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Whale Watching season: a marvellous annual natural phenomena & essential bucket list experience

 

Like clockwork, as the calendar flips over to April/May each year, one of nature's most amazing migrations takes place, as thousands of Humpback, Southern Right and various other species of whale make their way up (and back down) Australia's coastlines. Dozens of destinations provide the chance to catch a glimpse of these massive - yet gentle - giants of the ocean, as they stop to rest, play, and rear their young before heading back to Antarctic waters.

Each year, we pause to celebrate the launch of Australia's whale watching season, and this year we're kicking things up a notch with in-depth whale watching guides, great deals on whale watching tours and cruises, and a handful of awesome giveaways that could see you and the family heading out to see the whales with some of the country's top operators!

View region guides, deals & more below.

 


States

 

Each of Australia's states offers something slightly different in terms of whale watching opportunities. Select a state below to view its individual whale watching spots.

ExOz Logo Whale WatchingNew South WalesDestinations Its beaches and coves make for great whale havens.

New South Wales Whale Watching

 

New South Wales sees a high volume of whale traffic pass by its coastline each year as the whales head north to the warmer coastal waters of Queensland. The state is home to numerous whale watching tour operators as whale tourism has thus become a bustling business, while NSW also offers plenty of exceptional land-based sites within national parks and viewing platforms as well.

Bateman's Bay

When to go: July to October

What it offers: the chance to see resting mothers and calves close to the shore

Local operators: Coral Bay EcoTours

Batemans Bay, located on the southern NSW coast around a three and a half hour drive to the south of Sydney, is one of the “hidden gems” of Australian whale watching. While it only experiences a very short season of whale watching – typically between from September to November only – the waters of the Bay are usually brimming with Humpbacks, Southern Rights and Orcas which can be spotted either from the shore or aboard a vessel with one of the small multi-purpose tour operators that operate in the area.

Batemans Bay

Due to their main focus predominantly on providing other tours – such as fishing trips and miscellaneous sightseeing journeys – several of the operators will refuse to grant a “money-back guarantee” to see whales unlike a number of larger operators in bigger destinations who are more than happy to provide that service.

Regardless, Batemans Bay itself is an incredibly scenic area that makes for a great holiday destination in its own right, and is of special interest for those who enjoy fishing – think of the whales as a bonus rather than a featured attraction while here and you’ll be fine.

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Byron Bay

When to go: June to November

What it offers: both Humpback and Southern Right whale sightings; wonderful coastal views from the headland

Local operators: Whale Watching Byron Bay

Given that Cape Byron is the easternmost point of mainland Australia and that whales like to follow the coast during their annual migration, it’s only logical that Byron Bay doubles as one of the country’s best whale watching spots for those looking to get a sight of the animals with their feet firmly on dry land. Renowned as an excellent walking track and one of New South Wales’ top sightseeing spots in its own right, the Cape Byron Headland – with its signature lighthouse – serves as a wonderful and picturesque vantage point from which to do some land-based whale watching.

The headland below Byron Bay’s lighthouse in particular ranks as a top whale spotting location, particularly for Southern Right whales who tend to stick closer to shore than their humpback cousins further out.

Byron Bay

The combination of the height that the headland offers along with its proximity to the water provides sweeping and unobstructed views of the whales plying their trade below. It’s an especially wonderful whale watching spot in the early mornings, as the combination of a gorgeous sunrise, for which Cape Byron is renowned, coupled with high numbers of whales makes for a magical experience.

While it’s a top sighting spot on land in its own right, those looking to get up close to the whales can take part in one of the tours available courtesy of Whale Watching Byron Bay, who specialise in doing small-scale and personalised whale cruises. Using smaller, “RIB” style vessels that allow for a closer and more intimate approach, both to take in the whales themselves and the various other marine and animal life that populates this part of the NSW coast including turtles, dolphins, and numerous species of seabirds.

A former whaling station in the past, Byron Bay has evolved into one of the most accessible whale watching locations in Australia due to the short distance and time required between setting out from the mainland and encountering the whales firsthand.

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Eden

When to go: September to November

What it offers: where Humpbacks feed leading to extended stays; excellent Killer Whale Museum

Local operators: Cat Balou Cruises

The small port town of Eden, NSW serves as the southern gateway to what is widely known as a the “Sapphire Coast” – a stretch of remarkable blue waters and deserted beaches that is renowned for being a tranquil getaway destination for those wanting to escape the bigger cities. Like many of the other smaller regions throughout the Sapphire Coast, Eden experiences a brief yet spectacular whale watching season that lasts from September to November and can be witnessed almost as easily from the lookouts overlooking the seaway as from on board the tours themselves.

Eden

The town prides itself on its strong whale and marine-focused culture, with a dedicated siren that sounds whenever whales have been sighted, an annual whale festival held during November and even a dedicated Killer Whale Museum that highlights the natural and historical role that these amazing ocean dwellers have played in Eden’s history and development. Whales can be seen feeding in the warm waters here – a rarity for whale watching locations in Australia – and as a result they reside for longer periods of time than in many other spots.

Whale watching can be done via two main methods in Eden; take a cruise with local operator Cat Balou Cruises aboard their custom-built vessels in the waters of Twofold Bay, or take them in from the shore via vantage points such as Boyd’s Tower or Rotary Park Lookout near the Killer Whale Museum. The simply-named Main Wharf serves as the whale watching departure point in Eden and the friendly, down-to-earth nature of the town and the region as a whole makes it a great place to combine whale watching with a secluded place to get some peace and quiet.

