Friendship V ship for the Whale Watch Tour

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Book a Nature Cruise with Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. Tours

Bar Harbor is a popular vacation destination located just outside of Acadia National Park. One of the more memorable experiences in town is the opportunity to see all sorts of wildlife on a Bar Harbor nature cruise. There are several companies that offer nature boat tours, and it can get a little overwhelming to choose the right one.  On my trip, we decided to book our cruises with Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co.  We loved that they are environmentally conscious and work with several conservation groups aiding in research and education.  The Whale Watch Co. offers several boat tour options so you can choose the perfect one based on your interests.

Friendship V ship for the Whale Watch Tour

Are the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. Tours Dog-friendly?

The Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company has two tour options that are dog friendly. The Sunset Nature Cruise and the Bar Harbor Nature Cruise both allow leashed and well-behaved dogs. There are no pet rest areas on board, so you will have to make sure your pup has ample opportunity to use the bathroom before you board.

What is the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co?

The Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company organizes nature cruises allowing their passengers a unique opportunity to admire the scenery along the coast and the fantastic marine life that lives there. They are considered one of the largest boating tour companies in Maine and have several tour options including their popular whale-watching tour.

This business was the first Maine company to be certified by the Whale Sense Program which was created to protect the whales in the wild by following a core set of guidelines designed to keep them safe.

Whale Sense and Marine Mammal Stranding Response Network Brochures displayed

Their boat pilots are trained to approach the whales slowly and to stay at least 100 feet back in order to give them enough room, so they don’t become stressed as well as some other guidelines. They work closely with Allied Whale at the College of the Atlantic which is a non-profit marine mammal research organization.

During the whale-watching tours, interns are on the boat participating in research and outreach programs. They track sightings and photograph and record body markings of individual whales to help understand whale migration patterns and behavior.

The photos taken are used in multiple whale catalogs like the North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalog, North Atlantic Fin Whale Catalog, and Gulf of Maine Humpback Whale Catalog.

Where to Stay When Visiting Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor has several hotels, campgrounds, and private rentals in the area to make it convenient for visitors. I do highly recommend booking your accommodations far in advance because they do book up quickly.

Campsites Near Bar Harbor

If you are looking to camp during your stay, there are several campgrounds near Bar Harbor where you can tent camp, bring your RV, or rent a cabin:

Hotels Near Bar Harbor

Use our link to find the best hotel for your vacation!


Private Vacation Rentals Near Bar Harbor

There are plenty of private vacation rentals in the Bar Harbor area. Find the perfect one with sites like Airbnb or VRBO. If you are looking for a dog-friendly place, try using the Dogs Welcome website for help finding places that truly welcome your pups.

Where to Eat When Touring with Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co.

Some of the tours with Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co can last for several hours, so it’s important to know where you can find food so you can fully enjoy your cruise. You are allowed to bring your own food on board, so feel free to pack your own snacks.

book bag with chips and granola bar next to it

Most of their boats do have a small galley where you can buy snacks, drinks, and other supplies in case you forget. The important thing to know about this is that these galleys are CASH ONLY so make sure to hit the ATM machine before boarding.

Galley on the Friendship boat

If your boat is leaving from the Whale Watch Co dock next to the town pier, the Sunrise Café is right next to where you wait to board the boat. This makes it the most convenient place to get a meal before your cruise. They serve breakfast and lunch and are typically open from 7:30 am – 2 pm on Tuesdays through Sundays.

Sunrise Cafe

If you have a later cruise time, there are quite a few other restaurants just a short walk away from the Pier. If you are looking for more options these are some of the closest restaurants to the boarding dock:

Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co.

The Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. offers visitors a unique way to see marine life with knowledgeable professionals. There are 7 different cruises available to choose from depending on the time of year you are traveling and what you want to see or do. What I loved about our whale tour with them was their commitment to conservation by respecting the Northeast Regional Whale Watch Guidelines and their support of Allied Whale at the College of the Atlantic.

Allied Whale Brochure

Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. Price and Hours

During the busy season, the main office and gift shop for the Whale Watch Co is usually open from 7:30 am -7:30 pm Mondays through Fridays. You can also reach them by phone or email. Tickets can be purchased online or in person and can range anywhere from $48-$85. Some of the tours can fill up quickly so it is recommended that you reserve your spot at least a few weeks ahead of time.

Bar Harbor Whale Watch Ticket Office Door

Cruise times and availability will vary depending on what tour you are booking. These tours are all seasonal and are subject to cancellation due to the weather. Since there is a chance that you may have to reschedule your cruise, I recommend booking your tour towards the beginning of your vacation so you will have more flexibility in case you do have to reschedule.

