Take a Ride on the Seastreak Ferry and Have a Whale of a Time

We sat glued to our second-row seats on a recent Seastreak Whale Watching excursion. Eyes were focused ahead of us, and, like a periscope, our heads rotated from left to right, scouring the horizon for a blowhole’s spurt of water. We were in the Hudson River, well into the third hour of the “three-hour cruise,” when the folks in the row ahead of us pointed straight out, and sure enough a small fountain of water stretched up into the air. We stood, not wanting to miss a thing, and seemingly on cue, the humpback’s tail surfaced, and did that wave as whales do, before submerged again. The passengers cheered as if we’d witnessed something miraculous. And when you think that seeing a whale on a whale watching cruise is like “spotting a shooting star,” one could rightly call it miraculous. Just knowing that these humongous mammals roam the waters around New York City is miraculous itself.

Photo by Jacki Dickert

That was not always the case, as our guide James, explained. Due to over-fishing these waters over the years, the whales were rarely spotted. But regulations went into effect to control the fishing, leaving the whale’s favorite food to thrive. So, on their way from the Caribbean to the waters off New England and Canada, these guys – ranging in length from 32 to 52 feet, and weighing in around 44 tons, or so – meander and feed before heading north. These whale watching events are just one of the many offerings by Seastreak and their fleet of nine passenger ferries. 

Photo by MJ Hanley-Goff

The list of destinations offered by Seastreak is impressive. Not only do they provide commuter services from New Jersey to New York City, they offer day trip ferries to the Sandy Hook beach, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Newport and Providence. There’s a NYC Cocktail Sunset Cruise, the July 4th fireworks cruise, and trips to West Point football games, a Seal and Bird Eco-Cruise and a Staten Island Historical cruise. And while you’re sailing, there’s comfy seating below the open deck, with bar and snacks; bikes, boards and pets are welcome. 

Photo by Jacki Dickert

“There’s a quick cruise to The Sandbox, our beach bar in Highlands, NJ,” says Abby van Hemmen, the company’s marketing associate and whale watching program manager. “It’s under an hour and you could be sitting on the beach and enjoying the view with a delicious signature cocktail in your hand.” There is also live music every day and food trucks on premises.” The cruise to Sandy Hook Beach brings passengers to the area operated by the National Park System, with plenty of activities, she says, “from sunbathing, swimming, biking, bird watching and learning about the rich military history of the area.”  

Photo by MJ Hanley-Goff

Scientific data is also being conducted on each whale watching trip by the naturalist onboard who collects whale sighting data, location, and behavior. If the whale provides a wave of its tail, (aka fluke), its markings on the tail’s underside are unique and can be used to identify the whale. Tail markings are just like human fingerprints – no two are alike. And as that whale travels up and down the east coast, we can learn more and more about their behaviors, and since they still keep showing up, it’s testament to the cleanliness of the waters around the city. 

Top photo by Jacki Dickert

For schedules, prices, and destinations, visit seastreak.com.

About MJ Hanley-Goff (128 Articles)
MJ Hanley-Goff has been contributing to Woman Around Town since its inception in 2009. She began her career at Newsday in the early 90’s and has continued writing professionally for other New York publications like the Times Herald-Record, Orange Magazine, and Hudson Valley magazine. Former editor of Hudson Valley Parent magazine, she also contributed stories to AAA’s Car & Travel, and Tri-County Woman. After completing her novel and a self-help book, she created MJWRITES, INC. to offer writing workshops and book coaching to first time authors, and college essay writing help to students. MJ is thrilled and honored to write for WAT for the amazing adventures it offers, like reviewing concerts, people, authors, events, and tourist attractions in New York, and around the world. “I enjoy drawing attention to the off-the-beaten path kinds of stories,” she says. “It’s great big world out there, with so many talented and creative artists, doers, and thinkers.”