How to go Whale Watching in Australia | Experience Oz + NZ

How to go Whale Watching in Australia

Whale watching season in Australia is one of the best and most popular times to travel to the east, south or west coast, as the waters are filled with giant playful whales. Every year from around May until November the coasts are inundated with migrating Humpback, Southern Right and Minke Whales as they make their way north to relax in the warmer waters with their young.

There are numerous destinations dotting the coastline of Australia that are hotspots for whale watching, mainly Hervey Bay and the surrounding Fraser Coast region, the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia and Ningaloo Reef/Exmouth on the West Australian coast. Depending on where you are located or where you are travelling to for the 2017 whale watching season, you will be given various options regarding how you go whale watching.

Be it from above or below, whichever way you choose to experience this incredible spectacle, you’ll be blown away by the sheer size and inquisitive nature of these giant sea creatures. Here we outline some of the best ways to go whale watching in Australia, where you can do each, and what operators offer these experiences.

Whale Watching… from a boat

One of the most obvious and popular choices is a whale watching cruise. Departing the mainland, you’ll be taken just off the coast to settle in a prime position to watch the whales travel up and down the ‘Humpback Highway’.

A whale watching cruise will get you as close as possible to the action as the whales breach, tail slap and simply check out the boats on their way either north or south, depending on the time of your visit. The boats aren’t allowed to get too close to the whales, but if your cruise is lucky enough to be the subject of a whale’s affection, then they’ll come right up to the boat and put on a show, giving you front-row seats.

How to go whale watching in Australia - Sea World Whale Watch Gold Coast
Image: Sea World Whale Watch

In Queensland, stand out locations for whale watching cruises include the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, Hervey Bay, Brisbane (via Moreton Bay), and as far north as the Whitsundays in North Queensland. There are a number of operators conducting daily cruises out onto the water to see these awesome animals, with various different departure times throughout the day.

Some of the top operators include Tangalooma Whale Watching, Brisbane Whale Watching, Whales in Paradise, Sea World Whale Watch, and Whale One in South East Queensland, Tasman Venture, Blue Dolphin Marine Tours, Freedom Whale Watch and Whale Song on the Fraser Coast, and Ocean Dynamics in the Whitsundays.

How to go whale watching in Australia - Tasman Venture Hervey Bay Queensland
Image: Tasman Venture

If you’re planning to go whale watching in the southern states, New South Wales offers some viable cruise options around the state. You can go whale watching from the likes of Sydney, Port Stephens, Byron Bay and Jervis Bay to name a few, each with some popular cruise companies operating in each.

Popular operators include Byron Bay Dive Centre, Jervis Bay Wild, Narooma Charters and Moonshadow Cruises operating from various destinations along the coastline, Captain Cook Whale Watching Tours, Oz Whale Watching, Whale Watching Sydney and FantaSea Cruises in the state’s capital.

How to go whale watching in Australia - Oz Whale Watching Sydney New South Wales
Image: Oz Whale Watching

Heading further south, the beautiful state of Victoria doesn’t have as much variety as the northern states, but it features operators in two popular destinations; Phillip Island and Lakes Entrance.

You have the likes of Wildlife Coast Cruises and Wild Ocean EcoBoat Adventure Tour operating off Phillip Island and Amaroo Cruises from the beautiful Lakes Entrance on the mainland.

If you travel to the left of the country, Western Australia is one of the top spots for whale watching and sheer size of the state’s coastline means there are ample opportunities to get out on the water and spot some migrating whales. Destinations such as Albany, Augusta, Exmouth/Ningaloo Reef, Rottnest Island and Broome are all hotspots for the whales.

How to go whale watching in Australia - Ocean Eco Adventures Western Australia
Image: Ocean Eco Adventures

If you’re planning to go whale watching along the WA coastline then you’ll be heading out with some of these operators. All Sea Charters, Legend Charters and Naturaliste Charters in the Dunsborough and Augusta regions, Absolute Ocean Charters and Broome Whale Whale Watching up north in Broome, Ocean Eco Adventures, Coral Bay Ecotours and Ningaloo Marine Interactions in the Exmouth/Ningaloo Reef region, and Rottnest Express, Rottnest Fast Ferries and Mills Charters in the Fremantle and Perth regions.

Whale Watching… from the water

If a cruise is too tame for you, or you’ve ‘been there done that’, then this is the next adventure for you. Swimming with humpback whales is a calming, adventurous, exciting and humbling experience you’ll never forget. With both the east and west coasts home to operators offering whale swims, Queenslanders and Western Australians alike will be given the option to jump in head first and come eye-to-eye with these giants.