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Merimbula

When to go: May to November

What it offers: the chance to see resting mothers and calves close to the shore

Local operators: Coral Bay EcoTours

Batemans Bay, located on the southern NSW coast around a three and a half hour drive to the south of Sydney, is one of the “hidden gems” of Australian whale watching. While it only experiences a very short season of whale watching – typically between from September to November only – the waters of the Bay are usually brimming with Humpbacks, Southern Rights and Orcas which can be spotted either from the shore or aboard a vessel with one of the small multi-purpose tour operators that operate in the area.

Merimbula

Due to their main focus predominantly on providing other tours – such as fishing trips and miscellaneous sightseeing journeys – several of the operators will refuse to grant a “money-back guarantee” to see whales unlike a number of larger operators in bigger destinations who are more than happy to provide that service.

Regardless, Batemans Bay itself is an incredibly scenic area that makes for a great holiday destination in its own right, and is of special interest for those who enjoy fishing – think of the whales as a bonus rather than a featured attraction while here and you’ll be fine.

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Narooma

When to go: September to November

What it offers: Guided tours or a great lookout near the Town Wharf

Local operators: Coral Bay EcoTours

Narooma lies around halfway between the aforementioned whale watching destinations of Batemans Bay and Merimbula and draws in a variety of whale species encompassing all of the standard types as well as the less common Sei whale (pronounced “Say”), which are drawn to the Narooma area by the large quantities of krill in its waters.

Whale watching charters from Narooma are mostly small, local operations that know the waters of the region inside out, and can take you directly to all the prime whale watching locations with a minimum of fuss.

The other highlight of whale watching in Narooma is its popular Montague Island, which serves as a haven for a myriad of wildlife, including its local colony of seals which can be seen both in the water and lazing on the rocks. This is another whale watching destination that benefits from krill-rich waters with high whale sighting rates.

Narooma

Those looking to enjoy some quality whale watching in Narooma will have a variety of options with which to do so; companies that run seasonal tours include Lighthouse Charters (a small yet modern vessel with undercover seating for 10 people), Island Charters Narooma (another small vessel with a walk-around bow for extra viewing opportunities), and Narooma Charters (another long-running company with plenty of experience).

For land-sightings, head to Bar Rock Road Lookout near the Narooma Town Wharf for the best viewing spot. Add to the whales a seascape rich in dolphins, Sunfish, Manta Rays and more and Narooma’s another great locale for getting your annual dose of all things aquatic.

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Newcastle

When to go: May to November

What it offers: Great whale and dolphin watching in a single spot

Local operators: Coral Bay EcoTours

Newcastle, which sits on the central NSW coast, is another large city that provides great whale watching opportunities. It’s a surprisingly busy whale watching destination, with whale vessels a common sight zipping in and out of the harbour, as well as the further north departure point of Port Stephens, during the peak months of May through to November.

In many ways, Newcastle and Port Stephens blend into a single whale watching mega-destination, with the main difference being the tour operator’s departure point.

The waters surrounding Newcastle boast an excellent sighting rate and the length of the whale watching season makes it a dark horse for one of the most highly rated whale watching destinations in NSW.

Newcastle

The majority of whale watching cruises from Newcastle depart from the Lee Wharf pontoon across from Hunter Street and with a variety of charter options available. Each of the cruises vary in price and you can choose from basic morning and afternoon whale watch cruises as well as those that include harbour and outer beach cruises and those that add cocktail packages.

The area is also rich in other kinds of wildlife including dolphins, sea birds and even seals that can be spotted along the way. Two main companies operate whale watching cruises in Newcastle; Moonshadow Cruises, who offer a larger, stable and comfortable vessel, and Nova Cruises, who offer a smaller, higher-speed hydrofoil style boat, both of which have their benefits.

Those wanting to take in views of whales on land in Newcastle can venture through the coastal heathland of Awabakal Nature Reserve to lookout point Redhead Bluff that provides a wonderful seaside panorama.

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Port Stephens

When to go: May to October

What it offers: high volume of whale numbers, large quantities of dolphins

Local operators: Moonshadow Cruises, Imagine Cruises, Tamboi Queen Cruises

Port Stephens sits just around an hours’ drive to the north-east of Newcastle’s city centre and is another popular departure point for whale watching from the central NSW coast and is, indeed, one of the best in Australia.

As a destination that is known for all-things-aquatic, it’s also one of the most scenic, with a beautiful coastline to take in and large dolphin colony to augment the whale watching experience.

The port itself is a bustling hive of aquatic activity throughout the year, and the whale watching season between May and November is no exception. There is a large selection of tour operators that function from the Port meaning you can often come across some great whale watching deals if you scout early enough ahead.

Port Stephens

In fact the area off Port Stephens hosts such a volume of whales throughout the year that it has been dubbed the “whale highway”, with an estimate of around 7,000 whales passing through the stretch of sea each year.

Land-based viewers can get a dose of both whale watching and gorgeous scenery all in one by embarking on the Tomaree Head Summit Walk within the region’s Tomaree National Park that grants sweeping views of the ocean, hills and benches on which to sit and soak it all in.

