There's no better evidence of the successful efforts to clean the ocean waters off the New Jersey shoreline than the abundance of sea life that have returned to waters that you can see when you take a Jersey Shore Whale Watch tour.
Humpback whales and dolphins are feeding on an abundance of small bait fish called menhaden or bunker fish which have become more plentiful in the past decade. It's those menhaden that the whales love to gobble up in great mouthfuls as they rise to the surface of the water.
Over the past decade from the Manasquan Inlet north to the lower Hudson River and east to Fire Island there have been sightings of more than 250 distinct humpback whales said Danielle Brown, the head researcher for Gotham Whale the pioneered the study of humpback whales on the northern part of the Jersey Shore.
Join whale expert Danielle Brown and add to your Jersey Shore bucket list by booking a Jersey Shore Whale Watch on the recently refurbished Royal Miss Belmar and Miss Belmar Princess.
How exactly does the whale watch work?
Guaranteed to see a whale or return trip is free.
Most days, the Royal Miss Belmar leaves from the Belmar Marina (see direction below) early afternoon for a 3-hour whale watching trip. Sailing east along the Shark River and under the iconic Belmar Bridge between Avon-by-the-Sea and Belmar, the boat sails along the coast of the northern section of the Jersey Shore from Point Pleasant as far north as the New York harbor, just off the coast of Sandy Hook national park.
Once out in the ocean, Danielle, the boat's captain and whale watch Bill McKim swing into action. They've had reports from other captains about whale sightings that day and know from the past week in which direction they've recently spotted whales.
The whale researchers found that more than 58% of whales were seen more than once, either within the same year or between years, with the average length of stay about 38 days. It's not unusual for the crew to spot they've seen lunge feeding or just breaching for the pleasure of jump straight out of the water.
In addition to humpback whales and other whale species such as fin whales and minke whales, the crew most often spots dolphins playing in the water, particularly near the Shake River inlet. There's also a chance passengers will see sea turtles, rays and sharks -- although no one has yet to see a great white shark on any whale watching trip at the Shore.
Everyone is encouraged to look for spouts in the distance or listen for the distinctive sound of a whale spouting water through its blowhole.
Once a whale is spotted, the captain steers the boat within view of the whale(s). Often, the boat will stay with one whale or a pod of whales for an hour to watch as it eats and plays in the water. But one whale usually isn't the limit in three-hours. It's not unusual to quickly travel between spots on the ocean to see other whales in their natural environment.
Best of all, passengers are guaranteed to see a whale on the trip or they promise "you get to come back free until you see one." And by the way, the captain doesn't go out unless the seas are calm and comfortable for whale watching.
Friendly atmosphere on the boat
At more than 100 feet long, the boat can easily accommodate more than 100 passengers comfortably. There's an air-condition cabin, outdoor space by the cabin on all sides and a large sun deck on top.
There's a complete galley from which passengers can purchase snacks and cold and hot beverages. Plus, passengers can purchase T-shirts, hats and hoodies as a memento on their time on the water.
In addition to regular trips out of the Belmar Marina, Jersey Shore Whale Watch offers whale watching trips that leave regularly from Pt. Pleasant.
Prices are $8 to $125, but most are in the $50 or $60 range. Get more info here.
And if you're looking for a special experience with a group of friends, charter the boat for a late day cruise to enjoy the sunset while looking for whales.
While onboard the Miss Belmar, pick up a T-shirt or hoodie with the Jersey Shore Whale Watch logo or the #1 NJ Travel Guide: 100 Things to Do at the Jersey Shore Before Your Die.
Tips for Getting to the Belmar Marina
Road Access & Parking: The main entry to Belmar and the marina is along Route 71 from the South and Route 35 from the north. There is paid parking at the marina with ParkMobile. Additionally, one can usually find free spots at the north end of the lot or park for free near the NJ Transit train station on the other side of Route 35.
Amenities: There are restrooms at the marina and on board the boat.
Beaches: Beach badges are required Memorial Day Weekend until Labor Day. Daily beach badges for people 14 and older are $10 and can be purchased at the beach by texting "Badges" to 833-956-2440 or visiting www.BelmarBeachBadges.com Seasonal beach badges are $70 for people 14 and older, $30 for people aged 65 and over.