How to have a whale of a time: Top spots to go whale watching in Australia

Australia offers some of the best whale watching opportunities anywhere in the world. During the cooler months, whales move north away from Antarctic waters and up the Australian coastline towards their temperate breeding grounds at higher latitudes. They then turn around and head back down south on the return journey. We’re lucky in this country to be able to witness this great migration with relative ease and observe these gentle giants in several key locations.

Here are some of the top spots to go whale watching in Australia, along with a few seasonal pointers and some tour advice. Book your stay in each of these amazing locations at Choice Hotels.

1. Sydney

Sydney is a great spot to see a range of whale species as the city is right in the main migration path. The whale watching season runs from May to November. Southern right whales make their way up the NSW coastline to Cape Byron, and humpbacks head to the South Pacific to begin calving. The whales then head down the coast on the return migration. Grab some binoculars and head to the Barrenjoey Headland at the top of the Northern Beaches. It’s the ideal spot for viewing whales from onshore. You can get the inside scoop on recent sightings and log your findings via the NSW National Parks app: Wild About Whales. There are several operators that run whale watching cruises from Sydney Harbour. Oz Whale Watching offers a whale sighting guarantee (or your next cruise is free). You can check out the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House on the way out to, and back from, the deep blue.

Need a place to stay?

Choice Hotels offers great places to stay across Sydney. Comfort Hotel Sydney City is just a short walk from Circular Quay (the departure point for many whale watching cruises).

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Do a whale watching cruise in Sydney. Image courtesy of Destination NSW

2. Albany

Along the southwest coastline of Western Australia, the whale migration begins in late May and can continue until early October. Humpback whales gather around King George Sound to rest after their long trip up from the Southern Ocean. They then continue heading north. Southern right whales actually base themselves in the waters off Albany to calve, making it a great spot to observe mischievous and playful baby whales. There are two main whale watching cruise operators in Albany: Albany Ocean Adventures and Albany Whale Tours. Both offer 2.5 to 3-hour catamaran cruises daily. It’s hard to believe now, but Albany was once a key whaling centre. Head to Albany’s Historic Whaling Station for an interactive museum experience and to learn more about an industry that has largely been consigned to the history books.

Need a place to stay?

The Quality Apartments Banksia Gardens offers contemporary accommodation in Albany. Climb to the Mount Melville Parklands lookout for sweeping views of the coastline and to watch for tell-tale whale waterspouts offshore!

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Albany’s Historic Whaling Station. Image courtesy of Tourism Western Australia

3. Warrnambool & Portland

Between June and September, female southern right whales head to the waters around Warrnambool and Portland to calve. It’s not uncommon to see them within 100 metres of the shoreline and visitors flock to the Logan’s Beach Whale Nursery viewing platform to catch a glimpse of the giants of the deep. This location is always open to the public and is known for being one of the best places on the mainland to spot whales. The visibility depends on the weather conditions, so it’s best to give yourself a couple of days to spend on the observation deck to better your chances of seeing something special. The best viewing times are generally early mornings, or late afternoon/early evening when the water is warm and calm and there is less ocean glare. Any time is a possibility though – you just have to be patient. Be sure to pack a beanie; it can get mighty chilly on that platform!

You May Also Be Interested In: Elegant luxury and unique heritage décor – tasteful accommodation in the heart of Portland

Need a place to stay? Choice Hotels has great properties in Warrnambool: the comfortable Comfort Inn Warrnambool International, the Comfort Inn Western in the heart of town, and Comfort Inn On Raglan, which is a five-minute drive from the Logan’s Beach Whale Nursery. Just over an hour from Warrnambool, Choice Hotels has accommodation options in Portland: Quality Hotel Bentinck‘s original heritage decor built in 1856 and Econo Lodge Portland located across the road from the beach.

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The Warrnambool coastline offers some amazing whale watching opportunities. Image courtesy of Visit Victoria

4. Hervey Bay

This Queensland holiday destination is famous for its whale-watching opportunities and super-active humpbacks. Hervey Bay is another major rest stop for humpbacks heading north and south, as the waters are largely protected by Fraser Island. Between mid-July and mid-November, you can catch some really special moments of playtime between mothers and calves. Expect breaching, waving of tails and body rolls. There’s no shortage of tour operators in the area that will take you out on a whale watching cruise. Most offer half and full day tours daily during the season, and all depart from the Urangan Boat Harbour.

Need a place to stay? Comfort Inn on Main Hervey Bay offers affordable accommodation within close proximity to Hervey Bay’s key attractions. The hotel is just a ten-minute stroll from the beach.

5. Victor Harbor

Just an hour’s drive south of Adelaide lies another wonderful whale-spotting destination – Victor Harbor. You can actually observe over 30 different whale species along the southern coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Head to the SA Whale Centre website for a whale sighting log to help you zone in on the action offshore. The SA Whale Centre also offers full day whale-spotter training, which will have you able to tell a humpback from a baleen whale in no time. Big Duck’s Southern Ocean Adventure Tour will introduce you to long-nosed fur seals, dolphins, and hopefully, the big guys. Bring your binoculars; whale watching boats have a strict 300-metre clearance rule, and you won’t want to miss seeing something special in the distance.

Related: Historicockle steam train adventure! (The Cockle Stream Train, Victor Harbour)

Need a place to stay? Comfort Inn Victor Harbor is located right in the Victor Harbor town centre and is three-minutes’ walk from the SA Whale Centre.

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See whales right off the shoreline at Victor Harbor. Image courtesy of South Australian Tourism Commission

About the writer

Michelle Thomas is a Perth-based freelance writer who loves to pen prose about all things travel and lifestyle. When she’s not running her freelance writing business, she spends her time patting dogs, eating burritos and planning her next travel adventure.

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