Dolphin tours in Cape May

Whale Watching in Cape May, NJ – Best Time & Tours

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Cape May whale-watching trip is a must-do when you’re in New Jersey. Living in Philadelphia, we’re just a couple of hours from this vacation destination, so every year we look forward to the Cape May whale watching tour we take every summer. It’s my favorite trip of the year and one of the best things to do in New Jersey!

Here, you can see several whale and dolphin species in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay. The area is rich in marine life thanks to the combination of fresh and saltwater currents, and it’s even possible to see whales and dolphins from the shore. No doubt why Cape May is considered one of the best beaches in New Jersey!

Cape May whale-watching, best whale-watching in Cape May

Cape May whale-watching

That said, whale and dolphin-watching in Cape May is far better in a boat, so I recommend booking a tour. While there are whale and dolphin tours in Cape May year-round, I’m going to tell you the best time to go whale-watching in this guide. I’ll also share my tour recommendations for the best whale-watching in Cape May, so keep reading to learn more about spotting cetaceans in New Jersey!

1. Whale and dolphin-watching cruise in Cape May, New Jersey

This 3-hour Cape May whale-watching scenic cruise is a great way to spot cetaceans while learning about the city’s history. As you keep an eye out for local marine life, you’ll travel along the historic waterfront and see the Victorian homes that Cape May is known for. Along with these iconic points of interest, your guide will point out any graceful whales and playful dolphins that are swimming through the sea.

Scenic cruise, Cape May whale-watching season

1. Whale and dolphin-watching cruise in Cape May, New Jersey

  • Highlights: Historic waterfront, whales, dolphins, and other sea creatures
  • Starting point: Cape May Whale Watcher marina
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Price: $48
  • Description: See whales and dolphins in Cape May while learning about the local marine creatures that inhabit the waters by the shore. This cruise also goes by the historic Victorian homes along the waterfront.

2. Full-day dolphin and whale watching in Cape May, NJ

For an all-day adventure, I recommend this marine life and bird cruise. You’ll travel about 50 miles offshore into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, where you can see sharks, sea turtles, and a variety of oceanic fish. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins playing in the boat’s wake and listen as your naturalist guide points out several local bird species. You’ll ride on a multi-deck boat that grants you panoramic views and spectacular photo ops.

Marine and bird cruise, whale-watching in Cape May NJ

2. Full-day dolphin and whale watching in Cape May, NJ

  • Highlights: Sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, and a variety of seabirds
  • Starting point: Cape May Whale Watch & Research Center
  • Duration: 12 hours
  • Price: $110
  • Description: Leave early in the morning and take to the deep sea of the Atlantic Ocean. Spot a variety of seabirds and oceanic sunfish, and keep an eye out for turtles, dolphins, and sharks.

3. Sunset dolphin and whale watching in Cape May, NJ

For a fun evening dolphin watching in Cape May, consider this 2-hour sunset cruise near the Delaware Bay. You’ll hop aboard a Cape May Whale Watcher boat and learn from knowledgeable naturalists who will tell you about the local marine life. While you enjoy the beautiful sunset over Cape May’s historic waterfront, see groups of dolphins playing and jumping in the sea. Snacks are included, too.

2-hour sunset cruise, Cape May whale-watching season

3. Sunset dolphin and whale watching in Cape May, NJ

  • Highlights: Lots of bottlenose dolphins, seabirds, and sunset views
  • Starting point: Cape May Whale Watcher marina
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Price: $37
  • Description: Enjoy a lovely two hours on the sea, taking in the sights of graceful dolphins and the sunset glow over the Cape May Lighthouse and other historic landmarks.

4. Dolphin watching tour in Cape May with breakfast

This 2-hour morning cruise is the perfect way to start your day. Climb on board and enjoy a light breakfast while passing by the town’s historic Victorian homes and the Cape May Lighthouse. You can stay in the climate-controlled indoor viewing area or go onto the outdoor deck. Enjoy this Cape May dolphin tour while learning about the history of the town and the marine life you can find here.

2-hour morning cruise, best whale-watching in Cape May New Jersey

4. Dolphin watching tour in Cape May with breakfast, Cape May whale-watching

  • Highlights: Dolphins, light breakfast, historic views
  • Starting point: Cape May Whale Watcher marina
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Price: $37
  • Description: Check out the beautiful morning views of the Cape May shoreline. While you enjoy a continental breakfast, keep an eye on the sea for pods of playful dolphins.
 

