Hoping to see some seals during your trip to Cape Cod? Well, let me tell you … SAME! Even though I’ve been countless times over the last 10+ years, I still to this day get so excited to spot seals on Cape Cod during my trips.
This post is all about my tips on the best places to see them, best seal tours to take, how to spot them, and other fun facts about the seals on Cape Cod. With that, let’s get right down to it!
Can You See Seals On Cape Cod?
Absolutely! And the best part? It’s easy. There are a few spots around Cape Cod where you can just walk right up and see them for free, and then lots of beaches where you’re very likely to see them swimming pretty close to the shoreline.
There are also some great tours you can go on that take you out where lots of seals hang out.
Best Towns For Seal-Watching On Cape Cod
The absolute best town to see seals is Chatham, which is on the “elbow” of Cape Cod. This town is known for being one of the most idyllic towns on the Cape with charming cottages, gorgeous hydrangea displays, and a wonderful Main Street for shopping. But it’s also got the most places where you can spot seals (included the easiest one!).
Where To See Seals On Cape Cod
1. Chatham Fisher Pier In Chatham
The best and easiest place to see seals on the Cape is the Chatham Fish Pier. This is where the fishermen come in each day with their fresh catches, and the seals are pretty much always waiting around the dock for them to come back, hoping to snag some treats.
This area is completely free to visit, and you’ll get a pretty close look at the seals, too, which is why this is the number one location I suggest if you’re hoping to see seals on your visit. They’ve built a really nice deck platform for visitors to enjoy watching the seals from, too.
The great thing about visiting the Chatham Fish Pier to see seals is that it’s also home to a seafood market and takeout place. They serve up a really good lobster roll here, as well as other awesome and fresh seafood dishes. You’ll find picnic tables to enjoy your food on, and there’s also a public bathroom with a water bottle refill station nearby.
Parking at the Chatham Fish Pier: In the summer, parking here is pretty tough. The lot is rather small, and since people are coming to eat at the seafood market and spot the seals, it fills up fast. You can always try your luck, but I actually recommend parking closer to Main Street, and taking a scenic walk over to the pier so you don’t have to worry about parking.
My favorite way to walk here is to take Seaview Street from Main Street, and then turn left once it ends at Shore Road. Seaview Street is filled with lovely houses and hydrangea gardens in July, and it ends right at the gorgeous Chatham Bars Inn.
Once you arrive at Shore Road, it’s another 7-ish minute walk to the Fish Market. In total from the intersection of Main Street and Seaview, it’s about a 15 minute walk.
Pro Tip: Another great option if you’re making the walk is to check out the Chatham Bars Inn for a nice lunch. I would recommend reservations if possible, but this is the only luxury resort on Cape Cod, and they have some really nice restaurants overlooking the water!
Best Time To See The Seals At The Chatham Fish Pier
Around noon (12pm) is a great time to see the seals at the Fish Pier. This is when the fishermen start arriving back at the pier with their hauls, and the seals start to swim around the boats more when the fishermen are back.
I’ve been in the morning around 8-9am, and I didn’t see any seals, and it’s possible you won’t see any after 3-4pm. 12-2pm is a good sweet spot.
2. Any Atlantic Ocean Beach Between Chatham & Provincetown
Pretty much any beach you go to between Chatham and Provincetown along the Atlantic coast is likely to have seals swimming close to the shoreline. I don’t think I’ve ever gone to one of these beaches and not seen at least one seal.
Here are some of these beaches where I’ve had the most luck with seal sightings:
- Coast Guard Beach in Eastham
- Marconi Beach in Wellfleet
- Cahoon Hollow Beach in Wellfleet
- Ballston Beach in Truro
- Race Point Beach in Provincetown
But really, any beach along this stretch of coastline is a great place for seal watching! See my tips later in the post on how to spot them in the water.
3. Wequassett Resort & Pleasant Bay In Harwich
If you happen to be staying at the Wequassett Resort, or you’re just visiting for lunch or dinner, be sure to swing by their dock along their waterfront, by the LiBAYtions Bar. People that work at the hotel have told me that they have one seal in particular who likes to hang out there and wait for food scraps – and he’s very well fed because he often gets nice cuts of fish from the kitchen staff 😉 They’ve even named him, and of course, I’ve completely forgotten it!
