Australia is one of the premier destinations in the world for whale and dolphin spotting as over 45 species call Australian waters home and they can be viewed year-round. May marks the start of the busiest season in the whale watching calendar as migrating humpback whales head along the East Coast to and from the tropical waters of Queensland.
Along the West Coast, a similar migration takes place. Humpback and Southern Right Whales spend the summer months in Antarctica feeding and then head up to Australian waters to escape the cold.
Every state in Australia is visited by whales of some description. The migrations along the East and West Coast, paired with the Great Australian Bight Marine Park in South Australia which has one of the largest Southern Right Whale breeding populations in the world and is home to Blue Whales – the biggest animal in history. Australia is home to nearly 60% of the world’s whales.
Since commercial whaling was outlawed in 1986, whale numbers have rapidly increased, particularly those of the Humpback, but many are still struggling as endangered species. For the next four months, Australia becomes a safe haven for all manner of whale species and here are the best places in the country to see these majestic creatures:
The Sydney coastline offers breath-taking views of Humpback whales as they move both North and South from May to November. The Bondi to Coogee walk is a spectacular place to watch these massive mammals breach as their huge splashes are visible for kilometres. Scan the horizon and more often than not, you’ll see a great puff of air, a tail or a spectacular leap.
The entire Sydney coast is perfect for whale watching, whether you head over the bridge to Manly or the Northern Beaches or south toward Wollongong, whales are never far from shore.
Many whale-watching cruises can be organised from Circular Quay and Darling Harbour and many will offer a money-back guarantee in the unlikely event that you do not spot whales. Whale watching season officially begins on May 17th and runs until November so you’ve got plenty of time to see this natural spectacle.
Port Stephens, NSW.
Ultimate Ozers will know the beauty of Port Stephens as it is included as part of the Sydney arrival package and is home to the legendary Basecamp! Made up of 26 glorious beaches and also home to a friendly pod of bottlenose dolphins, Port Stephens is prime whale-watching territory from June to November as Humpback’s make their way to and from Queensland.
Port Stephens offers a paradise that is easily accessible from Sydney. Just a few hours north of the city, Port Stephens is perfect for a winter weekend getaway and with the abundance of whales during the season, you’re almost certain to spot something!
Byron Bay, NSW
Australia’s most Easterly point, Cape Byron, is perfect for coastal whale watching. The rugged Eastern point of the continent offers tremendous views with or without whales but from June to November, you have about a 70% chance of spotting whales from the coastline.
Byron also offers year-round dolphin kayaking which is another once-in-a-lifetime experience. A winter weekend in Byron Bay is high on the list of the best things to do in Australia with its laid back lifestyle, lovely weather and awesome experiences.
Hervey Bay, QLD
The starting point for many a wild adventure on Fraser Island, Hervey Bay is also one of the most consistent whale watching spots in Australia. Hervey Bay is an important pit-stop for migrating whales and is the self-confessed whale watching capital of Australia.
A 14-year study was conducted into whale habits in Hervey Bay and revealed that 7 000 whales stop off in the area each year during the migration period. The best time to see whales is September as mothers with calves stop in the Bay to socialise with other whales. The whales are completely comfortable with the boats that frequent the waters as they travel this coast for decades and boats have to keep a safe distance from the animals.
So, if you are looking at a Fraser Island trip, why not spend an extra day in Hervey Bay and take a trip onto the water?
On the other side of the country, Exmouth is the best place in WA to access Ningaloo Reef and the wonders that lie beneath. Ningaloo is world famous for its whale shark population but for a few months a year, it is also home to one of the largest groups of Humpback whales in the world.
If you time your trip perfectly, you could even spot both whale sharks and humpback whales, as there is a brief cross-over of seasons. Either way, if you sees whales or whale sharks, a trip to Ningaloo will not soon be forgotten.
Great Ocean Road, VIC
Different points of the Great Ocean Road offer different experiences. Warrnambool in Victoria is renowned the world over for its population of southern right whales. The calm waters of Warrnambool offer the whales a perfect nursery and hundreds descend upon the coastline from June to October.
Southern Right Whales come within 100 metres of the shore and specially constructed viewing platforms offer the perfect vantage point to spot mothers and calves, with males staying further out at sea.
Further along the coast in Portland, it is possible to spot the biggest animal in the history of the world – the Blue Whale! With an average length of 30 metres (a bit bigger than a basketball court) and weighing more than 170 tonnes (40 adult elephants), the opportunity to see these animals should not be missed.
To be honest, anywhere along the East or West Coast is a prime location for whale watching in Australia. Get in touch with us at Ultimate Oz and we will see what whale watching tours we can get you booked onto this season!