Spot southern right whales and humpback whales as they make their annual migration along Australia’s coast.
By Ellie Schneider
Between May and November, you can spot whales from many scenic spots along Australia’s east and west coastlines. Southern right whales journey to the temperate breeding waters off Southern Australia and Victoria, while energetic humpback whales continue north to the Great Barrier Reef and Kimberley, to mate and calve. Here are the best spots around the country to take in their majestic beauty.
GREAT PLACES TO SEE WHALES IN THE WILD
TASMANIA: MAY - JULY, SEPTEMBER - DECEMBER
See humpback whales and southern right whales coasting through the clear waters of Great Oyster Bay off the Freycinet Peninsula on Tasmania's east coast. It's an area renowned for its pink granite cliffs and secret white beaches. You may also glimpse whales with their calves in Mercury Passage off Maria Island, or try a three hour tour with Bruny Island Cruises to see whales taking shelter in Adventure Bay. The whales can be spotted between May and July, and September and December, with some whales staying for up to five weeks.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA: JUNE - NOVEMBER
In Western Australia, the south coast is the best place for spotting whales. Humpback whales and southern right whales frolic in Augusta’s Flinders Bay from early June and rare blue whales and calves join bottlenose dolphins in Geographe Bay in Dunsborough in September. Further south, Albany’s rugged coastline makes another scenic grandstand as the southern right whales take shelter in Albany's bays to mate and calve before returning south. Visitors to Albany can also learn about the whales at Whale World, an interactive museum in a former whaling station. From June to November, humpback whales can also be spotted travelling north-west to Broome (a 2 1/2 hour flight from Perth).
NEW SOUTH WALES: MAY - LATE NOVEMBER
Book a three hour Discovery Cruise with Whale Watching Sydney from Circular Quay out into Sydney Harbour, where humpbacks make their way up the east coast. From land, Sydney’s best vantage point is The Gap at South Head in Watsons Bay. Take a road trip to Jervis Bay, a three hour drive south of Sydney, where you're almost guaranteed a whale sighting in the calm, clear waters. Continue 3 1/2 hours further south to the coastal town of Merimbula on the beautiful Sapphire Coast; Merimbula Marina offers regular whale watching cruises from May through to November. You can also see the same huge, graceful creatures from June in Byron Bay, playing within a hundred metres of the Cape Byron Lighthouse.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA: JUNE - SEPTEMBER
Stand atop the steep cliffs around Victor Harbor’s Encounter Bay and watch southern right whales come to breed. Or book The Big Duck Boat Tour from Granite Island Causeway to see them play with their calves further out in the waters of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Further along South Australia’s jagged coastline in Ceduna, you can watch the whales do slow-motion somersaults from the viewing platform or beach. Ceduna Tours will take you to the head of the Great Australian Bight Whale Sanctuary where you can get up close to southern right whales in their breeding ground, within hundreds of metres from the towering Bunda Cliffs.
QUEENSLAND: MAY - NOVEMBER
Queensland’s whale hot spot is at Hervey Bay, around 300 kilometres (186 miles) north of Brisbane, where humpback whales stop to breed and nurse their young. See their playful antics on a whale watching tour aboard the Spirit of Hervey Bay. Each year in July and August, the arrival of the humpback whales is celebrated at the Hervey Bay Whale Festival, with concerts, street parades and displays. Further south, the Gold Coast is right in the middle of ‘humpback highway’ and offers a variety of tours to see whales in the wild. For a truly unforgettable experience, swim with the playful dwarf minke whales on the Great Barrier Reef (June-July), with a live-aboard Spirit of Freedom tour to the Ribbon Reef.
VICTORIA: MAY – SEPTEMBER
Head to Logans Beach in Warrnambool, a three hour drive out of Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road, and watch southern right whales calve in a nursery close to shore. They stay here for several weeks, helping their babies build strength for the long journey back to sub-Antarctic waters. You can capture the mother-and-calf interactions from the viewing platform on the sand dunes. Also try Lady Bay in Warrnambool, where the new mums often come close enough to spray you with breakwater. Travel a further 1 1/2 hours along the Great Ocean Road to see rare blue whales in their last feeding month at Cape Nelson near Portland. Or book a cruise with Southern Coast Charters to get even closer to the action, and a chance to see humpback whales, southern right whales, bottlenose dolphins and Australian fur seals.
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