New York has neon lights, nightlife, a great atmosphere, and whales. New York is one of the most popular places that allows whale watching and has several spots from which whale watching is possible.
New York has some fantastic places to watch whales. From Long Beach Island, Fire Island, and Rockaway Beach to the Hamptons and Sandy Hook, New York is home to many whale species, including blue whales, sperm whales, fin whales, and humpback whales.
Until six years ago, New York didn’t have much to boast about marine life, but since then, it has become the home to various whale and dolphin species, making it a popular whale-watching site for holidaymakers and tourists everywhere.
Please read on to find out where you can watch whales in New York and which species of whales you can see.
Where Can You Watch Whales In New York?
One of the most popular areas is Coney Island, known as the New York Aquarium, in Brooklyn. Home to many tourists each summer, Coney Island also houses one of the best whale-watching spots in New York.
Along with its amusement parks and a vast expanse of beaches, this popular tourist destination has recently become a place to watch whales due to currents change.
New York Bight
New York Bight includes New York Harbor, Jersey Shore, and Long Island Sound, and it is a fantastic place to watch whales.
Humpback whales can be seen in these waters, along the south shore of Long Island and sometimes within New York Harbor.
This area of New York is a whale hotspot, and blue whales, sei whales, sperm whales, and minke whales can all be seen throughout the year.
Fin whales can be seen around this area, with between two hundred to four hundred in these waters. They can be seen all year round but are closest to shore at the beginning of the year.
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The whales are protected from hunting by-laws and are thriving everywhere they are spotted along the New York coast. It is possible to spot whales in Coney Island by taking one of the Coney Island cruises to get the most out of the whale-watching experience.
A group of humpback whales feed in the area during summer and can be seen on a whale-watching cruise.
Long Beach Island
Another place to spot them is Long Beach Island, a summer settlement that stretches along the Atlantic Ocean coast of New Jersey. Long Beach Island is a recognized whale-watching area, and whale watching is available thanks to numerous cruise tours similar to Coney Island.
Fire Island, close to the southern shore of Long Island, is another recommended spot. Whales can easily be spotted from the beach here, although cruises are commonly taken by tourists and whale watchers to allow for an immersive experience.
Fire Island is famous for its protected beaches and picturesque picnic spots, meaning it is possible to spend the day relaxing and whale watching while mingling with others from the friendly seaside community.
Amagansett is also found on the Southern shore of Long Island and is another ideal spot for whale-watching. Located in the East Hampton area, Amagansett is a quiet seaside village full of charm and seems like something out of a storybook.
As the area is closer to the sea than most of the spots already mentioned, it makes for plenty of whale-watching from the shore without going onto the sea.
The Hamptons, situated close to Amagansett, houses the same conditions but has considerably less access to the shore than Amagansett. Using a cruise tour to make the most of whale watching would be advised.
Found on the Eastern end of Long Island, this is one of the wealthier tourist spots that allow whale watching and is popular among celebrities. However, despite the glamour, it promises an exciting trip regardless of whether you want to watch whales or stars.
Rockaway is arguably the first name most recognized when the topic of whale watching in New York comes up. This is mainly because of the quality of whale-watching tours offered there.
The Rockaway Peninsula is located in the County of Queens in New York. Popularly known as ‘the new Cape Cod’ for whale watching, Rockaway is the first choice for many, offering a genuinely incredible whale-watching experience.
Sandy Hook is also ideal as a whale-watching spot and is famous for its frequent sightings of humpback whales. Sandy hook has much to offer with the perfect climate and a spacious beach and, like the rest of the whale watching spots mentioned, is a treat for any whale watcher.
Point Pleasant Beach and Lavallette
The lesser-known whale-watching spots still in demand include Point Pleasant Beach and Lavallette. These two spots are situated close to one another, and the same experience can be gained from visiting either.
Point Pleasant Beach and Lavallette are in Ocean County in the New Jersey region and are known for their beaches. Point Pleasant Beach, in particular, is known for Jenkinson’s Aquarium, while Lavallette is known for its boardwalk.
Cape May in New Jersey is great for a whale-watching trip. Humpback whales, Minke whales, and fin whales can all be seen away from the coast.
Approximately ten miles away, a whale-watching trip may provide sightings of all these whales and other species. Further out, sperm whales and North Atlantic Right Whales can also be seen.
When Are The Best Months For Whale Watching In New York?
Whale watching can be done almost any time of the year. However, the unofficial whale-watching season usually commences in early April and lasts through November. This is because the highest frequency of whale sightings has been in June, July, and August, making these peak times.
Those looking for casual whale watching usually do so before the rush starts in early June and after early September.
Which Types Of Whales Can Be Spotted In New York?
If you’ve decided to go whale watching, reading up on which whales you may see is a good idea. With New York becoming a popular whale destination due to the change in currents, different whales have been spotted in recent years.
North Atlantic Right Whale
At present, the North Atlantic right whale is one of the species. Being considered an endangered whale species with only around four hundred remaining in the sea, the North Atlantic right whale is distinguished by the calluses and barnacles on its head.
They have bodies that are usually all black, without a dorsal fin, and have V-shaped spouts. These whales live up to 70 years and feed on zooplankton and copepod, growing up to 52 feet long.
The humpback whale is another whale that can be spotted and is currently the most frequently spotted along the New York coast. The humpback whale is a type of baleen whale, similar to the North Atlantic right whale, and is found in every large water body in the world.
They are larger than the North Atlantic right whale, and can grow up to 62 feet long. Far from being endangered, humpback whales are listed by the IUCN Red List under Least Concern. With their dark backs, light undersides, and a slight hump in front of their dorsal fin, the humpback whale is easily recognizable and one of the most spotted during whale watching.
Sperm whales have also been spotted and are recognizable due to their largely sized heads and rounded foreheads. Being considered vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, sperm whales are among the less common whales spotted by whale watchers. When they are spotted, there is usually more than one, as sperm whales travel in groups.
Sei whales are another species of baleen whales and can be spotted around New York. These whales are carnivorous and considered one of the fastest, moving up to 30 miles per hour.
They have long, streamlined bodies, primarily black and sometimes deep blue-grey, with a light-colored underside. Sei whales are now endangered, having been hunted by Japanese whaling programs for years, although laws have been enacted to reduce this. Their sightings in New York coastal areas are usually rare, but they have been spotted.
Other species of whale spotted are fin whales, with brownish-gray coloring on the sides and weird faces on their heads. They have darker shades on the jaw’s left side, lighter colors on the right side, and the rest of the head.
Fin whales are the second-largest and can reach up to 85 feet, with a lifespan of 90 years. Although endangered due to hunting, fin whales are popular among whale watchers and can be seen swimming close to the shore in many whale-watching areas.
To see the largest animal that has ever lived on Earth is a magnificent sight, and the blue whale can be seen around New York. The blue whale has created an impressive reputation for itself, mainly due to its massive size of 105 feet. Blue whales are rare to spot and can be intimidating when located, with their vast 200-ton weight splashing into the water near the shore.
Their signature blue coloring is only visible underwater, while on the surface, they look grey with yellowed bellies due to the microorganisms living on their skin. Blue whales are endangered and fascinate whale watchers due to their sheer size and rarity.
Can You Watch Whales From The Shores of New York?
This is possible as long as the whale watching spot chosen has proximity to the shore. Of the whale-watching areas listed, Amagansett provides the best conditions for whale-watching from the beach.
However, most tourists opt for cruise tours around the whale-watching area for a more thrilling experience.
Whales are part of the incredible marine life that New York has and continues to attract visitors due to their magnificent and curious nature.
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Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.