Australian Whale Watching Guide

Experience this natural phenomenon from various locations around the coast of Australia.

Want to help the whales? Donate now!

Donate to one of the below organisations to aid the conservation of these incredible animals and the environment they live.

Greenpeace

Sea Shepherd

Whale Watching in Australia

Each year the whales migrate north to escape the cool waters of the south and as a result we on land have whale watching season. Between the months of May/June to November/December you can visit a large selection of coastal Australian towns to catch a glimpse of these incredible creatures as they make their way up the east and west coasts to warmer waters and again on their return trip south.

To aid your decision on where to go and when to watch the whales breach and spy hop, we’ve put together this extensive whale watching guide for the majority of Australia. Highlighting the best places to see whales via both land based viewing and whale watching cruises, this feature aims to answer all of your whale watching questions.

From Hervey Bay in sunny Queensland to Exmouth on the Western Australian coast and everything in between, see our regional breakdowns below to learn more about this wonderful season.

Why New South Wales?

The perfect combination of coast, outback and greenery, New South Wales has something to suit everyone. Pair all of that with the chance to see wales and you’ve got yourself one incredible holiday.

When does whale watching season start in New South Wales?

Whale season in New South Wales has an early start with tours operating from May until the end of the year in November. If a tour is out of your price range see the various land based viewing options.

What is the most popular whale watching destination in NSW?

Each NSW destination offers something different, however whale watching from Sydney is something not to miss as the views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge make it all the more special.

  • Batemans Bay

    When to go: The best time to go whale watching off the coast of Batemans Bay is from July to October.

    What it offers: Batemans Bay offers visitors the chance to see resting mothers and calves close to the shore.

    How to go whale watching here: You can take part in an organised guided boat tour with local companies or if you’d prefer to stay on dry land, there are various viewing points. Both options provide decent views of the migrating whales.

    Whale watching companies that operate here:

    • Coral Bay Ecotours

    BatemansBay

    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.

    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.

  • Byron Bay

    When to go: The best time to go whale watching in Byron Bay is from June to November.

    What it offers: Both Humpback and Southern Right whale sightings, wonderful coastal views from the headland as well as one of Australia’s best sunrises.

    How to go whale watching here: Take in the views atop the Cape Byron Headland near the lighthouse or book a tour with Whale Watching Byron Bay.

    Whale watching companies that operate here:

    • Whale Watching Byron Bay

    ByronBay

    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. 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.

  • Eden

    When to go: Whale watching season in Eden stretches from the end of September through to November.

    What it offers: One of Australia’s few places where Humpbacks feed leading to extended stays and the unique Killer Whale Museum for whale buffs.

    How to go whale watching here: You can take a cruise with Cat Balou Cruises or watch from the shore at Boyd’s Tower or Rotary Park Lookout.

    Whale watching companies that operate here:

    • Cat Balou Cruises

    Eden

    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.

    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.

  • Merimbula

    When to go: Whale watching in Merimbula runs from May to November.

    What it offers: The chance to see a very diverse range of marine species including whales as well as whales feeding on krill.

    How to go whale watching here: Take a whale watching cruise from Merimbula Marina or view from land within the Ben Boyd National Park.

    Whale watching companies that operate here:

    • Merimbula Marina Ocean Adventure Tours

    Merimbula

    Merimbula on the far south NSW coast is an ideal destination for those looking to do their whale watching later on in the year, with the season annually running from September to December. The southerly location makes Merimbula a haven for other whale species such as Minke, Bryde’s and Blue whales in addition to the more common Humpbacks and Southern Rights, meaning you’ll get a fair bit more variety in your whale watching experience than at some alternative locations.

    Merimbula’s central location between both Sydney and Melbourne make it a solid choice for a holiday destination from either capital, as you’ll be able to travel there within a reasonable amount of time while also having the chance to take advantage of sampling the huge array of fresh seafood for which the town is famous – the oysters in particular are often praised for their quality. Whales visiting the Merimbula region take advantage of their own form of seafood, too – they gather here in quantities to eat their fill of krill which can be found in abundance in the region’s waters.

