Last December, locals on both sides of the Hudson were surprised by an unlikely appearance. A humpback whale was spotted making its way into the river, just in time for the holidays. Though such a sighting is certainly a rarity, these giant visitors do show up in the Hudson from time to time. The whales are usually following a food source into the river, and they tend to pursue their prey right back to the ocean, leaving interested onlookers in their wake.
While the Hudson holds a great deal of fascinating wildlife, Hobokenites searching for Moby Dick should not wait for a chance encounter in the river. The Jersey Shore is home to several whale and dolphin expeditions with the sole “porpoise” of seeking sightings in the wild. A glimpse is not always guaranteed, but you’re sure to have a whale of a time exploring along the coast of the Garden State. Read on for five places to whale watch at the Jersey Shore.
Hoboken businessman Roger Muller recently saw three whales while out in the waters near Belmar. At the end of July, the veteran fisherman told Patch that the animals were incredibly close to shore by Sea Girt, within boating distance of Hoboken. Travel fifteen minutes north of Sea Girt, and you can embark on your own aquatic adventure with charters out of the Belmar Marina. Jersey Shore Whale Watch Tour is the most established of these experiences, offering three-hour voyages, seven days a week, throughout the season.
According to the Captain’s log, the company claims a ninety percent chance of a whale sighting and promises a second trip free of charge if your trip falls in the unlucky ten percent of outings. Rates range from $35 to $65 per person depending on individual age and timing.
Recent customers say that the aptly named Cape May Whale Watcher is “whale watching at its finest.” During the three-hour sail, the knowledgeable Captain and naturalists will discuss local history and wildlife as passengers are free to roam between two levels of viewing decks. As with Belmar’s operation, the Cape May Whale Watcher’s crew pledges a second trip if passengers do not encounter a whale, dolphin, or porpoise.
Passes start at $25 for children and $45 for adults, but these rates are subject to change based on the exact package selected. Children six and under are not charged admission.
Many professionals frequent the commuter ferry, but some might not be aware that Seastreak has a specialty whale watching cruise. As of this year, these boats depart from both the New York and New Jersey terminals, making the whale watching trip accessible for Hoboken residents. Over the three hours aboard, observers have been known to see a variety of species, including Humpback Whales and Bottlenose Dolphins. Seastreak also promises a most comfortable ride, noting that their state-of-the-art vessels provide “all of the comforts of home, just with a better view.”
The fully stocked bar and concession stand is open for all excursions. Tickets cost $30 for children, $55 for adults, and $50 for seniors.
Ocean City’s Screamer Speedboat is quite a sight to behold. Painted to resemble a menacing green sea monster, the 44-foot powerboat seats 38 guests, all eager to experience a thrill. Over the course of a fifty-minute high-speed ride, passengers are likely to encounter dolphins playing in the Screamer’s wake. Whales, too, might surface to say hello.
The Screamer offers a safe and especially speedy ride, so mammal sightings are not guaranteed. That said, the crew claims that they often find interesting wildlife while touring the shoreline, and they do base their routes off of reported activity. The cost of admission is $38.
The Starlight Fleet encourages “hands-on learning” at sea; the ship even has a touch tank on board to supplement this approach. A marine biologist and educator lead each dolphin and whale watch, lending ecosystem insight and expertise. The two-hour sail comes with complimentary concessions, and a recent partnership with Mudhen Brewing Co. will allow adult guests to enjoy the brewery’s signature beers while aboard.
Marine mammal sightings are once again guaranteed with a second trip if necessary. Boats depart four times a day with tickets costing $32 for adults and $22 for kids (aged seven to twelve). Rates for younger children’s tickets vary based on total group size.