NSW Whale-watching hotspots
From late autumn to early spring, over 30,0000 whales travel north from the Southern Ocean along the NSW coastline to feed and breed in the warmth of the Pacific. They return south on the same route in spring to feed in the Antarctic over summer. Known as the Humpback Highway, humpback and southern right whales are the most commonly sighted, but you might also spot orcas, blue whales, minke whales and sperm whales.
Every year, thousands of visitors flock to clifftop lookouts and beaches to catch a glimpse of the humpback whales breaching and playing with their newborn calves. There are many whale-watching cruises and vantage points to choose from along the pristine coastline so you can have a front-row seat to this spectacular show. Watch in awe as you witness these magnificent mammals display pectoral slaps and body rolls.
Cape Byron LighthouseCape Byron Lighthouse, Cape Byron Walking Track, Byron Bay NSW, Australia
Spot whales from Cape Byron, Australia’s most easterly point, and on small cruise tours like Whale Watching Byron Bay and Blue Bay Whale Watching. Or hop aboard a boat with Out Of The Blue Adventures guided by a marine biologist. Go Sea Kayak Byron Bay and Cape Byron Kayaks will take you out on the water to see the mammals up close, or head to Ballina Head Lookout for panoramic views of the ocean and passing whales.
Swimming with humpback whales is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and Jetty Dive in Coffs Harbour runs tours where you can slide in alongside a pod of whales.
Coffs HarbourCoffs Harbour NSW, Australia
Further south, Port Macquarie’s 9km Coastal Walk is dotted with stunning vantage points for whale spotting. You can also cruise on Port Jet Cruise Adventures’ Wave Rider, one of the fastest commercial whale-watching boats around.
Port MacquariePort Macquarie NSW, Australia
In Port Stephens, whales are easy to spot from Tomaree National Park, a superb backdrop to the charming towns of Nelson Bay, Shoal Bay, Fingal Bay and Boat Harbour. You can also take the short Tomaree Head summit walk to one of Australia’s best panoramic views, perfect for sighting both humpbacks and other whales. Moonshadow- TQC Cruises offers two whale cruises that will get you close to the action. Watch in awe as you witness the extraordinary animals show you a display of pectoral slaps and body rolls.
Port StephensPort Stephens NSW, Australia
In Newcastle, head out with CoastXP to see whales off the breathtaking Hunter Coast.
Sydney has a variety of vantage points to choose from. Cape Solander in Kamay Botany Bay National Park is an unbeatable lookout during whale-watching season.
Cape Solander LookoutCape Solander Lookout, Cape Solander Drive, Kurnell NSW, Australia
Closer to the city, you can spot whales from Sydney Harbour’s North and South Head. At the tip of the northern beaches, Barrenjoey Head at Palm Beach offers an elevated viewpoint, while the Bondi to Coogee walk offers fantastic whale viewing opportunities.
Barrenjoey HeadBarrenjoey Head, Palm Beach NSW, Australia
For on-the-water experiences, Captain Cook Cruises, FantaSea Cruising, Bass and Flinders Cruises and Manly Ocean Adventures are some of many whale-watching cruises that leave from Circular Quay, Darling Harbour and Manly.
To see newborn whale calves frolicking with their mothers, Jervis Bay is a top spot! It’s about halfway along the whales’ 4,000km migration, so they often stop to rest and play. Swim with whales and seals on a tour with Dive Jervis Bay or jump on a cruise with Jervis Bay Wild. To see a pod of the resident bottlenose dolphins who live inside Jervis Bay all year round, embark on a tour with Dolphin Watch Cruises. If you prefer to stay dry, there’s a viewing platform in Booderee National Park.
Jervis BayJervis Bay, Australia
The pristine waters off Merimbula on NSW’s Sapphire Coast are the perfect place for whale watching. Merimbula Marina has a 100 per cent whale spotting guarantee with their whale-watching cruises on a catamaran.
MerimbulaMerimbula NSW, Australia
Credit: Destination NSW