Roughly 20 miles off shore from the rocky Maine coastline lies Georges Bank, the famed fishing grounds in the Atlantic Ocean. While fishermen have been plying their trade in the Gulf of Maine for centuries, the area is also a prime feeding ground for several species of whales, for also come to take advantage of the teeming schools of fish located there.
Summer visitors to the Maine shore – especially the popular tourist destination of Bar Harbor – can experience the awesome power and majesty of these seafaring mammals, often up close, via a range of whale watching excursions based in the town.
Bar Harbor is the home of Acadia National Park, a thriving port of call for summer luxury cruises, and a quaint New England seaside town. Several companies based on the Bar Harbor waterfront offer whale watching day trips, with a wide variety of experiences available for families enjoying a summer vacation in Maine.
From late April through October, a number of cetacean species feed in the Gulf of Maine, including humpback, finback and minke whales. Later in the summer, around August, northern right whales arrive. All of the various kinds of whales remain off the Maine coast into October before they head out in search of warmer waters.
The Bar Harbor Whale Watching Co., located on the waterfront at 1 West Street in Bar Harbor, offers several kinds of tours. The whale watching trips are conducted aboard a pair of luxurious twin-hulled catamarans. The speedy vessels are designed to get tourists to the whale feeding grounds quickly, so as to maximize the amount of time spent whale watching on each voyage. On-board naturalists are available with explanations about the types of whales, their activity, and what brings them to this part of the Atlantic in the summertime. The ships have full galleys, comfortable enclosed cabins, and plenty of deck space for viewing.
For a totally different kind of excursion, hop aboard the 151-foot Windjammer “Margaret Todd” for a cruise around Frenchman’s Bay. Here the focus is less about the whales you’ll likely see, and more about the thrill of sailing a beautiful four-masted schooner. Morning, afternoon and sunset sailings offer different experiences due to the wind differences at various times of day, each departing from the pier at the Bar Harbor Inn. But there’ll be plenty of opportunity on every trip to see seals, bald eagles and porpoises if you don’t happen to come across feeding whales.
Regardless of the type of cruise you choose – high-speed travel to the heart of Georges Bank or a leisurely sail closer to the coast – it will be an experience you’ll never forget.