Another option is to book a sailing tour with Down Cape Charters, which departs from that dock at the Wequassett. During the tour along Pleasant Bay, you’re likely to see a few seals, in addition to the fella that hangs by the dock. We saw about 3-4 seals on our sunset sailing charter with them!
4. Monomoy Island – Chatham
While the Chatham Fisher Pier is one of the best mainland places in town to see the seals, Monomoy Island off the coast of Chatham is also amazing. This is where many of the local seal tour companies take you (more on that in a bit, though!).
The only way to get to Monomoy is by boat, so a tour is really the best option. Once you arrive, you’ll see a lot of seals swimming in the water, and sunbathing
5. Chatham Lighthouse Beach In Chatham
Chatham Lighthouse Beach is one of the most scenic areas in town. It’s guarded by the beautiful lighthouse across the street, and even the overlook at the parking area is just so gorgeous. However, this is also a great spot to watch for seals in the water!
The downside to Chatham Lighthouse Beach is that in the summer, parking is restricted to 30 minutes only, and it’s decently patrolled. It doesn’t offer a lot of time to walk down to the beach and back. So really, the best way to visit is to park downtown, and walk about 1 mile each way. However, if you visit outside of the summer season, parking isn’t monitored, and you can usually stay longer.
6. Race Point Lighthouse In Provincetown
Okay, so this is kind of redundant, because the beach at Race Point Lighthouse technically qualified as one of the ones along the Atlantic, but I wanted to give it its own section because not many people know about this.
There’s a small little beach area right at Race Point Lighthouse, at the very tip of Race Point Beach, that’s only accessible with over-sand driving, a very long walk along the beach, or a fun hike along the Hatches Harbor Trail. For this season, not many people get out to the lighthouse, but the beach area here always has quite a few seals hanging out. And this part of the beach usually isn’t very busy, making a peaceful experience.
I go into detail on the Hatches Harbor hike in my Cape Cod hiking post, which you can find by clicking here.
Awesome Seal Tours On Cape Cod To Check Out
Now, onto the tours! Tours are a great way to not only see the seals, but also learn about them and the surrounding areas. The guides are filled with interesting and fun information, and are great at answering questions. The tours are also all very scenic, and great for photos. So, here are the best tour companies on Cape Cod offering seal watches!
7. Monomoy Island Excursions
Departing from Harwich, Monomoy Island Excursions is a great option for a seal tour. Taking visitors out to the waters surrounding Chatham, you’ll see plenty of Gray seals in the water, and possible sitting out on the rocks.
Tours last around 75 minutes, and parking is free!
8. Beachcomber Boat Tours
Beachcomber Boat Tours offers a seal cruise that departs right from Chatham! They typically takes visitors around the waters of Chatham Harbor and Pleasant Bay, can also customize a private charter, and offer boat shuttle service from the Fish Market in Chatham and Lighthouse Beach.
Reservations are made my calling them directly.
9. Provincetown Seal Tours
For a quick tour with an expert guide, the Provincetown Seal Tour may be the best option for you. Run by Flyers Boat Rentals (the same company that runs the Long Point Shuttle), these tours are only about 45 minutes long, and get right to the point. Since there are a lot of seals that hang out up in Ptown, this is a great options for those staying in the area, or the Outer Cape.
10. Blue Claw Boat Tours Seal Cruise
Just north of Chatham in Orleans, you can hop aboard a seal tour with Blue Claw Boat Tours. This company only offers private charters at the moment, but for a group, family, or special occasion, this is one of the best ways to go on a seal watching cruise!
Charters are customizable, and even offer a combined seal watching tour, with an excursion to Tern Island in Chatham, a secluded beach that makes for a very special experience. Reservations can easily be made online.
Tips For Going On A Seal Cruise:
✔️ Pack a sweater or jacket, even in the summer. There’s a small chance you won’t need it on a very hot and humid summer day, but it’s always colder out on the water!
✔️ Apply that sunscreen! The reflection of the sun on the water will make you burn faster.
✔️ Bring binoculars and a good zoom lens on your camera if you want nice photos of the seals. Check out my “what to expect” section at the end of this post for more tips on spotting seals in the water.
✔️ Pack some cash for your guide’s gratuity. If they do a good job on the tour, it’s a wonderful gesture of appreciation.
