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Where to go Whale Watching in Nelson Bay, Port Stephens

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by Sue W (subscribe)
Lover of exploring, family, food and fun! Find me on instagram: @australianrecipesbythebay
Published May 5th 2022
Spend your winter spotting whales
The whale watching season is now on! It is held between May to November each year, as Humpback whales leave Antarctica and travel up the east coast of Australia to feed, give birth and enjoy the warmer water up north. They then travel back down again when winter is over, so we get another chance to see them - sometimes we even get to see the baby calves as well! During that time, thousands of Humpback whales can be seen from headlands all up and down the coastline, but if you want a closer look - then you have to get out on a boat.

Nelson Bay is located on the protected waters of Port Stephens, 2.5 hours north of Sydney. The d'Albora Marina at Nelson Bay is home to whale watching boats which can take you out on the water, to experience the beauty of this annual migration. It is the perfect venue to have a weekend away up the coast and take in some whale watching at the same time. Why don't you book a hotel and a whale watching cruise, for this weekend? You will love it!

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Enjoy nature at its best on Moonshadow - TQC Cruises. Image: Moonshadow - TQC Cruises Facebook

Moonshadow - TQC Cruises have the largest boats which go out of the heads and into the ocean - straight into the mix of the migrating whales. All you hear from the outdoor decks is "oooh" and "aaahh", as whales breach in the water just metres from the boat. Check out their Facebook for all the latest pics from their cruises. You are almost guaranteed to also see dolphins on your cruise too, as there are over 100 bottlenose dolphins that have made Port Stephens their home. Moonshadow cruises are 2.5 - 3 hours in duration, so you also get a tour of the area at the same time. See here for details of the cruises available.

*Please note - if you have any kind of motion sickness, buy some seasickness medication from the pharmacist before you get on board, as it can get quite choppy out to sea.

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Large boats and comfortable cruising, with Moonshadow - TQC Cruises. Image: Moonshadow - TQC Cruises Facebook

Imagine Cruises offer another whale watching experience, with a "Whale Watching Express" trip which takes 90 minutes, as well as a sailing boat option. The Whale Watching Express is on the Envision boat, and they depart daily between May to November. This shorter boat trip is ideal for people short on time, families with kids, those who aren't sure if they get seasick and people who like smaller groups, for more personalised commentary.

Look for dolphins as well as seals, as you travel around Cabbage Tree Island. If for some reason you don't spot any whales, they will give you a voucher to come back and try again for free. If conditions are suitable, they will also drop in the hydrophone - if the whales are singing, you'll be able to hear them! They also have a 3-hour sailing boat option, for a similar price. See here for details of the cruises available.

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Smaller groups, personal tours and a 1.5 hour Express Cruise on Envision. Image: Imagine Cruises Facebook

Local Lookouts also provide excellent viewing of whales, as some whales come in close to the headlands or within a few kilometres of the coastline. One of the most popular places to view them (for people who like to exercise!) is from the top of Tomaree Head. The hike up has many steep inclines and stairs, so you also get a good workout on the way up. More accessible lookouts are located at Boat Harbour and Barry Park in Fingal Bay. They each have informative signs to explain the different features of Humpback and Southern Right Whales, so you know what you are looking for.

Of course, there are whale watching tours in Sydney that you can do, however, if you want to escape the city this winter and make a mini-break of it, then you can't beat Nelson Bay and the Port Stephens region for a holiday, close to home. While you're there, you can also explore the other tourist attractions in the area, as well as visit the many quiet beaches in winter. Book in early for your whale watching adventure and have some fun in the sun, in Nelson Bay!

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Check out the local whale-watching lookouts and (hopefully!) spot a whale!

* For more things to do in the region, check out the Port Stephens Weekendnotes website!
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Why? Enjoy the splendour of our natural world!
When: Whale Watching season is between May to November. Visit during the peak months in the middle, to see the most whales. Baby calves are seen at the end of the season.
Where: Nelson Bay, Port Stephens NSW
Cost: See websites for details
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