Couple this with the crews of whale watching vessels in the region touting a 98% spotting rate and it’s not hard to see why Port Stephens ranks up there with the best of the whale watching spots in the country. Dolphin cruises are also popular in the region, as it serves as the permanent home to a pod of around 80 bottlenose dolphins, so you’ll likely have no shortage of marine life on display when you’re heading out on a whale watching adventure at Port Stephens.

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Sydney

When to go: May to November

What it offers: wide range of operators; great mix of whales & famous landmarks

Local operators: Captain Cook Cruises, Fantasea Cruises, Meanly Whale Watching, Oz Whale Watching, Whale Watching Sydney

What might be one of the most obvious destinations in NSW also ranks as one of the best and most diverse. Australia’s most famous city offers a bevy of quality whale watching opportunities both on land and water.

Whale watching in Sydney – and Sydney Harbour in particular – is a special experience as you not only get to see various species of whales aboard a range of quality vessels, but also what is basically a great marine sightseeing tour of the harbour on the way.

There’s simply something to be said for admiring the natural performance of the Humpback and Southern Right Whales while still being within visible distance of some of the world-famous landmarks of Sydney Harbour.

Sydney

The sight of a whale breaching with the Sydney Opera House looming in the background is something of a dream not only for tourists but for professional photographers as well. Plenty of whale watching tours are available to take you to the harbour and beyond with many of the tour operators confident enough in their ability to show you whales that they are willing to offer a free return trip if you are unlucky enough to not see any on your journey.

Departure points for most of the operators head out for their Sydney whale watching tours from either Darling Harbour or Circular Quay with many of them providing some of the most reasonably priced whale watching tours in the country considering the overall quality of the experience. Expect to pay as little as $79 per adult with seasonal specials often popping up due to the level of competition.

Keep your eye open for savings of anywhere between 10-50% off throughout the season that lasts from roughly the middle of May to the end of November. There are multiple operators to choose from, each with their own benefits ranging from vessel size to price.

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Related tours

 

Byron Bay
From $89.00

2.5 hour tour including transfers and refreshments.

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Sydney
From $47.00

Standalone whale tours or packages with lunch.

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Port Stephens
From $63.00

3 hour whale tour with morning or afternoon tea.

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ExOz Logo Whale WatchingQueenslandDestinations Warm weather & a long whale season combined.

Queensland Whale Watching

 

Queensland's warmer waters make it one of the biggest drawcards for migratory whales; as a result, the state is home to what are arguably the country's best whale watching conditions in a number of key destinations. The comfortable conditions means whales typically take more time to rest and play here - as a result, you're likely to see them at their most frisky and playful, including some spectacular examples of breaching in QLD waters.

Brisbane

When to go: June to November

What it offers: whale spotting & diverse marine life in Moreton Bay Marine Park

Local operators: Brisbane Whale Watching, Tangalooma Island Resort, Whales in Paradise

The eastern coastal position of most of Australia’s major cities means that even larger destinations like Brisbane have their own, very viable, whale watching season just a short distance from the city centre. Brisbane’s own Moreton Bay is another prime example of this, with the departure points for the majority of its whale watching tours being only roughly a 30 minute drive from the city centre, with the suburb of Redcliffe in particular being a popular port of call.

Operating during the months of June to November, Brisbane’s whale watching cruises head across the waters towards the popular getaway spot of Moreton Island and its surrounding Marine Park to encounter the Humpbacks whales who nestle themselves in the bay for a temporary reprieve from the migratory process.

Many of the whale watching tours from Brisbane on offer incorporate stopovers on Moreton Island itself, allowing guests the chance to relax in sandy goodness of its shores or, if travelling with Tangalooma Resort, the luxurious surrounds of the resort’s facilities.

Brisbane

The Moreton Bay Marine Park makes for a special whale watching destination due to its diversity, with its mixture of reefs and seagrass drawing in a wide array of other marine life to compliment the whales. During a whale watching trip here you’ll likely see numerous large sea turtles, pods of dolphins, and even the occasional dugong should you be lucky.

Approaching Moreton Island as part of a whale watching cruise will also grant a look at one of the region’s most renowned icons, the Tangalooma Wrecks. This series of wrecks located in the waters just offshore and which have become a haven for fish, rays and various other sea dwellers are also popular snorkelling destinations.

Getting to the prime whale watching parts of Moreton Bay requires a little time investment, however the rewards are well worth it. Several operators offer tours for whale watching off the coast of Brisbane including Brisbane Whale Watching, Tangalooma Resort, and Whales in Paradise (with the option to depart from the Gold Coast).

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Cairns

When to go: July to August

What it offers: high whale numbers and iconic island scenery

Local operators: Poseidon, Reef Magic, Silversonic, Silverswift

The Great Barrier Reef serves as the primary breeding grounds in Australian waters for both whales and dolphins alike, making Cairns another launching point from which to see the whales while also taking in some of the spectacular views of the reef.

Cairns’ whale watching season usually lasts from July to September with the range of whales on offer extending from not only Humpbacks and Southern Rights but also the Dwarf Minke whale as well.

The Dwarf Minkes are one of the main reasons that Cairns’ whale watching scene is unique. These smaller, highly inquisitive whales are known not only to be highly approachable to vessels, but have been seen to actually seek out human contact of their own volition.