Important Note: Monomoy Island Ferry & Seal Cruises in Chatham used to be a top seal cruise on Cape Cod, but the family that owned the company retired from the business. When you read this post, it’s possible that their website will still be up, but if you go to their Facebook page, you’ll see their announcement that they are now closed for business. I just wanted to point that out in case you came across them in older articles, or online.
What Kinds Of Seals Are On Cape Cod?
There are two main kinds of seals you’ll spot on Cape Cod: The Gray seal, and the Harbor seal. The Gray seal is the most common one, and this is the kind you’re more likely to see, especially if you visit in the summer.
Gray seals are also the larger of the two, and usually darker in color.
Best Time Of Year To See Seals On Cape Cod
You can see seals on Cape Cod year-round! Gray seals hang out in the area all year long. Harbor seals, however, are usually only on Cape Cod September through May. If you’re hoping to spot a Harbor seal, fall and winter are the best times to look.
What To Do If You See A Seal While Swimming On Cape Cod
When you’re swimming at the Atlantic beaches, it’s very important to know what to do if you spot a seal in the water. The best thing to do is swim away from the seals, and go back to shore. If you’re about to go into the water, and see seals approaching, stay on the shoreline until they’ve passed.
Why is this important?
The first season is because seals are (unfortunately!) shark food. These guys are what sharks are hunting for, so you really need to keep your distance.
Secondly, it’s for your safety, and the safety of the seals. Disease can spread from human to seal, and vice versa, and it’s important to not come in contact with a seal. Always admire their cuteness from a distance!
What To Expect When Spotting Seals
You should know that you don’t actually see much of their bodies. When you’re scanning for seals along the shoreline, you’re really looking for their heads. That’s what usually pops out of the water while they’re swimming. And while they do often come pretty close to the shoreline, and even though Gray and Harbor seals are quite large, spotting just their heads can be tricky sometimes.
So, when scanning the water, just keep an eye out for that distinct seal head. Sometimes you’ll see just one seal swimming on its own, and sometimes there’s a cluster, so you really just have to keep an eye out and see what you can find.
As far as how often they’re swimming by on the beaches, this varies a lot. On a beach day, I sometimes spot my first seal before I’ve found my spot in the sand, and sometimes it takes over an hour. If you’re walking on an Atlantic beach, I would say allow yourself at least 30 minutes, and you’re likely to see one in that timeframe. But it can vary.
If you’re hoping to catch a good look at them in the water, it’s a good idea to bring binoculars, or look for them on your camera with a telephoto lens.
If you’re hoping to take pictures of them, I can tell you that you’ll need a good zoom lens on your camera. With your phone, or a basic camera, the seals won’t look like much once you snap the photo. But with a good zoom lens (probably at least 70-100mm), you’ll get a nice shot! If you’re at the Chatham Fish Market, though, you should be able to get some cute photos with your phone because they’re pretty close by!
Where You WON’T See Seals On Cape Cod
You won’t see seals in the waters of the Nantucket Sound or Cape Cod Bay. It’s really just along the Atlantic coastline you’ll find them. You also won’t see them in the ponds, lakes, or salt marshes.
More posts you may enjoy:
- Awesome Waterfront Restaurants On Cape Cod
- Best Lobster Rolls On Cape Cod
- Visiting Cape Cod For The First Time: What To See & Do
- Best Towns To Stay In On Cape Cod
- Best Times To Visit Cape Cod
- Best Beach Towns In New England
And here are some of my Cape Cod town guides you may find helpful:
- Best Things To Do In Chatham, MA
- Best Things To Do In Wellfleet, MA
- Best Things To Do In Harwich, MA
- Best Things To Do In Dennis, MA
- Best Things To Do In Falmouth, MA
- Best Things To Do In Brewster, MA
- Best Things To Do In Provincetown, MA
- Best Things To Do In Sandwich, MA
That’s A Wrap On Seeing Seals On Cape Cod
How excited are you to now go looking for seals on Cape Cod during your next visit? I hope the answer is very. Whether you’re hoping to spot a few during your time on the beach, book an official tour, or just hang out at the Chatham Fish Pier, one thing’s certain – seeing these little guys is always such a treat. Wishing you lots of seal spotting on your trip!