    Add in a cavalcade of other species of marine life that populate Merimbula’s waters – including Common & Bottlenose Dolphins, Australian Fur Seals, penguins, flying fish, sunfish, turtles and a range of other more common fish – and it’s a busy and bustling ocean highway that makes for an excellent travel spot. The majority of whale watching tours depart from the Merimbula Marina, many of which also offer special accommodation and whale watching tour packages at reduced prices. Land-based viewing is mostly conducted from within the Ben Boyd National Park, which offers a number of quality vantage points from high above the water.

  • Narooma

    When to go: Visit between September and November to see the migrating whales along the coast.

    What it offers: There are plenty of whales and other marine life to spot as well as a good selection of tour operators to choose from.

    How to go whale watching here: Take a guided boat tour with one of several operators or view from the lookout near the Town Wharf.

    Whale watching companies that operate here:

    • Narooma Charters
    • Lighthouse Charters
    • Island Charters Narooma

    Narooma

    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.

    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.

  • Newcastle

    When to go: From May to November you will be able to see the migrating whales play in the waters off the coast.

    What it offers: Visitors will have the chance to take in combined whale and dolphin watching in a single tour while enjoying great views of local headlands.

    How to go whale watching here: Book a whale watching cruise or take in land views from the Awabakal Nature Reserve’s Redhead Bluff.

    Whale watching companies that operate here:

    • Moonshadow Cruise
    • Nova Cruises

    Newcastle

    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. 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.

  • Port Stephens

    When to go: Visit between May and October to experience whale migration season in the beautiful Port Stephens area.

    What it offers: A huge volume of whale numbers, great coastline & beaches to view as well as large quantities of dolphins.

    How to go whale watching here: Book a cruise with one of several tour operators or walk the Tomaree Head Summit Walk within Tomaree National Park to view from land.

    Whale watching companies that operate here:

    • Moonshadow Cruise
    • Tamboi Queen Cruises
    • Imagine Cruises

    PortStephens

    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. 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. There’s multiple operators to choose from here as well, including Moonshadow Cruises, Imagine Cruises and Tamboi Queen Cruises, leading to a competitively priced whale watching environment.

  • Sydney

    When to go: Visit between May to November to enjoy the whale migration season.

    What it offers: A wide range of whale watching tours to choose from while taking in famous landmarks along the way. There are also plenty of land-based viewing opportunities.

    How to go whale watching here: Take a whale watching tour from either Circular Quay or the Northern Beaches or visit lookout points on the Bondi to Coogee Walkway within Botany Bay National Park, Clovelly Beach and various others.

    Whale watching companies who operate here:

    • Captain Cook Cruises
    • FantaSea Cruises
    • Manly Whale Watching
    • Oz Whale Watching
    • Whale Watching Sydney

    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. 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 10-20% 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 including Captain Cook Cruises, FantaSea Cruises, Oz Whale Watching, Whale Watching Sydney and Manly Whale Watching (the only one which departs from a non-Circular Quay location).

Operator Testimonials

Whale Watching Byron Bay is the only whale watching tour operator departing directly from Byron Bay. This allows us the quickest access to the Humpback Whale migration on the Australian east coast.
Lizzy, Whale Watching Byron Bay
We are the only whale watching company in Sydney to offer a full city sights Harbour cruise with live commentary and a BBQ buffet lunch cooked fresh on board.
Travis Mollard, Oz Whale Watching
It is an experience of a lifetime! Our staff are passionate in what they do and offer a first class experience.
Elizabeth Abood, Jervis Bay Wild
As Port Stephens is a peninsula, we are lucky enough to be right in the middle of the ‘Humpback Highway’. Port Stephens enjoys an excellent whale season and the Hinchinbrook Explorer is the largest whale watching vessel in the Bay with two viewing decks.
Elyss Larkham, Moonshadow Cruises

Why Queensland?

QLD is home to some of the country’s most popular destinations including the Gold and Sunshine Coasts. Combining breathtaking scenery with awesome animal encounters, this is a unique experience.

