New Jersey in particular doesn’t have a ton of opportunities, but there are two companies dedicated to whale watching cruises, both of which are in Cape May, and there are also a couple of ocean tours in New Jersey that are like whale watching cruises. A guide to whale watching in New Jersey is largely a guide to whale watching in Cape May, so we’ll focus on the cruises in this city, but we also include details about related cruises as well, one of which isn’t in Cape May.
The primary reason there is whale watching on the northern end of the East Coast is that whales actually stay in this area for a significant period of time. Although there are some variations between species, most whales spend their summers in cold northern (or cold southern) waters, and then they migrate to warmer waters, often for birthing purposes, when the winter bears down. Whale watching cruises operate within the time frame imposed by whale migration patterns, and thus whale watching in New Jersey is a summer activity. The whales that are spotted are often feeding off the coast, and the cruises that depart from New Jersey scramble to see them all summer before they head south sometime in September or October. At this point in the year, most the whale watching ceases, which is just as well because the weather takes a turn for the worse as winter quickly approaches.
In New Jersey, there are technically only two outfits that specifically advertise whale watching cruises. They are both based in Cape May and have extremely similar names: Cape May Whale Watcher and Cape May Whale Watch. (The latter is more expansively known as “Cape May Whale Watch & Research Center,” but the “& Research Center” is often dropped, and indeed is not a part of the company’s URL.) Although these two companies, as their names show, have a clear focus on whales, both of them bill their whale watching cruise as “whale and dolphin watching cruises.” Dolphins are a lot easier to see than whales, so the dual focus of the cruises makes sense, plus it allows both companies to guarantee a marine mammal sightings.
The two other New Jersey-based ocean tour companies we found only advertise themselves as dolphin watching outfits. One of these, Thundercat Dolphin Watch, is based in Cape May, and the other, Atlantic City Cruises, is not surprisingly based in Atlantic City. Thundercat uses a speedboat for their tours and is only focused on dolphin watching, and Atlantic City Cruises is a larger company that offers a variety of different cruises, of which dolphin watching is one. These companies don’t specifically advertise it, but it is presumably possible to see a whale on either one of these cruises, and given that the dedicated whale watching cruises also focus on dolphins, Thundercat and Atlantic City’s offerings are probably not too much different than Cape May Whale Watch and Cape May Whale Watcher’s cruises.
If you are interested in booking a whale watching (and/or dolphin watching) cruise from New Jersey, we recommend checking the sites above for exact scheduling information. Their schedules are fairly complex, with the number of cruise offerings depending heavily on what month it is, so it is best to consult the most current information when considering a booking. You might also want to talk to a sales representative to get your reservation sorted, and there are numbers for each company on their websites. If you are a little further south of New Jersey, but still on the East Coast and interested in whale watching, you might check out our articles on whale watching in Delaware and Whale Watching in Virginia Beach.