Passengers taking photos of whale  on Whale Watch Tour

Our original Whale Tour was cancelled due to weather and the next availability was two days later. That was the day we all were supposed to head back home. This meant that those with earlier flights, unfortunately, couldn’t make it.

Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co Gift Shop and Ticket Office

If you are looking for souvenirs of your awesome tour experience, stop in at the main office/gift shop. This is where you will go if you want to book or change your reservation in person.

Gift Shop and Main Office of Bar Harbor Whale Watch Tour Co

This is a great place to buy last-minute gear before you board the boat like hats, gloves, sweatshirts, and light jackets. You can also buy things like magnets, postcards, keychains, and stuffed animals.

Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. Tours

The Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co offers several different tours covering a range of interests. You can go on their popular whale-watching tour, hike Baker Island with a National Park guide, relax at sunset watching wildlife, and more. No matter which tour you choose, there are several important things to know so you can properly prepare for your trip.

  • Most importantly, you will want to dress accordingly. Layers and closed-toed shoes are your friends. It is much easier to take a few layers off than be cold and miserable on a boat and this can make or break your experience.
  • Bring a pair of binoculars! All the nature cruises involve spotting wildlife and binoculars will come in handy so you can get a good look at animals like seals and eagles. You will especially want them if you are on the whale tour. If you forget, you can rent a pair on the boat for $5 (cash only)
  • A zoom lens will be crucial for the best photos. My biggest regret is not bringing a zoom lens on this trip. The photos of all of the birds, seals, dolphins, and porpoises are hard to identify because they were too far for my camera phone without the lens attachment.
  • Bring snacks or cash so you can purchase food on the boat. You may also want to bring some ginger or motion sickness pills just in case you get seasick. Sunglasses and sunscreen will also be helpful as the sun’s rays will be reflecting off the water.
  • Parking can be difficult to find, so make sure you arrive about 1 hour before your departure time. This way you will have plenty of time to park and check in before the boat leaves the dock.  The boats do leave on time, so it’s important that you are not late.
  • If your tour is canceled for any reason, they will notify you at least 30 minutes ahead of time. If this happens, you can choose to reschedule or accept a full refund.

Whale Watch Tour- $85

The Whale Watch Tour is the company’s most popular tour and one of the two that I was able to go on. These cruises can last anywhere from 3 ½ to 5 ½ hours long, mainly depending on the weather/currents and how long it takes to find a whale.

Two humpback Whales

Each boat carries research interns from the Allied Whale at the College of the Atlantic who collect information and record whale sightings, patterns, and behavior. This means that they have a high success rate in finding whales on their tours. If for some reason your tour does not have a successful whale sighting, you are able to get a voucher for a future tour that is good for up to 3 years.

Humpback whale mid fluke and clearing blowhole

During your tour, there will be a guide on a microphone talking about the landmarks and wildlife you encounter as well as the Whale research being done. It may be hard to hear them while the boat is moving unless you are next to a speaker if you are sitting outside the cabin.

Humpback whale starting to fluke

Though humpback whales seem to be the most common species to see, you might get lucky and see finback or minke whales too. There’s also a chance that you will get to spot dolphins, porpoises, seals, and a variety of seabirds.

Front of the ship of the Whale Watch Tour

The best viewing spot in my opinion is near the front of the boat, though it is the coldest area to stand and you will get sprayed with water while the boat is moving. Once you have a good spot, don’t worry about running back and forth to different sides of the boat to see the whales; the pilot will turn the boat so each side will be able to see and this way you don’t lose your spot. 

Fluking Humpback whale

Puffin & Lighthouse Cruise- $68

This three-hour cruise is perfect for birders! You will be spending time in Frenchman Bay and the Gulf of Maine for a closer look at a few different lighthouses. The first lighthouse is near Egg Rock and this area is great for seeing seals, eagles, and cormorants.

Lighthouse during the Sunset Nature Cruise

Your next stop is to see a small island with another lighthouse called Petit Manan which has a nesting colony of Atlantic puffins. This is also a good area to spot razorbills, guillemots, and terns.

Puffin swimming in water

These first two lighthouses are located in wildlife refuges so a boat tour is one of the only ways you can get a closer look at these areas. If you are lucky, you may get to hear from the interns and researchers on Petit Manan through the radio and learn more about their work on the island.

The final stops are by Schoodic Island and Winter Harbor Light for eagles, ospreys, and harbor porpoises before you head back to shore.

Bar Harbor Nature Cruise- $48

This dog-friendly 2-hour nature cruise takes you around Frenchman Bay. You will get to see some of Acadia’s coastline as you tour the Bay. Be prepared to see seals, bald eagles, and cormorants, along with other species of marine life and seabirds.