How to go whale watching in Australia - Sunreef Mooloolaba swim with humpback whales Sunshine Coast Queensland
Image: Sunreef Mooloolaba

Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast in sunny Queensland is where you’ll find local operator Sunreef Mooloolaba. Offering the chance to don a wetsuit, snorkel and mask, the small group of swimmers will jump in and swim with these majestic creatures all while at a safe distance.

An adventure that’s boasted about by all who’ve done it, swimming with humpback whales in the iconic Sunshine Coast region is an experience you’ll want to do again and again.

Journeying over to the western side of the country, there are a handful of operators conducting humpback whale swimming day tours from Exmouth. The likes of Exmouth Diving and Whale Shark Centre, Live Ningaloo, Ningaloo Discovery and Three Islands Whale Shark Dive, all offer the chance to swim alongside humpbacks during migration season.

How to go whale watching in Australia - 3 Islands whale shark dive Western Australia
Image: 3 Islands Whale Shark Dive

Even though the WA coast and Ningaloo Reef/Exmouth regions are usually renowned for offering visitors the chance to go swimming with whale sharks, swimming with humpbacks is a more exclusive adventure that can only be done for a short period of time every year.

This is a more expensive option for holidaymakers, however, it is well worth the investment, as the photo opportunities present as you swim amongst and alongside whales and their calves are around every stroke. This is the kind of experience that will stick with you for years to come, and if you can put away the fear of getting in the water with these massive animals, it is one you’ll never regret.

Whale Watching… from the sky

Scenic flights are popular all throughout the year, however, certain operators on the Australian coasts are lucky enough to add whale watching to their scenic flight itinerary. Instead of looking out to the horizon of the beautiful Sydney harbour, you can look down to the waters to try and spot whales swimming up and down the coast.

How to go whale watching in Australia - Sydney Heli Tours Helicopter Scenic Flight New South Wales
Image: Sydney Heli Tours

There are operators taking off on a scenic plane or helicopter flight around the country, but doing so in migration season from Sydney, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Whitsundays, and Perth, means you might have the chance to watch a whale or two breaches, tail slaps or sky hops from above.

How to go whale watching in Australia - Paradise Seaplanes Sunshine Coast Queensland
Image: Paradise Seaplanes

Queensland operators include Cloud 9 Seaplanes, V2 Helicopters, Paradise Seaplanes, Air Whitsundays. Western Australia operators include Rotorvation Helicopters, Victoria’s operators include Phillip Island Helicopters, and for New South Wales, Sydney Heli Tours.

Whale Watching… from land

As whale watching cruises do tend to fill up quite quickly, especially in peak season, watching the whales from land might be your next best option. Ideal for people who don’t enjoy cruising or don’t want to pay for whale watching, there are various points along the east and west coasts that offer great land-based viewing options.

All over the country, there are a number of popular lookout points and some lesser known gems that will give you the chance to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures as they journey close to shore.

How to go whale watching in Australia - Logans Beach Warrnambool Victoria
Image: The Standard

If you have binoculars or a camera with some epic zoom, you won’t want to leave that at home, because even though they swim relatively close to home, you won’t have as great a view as the cruise ships floating within a boat’s length from them.

The majority of regions in the area offer some great land-based viewing options including New South Wales’ Eden, Byron Bay Lighthouse, Batemans Bay, Ben Boyd National Park in Merimbula, Bar Rock road in Narooma, Redhead Bluff in Newcastle’s Awabakal Nature Reserve, and Tomaree Head Summit Walk in Port Stephens.

In the sunshine state, you can journey to Point Danger, North Stradbroke Island, Currumbin or Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast, various different points on the Sunshine Coast, Fraser Island, Hervey Bay and even the various islands in the Whitsundays.

How to go whale watching in Australia - Rottnest Fast Ferries Rottnest Island Western AustraliaImage: Rottnest Fast Ferries

The beautiful state of Victoria is blessed with a number of awesome vantage points, helping you save a few dollars. These include the iconic Great Ocean Road, Lakes Entrance, Phillip Island, and Logan’s Beach in Warrnambool.

If Western Australia is your go-to destination for whale watching from land, then you won’t be disappointed with the likes of Dunsborough Lighthouse, Augusta, Albany, Broome and Exmouth all offering some state-of-the-art views.


Check out all of our whale watching tours and cruises and book your spots early before they sell out!


To go in the running to win double passes for a number of our popular whale watching cruises and experiences, head over to our Facebook page for our daily giveaways starting Thursday, May 4th, 2017.

Brittney Deguara

Experience Oz + NZ Travel Writer

Brittney loves travelling, so it’s only fitting she’s one of our travel writers! A go-to contact for all things travel in Australia and New Zealand, Brittney is always planning her next adventure away from the desk. If you have any story ideas or questions contact her at brittney@experienceoz.com.au

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