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Hyannis Whale Watch

The first thing you need to know about your Hyannis whale watch cruise is that it is not going to leave from Hyannis at all.

Stellwagen Bank is to the north of Cape Cod, and Hyannis is on the southern side of the Cape. Its harbor is on Nantucket Sound and the only way to get to Stellwagen Bank from there is to go all the way "round the outside" of Cape Cod and head north from P-Town.

No, Haynnis whale watch cruises actually leave from Barnstable harbor, which is about four miles from Hyannis harbor. Blame the Kennedys, I guess, that Hyannis is more well known than Barnstable and, therefore, makes a better name for a whale watch company that caters to an international clientele.

Anyway, now that we have that confusion out of the way, the biggest selling point the Hyannis whale watch cruise operators have is that, for the majority of couples staying in the upper-to-mid-Cape region, they offer a chance to "Spend more time watching whales and less time in your car".

It's a fair point given some of the Cape Cod traffic problems that are so well known. But a more accurate slogan might be "Spend more time on the water and less time in your car" because the fact is that Barnstable is a good thirty miles from Stellwagen Bank, and the top speed of the Whale Watch boat they use is 42 miles per hour, so you're not likely to see any whales until well into your trip.

Still, it can certainly be argued that sitting on a boat as it cruises across Cape Cod Bay is more fun than sitting in traffic at the Orleans Rotary so there is something to be said for starting your Cape Cod whale watching trip in Barnstable.

What to Expect

A Hyannis whale watch trip will typically last a little under four hours and will take you out of Barnstable harbor, past the cottage colony and lighthouse on Sandy Neck and across Cape Cod Bay to Stellwagen Bank.

Throughout the trip, an on-board expert naturalist will offer a running commentary explaining the "wonderful world of whales" and telling you what to look for. Of the five types of whales that inhabit these waters (the Humpback, the Finback, the Minke, the Sei and the Pilot) you're most likely to see humpback, finback and minke. Northern right whales also live here but are hard to find given that scientist believe there to only around 350 left in the world.

You might see them roll from side to side, sometimes diving under the boats. Sometimes you'll see them spyhopping (holding their heads high out of the water and looking around) or sounding (executing a dive) but the biggest thrill is to see them breaching (leaping out of the water and crashing back down with a huge splash).

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