When does whale watching season start in Queensland?

Those planning on experiencing whale season in Queensland are in for a treat as various destinations along the coast have an extended period from as early as June until as late as November.

What is the most popular whale watching destination in QLD?

Hervey Bay is known as the ‘Whale Watching Capital of the World’, so it is high up on the leader board as being one of the best whale watching destinations in the state.

Hervey bay is situated in a bay with protection from Fraser Island so waters are calm on most days and whales stay and play here for four months each year from July to October. We are the pioneers of the whale watching industry in Australia and this year (2016) sees our 30th season.
Jill, Hervey bay Whale Watch
The feeling you get from being up close and personal with a massive 30 to 40 tonne mammal in their environment is amazing and very emotional for many passengers. Freedom Whale Watch has been designed as a premium tour in that we provide the longest time with the whales.
Sue & Keith Reid, Freedom Whale Watch & Charters
The opportunity to swim with a Humpback Whale is a rare and very special one and Sunreef Mooloolaba was Australia’s first operator to offer the experience. It’s a very special, breathtaking experience that will leave you with a true sense of wonder about these amazing mammals.
Michelle, Sunreef Mooloolaba
The closest whale watching cruise to Brisbane, Tangalooma operates the largest dedicated whale watching vessel in Australia; the Tangalooma Jet. Watching a 30 tonne whale leap out of the water and crash back into the waves is an incredible sight, only to be followed by the graceful elegance as the whales glide past your vessel. Nature at its best.
Craig McLaurin, Tangalooma Island Resort
The Fraser Coast is one of the few places in the world that offers an immersive Humpback Whale experience. It is a spine tingling, once in a lifetime opportunity to see these majestic creatures in their natural environment and we have a unique viewing platform that allows guests to get closer to the whales. 
Danielle, Tasman Whale Watching
A Sea World Whale Watch tour guarantees you will have a first class, premium whale watching experience. A close encounter with a great whale is not only exciting it can be life changing!
David Robertson, Sea World Whale Watch

Why South Australia?

Whale season in South Australia brings with it large groups of Southern Right Whales, making the various vantage points on the coast a popular and beautiful destination.

When does whale watching season start in South Australia?

The South Australian whale migration season runs from early June until early October with the whales making the waters off the coast their new permanent home for the next five months.

What is the most popular whale watching destination in SA?

The Head of Bight is the most popular destination on the South Australian coast as the Southern Right whales hang around up and down the coast for months at a time.

  • Head of Bight / Eyre Peninsula

    When to go: Between early June and early October the whales visit the southern coast of Australia before moving on to warmer waters further up the coast.

    What it offers: Great vantage points from land and an array of marine life sightings.

    How to go whale watching here: There are cruise options available as well as ample vantage points from land along the coast.

    Whale watching companies who operate here:

    • Fowlers Bay Eco Whale Tours
    • EP Cruises

    HeadOfBight

    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 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.

  • Victor Harbor

    When to go: The whales travel past Victor Harbor between July and August every year.

    What it offers: The chance to see Southern Right Whales making themselves at home in the waters surrounding.

    How to go whale watching here: Land based viewing is a popular whale watching activity.

    Whale watching companies who operate here:

    • The Big Duck

    VictorHarbor

    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 usually 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 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.

Why Tasmania?

Tasmania is a mecca for animal encounters with seals and dolphins making regular appearances in addition to the playful whales. Mix with that the great food, wine and scenery and you’re in for a treat.

When does whale watching season start in Tasmania?

There are two predominant times to see whales around Tasmania the first being on the northern migration from May to July and the second being when the travel back south between September and December.

What is the most popular whale watching destination in TAS?

Tasmania’s Bruny Island is a popular choice for many looking to combine whale watching with stunning scenery.

  • Bruny Island

    When to go: Visit Bruny Island from May to July and again from September to December to see whales migrating north and south.

    What it offers: Humpback and Southern Right Whales are often spotted in the waters off Tasmania, other marine encounters include seals, dolphins and sea birds.

