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Where to See the Whales

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by Sue Hinchey (subscribe)
A freelance writer living and loving in the northern beaches of Sydney...travelling, writing, outdoor activities, gardens, and Pilates are a few of my favourite things. Visit me or
Published May 29th 2018
Winter is whale-watching season along the east coast of NSW

On the east coast of Australia winter = whales. Between mid-May and the end of November, around 30,000 Humpback and Southern Right whales leave the chilly Antarctic waters to head north to breed and calve in the tropical warm waters of the north. This annual migration has been happening for centuries. Here in Sydney and all along the east coast of NSW, there are many vantage points to spot this giant of the ocean. Whales generally travel in pods or small groups. An adult weighs around 30,000kg and catching a glimpse of them breaching or tail fluking is one of the most spectacular sights of nature. A mother and her calf will often come in quite close to the coastline and beaches to find a spot to rest or socialise. You can download the free Wild about Whales App to find out where it's happening near you. Here are a few tips on the best ways to spot them:

To give yourself the best chance of spotting whales is to go with an expert. Whales love a harbour and Sydney has one of the best. Whale Watching Sydney runs cruises from May to December and you're almost guaranteed to see a whale. If you don't, you'll get a free return trip. At nearby Manly, get up close and personal with Manly Whale Watching, who guarantee a spectacular experience with these migrating mammals.

Manly Ocean Adventures also guarantee a special day out. Using an open adventure vessel, they'll speed up your chances of a unique experience. You might end up with wet hair and the wind in your face, but the opportunity to take your own private party will make the day truly memorable.

Long Reef Headland for whale watching
If the whales don't turn up, the hang-gliders will keep you entertained

From the comfort of your car, the headlands of NSW offer great vantage spots to go whale-watching. No exertion is needed, just take your binoculars and keep a keen eye out. There are easy access points at:

North Head in Sydney Harbour National Park, which also has free parking.
Long Reef on Sydney's northern beaches has a viewing platform, and nearby is a swimming beach, barbeques and toilets.

Warriewood, Whale Beach and Mona Vale headlands all offer fantastic bird's eye views over nearby safe harbours where the whales regularly call in to rest.

North Head Manly Sydney NSW
walking tracks around North Head offer a great chance to spot whales

Sydney's most-northern tip is Barrenjoey Headland in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Park near the surf club and climb the 30-40 minute trail up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse. The views over Pittwater and the mouth of Broken Bay are breathtaking and 180-degree ocean views as far as the eye can see give you a great chance to spot the whale's spouts as they pass by. Even if you don't spot a whale, tour the historic site and picnic with a world-class panorama.

Cape Solander in Botany Bay National Park, just south of Sydney city, is also a favourite sheltered spot for whales, who have been seen as close as 200 metres from shore.

Kayaking within viewing distance of a whale would be both exhilarating and terrifying. I've never tried it, but you can with Cape Byron Kayaks on the north coast or Bay and Beyond Sea Kayaks on the south coast.

Eden on the N.S.W. south coast is famous for whale-spotting for all the wrong reasons. This historic township was once a major whaling station, and a siren was blasted to alert the harpoonists that a whale was passing. Fortunately these days the siren is still sounded, but only to alert the public that whales are nearby.

Eden Whale Festival is held each November, with street parades and all-day entertainment to honour the mighty beasts.

Batemans Bay, Jervis Bay, Culburra Point near Nowra, Hyams Beach and Seven Mile Beach report regular sightings in their crystal clear waters and protected harbours.

Port Stephens, two hours north of Sydney, has a large natural harbour, so is another favourite spot for the whales to visit. Check out Tomaree Headland for a top spot to catch them. A variety of cruise companies operate out of here and, like Sydney Harbour, it really is your best guarantee of sighting these most magnificent mammoths.

Coffs Harbour's waters include The Solitary Islands Marine Park. This protected 35kms of coastline offer the whales the perfect place to rendezvous and relax. It's also a great place for diving, snorkelling, swimming and exploring the marine coastal environment. Woolgoolga Headland and other vantage points in the Yuraygir National Park are perfect for a real escape from city life. Designated walking trails and camping areas also offer you the best opportunity for a real outdoors holiday experience.

Thankfully, whales have become more valuable alive than dead, both economically and environmentally. Once upon a time, they were slaughtered for their blubber, which was melted down to be used for fuel in lamps, candles and soaps. Go spot a whale today and marvel at the majestic mammals of the seas.
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Why? Whale watching
When: May - November
Phone: various
Where: Sydney and east coast NSW
Your Comment
All sounds good but the best place of all, with the most experienced crews has to be Harvey Bay!
by Kate Blake (score: 3|1352) 511 days ago
No matter how many times I see the Whales, they still thrill me.
by May Cross (score: 3|5403) 510 days ago
Foodi Photoh Classie
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