As leaders in coastal and marine environmental conservation, research, and preservation, the Virginia Aquarium’s Sea Adventures bring the ocean to you. Since 1989, our boat trips have been staffed by knowledgeable marine educators engaging in responsible viewing practices, research, and conservation.

Our trips feature interpretation of the marine environment and animal behaviors, interactive and hands-on programming for children and adults, and the knowledge that you are helping protect and conserve these key species. 

Remember:

  • All of our trips conveniently depart from the Virginia Aquarium’s private, on-site dock, located adjacent to the Bay & Ocean Pavilion parking lot.
  • Programs include responsible observation and interpretation from expertly trained educators.
  • A portion of all ticket sales support Virginia Aquarium conservation initiatives, including the rescue and rehabilitation efforts of the Stranding Response Team.

Whales & Wildlife Sea Adventures Boat Trips

With almost three decades of experience, a Whales & Wildlife Sea Adventure aboard the Atlantic Explorer is an opportunity to see the ocean’s most magnificent creatures as they visit our coastal waters, while our enthusiastic educators help bring the ocean to life with items to see and touch. Staff and volunteers trained by Aquarium experts share an amazing program built upon the Aquarium’s own scientific research and conservation efforts, and collect data related to whale and dolphin sightings during each trip which contributes to federal and regional management of marine mammal populations and environmental assessments.

This 2-2.5 hour trip in search of whales, dolphins, seals, and seabirds brings you as close as possible to commonly observed species like acrobatic humpback whales, fin whales, minke whales, critically endangered right whales, bottlenose dolphins, harbor porpoises, and harbor seals, as well as an immense variety of seabirds and waterfowl. 

Schedule: Our full schedule begins December 26. Trips are subject to change due to boating conditions. Schedule may be adjusted dependent upon sightings.

Sneak Peek

Sat & Sun Dec. 3-4 2 p.m.

Coming Soon! Regular Whale Watch Season

Wed   2 p.m.
Fri   2 p.m.
Sat 10 am 2 p.m.
Sun 10 am 2 p.m.
Additional trips daily offered from December 26 - January 1 at 10AM & 2PM!

Please review our Calendar of Events for trip availability and special trip offerings.
Call (757) 385-FISH (3474) to confirm trip status that may be impacted by wind & sea conditions.

Whales & Wildlife Ticket Prices

Adults $28
Children ages 3 to 11 $24
Children under age 3 No Charge
Members receive $2 off

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Dolphin Discoveries Sea Adventures Boat Trip

Join us this spring, summer, and fall on an unforgettable 90-minute excursion aboard the Atlantic Explorer in an exploration for Virginia’s most common and charismatic marine mammal, bottlenose dolphins!

Each trip offers close-up observations of our marine environment and its inhabitants. When resources allow, we use a hydrophone (an underwater microphone) to listen for dolphins and whales. Trained Aquarium educators provide discussions about incredible natural dolphin behaviors, and share what is being done to conserve and protect the species and its habitat. Brown pelicans, bald eagles, and other seabirds are frequently sighted, along with sea turtles.

Schedule: Trips will resume in March, and are subject to change due to boating conditions.


Ocean Collections Sea Adventures Boat Trips

Curious about what lives in our coastal ocean waters? Take a 75-minute cruise with Aquarium educators to collect a variety of local fish and invertebrates and observe them up close aboard the boat. The catch varies seasonally, and some of the exciting discoveries may include seahorses, stingrays, blue crabs, keyhole urchins, and jellies. During this hands-on trip, you’ll have the opportunity to help work the trawl net, collect plankton, examine animals the temporary touch pool, and release fish back into the ocean.

Space is limited because of the hands-on nature of this program, and advanced reservations are highly recommended.

Schedule: Trips will resume in June, and are subject to change due to boating conditions.


FAQs

Trips take place on the Atlantic Explorer, a spacious and stable catamaran that boasts one of the most comfortable rides in Virginia Beach, and has been outfitted especially for conducting dolphin watching, whale watching, and other educational Sea Adventures. Experience spectacular views from outdoor covered decks, or from cushioned seats inside a climate-controlled cabin. Additional amenities to maximize your experience on board include a snack bar, ship store, indoor educational activity space, and modern restroom facilities.