Cairns

Their curious natures have led to a number of “Swim with the Whales” experiences being established off the coast of Cairns, in which travellers can join their tour operator, don swimming/snorkelling equipment, and be towed alongside the back of a vessel to encounter the whales underwater. It’s a rare opportunity that is only conducted in a handful of other locations, and can make for a highly moving experience.

The warmer tropical waters of the Cairns region and the Great Barrier Reef as a whole serve as an ideal “winter escape” spot for the whales as they are not only warmer, but provide the perfect nurturing and feeding conditions for their young.

Baby whales can often be seen accompanying their mothers in this region, while the males take time out to breach and play. Those looking to go whale watching in Cairns can join Reef Magic’s dedicated whale watching cruises, or take part in a whale swim with the likes of companies Poseidon, Silversonic and Silverswift.

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Fraser Island

When to go: July to November

What it offers: high whale numbers along with iconic island scenery

Local operators: Tasman Venture

Part of what is typically grouped into the greater Hervey Bay area, Fraser Island itself deserves a special mention as a whale watching destination due to it being a must-visit stop if you’re in the area to see the whales.

As the world’s largest sand island, Fraser is one of the few publicly accessible locations in south-east Queensland that still remains relatively untouched by human development.

Featuring a cavalcade of spectacular, unspoiled natural environments ranging from its far-reaching beaches with their famed multicoloured sands to lakes full of pristine, picture-perfect waters to lush green rainforests, Fraser Island truly reflects the diversity of what Australian nature has to offer all in the one destination.

Fraser Island

Numerous combination tours are available from operators both in Hervey Bay and on Fraser itself that will give you best of the nature-based entertainment on both sea (whale watching) and land (nature tours) in one reasonably-priced package, so be sure to keep an eye out for the best deals as they become available.

The overall whale watching season in the greater Fraser Island area typically begins in late July and lasts through to late November, so if you’re looking to get the best out of two of the most visually impressive nature-based destinations in QLD, then a trip to Fraser Island during whale watching season is a great choice that can make for several days’ worth of satisfying adventures.

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Gold Coast

When to go: May to October

What it offers: great whale watching opportunities alongside gorgeous waterfront scenery

Local operators: Sea World Whale Watch, Whales in Paradise

Tipping off towards the end of May, the Gold Coast’s whale watching season is popular due to high whale numbers, but also simply due to the fact that it’s extremely accessible for both tourists and locals alike.

With multiple tour operators available departing from such easily reachable locations like Surfers Paradise, Marina Mirage, Sea World and Coolangatta, there is plenty of choice on offer here.

The Gold Coast also offers one of the longest whale watching seasons of any single destination in Australia, and large, shallow bays and inlets coupled with warm waters make it a favourite destination for the whales to linger with their calves.

Batemans Bay

You can expect a number of around 10,000 whales per year to pass by the Gold Coast over the course of the five-month whale watching period.

From tour operators offering multi-million dollar vessels brimming with high-tech solutions such as 3D whale animation technology, to the old-world charm of viewing the whales aboard a vintage-style tall ship, the Gold Coast’s whale watching options are many and varied.

Prices on the Gold Coast for whale watching tours typically start at around $75 per person for basic afternoon cruises and range up to approximately $129 for all-inclusive lunch packages.

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Hervey Bay

When to go: July to November

What it offers: perhaps the highest number of whales in the country; widely considered the best in Australia

Local operators: Blue Dolphin Marine Tours, Freedom Whale Watch, Hervey Bay Whale Watch, Spirit of Hervey Bay, Whale Watching Hervey Bay

Possibly the most famous and widely acclaimed whale watching destination in the entire country - in large part thanks to its big, sheltered section of Platypus Bay - Hervey Bay is always ranks near the top of quality Aussie whale watching lists for both locals and visitors alike.

Unlike many other destinations throughout the country where the majority of the whales are simply “passing through”, at Hervey Bay the whales actually take the time to stop, relax and feed their young which provides numerous opportunities for some up-close encounters with these gentle marine giants.

Hervey Bay

Running from the end of July to the beginning of November each year, Hervey Bay’s whale watching season is the prime focus of its tourism economy and this is reflected in the pride and effort the majority of tour operators put into their tours.

For those looking to embark on a tour there is a huge range of choice provided with multiple operators offering a selection of sessions a day which works out great for both early risers as well as those who like to sleep in. Pricing for Hervey Bay whale watching tours start from around $85 per adult for basic morning tours and range up to $120 for full-day luxury buffet lunch cruise options.

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Sunshine Coast

When to go: August to October

What it offers: high whale numbers and reliable weather make for a great whale watching spot

Local operators: Australian Whale Watching, Noosa Blue Fishing Charters, Sunreef Mooloolaba, Whale One

As the Sunshine Coast recently continues to become more popular as a tourist destination, so too does its whale watching although it still remains well behind other, more-developed whale watching destinations throughout Queensland.

The Sunshine Coast’s whale watching hot spots are typically divided up into two separate categories – those which depart from Mooloolaba, and those which head out from Noosa.

With a shorter peak season (typically only lasting from August to October) and fewer whales in terms of numbers, the Sunshine Coast might seem like a bit of a washout as far as locations for whale watching goes; however if you happen to be there during those three prime months it can still be a very viable and satisfying experience.

Sunshine Coast

One of the key points that differentiates the Sunshine Coast from other whale watching destinations is that you are more likely to encounter the sight of Killer Whales than many other locations; while the whales themselves are not that rare, getting a glimpse of them doesn’t tend to happen very often off Australia’s east coast.

