Australia’s best whale-watching hotspots
There’s something particularly mesmerising about watching whales at play. These giants of the ocean enthral all ages with their sheer size, power, and beauty.
Now is the time to find your vantage point – whales are wowing admiring audiences along large stretches of Australia’s coastline. To steer you in the right direction, Tourism Australia has put together this handy guide to make it easy for you to plan your whale-inspired break.
And where there’s a big marine creature there’s likely to be a BIG4 park close by.
Between May and November, you can spot majestic whales from many scenic spots along Australia’s coast.
Australia is one of the best places in the world to see whales, often right from accessible beaches and cliff-faces of our vast coastline.
The most commonly sighted whales are southern rights and humpbacks, which make annual migrations up both the west and east coasts of Australia from Antarctica, to breed and mate.
From late April, southern right whales journey to temperate breeding waters off southern Australia and Victoria.
Meanwhile, the energetic humpback whales continue north to warmer waters along the west and east coasts.
This means between May and November, you can spot whales from many scenic spots along Australia's coastline, from the warm waters of Victoria's Warrnambool to Tasmania's picturesque Great Oyster Bay.
From May, you can see humpback and southern right whales coasting through the clear, blue-green waters of Great Oyster Bay off the Freycinet Peninsula. With scenery that includes forests, pink granite cliffs, and secret white beaches, you can see why the southern right whales often stay here for extended periods.
You might spot some with calves in Mercury Passage, off Maria Island. Or head to wild and beautiful Bruny Island, just a short drive from Hobart. Every year both humpback whales and southern right whales travel past Bruny Island, with some stopping to take shelter in Adventure Bay. The whales can be spotted between May and July, and September and December, with some whales staying for as long as five weeks.
Key times: May-September
In Western Australia, the south coast is the best place for spotting whales. Humpback and southern right whales frolic in Augusta’s Flinders Bay from early June, and rare blue whales and calves join bottlenosed dolphins in Geographe Bay in Dunsborough in September.
Further south, Albany’s rugged coastline makes another scenic grandstand. Humpback whales travelling northwest to Broome can be seen travelling across Albany's bays between June and November, and the southern right whales take shelter in Albany's southern bays to mate and give birth before returning south.
Visitors to Albany can also learn about the whales at Discovery Bay Tourism Experience (formerly Whale World), the interactive museum that was previously a whaling station.
Key times: June-November
New South Wales
Cruise out of iconic Sydney Harbour and into the heads, where gracious humpbacks make their way up the east coast. From land, Sydney’s best-based vantage point is The Gap at South Head.
You’ll also see the same huge, graceful creatures from June in Byron Bay. Look out from Cape Byron lighthouse – the whales play within a hundred metres of here, which means you can get a really great look at them.
South of Sydney, you’re almost guaranteed a whale sighting in the calm, clear waters of Jervis Bay Marine Park, and in the coastal town of Merimbula.
Key times: May-late November.
Where to stay: NRMA Sydney Lakeside Holiday Park or Ingenia Holidays BIG4 Nepean River in Sydney; or Byron Holiday Park in Byron Bay; or BIG4 Merimbula Tween Waters Holiday Park or NRMA Merimbula Beach Holiday Park in Merimbula.
The best place to base yourself in South Australia is Victor Harbour and Granite Island. Stand atop the steep cliffs around Victor Harbor’s Encounter Bay and watch the southern right whales come to breed. Or take a cruise from Granite Island jetty to see them play with their calves further out in the waters of the Fleurieu Peninsula.
From Ceduna, further along South Australia’s jagged coastline, you can watch the whales do slow-motion somersaults from the viewing platform or beach. They often come within hundreds of metres from the towering Bunda Cliffs. You’ll also spot Australian sea lions and great white sharks. For a closer peek, take a boat out into the protected waters of the Head of Bight whale sanctuary.
Key times: June-September
They key whale-watching hotspot in Queensland is Hervey Bay. Hervey Bay is about 300km north of Brisbane, an aquatic paradise and one of the best places in Australia to experience nature in the wild.
Humpback whales travel along the Queensland coastline from Antarctica to the warm waters of the Whitsunday Islands, stopping in the calm waters of Hervey Bay to breed and nurse their young. Hervey Bay is one of the best places in the world to go whale-watching. See their playful antics with one of the accredited cruise operators around Urangan Pier. You might also see dolphins, dugongs, and turtles.
The arrival of the humpback whales each year is celebrated at the Hervey Bay Whale Festival, during July and August with concerts, street parades, and educational displays.
You can also see the playful dwarf minke whales in Queensland, and keen snorkellers and whale-watchers can venture out on live-aboard minke whale tours to Ribbon Reef, north off Cairns, and swim with the whales for a truly unforgettable marine experience.
Key times: June-November (for humpback whale migration); May-August (for dwarf minke whales).
Where to stay: BIG4 Point Vernon Holiday Park in Hervey Bay; or one of three BIG4 parks in the Whitsundays region; or Ingenia Holidays Cairns Coconut Resort and BIG4 Cairns Crystal Cascades Holiday Park in Cairns.
Stand on Logan’s Beach in Warrnambool where the southern right whales calve in the nursery close to shore. They stay here for several weeks, helping their babies build strength for the long journey back to sub-Antarctic waters.
You can capture the mother-and-calf interactions from the viewing platform on the sand dunes, or head to Lady Bay where the new mums often come close enough to spray you with breakwater.
Or, take a boat tour to get even closer and see these amazing creatures in action. Typically, the tours take in Logan’s Beach, Warrnambool, and Port Phillip Bay. You'll get the chance to see humpback whales and southern right whales as well as bottlenose dolphins and Australian fur seals.
In May, you might even be able to catch rare blue whales in their last feeding month at Cape Nelson near Portland.
Key times: June-September.
Isn’t it time you enjoyed a whale-watching experience of a lifetime? Book your next break below.
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|Caravans||4 – 12 metres (13.12 – 39.37 feet)|
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|6+ person||7 × 4.5 metres (22.97 × 14.76 feet)|
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