Looking to do some whale watching in Maine? We’ve put together a list of outfitters in some of our favorite spots, including Bar Harbor, Portland, and more!
By Joe Bills
Jun 17 2022
No creature on earth is more awe-inspiring than the whale — and it just so happens that the world’s largest living creatures are often found a mere 20 miles off the Maine coast. Eager to see them for yourself? Prime whale watching season runs from mid-April through October, and experienced guides are ready and waiting to take you to where the whales are. Here are a few of our favorite outfitters that offer terrific whale watching in Maine.
Whale watching in Maine has long been a tourist favorite. For more than 25 years, this venerable outfitter has been bringing landlubbers to the humpback, finback, and minke feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine. In addition to the standard-issue whale watch trips, the company also offers sunset whale watches and puffin-whale combination watches (during which you’ll likely see plenty of seals, dolphins, and offshore birds, too). Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. is among the very best at what it does, as more than 1 million satisfied customers from all over the world will attest.
Cap’n Fish’s bills itself as “Boothbay Harbor’s Original Whale Watch,” and it’s earned that title in the 80-some years since its founding. Regardless of whether you set out with Captain Steve (94 percent sightings) or Captain Tabor (97 percent sightings), you’ll come home with epic stories and photos almost every time. Onboard, you can situate yourself on the upper deck or retreat to the comfortable seating of the enclosed salon. Plus, Cap’n Fish’s vessels are designed to reduce emissions and be environmentally responsible, so you can travel guilt-free. Cap’n Fish’s also offers a puffin-whale combo trip, which includes passing by the seabird haven at Easter Egg Rock.
Setting sail from Kennebunkport, First Chance offers whale watches of varying lengths and intensity aboard Nick’s Chance, as well as lobster tours and educational tours of Maine’s marine culture aboard Kylie’s Chance. Humpbacks and minkes are the whales most often spotted, but blue whales and right whales make occasional appearances as well. Captain Gary Grenier been helming First Chance tours since 1998, and his experienced crew knows where to go and what to do to deliver memorable whale watching in Maine.
Visiting Portland but still want to enjoy some whale watching in Maine amid your big-city getaway? Odyssey Whale Watch is just the ticket, offering trips out of Casco Bay; the onboard naturalist will answer questions and make sure that you don’t miss a thing. Odyssey offers deep-sea fishing trips and private charters, too.
Whether you’re aboard the 33-foot Susan Jane with Captain Jim Parker or the slightly smaller Kandi Leigh with Captain James Robertson, you’ll have a personal whale watching experience: The trips last between four and five hours and are limited to about half a dozen passengers each. In addition to being a Coast Guard–certified sea captain, Captain Robertson is also a Maine Guide who’s worked as a commercial fisherman and scuba diver. Both captains know the waters and creatures of the Maine coast, and you will too, before your day is done.
Departing from the Inn on the Wharf in Lubec, the 26-passenger Tarquin offers a captain’s tour complete with sea stories, lighthouses, and seal and eagle viewing, but the whales are the stars. After a day at sea, dinner at the Inn’s Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant is the perfect capper.
NOTE:Although each of these companies has a high success rate, none can guarantee there will be whales seen on any given trip. However, most services do provide passengers who come up empty with a voucher for passage on a future tour.
Do you have a favorite spot for whale watching in Maine? Let us know!
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.