 

Cape May whale-watching season

While reading this guide, I’m sure the first question you’ll have is about the best time to see whales in Cape May. After all, you wouldn’t want to waste your time and money on a whale-watching cruise and not see any whales!

In a nutshell, the whales you’ll find around Cape May are migratory, so if you want the highest chances of seeing them, book a tour between May and September. July and August are popular booking times, but Cape May’s whale-watching season dies down in the late summer and early fall, so try to plan accordingly. The truth is, these tours are quite popular, so I always recommend purchasing your ticket in advance.

Cape May Whale Watching & Research Center

One of the most popular Cape May whale-watching tour providers is the Cape May Whale Watching and Research Center. Established in 1987, it was one of the first companies to offer tours on the Atlantic and the Delaware Bay.

The tour company and research center focus on eco-tourism and educate customers on the local biology and ecology. Plus, a portion of ticket sales goes towards research and projects like the Bottlenose Dolphin Catalogue, Clean Ocean Initiative Program, and photo identification of humpbacks and other baleen whales.

Cape May Whale Watching & Research Center, whales in Cape May

Cape May Whale Watching & Research Center

During your whale and dolphin tour in Cape May, you’ll ride on one of the opportunistic research vessels and learn from expert marine naturalists. The company operates year-round from the South Jersey Marina and offers morning, sunset, and all-day whale-watching cruises.

Types of whales in Cape May

While you’re whale-watching in Cape May, you should know which creatures to be on the lookout for. Below are the most common marine species you may see on a Cape May dolphin tour.

Humpback whales

If you’re going to see whales in Cape May, they’re probably going to be humpbacks. These massive whales can reach 60 feet long, and the females are bigger than the males.

Humpback whales, whale-watching in Cape May

Humpback whales

Humpbacks have a melodic, breathy song, and they’re known for their majestic breaching behaviors. During the summer, humpback whales populate the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, feeding on prey and storing fat for their migration south.

Dolphins in Cape May

One of the most popular activities in Cape May is dolphin-watching, so be sure to take advantage of one of the tours here. The best time to see dolphins in Cape May is in the spring and summer. Dolphins are known for their cheerful, rambunctious attitude, and they can live up to 60 years in the wild. In the Delaware Bay, you’re most likely to see Atlantic bottlenose, white-sided, and striped dolphins.

Gray and harbor seals

Other marine species you might see on a Cape May whale-watching tour are seals. They like to migrate to the Delaware Bay during the winter, so your best chances of seeing them are in the colder months. The seals will come to land after they’ve fed so they can rest and digest, and there are three species common to this area.

Gray and harbor seals, Cape May dolphin tours

Gray and harbor seals

Gray seals are the heftiest, weighing up to 800 pounds, while harbor seals are smaller and have a blue-gray color. In the winter months, you might also spot harp seals, which can be up to six feet long.

Cownose rays

While looking for whales in Cape May, keep an eye out for cownose rays. A type of eagle ray, these creatures range in length from 2.5 to 3 feet. They’re a vulnerable species but are still found in their natural habitat in the Atlantic Ocean.

Seabirds in Cape May

Not only can you see whales and dolphins in Cape May, but also a vast array of seabirds. The area is known as one of the top bird-watching spots in the country, especially during the fall migration. Among the birds you can see here, keep your eyes peeled for the Cape May Warbler, a striking yellow and black songbird. As for seabirds, you can see eagles, osprey, loons, grebes, red knots, and more.

Seabirds in Cape May, whale-watching in Cape May New Jersey

Seabirds in Cape May

That’s it for my guide on Cape May whale-watching! I hope I answered all your questions about spotting whales and dolphins in Cape May. If you have any other concerns about Cape May whale watching tours, leave me a comment and I’ll be happy to help!

Happy whale-watching!

 
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COFOUNDER & TRAVEL JUNKIE

Hi, I'm Ascen, a globetrotter based in Philadelphia, USA. I enjoy exploring new landscapes and creating in-depth travel guides for Capture the Atlas.

I have felt a special connection with nature and all the inhabitants of the planet since I was a kid. I am passionate about discovering new countries and especially their wildlife, but no matter how many places I visit, I will always belong to the remote beaches of Almería, in Southern Spain.

You can know a little more about me here.

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