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Whale Watching Destinations

- Australian East Coast

Lapped by pristine oceans and easily accessible beaches, Australia’s eastern coastline is one of the best places in the world to go whale watching. In fact, close to 60 per cent of the planet’s whales can be found in Australian waters, which means you’ll be in a great position to catch a glimpse of the over 45 different species of whales, dolphins and porpoises that migrate along the Australian east coast. 

Hiring a campervan is one of the best ways to explore the coastal areas of Australia. Why not travel along the East coast and​ follow these amazing creatures!


Why do whales migrate?

During the Antarctic winter, when the climate leaves the sea biting cold, whales head north for the warmer waters tropical waters. They generally head north along Australia’s eastern coastline, which enjoys some of the more temperate ocean conditions. 

Once in the tropics, the whales remain there until Spring when they reproduce before heading back to the southern oceans for feeding. There are a number of great spots along Australia’s east coast to catch sight of the whales during their migration. Read on for five of the top destinations.


Where to see them in Australia

1. Hervey Bay, QLD

Hervey Bay is considered by many to be the ultimate whale-watching capital of Australia. During the winter months, the population in the region swells as tourists flock to the area to spot some of the humpback whales who stop at Hervey Bay on their yearly migration between the end of July and early November.

The whales usually rest and play with their young for a few days over this period (August to October in particular) and enjoy the sheltered waters around nearby Fraser Island. Close to a dozen whale-watching tour operators run cruises in Hervey Bay during the peak season, such as Spirit of Hervey Bay, which offers ½ day whale watching tours.

2. Port Stephens, NSW

In New South Wales, the idyllic destination of Port Stephens is not just a great place to watch bottlenose dolphins play, but also one of the premier spots to see humpback and southern right whales between the months of June and August, and then later between September and November. 

It has been estimated that more than 7,000 humpbacks make their way through the clear outer waters around Port Stephens in a mass annual migration, so it is one spot where you are virtually guaranteed to see the great mammals in their natural habitat. 

Apart from taking a whale-watching cruise to spot the sea creatures, travellers can also select prime vantage points like the Tomaree Head Summit Walk in Tomaree National Park, as well as beaches and foreshores like Anna Bay, Boat Harbour, Fisherman’s Bay and Barry Park in Fingal Bay.

3. Whitsundays, QLD

Apart from being one of the most beautiful places in Australia, the Great Barrier Reef region also plays host to a number of humpback and pilot whales from June to September each year. The whales make a new home around the Whitsundays during the colder months as the region provides warm currents and shelter. It is the ideal spot to catch a glimpse of new whale calves. 

You may also be lucky enough to spot some dwarf Minke Whales during the cooler months. While there are not any specific whale-watching tours available as yet in the Whitsundays, tourists can enjoy sightings as a free bonus on most boat tours around the area.​

4. Bruny Island, TAS

Down in Tasmania, Bruny Island is one of the best spots to catch sight of Humpback and Southern Right whales between May and July, and then September and December, as the creatures stop to take shelter in Adventure Bay. 

Other species such as the Minke, orca and Pygmy Right Whale can also sometimes be spotted heading north past the island. Although there are a number of tour operators running cruises around Bruny Island, visitors on a budget can also choose to enjoy a coastal walk in a bid to spot whales. One of the best is the Grass Point walk, a 1.5-hour return trip that starts at the Adventure Bay entrance to the local National Park.

5. Sydney Harbour, NSW

Whether you live in or plan to visit, Sydney you’ll have the chance to spot humpback and southern right whales (sometimes even orcas) along the coastline over the winter and spring months. 

The whale-watching season in Sydney runs from May to November, as the sea creatures migrate north to the warm waters of Queensland over winter, and then head south again on their way home. Apart from taking a whale-watching cruise, those looking to spot whales also have many land-based sites to choose from.

One of the most popular is the cliff-top walk from Bondi to Coogee Beach. Other destinations include Clovelly Beach and North Head Lookout in Sydney Harbour National Park, Palm Beach lighthouse on Barrenjoey Headland, Cape Solander in Botany Bay National Park, and North Maroubra.


Additional tip: Discount booking sites, like Groupon, often have reduced-price tickets for whale watching tours. It is worth regularly checking these sites to grab a great deal on the experience.