Whale watching in Sydney

Each year from May to November, more than 40,000 humpback and southern right whales make their way along Sydney’s coastline in their annual migration from Antarctica to the warmer waters of the Pacific. There are excellent vantage points where you can see these giants of the deep at play.



Best time of year

From mid-May, humpback whales begin passing Sydney on their northern migration from Antarctic waters. The peak months to sight them are towards the end of June and the beginning of July. Be ready to see lots of breaching and males showing off their dominance. In October and November, you will see lots of mothers and calves swimming down the coast. They usually swim a little slower and stick to the shoreline on their migration back south.

In NSW, it’s common to see humpback whales, southern right whales and dolphins, but you may also spot orcas, blue whales, minke whales and sperm whales.

Family enjoying a day of whale watching off-shore Sydney

On tour with Whale Watching Sydney, Sydney Harbour

Whale-watching vantage points

Whales often cruise close to shore, so they are easy to spot, and have even been known to pop up inside Sydney Harbour. Cape Solander in Kamay Botany Bay National Park is one of the best vantage points with a covered viewing platform and information boards. There's also accessible access and disabled parking right by the platform.

The cliff-top walking trails from Bondi to Coogee and the Federation Cliff Walk from Dover Heights to Watsons Bay also offer fantastic viewing opportunities.

Take the ferry to Manly for the North Head lookout, where whales can also often be spotted. Further north are Bangalley Head at Avalon Beach and Barrenjoey Lighthouse at Palm Beach for more great views of these marine mammals in their element.

Dolphins swimming off Palm Beach on Sydney's Northern Beaches

Palm Beach, Sydney

Whale-watching cruises

If you want to get even closer to these majestic creatures, hop aboard a whale-watching cruise. During the season, cruises depart every day from Circular Quay, Darling Harbour and Manly.

Book a cruise with Whale Watching SydneyOz Whale WatchingOcean ExtremeManly Ocean AdventuresAustralian Cruise GroupSydney Whale Whisperer or Captain Cook Cruises which can take you to some of the best vantage points on their small, fast vessels.

Whale Watching Sydney. Credit: Bass & Flinders Cruises

Whale Watching Sydney - Credit: Bass & Flinders Cruises

Whale behaviour

Once you see a whale, there is a good chance you will see it display one or more of the following behaviours:

  • Breaching – where most or all of the whale's body leaves the water.
  • Lobtailing or tail slapping – where a whale lifts its tail flukes out of the water and then slaps them down onto the surface of the water.
  • Spy-hopping – where a whale lifts their head and part of their chest vertically out of the water so that their eyes are just above the water line.
  • Blowing – where a whale blows air, water vapour and mucus as they surface to take a breath.
Humpback whale breaching near Sydney Heads on its annual migration, Sydney

Whale Watching, Sydney

What to take with you

As whales travel the coastline in the colder months, wear warm clothing and bring a blanket if you will be spending time in one spot. It’s a good idea to bring a camping chair to sit on too. Don’t forget to wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen and bring your camera or binoculars.

For more information about whale watching in Sydney, visit the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service website.


Great whale watching experiences in Sydney