Couple this with the simple fact that the Sunshine Coast is a great destination to holiday for various other reasons, and if your holiday coincides with the three month peak window there’s no reason why going whale watching on the Sunshine Coast will be any less enjoyable than anywhere else. Expect to pay around $99 per adult for a Sunshine Coast whale watching experience, with optional extras available at an additional cost.

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Related tours

 

Brisbane
From $129.00

Departing from Redcliffe or Moreton Island.

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Gold Coast
From $59.00

Depart from Surfers Paradise or Main Beach.

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Hervey Bay
From $95.00

Both full and half day whale tours available.

View Tour

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ExOz Logo Whale WatchingSouth AustraliaDestinations Land-based whale watching and rugged coastal tours.

South Australia Whale Watching

 

South Australia's whale watching opportunities are largely land-based, highlighted by a number of excellent dedicated viewing points at the likes of Victor Harbor and Head of Bight (for those willing to make the trek on an iconic SA road trip.) Operators also provide water-borne tours out of both Victor Harbor and Kangaroo Island, while the South Australian Whale Centre at Victor Harbor serves as one of the best interactive exhibits of all-things-whale.

Head of Bight

When to go: June & October

What it offers: great land-based vantage point and stunning coastal views

Local operators: EP Cruises, Fowlers Bay Eco Whale Tours

If you’re looking to get some great views of the whales in South Australia from the land rather than the sea, this peninsula overlooking the Gulf juts perfectly out from the mainland over the vast expanse of the ocean below, offering uninhibited views of the whales as they pass by.

Popular areas with great lookouts are available at many areas along the Eyre Peninsula, are accessible by car and have their own dedicated car parks to make things easier on visitors.

Head of Bight

Head of Bight is one of the most popular whale watching destinations in the state with Southern Right Whales calling his place home for five whole months. The high cliff faces provide fantastic vantage points for land based viewing with two designated platforms to the east and west of the main path, both with wheel chair access.

The Eyre Peninsula is also home to a stretch of unsealed walking tracks aptly named “Whalers Way”, offering around 14 kilometres worth of coastal scenery with some spectacular lookouts along the way.

This area is typically at its best whale-wise from early August onwards, with Port Lincoln on its southern tip being one of the most popular departure points for whale watching cruises in the region.

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Victor Harbor

When to go: July to August

What it offers: see Southern Right Whales in higher than usual numbers

Local operators: The Big Duck Boat Tours

Victor Harbor to the south of Adelaide’s CBD is most widely regarded as the best whale watching area in South Australia due to both ease of access from the capital and exposure to Southern Right Whales as opposed to the Humpback which are the typical highlight elsewhere.

In Victor Harbor the peak season for whale watching is typically between July and August and it can easily be reached from Adelaide for either an early-morning or mid-afternoon whale watching cruise.

Victor Harbor

Victor Harbor is also home to the South Australian Whale Centre, which serves as a wealth of information for those who are interested in learning more about not just whale watching, but the biology and tendencies of the whales themselves.

The centre goes into the history the impact of whaling has had on Adelaide as a whole, with plenty of interesting exhibitions on display inside that are suitable for kids as well as adults.

The centre features 3D documentary movies that are both informative and educational and in total the Whale Centre should provide you from 1-2 hours’ worth of entertainment.

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ExOz Logo Whale WatchingTasmaniaDestinations The many pristine slices of sun, sea and sand off Australia's coastline.

Tasmania Whale Watching

 

The majority of Tassie's whale watching opportunities take place along the state's east coast, with calmer waters often cited as the main reason. A relatively brief whale season of May through July, followed by a second wave in September and November on the way back down provides limited chances to glimpse the whales, yet there's still some great land-based whale spotting locations as well as the chance to encounter them on popular aquatic tourism experiences as an added bonus.

Bruny Island

When to go: May to July; September to December

What it offers: see Humpbacks & Southern Rights as well as seals, dolphins & sea birds

Local operators: Bruny Island Cruises

From a nature-focused perspective, the undisputed “king” of Tasmanian aquatic attractions is the famed Bruny Island off the shore of the state’s south-east coast.

Aboard a purpose built vessel, you’ll cruise around the waters off Bruny Island to see some of its beautiful coastline and curious marine life. Home to some of Australia’s highest sea cliffs, you’ll cruise past sights such as Breathing Rock and Keyhole Cave before embarking on an expedition to see some of the locals.

The region is home to a variety of marine life that either welcomes visitors or completely ignores them. Here you will get up close to some sunning seals as they make themselves comfortable on the rock clusters, playful pods of dolphins as they jump around the boat and the main attraction, migrating whales.

Bruny Island

The area is frequently visited by Humpback and Southern Right Whales as they migrate north and then at the end of the season when they head back south.

Adventure Bay is a popular hot spot for whales taking shelter, some even staying as long as five weeks. Other whale species occasionally pass by to join in on the action, if you’re lucky you might spot some pygmy right whales, minke whales and even some orcas..

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Great Oyster Bay

When to go: May to July; September to December

What it offers: see Southern Rights & Humpbacks travelling north

Local operators: Wineglass Bay Cruises

The Tasmanian east coast ranks as a popular hang out for migrating humpback and southern right whales thanks to its calmer waters.