Coastline View from Bar Harbor Nature Cruise

Your guide will talk about the wildlife as well as share stories about the history of the area. This tour appears to be similar to the Sunset Nature Cruise with the main difference being the time of day your cruise takes off.

Baker Island Tour- $66

The Baker Island Tour is different from the company’s other cruises because, with this one, you get to leave the boat. They do encourage you to bring a lunch because this excursion lasts 5 hours.

Passengers taking photos of island on Bar Harbor Nature Cruise

Baker Island is part of Acadia National Park and the only way to get to it is by boat. A National Park Ranger will be your guide as you hike around the island and will talk to you about the wildlife you will see, the park’s conservation efforts and answer any questions you may have. During your visit, you will get to see the historic Gilley family farmstead as well as the lighthouse.

Sunset Nature Cruise- $53

The dog-friendly Sunset Nature Cruise is the other tour that I went on when we went to Acadia National Park. This tour lasted two hours and was fantastic for spotting wildlife.

Dog waiting in line to board Sunset Nature Cruise

The galley on board has a happy hour so you can enjoy the evening with cocktails if you wish. The cruise takes you along the shoreline of Acadia National Park. On our tour, we saw several bald eagles, seals, dolphins, and porpoises. The guide on the microphone would point out wildlife while talking about the landscape and history of the area including some interesting facts about lobstering.

Guide on the microphone on Sunset Bar Harber Nature Cruise

On the way back to shore, the boat takes you through Frenchman Bay near one of the lighthouses and Egg Rock which is a great place to watch seals. The last part of the cruise gives everyone a chance to admire the sunset and listen to music as you head back to the dock.

Sunset on Bar Harbor Nature Cruise

Lobster Fishing and Seal Watching- $48

Maine is famous for its lobster and this 2-hour cruise will give you a chance to learn about the history, laws, and practices of lobster fishing. You will get to watch as the lobster traps are checked and emptied while each step is explained and they identify and talk about all of the animals that are found in the trap.

Seals on Egg Rock

After the traps are checked, the boat will head to a popular spot for seals. You will have time to watch them swim and bask in the sun before heading back inland.

Historical Lighthouse & Acadia National Park Cruise- $64

This 2.5-3 hour tour is available in the fall and late summer and is the perfect opportunity to admire the fall foliage in and around the park. You will be traveling along the coastline of Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island as you keep an eye out for wildlife like seals, eagles, and more. The tour also includes several lighthouses. Your guide will talk about the sites and help point out any wildlife you will encounter.

Lighthouse near Egg Rock

Tips for Taking Your Dog on a Boat Tour

If you plan on having your dog join you on one of the dog-friendly tour options, here are a few tips to make your trip successful:

  • Walk your dog before you get on the boat. There is no pet bathroom space on the boat. Make sure your dog goes to the bathroom before you board or consider doggy diapers if your dog has a small or nervous bladder.
  • Bring water and a bowl to keep your dog hydrated. The best views (in my opinion) are not in a shady area and the summers can be hot. You may also want to consider bringing an umbrella for shade.
  • A small blanket, mat, or protective shoes may be helpful. The floors may be wet and become slippery. And the benches might not be big enough for your dog to comfortably sit on. Remember to check any metal surfaces to make sure they aren’t too hot for your pup.
  • Make sure your dog is comfortable in crowds and is leash trained before you take them on board. The rails on the boat are open and you don’t want your dog to get injured if crowds make them anxious.

Nearby Attractions:

For ideas of places to visit in and around Bar Harbor, check out these stops.

Attractions Near Bar Harbor:

Dog-friendly Attractions near Bar Harbor:

Why You Should Visit:

If you are traveling near Acadia National Park area and want the chance to see marine mammals, marine life, and seabirds, you HAVE to book a Bar Harbor nature cruise. My group of four friends and family loved our cruise experience. Seeing whales in the wild was a bucket list item for everyone and knowing that there was a “whale sighting guarantee” let us enjoy our tour without worrying about what would happen if we didn’t spot one that day. On both cruises the guides were knowledgeable, and we enjoyed hearing about the area and all of the wildlife we saw. There was no shortage of animals to see, and it was definitely one of my favorite experiences on the trip. I hope you have the opportunity to go on at least one of the cruises- I can almost guarantee that you won’t be disappointed!

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Book Your Bar Harbor Nature Cruise

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About Author

Animal and wildlife enthusiast that currently owns four dogs, loves to travel, and try new things while saving as much money as possible!

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