The vessel is operated by experienced captains and crew employed by Rover Cruises. As safety is a priority on each trip, the Atlantic Explorer is equipped with state art of the navigation and communications equipment and is licensed and inspected by the United States Coast Guard annually.

Your Whales & Wildlife Sea Adventures will be led by a knowledgeable Virginia Aquarium educator who has been specially trained to conduct these programs. The educator will share up-to-date information about the marine mammals and other seasonal visitors seen in local waters, as well as elaborate on the most current findings and efforts of Aquarium researchers. Staff, along with Aquarium volunteers, will be available to answer your questions, as well as provide visual aids and opportunities to touch whale baleen and other biofacts we are permitted to possess. The licensed captain from Rover Cruises will ensure you have a safe and pleasant trip, while the crew is available to assist you with any customer service needs you may have during your time aboard.
The dock and the boat are accessible for guests in manual wheelchairs. The captain and crew will assist anyone needing to transfer from a motorized to a manual wheelchair for the trip.
Due to space considerations in the walkways and cabin, strollers may need to be stowed when on board.
As the temperatures & weather conditions are often different on the water, we suggest wearing layers for comfort, outwear such as hats/gloves, and shoes with no-slip soles that provide traction. Sunglasses & sunscreen are also recommended for bright days. On particularly cold days, some guests bring blankets so they are comfortable sitting on the outer deck for the duration of the trip.
You are encouraged to bring along your camera.  You’re able to get closer to the water from our sea-level viewing decks to experience the marine wildlife up close & personal, which offers some of the best photo and video opportunities! Just keep in mind that will want to keep a firm grip on your equipment.
Whales & Wildlife trips are approximately 2-2.5 hours long, which allows time to venture up and down the coast in search of whales and other wildlife. While our trip duration allows us time to travel up to 10 miles offshore, we rarely go that far, as we tend to find animals much closer to shore. The trip course may vary with each trip dependent upon the known location of the animals.  Our extensive experience and knowledge of the area helps us identify the most likely places to find our seasonal visitors. Plus, the captain receives reports of sightings from other vessels in the area and will head toward the location where whales have most recently been spotted.
Since all marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Act and some by the Endangered Species Act in U.S. waters, we follow federal and regional viewing guidelines that help protect the animals in their natural habitat. The responsible viewing program specifies how close vessels may approach whales and other marine mammals in our area, which is from 100 feet to 500 yards depending on the species. Occasionally, animals will suddenly come up much closer to the boat, in which case we hold our position until we can safely move away.

In addition to following recommended responsible viewing guidelines, the Virginia Aquarium is also an active Whale SENSE participant. Whale SENSE is a voluntary education and recognition program for whale watching companies committed to responsible practices and whale conservation.
Our trips conveniently depart from the Virginia Aquarium Dock, located adjacent to the Bay & Ocean Pavilion parking lot, at 717 General Booth Boulevard. Parking is available in the Main Lot as well as in the East Lot across the street from the Bay & Ocean Pavilion. Please allow additional time for parking and check-in at the dock 30 minutes before your departure time.

To ensure that space is available on the day and time you’d like to go, we do recommend purchasing your tickets in advance. You can do online, in person at the Aquarium’s Guest Services office, or by calling 757-385-FISH. Advanced sales may pick up their tickets at the Aquarium dock prior to the trip’s departure.

  Purchase a ticket!

We offer "day of” tickets up to 30 minutes before departure time as long as space is still available on the boat. "Day of" tickets can be purchased at the Admissions counter, and the ticket kiosk by the dock.
Absolutely! As leaders in conservation and research in the area, we are passionate about the marine environment and feel our trips offer unparalleled opportunities for experiential learning. For all of our educational excursions, we incorporate appropriate standards of learning and adjust our onboard programing to complement the classroom teaching. Each trip is tailored to the participants on board. Please visit our field trip page to learn more about how we can help you enhance your science curriculum.
Trips are cancelled when rough seas from local winds or offshore storms would prevent us from providing a comfortable and safe excursion. Based on the forecast and experience in local waters, the captain determines the status of a trip. Sea conditions can change quickly, and occasionally it is necessary to cancel at the last minute. Please note that precipitation alone does not keep us from conducting trips, so come prepared if rain, sleet, or snow is predicted. To confirm trip status, please call Guest Services at (757) 385-FISH (3474).