Various bays surrounding Great Oyster Bay, including Coles Bay and Wineglass Bay, are popular launching points for whale watching cruises during migration months.

Beginning in May, Oyster Bay becomes a hot spot for both Humpback and Southern Right whales as they travel along their migration routes. While the majority of whales tend to travel a substantial distance off the Tasmanian continental shelf, there are sufficient enough numbers that pass close by enough to catch a glimpse from land.

For an up-close view, in Tasmania’s case you’re almost always better off taking a whale watching cruise for a satisfying encounter however.

Great Oyster Bay

If you’d rather stay on the land, Great Oyster Bay provides great vantage points over the water for spotting both humpbacks and southern rights.

Unlike various other whale species, the Humpbacks and Southern Rights live on the wild side, venturing quite close to the shoreline providing land-based viewers with spectacular views.

Other marine animals that frequent the area are common and bottlenose dolphins that enjoy playing in the calmer waters.

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ExOz Logo Whale WatchingVictoriaDestinations Victoria's season is relatively brief - ensure you don't miss out.

Victoria Whale Watching

 

Whale watching in Victoria is relatively limited compared to Australia's other states - largely due to its smaller coastline - however what spots it does offer rank among some of the best land-based destinations in the country. The Great Ocean Road offers a number of top vantage points, while Phillip Island provides the chance for guided whale tours that come with additional doses of its signature wildlife.

Great Ocean Road

When to go: June to October

What it offers: great land-based whale watching opportunities

Local operators: N/A

The lengthy, incredibly scenic stretch of road along Victoria’s southern coast between Warrnambool and Torquay known as the Great Ocean Road is often labeled one of the must-do bucket list drives in Australia, and throughout its span there are multiple locations that make for some more great whale watching.

Several towns along the way such as Portland and Lorne offer bases from which to embark on whale watching adventures, as the waters off the coast of the Great Ocean Road are usually brimming with krill from the months of June, July and August.

While each of these locales offer great vantage points for whale watching from the land, there are currently no dedicated cruise tour operators servicing the Great Ocean Road for whale watching, however local government has done its best to put into place several initiatives to make viewing whales from dry land easier.

Great Ocean Road

Expect to see special “whale sighting” flags being raised at various locations along the Great Ocean Road when a whale (or whales) have been spotted nearby, giving you the chance to pull over to the side of the road and gaze out to the ocean for some great views, with hundreds of reported sightings annually.

Couple the multiple land-based sighting locations with the fact that it’s one of the most beautiful drives in the country, and the Great Ocean Road becomes a must-do during the whale watching months of peak season.

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Lake's Entrance

When to go: August to November

What it offers: land-based whale watching in a spot renowned for marine life encounters

Local operators: N/A

Lakes Entrance is a small town around three and a half hours to the east of Melbourne that serves as one of the most popular holiday destinations in the region.

The area is based around a man-made channel that links the sea with several hundred kilometres of natural inland waterways, making for a tourist area that is almost entirely based around marine experiences.

While whale watching is of course one of these focal points, there are currently no dedicated full-time whale watching operators in Lakes Entrance. However there are a huge range of other charter and fishing cruises available that make whale watching possible throughout their peak season of August to November.

Lakes Entrance

While whale watching isn’t the focus of the majority of these cruises, it’ll often incidentally happen anyway. Plus if you enjoy fishing, there are few better places in the southern half of Australia to travel to than Lakes Entrance.

Whether you choose to fish in one of the many estuaries, in the surf or on a deep sea fishing charter, there are a plethora of options to catch any of the many species that can be found in the area from Bream and Mullet, to Tailor and Flathead, to Tuna and Sharks in the deeper waters.

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Phillip Island

When to go: June to August

What it offers: whale watching in a wildlife-rich seascape; see seals & more

Local operators: Phillip Island Helicopters, Wildlife Coast Cruises, Wild Oceans Ecoboat Tours

Phillip Island just off the south coast of Melbourne has long been widely known as a wildlife haven throughout Australia, and whale season simply adds one more marvellous type of animal to the already existing abundant mix of wildlife.

Expect to see sea birds, dolphins, and of course, the largest colony of wild Fur Seals in the country while navigating Phillip Island's waters.

The flocks of seals which can be seen lazing on the rocks make for a wonderful – and undeniably cute – backdrop to whale watching adventures that circumnavigate the island in search of the Humpbacks and Southern Rights that are often be found in the surrounding waters from June to August.

Phillip Island

Helicopter-based whale watching tours are particularly popular on Phillip Island as they allow for a great overhead view from a more unusual (and quite impressive) angle to the standard “whale watching boat cruise” option that one typically takes part in.

The coastline of Phillip Island is truly spectacular when viewed from above, and the "whale watching" experience takes on a whole new meaning from the air!

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Warrnambool

When to go: June and September

What it offers: incredibly busy section of the "whale highway"

Local operators: N/A

Another of the most popular land-based whale watching destinations in the country, Victoria’s Warrnambool is home to one of the busiest “whale highways” on the east coast, with the whales who visit the area coming very close to the shore.

It’s a popular destination for mother whales to rest for giving birth to their new calves, and multiple viewing platforms have been set up throughout the area to give visitors an even better vantage point. Perhaps the best views are available at the Logans Beach area to the city’s east, which directly overlooks the whales’ main play area, which both always open and free.

