Although there is a chill in the air, that doesn’t mean that vacation time is officially over. On the contrary, just a few hours north of New Jersey lies the crooked arm of Cape Cod and a chance for a pre-winter brief seashore getaway. My wife and I have been regular visitors to “The Cape” since the 1980’s and we never tire of its charms. From the crisp salty air to the almost uncountable seafood temptations, the Cape is a great place to recharge and refresh. But the one thing we never miss when we visit is a chance to go whale watching off the eastern tip in quirkey, unique and often outrageous Provincetown – AKA “P’Town”.
We tried whale watching on our first trip to this seaside mecca when our inn keeper showed us snapshots from some of his guests. We said the word “wow!” more times than an educated person would like to admit because the pictures were amazing. We booked a trip from Barnstable (location of the B&B we were enjoying) but learned fast that the better option is to drive out to the end of the Cape because it offers a shorter boat ride to the feeding grounds and more time actually being awed by these immense creatures.
A word of advice – Provincetown is not a place for the easily shocked. Period! It’s a town where freespirits roam without fear of coming under the critical eye of narrowminded folk. It has a booming artist community and it is also a place where gay men and women are free to be who they are without apology or fear. And that’s not a warning – just a heads up!
Our favorite whale watching service is called the “The Dolphin Fleet”. They have a guarantee that you will see whales and in over 25 years of visits, we have never failed to be blessed with many (often dozens of) sightings. In addition to providing a wonderful boat ride, they also have a naturalist on board who explains the history of whaling in the area, their biology and the environmental issues that have an impact their habitat. These trips last for several hours but the running commentary by the naturalist and the beautiful shore views of sand, sea, light houses and shore birds makes the time fly by.
The first sign that you have entered whale territory is usually a change in the roar of the giant boat’s engines. The rules governing how close a boat can approach a whale and how many boats can surround any single whale are clear and strict. When the captain or member of the crew spots a fin, tail or spout, the engines are immediately throtteled back and then the naturalist gets on the sound system and directs your attention to the port or starboard using the concept of a clock face to pinpoint the whale. For example, they might say, “Whale off port bow at 3 o’clock”. That’s a whale on the left side, directly parallel to the boat. It’s an easy system and works well. Plus, these animals are so huge, it’s kind of difficult to miss them.
Bring your camera, binoculars, a warm jacket or sweater and sunglasses and you should be all set for a day on the ocean. If you are not a good sailor (meaningm you get sea sick) be sure to take seasick pills before you get on the boat. The boat goes a good distance from land and you are often out of sight of land. Out there, the sea can get rough. Unlike my wife, I am a poor sailor but a few pills ahead of time and I am always fine.
Provincetown is blessed with lots of good places to eat but our personal favorite is “The Lobster Pot” – a very short walk from the dock when The Dolphin Fleet boats dock.
Cape Cod is about a 6 hour drive north of New Jersey. It’s all highway miles and they go quickly. Once on the Cape, follow Route 6 out toward Provicetown. We find that the town of Wellfleet offers the best value in hotel accomodations. It’s far enough from “P’Town” to be be quiet and family friendly and close enough to afford quick access to the many parking facilities and the whale watching services.
Not convinced? Then look at the slide show and see just how close your can get to these magnificent animals and how exciting a whale watching trip can be.