Seeing a whale or dolphin up close in the wild is truly one of life’s amazing experiences. Did you know that Ireland’s waters are rich with cetacean marine life with regular visits from a variety of whale species, dolphins and porpoises? See the action up close with these dolphin and whale watching trips in Ireland guaranteed to wow the kids!
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Heading out on a sea adventure is very exciting, but there is nothing worse than feeling seasick or cold while out on a boat. Dress with layers and appropriate outerwear for the trip, and if you think feeling unwell is even a remote possibility, bring some plastic bags or invest in some motion sickness bands for the family.
Remember that with all these dolphin and whale watching tours, sightings are not guaranteed, but you are going out with experienced navigators who know the local waters well.
Where Can You Go Whale Watching in Ireland?
Whale Watch West Cork
During the autumn months Whale Watch West Cork runs whale watching day trips, which includes viewing the seals and other marine wildlife along with the coastline of West Cork.
With a spacious wheelhouse, seating both inside and out and a flushing toilet aboard The Voyager, you’ll have a comfortable boat trip. Their whale watching day trips go past the Old Head of Kinsale or west beyond Cape Clear to the Fastnet Rock in search of the big rorquals and their smaller cousins, the Common Dolphin.
Baltimore Sea Safari
Sea Safari boat trips depart Baltimore twice daily as they tour the coastline in search of whales, dolphins, porpoise, seals, basking sharks and any other marine wildlife that may be in the area. Boats afford passengers the best viewing platforms for whale and dolphin watching on the Wild Atlantic Way.
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Cork Whale Watch
You can enjoy whale watching and marine wildlife tours in West Cork with Cork Whale Watch aboard the Holly Jo with one of Ireland’s most experienced whale watching skippers, Colin.
The Holly Jo offers 360 degree views, has all-round hand rail support and low bows that allow young children to watch wildlife safely and easily. There is a spacious deck with ample outside seating, and an enclosed cabin with upholstered seating and a small galley for making free tea and coffee. There is also a toilet on board.
Blasket Islands Eco Marine Tours
Blasket Islands Eco Marine Tours is a wildlife tour specialist for whale watching and dolphin and bird watching trips on the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry. Here, in the spectacularly beautiful Atlantic waters of Dingle Bay, they regularly encounter at least five species of cetaceans (whales and dolphins). Orcas (killer whales) can occasionally be observed in passage, while humpback and fin whales show up in these waters in the late summer and autumn months.
Their eco tour will take you below the breathtaking cliffs below the Slea Head Drive and the towering Cathedral Rocks of Inis na Bro, where they also regularly come up close to the world’s second largest fish, the giant basking shark.
Inishowen Boating Experience, Donegal
Inishowen Boating Company operates 2 purpose-built fast charter boats from Bunagee Pier Culdaff. There are 24 species of whales and dolphins known in these Donegal waters. The boat tour does not target whales and dolphins specifically, but during navigation you might encounter minke whale, common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, harbour porpoise, basking shark, and sunfish in Donegal Bay.
Sometimes, when encountered in the right conditions, dolphins might play around the boat. You might also get to spot harbour seals and grey seals on your trip.
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All Island Whale Watch Day
All Island Whale Watch Day takes place every August, when members of the public are invited to join the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) on one of 20 land-based whale watches. The watches are held at headlands around the Irish coast between 2-5pm. As well as getting the chance to ask experts about them you might be lucky enough to spot a whale or dolphin!
Dolphin Watching in Ireland
Dingle Dolphin Boat Tours
Dingle Dolphin Boat Tours provides boat trips to see one of ireland’s most famous wild animals, Fungie the Dingle Dolphin, in Co. Kerry. Their boats depart Dingle Pier at regular intervals during the day, every day, all year round (weather permitting). The tours last about 1 hour when you get the chance to see Fungie wild and free in his natural habitat.
Shannon Estuary Dolphins
The Shannon estuary is home to Ireland’s only resident group of bottlenose dolphins. Over 100 dolphins have been identified using the estuary at different times; calves are born each year and are usually encountered in the groups.
Here are some of the Shannon cruises that offer dolphin watching:
With over 25 years of experience of dolphin watching here at the Mouth of the Shannon, the Dolphinwatch encounter rate is one of the highest in the world and the best opportunity to see dolphins in Ireland.
Their passenger ship, Draíocht, which means Magic in the Irish language, departs from the Castle Pier in Carrigaholt in Co. Clare on the Loop Head Peninsula. While on the trip you learn about the wildlife, the geology and the maritime history in this unique part of Ireland.
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Shannon Dolphin Trail, Kilrush
Start at the Shannon Dolphin Information Board in the town’s Market Square. Follow the trail markers and it will take you to the Shannon Dolphin & Wildlife Centre where you can listen to sounds from the bottlenose dolphins, see real skeletons of whales and dolphins, and many more “dol-fun” educational activities for children.
Dolphin Discovery, Kilrush, Co. Clare
Cruises with Dolphin Discovery depart from the Kilrush marina on board vessel “Dolphin Discovery”, going out through the lock gates, the only lock on the lower Shannon and onto the estuary to observe these exuberant creatures in their natural habitat.
The Dolphin Discovery trip takes about 2 hours, and they have a very high success rate (over 98%) of encountering dolphins.
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Have your say! Have you gone on any of these dolphin or whale watching trips in Ireland? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!