Whale Watching from New York City, USA

Can you imagine seeing humpback whales breaching from the water with the NYC skyline in the background? Honestly, that was not something I thought was even possible.

NYC Whale Watching Cruise
This photo of a humpback whale breaching is from Event Cruises NYC. Although I was able to see this gorgeous act myself, I was too mesmerized to catch it on film.

I have spent a lot of time touring NYC and thought that I had done most of its fantastic experiences. I have even written a first-time visitor’s guide to NYC. When Event Cruises NYC reached out to offer a whale watch for my family and me, I went onto it with healthy skepticism. At the worst, I was expecting a nice cruise around New York Harbor and a chance to show our out-of-town guest from Spain the NYC skyline from the water and to see the Statue of Liberty, which was on her bucket list. I was hoping to see a few dolphins. But what we got was such a treat- we saw constant humpback whales jumping, eating, blowing air into the sky, and enjoying their time in the Long Island sound. And we did see dolphins too, and all with the backdrop of New York City. It was a bucket list experience that made us all very happy.

Our Experience and Review of Event Cruises NYC’s Whale Watching NYC Adventure Cruise

Whale watching in NYC

Our boat left at 9:00 am from Pier 36 in Manhattan. It was just a short walk from the subway, so it was easy to reach from our hotel in Midtown. We arrived half an hour early as suggested.

There was ample seating on our boat, The Manhattan, including covered seating, inside tables, and outside seats on the top floor and at the front of the boat. We chose to sit in the front for the view and to be closer to the possible animals. We were glad we brought sunscreen to protect us from the strong sun.

A snack bar inside the vessel offered food for purchase, so we bought some food and settled in for our cruise out of the harbor and the sights of Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Statue of Liberty, and Staten Island. I love bridges, so I enjoyed going under the Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Verrazano Narrows Bridges.

The ride to the whales took about an hour, and the water was pretty calm on our trip. I sometimes get seasick, so I took Bonine just in case, but it would have been fine.

humpback whale new york harbor
Humpback whales don’t actually have a hump on their backs but arch the back when they are about to dive, which is how they got their name.

The captain knew exactly where to take the ship to spot the whales. At the first spot he took us to, you could see vast swarms of silvery white fish, most likely Atlantic menhaden, in the water. I learned in Alaska that to find wildlife, find their food source. We didn’t see any whales there, so we moved about 10 minutes away, and then they continued showing themselves to us until we had to head in, with him continually following them.

The whales would blow air out of their blowholes high into the air, coming to the surface in their dancing manner, sending their beautiful tails into the air on their descent. But the best was when they took their massive bodies almost entirely out of the water, a behavior called breaching. The captain communicated to us over a speaker, and a naturalist was onboard to answer any of our questions.

whales long island sound
Humpback whales can grow to be 60 feet long and 40 tons!

After about two hours, we had to head back to Manhattan, but the captain took a slight detour when he saw dolphins! It was fun to have them jumping out of the water alongside our boat.

Since Pier 36 is near Chinatown, when we were done with our cruise, which lasted about 4 1/2 hours, we enjoyed a dim sum lunch.

What kinds of animals can you see?

dolphins New York Harbor

Obviously, you can see dolphins and humpback whales, but also North Atlantic right whales and fin whales. I also saw numerous seabirds flying and resting on the jetties, such as terns, gulls, and cormorants.

Is the Adventure Cruise good for kids?

Can you see the Statue of Liberty from a NYC whale watch cruise?
The Statue of Liberty as seen from our whale watching cruise.

There are many activities for kids and adults to do during any downtime, such as puzzles, games, and whale trivia.

How is it possible that whales are so close to NYC?

According to ‘Nicholas Giraldi, Director of Event Cruises NYC Marine Operations comments, “The environmental work
that began in the 1970’s has brought New York to the point where the Hudson River discharges
nutrients, rather than pollution, which has protected wildlife and attracted marine mammals. NY harbor
has been steadily growing its oyster population thanks to the “Billion Oyster Project,” which has
markedly improved the water quality. As a captain, I enjoy watching our guests get excited whenever we
have a whale spotting. It is something to behold – one most locals and tourists will want to add to their
New York City bucket list”.’

Whale Tale NYC
Humpback whales are black and white. They can be distinguished by color variations, tail shape, and scars.

The population of humpback whales has also increased worldwide. They are some of the most fun whales to watch due to their behaviors at the surface, such as breaching and slapping the water with their tales and fins.

Although a whale watch was not something I thought of as a New York City activity, my mind is now totally changed. I highly recommend adding this experience to your New York City bucket list!

Click through to Event Cruises NYC for more information or to book tickets. 

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2 thoughts on “Whale Watching from New York City, USA”

  1. I would have never thought to go to NYC to see whales. That breaching shot is just amazing. I will certainly have to check of the whales are around the next time we visit NYC. A great thing for our NYC bucket list.

  2. I never would’ve guessed that whale watching was an activity in New York City, either! That is awesome that environmental restoration has helped in making these waters hospitable for the humpbacks. I haven’t been to NYC in a number of years and this post is tempting me even more. I might have to book a trip in spring!


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