7 Things To Know About Whale Watching Trips

In order to get out to the deep water that whales love, expect to be out on the boat for three to five hours. It will take at least an hour or more to get out and back, which will leave you one to two hours of hunting and watching.

We recently went on a Whale Watch with a new-to-us charter called Captain John Boats out of Plymouth, MA. I hope you find these 7 things to know about whale watching helpful. If you are visiting Plymouth, find more things to do by visiting my review of Delightful Plymouth Massachusetts.

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Humpback Whales

1. What To Expect

In order to get out to the deep water that whales love, expect to be out on the boat for three to five hours. It will take at least an hour or more to get out and back, which will leave you one to two hours of hunting and watching.

If you are prone to motion sickness, be prepared. The ocean swells will have even a large boat rocking as you move over them. The rear of the boat will have a smoother ride than the front, so head there if you are a bit queasy.

2. What To Bring

Sunblock, sunglasses, and a hat


Camera or your charged phone

Your patience, and something to entertain the munchkins

Water and snacks, many boats will sell libations, water, and snacks on board.

An extra layer of clothing

3. What To Wear

Wear sturdy shoes – i.e. sneakers. You will see guests in flip flops and if the deck gets wet, you will also see them slipping around.

Wear weather appropriate clothing and then pack one more layer i.e. a jacket. It can be 10 to 15 degrees cooler out in the open water.

4. How To Take Great Photos With your phone

Use video instead of stills, with the free iMovie app, you can isolate a still photo from your video. This gives you a much better chance of capturing that Instagram perfect pic.

Make sure you have a wrist strap or shoulder strap on your phone, you don’t want it going in for a swim. This Joto Waterproof Pouch from Amazon is inexpensive and offers waterproof protection.

5. Sonar And Radar

If a whale watch says they use sonar and radar to track whales, be wary.

Sonar detects what is under the boat – hopefully you will have spotted the whales before they are under your boat!

Radar locates items on the surface and will detect large schools of fish, which can indicate a feeding place for the whales.

However, a good captain will have an idea where the whales are feeding, will be in contact with other captains out on the water, and have great vision for spotting whale splashes.

6. Arrive early

Arrive early, you don’t want to be running for the boat as they are pulling up the gang plank. Entertaining for the passengers on board, but not so much for you.

If you have your heart set on riding the front or the rear of the boat, and it’s a large touring boat, arrive very early, the best seats fill up quickly.

7. Bring cash

Cash (and usually cards) can be used to buy for snacks, drinks, and ship sponsored photos you may wish to purchase.

Cash tips for the crew are always appreciated.

I hope you get to enjoy a Whale Watching trip very soon. It is a wonder way to spend a sunny afternoon. If you use these 7 things to know about whale watching, they will help you have a whale of an adventure.

Happy Travels,


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23 thoughts on “7 Things To Know About Whale Watching Trips”

  1. We did one whale watching tour in Virginia Beach in February. The whales were, indeed, about an hour from the dock. All we ended up seeing were the rolling back of the whales, but it was still an awesome experience.

  2. It has been a while since I have done a tour like this. I bet my kids would really like going out and seeing the whales.

  3. I love whale watching and tour tips and suggestions are fantastic! Thank you for sharing your knowledge, it will make the experience even more enjoyable!

  4. What an interesting and delightful post. Great suggestions and I can imagine, its just amazing to see. I haven’t been on the water for some time – not sure if I would get sea sick but you covered that as well. Thanks!

  5. What a good idea to have a strap for your phone on a whale watching trip! I’d probably drop my phone over the edge of the boat! 😉 You have me inspired to go whale watching again!

  6. We have yet to travel anywhere that does whale watching tours… but it is on the list! Great tips to keep in mind for when that day finally arrives!

  7. I like the suggestion of using the movie app and then pulling pictures from that. It’s sometimes hard to take photos fast enough.

  8. Wow! Wonderful & informative post with so many helpful tips. Hope to go whale watching one day, having never done that before. Thank you, for sharing 🙂

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