Each winter, watch humpback whales gliding north past Byron Bay and Hervey Bay. Marvel at their complex acrobatic communication and listen to the males’ haunting underwater song on a hydrophone. Watch the slow, graceful southern right whales sail up the Western Australian coastline from Geographe Bay, Dunsborough and Albany. Or spot these endangered creatures - once hunted almost to extinction - from the Head of Bight whale sanctuary or Victor Harbor in South Australia. See them mate and calve in the nursery waters of Warrnambool or arrive from Antarctic waters with humpback whales in Tasmania’s picturesque Great Oyster Bay. From late April, southern right whales journey to temperate breeding waters off Southern Australia and Victoria. Meanwhile the energetic humpback whales continue north to warmer waters along the west and east coasts. Which means between May and November, you can spot whales from many scenic spots along Australia’s coastline.
Some of our best whale-watching locations
Watch humpback and southern right whales frolic in Augusta’s Flinders Bay from early June. Or head to Dunsborough in September, when rare blue whales and calves join bottlenosed dolphins in Geographe Bay. Southern right, humpback and pygmy whales also glide through these aquamarine waters on their graceful northward hmigration. Spot them from Cape Naturaliste lighthouse or get closer on a whale-watching cruise. Further south, Albany’s rugged coastline makes another scenic grandstand. Between July and October, see southern right and humpback whales mating and calving in the vast, green seas of King George Sound. Learn about these intelligent creatures at Albany’s interactive whale museum, that many years ago was a whaling station.
Stand atop the steep cliffs around Victor Harbor’s Encounter Bay and watch the endangered southern right whales who come here to breed between May and October. Or take a cruise from Granite Island jetty to see them play with their calves further out in the waters of the Fleurieu Peninsula. From Ceduna, further along South Australia’s jagged coastline, you can watch the whales do slow-motion somersaults from the viewing platform or beach. They often come within hundreds of metres from the towering Bunda Cliffs. You’ll also spot Australian sea lions and great white sharks. For a closer peek, take a boat out into the protected waters of the Head of Bight whale sanctuary.
Stand on Logans Beach in Warrnambool, where between June and September, southern right whales calve in the nursery close to shore. They stay here for several weeks, helping their babies build strength for the long journey back to sub-Antarctic waters. Meanwhile the males, yearlings and young adults remain further out to sea. Capture the magical mother-and-calf interaction from the viewing platform on the sand dunes. Or head to Lady Bay, where the new mums often come close enough to spray you with breakwater. Congratulate them on a whale-spotting cruise or look out for their distinctive white calloused heads from the window of a light plane. In May, you might be able to catch rare blue whales in their last feeding month at Cape Nelson near Portland.
From May, you can see humpback and southern right whales coasting through the clear, blue-green waters of Great Oyster Bay off the Freycinet Peninsula. Take a wildlife cruise from Coles Bay and watch them wheeling through the Tasman Sea on ancient, inbuilt migration routes. With scenery that includes forests, pink granite cliffs and secret white beaches, you can see why the southern right whales often stay here for extended periods. You might spot some with calves in Mercury Passage, off Maria Island. Or head to wild and beautiful Bruny Island, just a short drive from Hobart. It’s here in Adventure Bay that sightings are most common.
Cruise out of iconic Sydney Harbour and into the heads, where between May and late November, gracious humpbacks make their way up the east coast. From land, Sydney’s best-based vantage point is The Gap at South Head. You’ll see the same huge, graceful creatures from June in Byron Bay. Look out from Cape Byron lighthouse – the whales play within a hundred metres of Australia’s most easterly point. Or listen to the male humpback’s haunting song on the hydrophone of a whale watching boat. South of Sydney, you’re almost guaranteed a whale-sighting in the calm, clear waters of Jervis Bay Marine Park, also home to pods of bottlenosed dolphins.
Get splashed by the humpback’s tail slapping and pectoral flapping in Hervey Bay, between late July and early November. It’s Australia’s whale watching capital, but you’ll also get a great view from Point Lookout on North Stradboke Island, near Brisbane. Take a cruise from Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast or the Gold Coast, where your spotting starts just 20 minutes after leaving shore. For a closer encounter, head to Port Douglas for an in-water meeting with the dwarf minke whales of the northern Great Barrier Reef. You’ll meet these playful, intelligent creatures while snorkeling from lines attached to the boat.