At the top of the Eastern seaboard of the United States, Maine is on the northern edge of the thriving Northeast whale watching scene. This region off the coast is loaded with whales and other marine life, so there is no shortage of whale watching cruises in Maine and the nearby states. Below is a guide to whale watching in Maine, which explains some of the basics of whale watching in the state, as well as lists the companies you can book a cruise with.
Whale watching in Maine is basically just like whale watching in New Hampshire and whale watching in Massachusetts. Northeast whale watching, among the best in the world, is centered in these three states, and the industry is blended together because the whale watching companies that are scattered along the coast, from southern Massachusetts to Northern Maine, are also searching the same region of the Atlantic Ocean for whales and other marine animals. In this area, the most commonly sighted whales, and the focus of most whale watching cruises, are humpback, finback and minke whales. However, other whale species are occasionally sighted, and many other forms of marine life are encountered as well. (Seabirds, including puffins, are particularly abundant off the coast of Maine.) Thus, regardless of your exact departure point along the northeastern coast, you’ll be in for a fairly similar whale watching experience. This is worth keeping in mind if you are in, say, southern Maine – you might be closer to a whale watching departure point in New Hampshire, like Rye Harbor, than you are to a departure point in Maine, and you won’t be missing out on “distinctly Maine whale watching” by going to New Hampshire because the two are so similar.
Listing them from north to south, the main places to whale watch in Maine are Bar Harbor, Boothbay Harbor, Portland, and Kennebunk. Each of these cities has one whale watching company: Bar Harbor Whale Watching Co, Cap’n Fish’s Whale Watch, Odyssey Whale Watch, and First Chance Whale Watch, respectively. As seems to be almost universally the case, the whale watching cruises from each of the companies last in the three to four hour range, with occasional time extensions if whales are particularly hard to spot. None of these companies runs an identical schedule, but in general the cruises sail from mid-May till sometime in October, with July and August constituting the peak of the season. The ticket prices also vary a bit, but adult tickets are in $50 to $60 range, and junior and children’s tickets are substantially cheaper.
If you are in Maine and are interested in whales, a whale watching cruise is definitely worth considering, at least if you are reasonably close to the four locations listed above, or near one of the whale watching departure points in New Hampshire (or just across the border in Canada). It’s a good way to spend a morning or afternoon on the ocean and experience Maine’s marine life up close.