Warrnambool

Warrnambool is located roughly three hours from Melbourne, with its peak season between the months of June to September. So if you’re in the area and don’t mind doing your whale watching from the shore rather than the water, then it’s a great choice of destinations.

If you’re visiting Warrnambool for this purpose, it’s a good idea to bring binoculars to get an even closer look, while layered clothing is also recommended due to the often windy and wet conditions for which the area is known.

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Related tours

 

Phillip Island
From $125.00

4 hour whale watching tour with lunch.

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ExOz Logo Whale WatchingWestern AustraliaDestinations A large coastline makes for an extended whale season.

Western Australia Whale Watching

 

WA's huge coastline results in the longest whale watching season in Australia, spanning from May through December and showcasing a mixed bag of humpbacks, southern rights and even enormous blue whales in its waters. The whales hug the coast as they travel through the Indian Ocean's warm waters, following the continental shelf and seeking shelter in a number of regional harbours throughout the state. From capital Perth to a number of regional destinations, Western Australia is a truly expansive showcase of this epic migration.

Albany

When to go: June and November

What it offers: land-based viewing platforms and guided whale tours

Local operators: Albany Whale Tours

Albany at the southern tip of Western Australia is a great whale watching spot that features many Humpbacks and Southern Rights who make their way in a line from both Breaksea and Michaelmas Islands, with the majority passing by from mid to late August.

Both numerous viewing points as well as options for guided tours are on offer, so for those who are prone to seasickness you’ll also have the opportunity to see the whales while keeping your feet firmly on the ground.

Albany

Albany is also popular for dedicated whale-oriented, family-friendly attraction Whale World that delves deeper into the biology and history of the whales themselves.

The attraction contains 25 different exhibits that each encompass a different aspect of all things whale and ocean, including 3D theatres, full-sized skeleton displays and replica ships. In terms of lookouts and other popular vantage points for viewing the whales in and around Albany, the top spots include Rotary Lookout (3.5 kilometres from the town centre) and Sandpatch (15km, offers a series of lookouts along a long boardwalk that also provides a pleasant walk).

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Augusta

When to go: August to December

What it offers: see Humpback & Dwarf Minke whales in calm, protected waters

Local operators: All Sea Legends, Legend Charters, Naturaliste Charters

The calm waters off the coast of Augusta make for another decent destination that kicks off around May, with the whales – predominantly Humpbacks and Minkes – using the nearby Flinders Bay’s protected waters as a haven to both rest and play.

The Augusta area is special in that it is one of the points at which the whales come the closest to the actual shoreline. There has been numerous cases of them being photographed mere metres from the shore, which obviously makes land-based viewing a very viable option.

Augusta

In terms of cruises and boat tours, there are several options that depart from various boatramps and jetties throughout the town and typically operate from mid-May through to September.

Blue and Minke whales can sometimes also be sighted aboard cruise boats in the area although these are significantly rarer and harder to spot.

The area is also rich in other types of wildlife such as Bottlenose Dolphins, Sea Birds, New Zealand Fur Seals and much more, so you’re bound to get a dose of animal enjoyment one way or another.

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Broome

When to go: July to October

What it offers: fiery scenery mixed with whale encounters

Local operators: Absolute Ocean Charters, Broome Whale Watching, Kimberley Wildlife Expedition Cruises

While the far northern reaches of the Kimberley region of Western Australia may not be as widely known for whale watching as they are for, say, the beach camel tours, that doesn’t make Broome any less of a viable destination to see some whales during peak season.

In fact, the red coloured rock faces that adorn much of Broome’s coastline forms a visually stunning contrast to the deep blue of the ocean that can make whale watching in the area an incredible experience. There’s certainly something to be said about watching a breaching Humpback with the backdrop of traditional Aussie outback scenery.

June to October are the key months on the Kimberley region’s whale watching calendar, as the warm, inviting waters serve as a pleasantly comfortable spot for the whales to mate.

Broome

There are several whale watching tour operators in the Broome area, many of which have been in operation for a long time and know all the best viewing locations like the back of their hand.

The only downside is that tour prices can be slightly higher than in the larger regions due to logistical costs of operations – prepare to pay around $125 per adult for a half-day whale watching adventure – it’ll no doubt be worth it!

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Dunsborough

When to go: September to December

What it offers: another busy portion of the "Humpback Highway"

Local operators: All Sea Charters, Legend Charters, Naturaliste Charters

Both of these areas have become widely acclaimed for their whale watching in recent years, with Dunsborough being named the “Top Tourism Town” in WA back in 1999 due in large part to the contribution of the region’s whales.

Dunsborough sits just half an hour’s drive from both Margaret River and Busselton (albeit in opposite directions) and is in a prime whale watching spot along the Humpback Highway, as the whales move directly past the town from cape to cape where they pause to take a breather in the town’s Geographe Bay.

The coastal location of Dunsborough’s Lighthouse makes for a prime ground-based viewing point to peer out into the ocean, and it serves as a popular whale watching lookout.

Dunsborough

Whale watching tours can take you that extra step further if you’re looking to get closer, and also include a tour of the area’s beautiful bays that have earned it much acclaim from both visitors and tourism critics Australia-wide.

As with many other locations in the area, September is by far the peak month for whale watching in and around the Dunsborough/Busselton region, so if you want the highest possibility of seeing the largest quantity of whales, this is the time to travel.

