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.
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.
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.
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.
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