When the weather cools down in Australia, whale-watching season heats up as humpback and southern right whales make their annual migration to our warm coastal waters to escape the icy chill of Antarctica. Over half of the world’s total number of whales travel through Australian waters each year and these are the best places to catch a glimpse, or if you’re lucky, a close encounter with these majestic creatures of the sea.
In September, various species of whales including the rare blue whales, southern right, humpback and pygmy whales cruise through the aquamarine waters of Dunsborough on their annual migration north. The best vantage points for whale-watching are from Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse or book a coastal and wildlife eco tour to see native wildlife in their natural habitats and maybe even a whale or two.
Further south, humpback whales can often be seen along Albany’s rugged coastline as they travel north-west to Broome, while southern right whales prefer the shelter of Albany's southern bays as a place to spend time with their new born calves before returning south.South Australia
The beautiful Gold Coast is one of the ultimate spots in Australia to catch these beautiful creatures in their habitat with whales coming within a kilometre or two of the beach. It’s also one of the only locations along the entire East Coast of Australia where whales are heading in both directions from mid August. If you’d like a front row seat to the action, then you can’t go past a catamaran cruise.
One hundred kilometres north of Brisbane, Mooloolaba is the perfect location to kick back or alternatively, kick the excitement up a notch. Buckle up and hang on tight because you can view humpback whales off the Mooloolaba coast via jet boat. No boat gets you closer to water level than a jet boat, so it’s the closest you’ll get to swimming alongside these gentle giants.
Head of Bight
Located in South Australia’s far west coast, the Head of Bight is one of the best vantage points in the world. From the main viewing platform, southern right whales can be observed breaching, doing slow motion somersaults, tail slapping and diving. They frequent the coastline between June and October often within 100 metres of the shore. At the height of the season up to 100 whales can be located along the 15km stretch of coastline, including mother’s swimming with their calves. In addition to southern right whales, sea lions, dolphins and great white sharks have also been known to pass through the area.
An hour’s drive from Adelaide CBD on the Fleurieu Peninsula, Victor Harbour is a hype of activity in July to August with southern right whales calling Encounter Bay home. While they can often be seen from the shore, the prime whale-watching positions are up on the cliffs and headlands along the coast. It’s also the best place to spot the common and bottlenose dolphins who live in the waters all year round.
Sydney is home to some of the best vantage points to catch whales in action. In fact in the past, whales have ventured as far as the Harbour Bridge! October is your best chance for seeing a whale in this area, as it’s during this time that the mothers and newborn calves swim close to the shoreline in sheltered areas to rest and feed. For a fun, guided experience try a whale-watching cruise in Sydney Harbour or a high speed boat ride in Circular Quay.
Described as the whale-watching capital of NSW, Jervis Bay’s record is 32 individual whale sightings on one cruise. Known for its calm waters, this is the spot where whales rest on their journey back towards Antarctica. Witness their migration between May and November up on the headland, or book a whale-watch cruise to see these endangered species up close.
If you travel 200 kilometres northeast of Sydney, you’ll find beautiful Port Stephens. Known for its pristine beaches and clear blue waters, it’s also a temporary home to 9,000 migrating humpback whales. While Port Stephens’ foreshore and beaches provide great vantage points, if you keep your eyes peeled on a whale-watching cruise there's a good chance you'll also see dolphins and the colony of southern fur seals that often laze on the rocks at Cabbage Tree Island.
Every year both humpback and southern right whales take shelter in the blue-green waters of Adventure Bay as they travel past Bruny Island. May to July and September to December are the best times for whale sightings with some staying for as long as five weeks at a time. It’s also a great location to see other whale species including the orca, pygmy right whale and minke whale that occasionally migrate past the island.
Each year between June and September, the female southern right whales return to the nursery areas located just off-shore at Logan's Beach in Warrnambool to give birth and raise their calves. They often stay for a few weeks until their calves build enough strength for the long journey back to sub-Antarctic waters, while the males, yearlings and young adults remain further out to sea. The viewing platform located on the sand dunes is a prime spot to see the interaction between mother and calf, however they are often close enough to shore to be seen from the beach.
>> See all our amazing whale-watching experiences here.