    How to go whale watching here: Guided boat tours are the best way to get up close to these mammoth animals, land vantage points are also available as some whales swim closer to shore.

    Whale watching companies who operate here:

    • Bruny Island Cruises

    BrunyIsland

    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. 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.

  • Great Oyster Bay

    When to go: From May to July and September to December are the ideal viewing times.

    What it offers: A migration hot spot for Southern Right and Humpback Whales travelling north.

    How to go whale watching here: Land based viewing options are available however taking a whale watching cruise from Coles Bay will give you the best encounters.

    Whale watching companies who operate here:

    • Wineglass Bay Cruises

    GreatOysterBay

    The Tasmanian east coast is 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. However in Tasmania’s case you’re almost always better off taking a whale watching cruise for a satisfying encounter.

    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 the calmer waters.

Why Victoria?

Combining unique scenery with great encounters, VIC’s small size doesn’t deter whales from visiting. You can easily pack up the car and road trip between the various whale watching hot spots.

When does whale watching season start in Victoria?

The whale watching season in Victoria typically runs from June until November.

What is the most popular whale watching destination in VIC?

Warrnambool is one of the most popular destinations in Victoria, with Logans Beach a great, free land based viewing option and the whales coming so close to the shore you won’t need to look too hard.

  • Great Ocean Road

    When to go: Viewing from the Great Ocean Road typically runs from June to October.

    What it offers: Great views of migrating whales with picturesque scenery.

    How to go whale watching here: Land based viewing is the only way, whales are often seen at various points along the stretch of the Great Ocean Road.

    Whale watching companies who operate here: At the moment there aren’t any whale watching cruise companies operating in the area.

    GreatOceanRoad

    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. 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.

  • Lakes Entrance

    When to go: Visit Lakes Entrance for whale watching from August to November.

    What it offers: A great tourist hot spot revolving around marine life and encounters.

    How to go whale watching here: Whale watching from land is currently the only option in Lakes Entrance.

    Whale watching companies who operate here: At the moment there aren’t any whale watching cruise companies operating in the area.

    LakesEntrance

    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.

    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.

  • Phillip Island

    When to go: Head to Phillip Island for whale watching from June to August.

    What it offers: A mecca of wildlife encounters and beautiful scenery.

    How to go whale watching here: Embark on a whale watching cruise or view the whales from land.

    Whale watching companies who operate here:

    • Wildlife Coast Cruises
    • Wild Oceans EcoBoat Adventure Tour
    • Phillip Island Helicopters

    PhillipIsland

    Phillip Island just off the south coast of Melbourne is widely known as a wildlife haven throughout Australia, and whale season simply adds one more marvellous type of animal to the already existing mix of wildlife. You can expect to see sea birds, dolphins, and of course, the largest colony of wild Fur Seals in the country. The flocks of seals which can be seen lazing on the rocks make for a wonderful – and 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.

    Helicopter 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!

  • Warrnambool

    When to go: Visit between June and September to see the whales migrating past Warrnambool.

    What it offers: One of the busiest ‘Whale Highways’ in the country.

    How to go whale watching here: View from the various viewing platforms, the most popular being the Logans Beach Whale Viewing Platform.

    Whale watching companies who operate here: At the moment there aren’t any whale watching cruise companies operating in the area.

    Warnambool

    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 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.

Operator Testimonials

Whale watching around Phillip Island is easily accessible from land, sea and air. Wildlife Coast Cruises has a very high whale spotting rate during June to August with 80% success rate on the Winter Whale Cruises.
Mikala Peters, Wildlife Coast Cruises

Why Western Australia?

The WA coastline is one of the busiest Humpback Highways in Australia with high sighting rates up to Broome. Mix these awesome encounters with the beautiful scenery and you’ve got the perfect trip.

When does whale watching season start in Western Australia?

The season in WA typically runs from as early as June all the way through to November with high sighting rates the entire time.

What is the most popular whale watching destination in WA?

The area surrounding Augusta, Busselton, Dunsborough and Margaret River is a popular hot spot for whale watching enthusiasts with both land based viewing and cruises available.