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Exmouth

When to go: June to November

What it offers: abundant marine life of the Ningaloo Marine Park

Local operators: Coral Bay EcoTours, Exmouth Diving, Ningaloo Marine Interactions, Ocean Eco Adventures

The true hidden gem of Australian whale watching may just be WA's Exmouth, a town that sits adjacent to the amazing Ningaloo Marine Park – a section of the gulf which is both protected and absolutely brimming with ocean life of all kinds.

From whale sharks, to turtles, dugongs and manta rays, the Ningaloo Marine Park has long served as a true hot spot for aquatic animal lovers.

All of these various types of animals combine to make an Exmouth whale watching experience vastly different to many of the other locations on offer; the colours of the coral within the Marine Park’s pristine waters add an extra dimension to the proceedings that’s not to be missed.

Exmouth

The protected waters of Exmouth Gulf serve as a great staging post for the sheltering of newly-born Humpback calves and allow them time to both feed and get their energy back before pushing further north into warmer waters.

Plenty of whale watching tours are available in the area, with some offering special features to draw in customers such as fitted hydrophones on board their vessels that will allow you to listen to the “songs” of the whales firsthand!

From the blend of marine life to the quality of the water to the quantity of whales, Exmouth has everything you need for one of the most comprehensive whale watching experiences in available in WA.

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Fremantle

When to go: September to November

What it offers: easy access to high whale quantities

Local operators: Mills Charters, Oceanic Cruises, Rottnest Express

Fremantle is another town-slash-city that has prime access to some great whale watching, with the months from September to December offering some of the best whale sighting opportunities in the state of WA.

Whale watching cruises from Fremantle typically head out from the city towards the nearby wildlife haven of Rottnest Island, where Humpbacks in particular like to gather for both relaxation and play purposes.

Fremantle is a whale watching destination that boasts an extremely high sighting success rate, with 99% being the figure most often thrown around by tour operators in the region.

Fremantle

Add these high sighting figures to the fact that Fremantle is simply a cool town to visit and explore – its pleasant maritime atmosphere coupled with a heavy dose of old Colonial influences make for a refreshing change of pace – and you have a unique, reliable and overall enjoyable place to take part in whale watching in Western Australia.

Whale watching tour prices from Fremantle start at $70 per adult for a basic two hour whale watching cruise, with optional extras also available upon request.

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Perth

When to go: September to November

What it offers: capital city located alongside major migration route

Local operators: Rottnest Express, Rottnest Fast Ferries

Perth is lucky as far as Australian capital cities go, in that it sits almost directly alongside the path of the major whale migration route that is affectionately known as the “Humpback Highway”.

In terms of convenience, it makes whale watching from Perth an extremely accessible option and almost guarantees that you’ll encounter whales during your cruise or tour – the sheer volume of an estimated 35,000 individual whales annually makes it very likely you’ll get some great, up-close experiences.

Perth

Due to the sheer number of whales, you’ll often be provided with a whale-sighting-or-your-money-back type deal from many of the tour operators, which offers more peace of mind over some of the other destinations throughout Australia.

The majority of Perth whale watching cruises depart from Hillarys Harbour on the northern end of the city’s outskirts, which can be reached in roughly a 20-30 minute drive from the Perth CBD.

Prices for Perth whale watching cruises start from as little as $67 per adult, with both morning and afternoon session times available.

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Related tours

 

Exmouth
From $79.00

Whale watching and whale swim tours available.

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Fremantle
From $80.00

Regular whale tour or upgrade to VIP option.

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Perth
From $60.00

2 hour whale tour from Hillary's Boat Harbour.

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Augusta
From $90.00

Morning and afternoon tours available.

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Busselton
From $90.00

2 hour whale watching cruise.

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Dunsborough
From $90.00

Morning and afternoon tours available.

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Find Migaloo and WIN!

 
Find Migaloo

Win daily double passes for whale watching

Each whale season, the famous white whale Migaloo swims his way onto the Experience Oz catalogue - however, just as in real life, he's an elusive creature that requires a keen eye to spot. Finding him pays rewards, however, as the first person to find Migaloo each day during our whale watching campaign and post where he is to Facebook will WIN a double pass for a whale watching adventure somewhere around Australia!

If you've got a pair of eagle eyes - or know someone else who does - head over to Experience Oz and begin your search for your chance to win an awesome whale adventure. Will YOU be the first to spot Migaloo today? Get started at the link below!

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Conservation - Help Save the Whales

 

While the past several years have seen an encouraging uplift in the populations of Humpback whales since regulations were put in place in 1967, there is still work to be done to ensure they return to their pre-whaling numbers. You can contribute towards saving the whales as well as other key marine life by donating to a number of responsible organisations whose efforts depend on the generosity of the Australian public. Make a (tax-deductible) donation to any of the organisations below, and you'll be doing your part to ensure these gentle giants make a full recovery.

Oceania Project
Est. 1988

Not-for-profit, Research and Information organisation dedicated to Raising Awareness about Cetacea (Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises) and the Ocean Environment.

Donate

Sea Shepherd
Est. 1977

Volunteer-based organisation dedicated to defending marine wildlife and ending the destruction of habitats in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems.

Donate

ORRCA
Est. 2001

The Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia's primary focus is the preservation and welfare of Whales, Dolphins, Seals & Dugongs in Australian waters.

Donate

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