Oceanic Magic at Stellwagen Bank

Updated on July 21, 2018
Humpback going for a dive
Humpback going for a dive

What is Stellwagen Bank?

Stellwagen Bank is a marine sanctuary established in 1992 and located about 10 miles off Boston harbor. It is perhaps the best destination for whale watching in the northeastern United States. Home to a great variety of marine life, the most common species you'll see there are humpbacks, fin whales, minke whales, and Atlantic white-sided dolphins. Harbor porpoises and seals are also common, and northern right whales have been spotted a handful of times.

Tour Information

The most straightforward way to do a whale watching tour in Stellwagen Bank is with Boston Harbor Cruises. The boats are docked right next to the New England Aquarium, one of the best aquariums in the country (and worthy of a separate article). Joint tickets can be bought at a discount, but the standalone rate is $53 per adult, $33 per child, and $45 per senior. This is a lot of money for a single activity, but the cruise is typically 4 hours long, and you will definitely get a magical experience. Each tour takes 60-90 minutes to get from Boston harbor to the marine sanctuary, leaving about an hour in Stellwagen Bank surrounded by marine life of all kinds.

The tour boats are large catamarans (mine was named Cetacea), and they hold up to 400 people. Despite the large size, they can hit close to 40 miles per hour, so if you experience motion sickness you'll want to bring some Dramamine!

The view of Boston from the parking garage
The view of Boston from the parking garage

40 Bucks for Parking?!

Parking in Boston is always expensive, but the garage next to the aquarium is a whole other level. Anything longer than 80 minutes is a whopping $40, and if I had known that before getting there I would have gone somewhere else. That being said, both the aquarium and the whale watching booth provide parking validation, which is good for $10 off. The garage address is 70 E. India Row (my phone GPS found it without issue).

There is another garage nearby which also has a validation option, though I didn't check their current rates. The address is 30 Rowes Wharf, and it's roughly a quarter mile walk to the aquarium.

Part of the Boston skyline behind a...lighthouse thing?
Part of the Boston skyline behind a...lighthouse thing?

Leaving Boston

The view as you depart Boston harbor is very serene. Boston may not have the prettiest skyline, but it's certainly distinctive (and historic). You will pass a handful of small islands dotted with mansions, a lighthouse or two, and many buoys. Many species of birds can be seen flying around the shore, though most stay too far away for good pictures. After about 15 minutes slowly passing the popular boating areas, prepare for full steam ahead out to Stellwagen!

I wonder what the average property value is there...
I wonder what the average property value is there...
Some cormorants on a buoy, in front of a lighthouse
Some cormorants on a buoy, in front of a lighthouse
Cormorant flying above the waves
Cormorant flying above the waves

Onward, to the Whales!

The scientists aboard the Cetacea were fantastic resources for all things aquatic during the trip, and they were able to instantly identify every whale we saw. Though I took a lot of pictures, I won't attempt to accurately caption everything, because I have no hope for identifying which whales are which. What I can tell you is, the whales we got closest to on this trip were named Cardhu (with her new calf!), Doublet, and Clamp. We also saw a couple minke whales, and a very large pod of dolphins.

An interesting fact about humpbacks is the calves can't raise their tails. Even though humpback calves are born weighing 2000 pounds, their bodies are so lean that they can't counter-balance enough when diving to get that characteristic tail rising above the surface. Further, they can't dive very deep because their bodies aren't as insulated against the colder waters down below. But they have a secret for putting on that thick layer of protective blubber: humpback milk is approximately 45% fat. This makes it the consistency of cottage cheese! It takes calves 1-2 years of rapid growth before they have enough blubber to get that magical tail raise.

Picture Time

Disclaimer: I am NOT a professional photographer. I rented a Nikon DSLR and a lens for this trip, but I have never taken pictures of whales before, and most of this was dumb luck.

The pictures below were all taken over a roughly one hour period, and are not representative of the true magic of this experience. You can't control when and where a whale will pop up, so your eyes will see a LOT more than you can capture with a camera. Next time I go whale watching, I'm bringing some binoculars and just leaving the camera at home!

© 2018 Ted Zinzer

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Ted Zinzer profile imageAUTHOR

      Ted Zinzer 

      3 months ago from Connecticut

      Thanks Bill and Liz! Interesting content is all I'm hoping for.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      3 months ago from UK

      This is an interesting and well-illustrated article.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      3 months ago from Massachusetts

      Definitely something I would be interested in. Love the photos. Welcome to HubPages.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, wanderwisdom.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://wanderwisdom.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)