In close proximity to Massachusetts, the center of the East Coast whale watching industry, New Hampshire is an excellent place to take a whale watching cruise. If you are anywhere along the New Hampshire coast from late spring to mid-Autumn, there is likely a whale watching cruise departing nearby. Information about whale watching cruises in a particular state is largely information about where to whale watch in a particular state, so below we focus on the places you can take a whale watching cruise in New Hampshire – Rye Harbor, Hampton Beach, and Seabrook Beach – and also on the companies that offer them.
Because the states are right by each other and line the same region of the Atlantic Ocean, the whale watching scene in New Hampshire is almost indistinguishable from the whale watching scene in Massachusetts. In fact, they essentially blend together, as you can take a whale watching cruise from southern New Hampshire or northern Massachusetts (e.g., Newburyport) and end up exploring the same waters. Just like in Massachusetts, you will almost certainly see whales on your sailing – most likely humpback, finback, or minke whales – and in fact most companies will guarantee a sighting, and if no whales are seen, you can ride a future cruise for free. Apart from whales, you can also see a variety of other forms of marine life, including dolphins, porpoises, and occasionally even sharks.
The only real difference between New Hampshire and Massachusetts, in terms of whale watching, is the length of their coastline. New Hampshire’s is quite small, and there are basically only three places from which you can depart on a whale watching cruise: Rye Harbor, Hampton Beach, and Seabrook Beach. Rye Harbor is a few miles from the northern border of the state, and then moving south along the coast you come to Hampton Beach and then Seabrook Beach. All these towns are close to one another, and between the three of them most of the New Hampshire coast is covered. So, at any given geographical point along the seaboard, you can basically drive north or south and you’ll be in a town that has whale watching cruises.
As for which companies offer these cruises, we’ve been able to find four providers, although it is difficult to determine an exact number because there are probably private charter companies that have the capacity to offer whale watching cruises, but simply don’t advertise this fact. If you called up one of these charter companies and asked for a private whale watching tour, they might be happy to oblige you, but we nevertheless don’t regard such companies, whose boats are used for a hundred different purposes, as a whale watching cruise company.
In any case, there are consistent whale watching outfits that sail from the three departure points mentioned above. Atlantic Whale Watch and Granite State Whale Watch operate out of Rye Harbor, Al Gauron Whale Watching operates out of Hampton Beach, and Eastman’s Docks out of Seabrook Beach. For whatever reason, Eastman’s Docks and Al Gauron Whale Watching, which are located on the southern end of the coast, only operate whale watching cruises in July and August, whereas the two companies in Rye Harbor operate from May to mid-October. So, if you want to whale watch early or late in the season, you’ll have to head to Rye Harbor. Regardless of where you whale watch, the prices are almost exactly same. An adult ticket is in the $30-$35 range, but discounts are offered for senior and children’s tickets.
Overall, New Hampshire is a great place to whale watch. There are ample opportunities, and on every cruise you are all but assured of seeing whales.