  • Albany

    When to go: Visit between June and November to see the whales migrate past Albany.

    What it offers: Ample viewing platforms and tours available.

    How to go whale watching here: You can stay on land and visit one of the viewing platforms or embark on an organised whale watching tour.

    Whale watching companies who operate here:

    • 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 and tours are on offer, so for those who are prone to seasickness you’ll have the opportunity to see the whales while keeping your feet firmly on the ground.

    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).

  • Augusta

    When to go: Whale season in Augusta generally runs from August to December.

    What it offers: The chance to see Humpback and Minke Whales in the calm, protected waters.

    How to go whale watching here: Jump aboard an organised cruise or try viewing from land.

    Whale watching companies who operate here:

    • Naturaliste Charters
    • All Sea Charters
    • Legend Charters

    Augusta

    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.

    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.

  • Broome

    When to go: The season usually begins in July and continues through to October.

    What it offers: Stunning scenery mixed with epic animal encounters.

    How to go whale watching here: Enjoy an organised tour with one of the local companies or view from various points on land.

    Whale watching companies who operate here:

    • Broome Whale Watching
    • Absolute Ocean Charters
    • Karma IV
    • Kimberley Wildlife Expedition Cruises

    Broome

    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.

    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!

  • Dunsborough (via Busselton / Margaret River)

    When to go: The season in the Dunsborough area runs from September to December.

    What it offers: The chance to see whales travel along the ‘Humpback Highway’.

    How to go whale watching here: Join a cruise departing either Busselton or Margaret River to explore the wateres off Dunsborough or watch from land from the Dunsborough Lighthouse.

    Whale watching companies who operate here:

    • Naturaliste Charters
    • Legend Charters
    • All Sea Charters
    • Geographe Maritime Charters

    Dunsborough

    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.

    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.

  • Exmouth

    When to go: The Exmouth whale watching begins around June and runs until November.

    What it offers: A collection of animal encounters in the beautiful Ningaloo Marine Park.

    How to go whale watching here: You can enjoy a whale watching cruise or find a vantage point to see the whales from land.

    Whale watching companies who operate here:

    • Ocean Eco Adventures
    • Exmouth Diving
    • Coral Bay Ecotours
    • Ningaloo Marine Interactions

    Exmouth

    The true hidden gem of Australian whale watching is right here at 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 is 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.

    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.

  • Fremantle

    When to go: Go whale watching off Fremantle from September to November.

    What it offers: A high sighting rate of migrating whales.

    How to go whale watching here: Join a whale watching tour for the best sightings.

    Whale watching companies who operate here:

    • Oceanic Cruises
    • Mills Charters
    • Rottnest Express

    Fremantle

    Fremantle is another major 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 country.

    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. 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.

  • Perth

    When to go: Visit Perth between September and November for the chance to see migrating whales.

    What it offers: A city getaway with great animal encounters.

    How to go whale watching here: Cruises are the most popular option with many offering transfers from Perth to Hillarys Boat Harbour.

    Whale watching companies who operate here:

    • Oceanic Cruises
    • Mills Charters
    • Rottnest Express
    • Rottnest Fast Ferries

    Perth

    Perth is lucky as far as capital cities go in that it sits almost directly alongside the path of a 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.

    Due to the 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.

Operator Testimonials

Whale watching in a World Heritage Listed Marine Park is a truly amazing experience that I believe can’t be beaten and we have one of the largest Humpback Whale resting areas in the country right out the front of Exmouth. We take around 3000 of the whale watching passengers from Exmouth so Ocean Eco Adventures prides itself on first class service all-round.
James Small, Ocean Eco Adventures
We offer a two hour Whale Watching tour onboard our catamaran; Voyager. It’s amazing to be able to see such magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. 
Emily Allen, Rottnest Fast Ferries
Naturaliste Charters are the founders of whale watching in the Southwest. We have 55ft purpose-built whale watching vessel providing excellent viewing areas around the whole boat. To go whale watching is a once in a lifetime experience.
Coral Emerson, Naturaliste Charters
...

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This