You Won't Need Binoculars When Heading to These Whale-Watching Hotspots
Posted by Stephanie Vigilante on Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Australia is home to some of the best whale watching spots in the world.
Some of these locations provide ease of viewing from white-sand beaches so you won’t have to move off your towel, whale others are more suited to the adventurous traveller, involving hikes, day trips and charter boats. No matter if you’re an avid whale watcher or have only ever seen Free Willy (we don’t judge), most locations have welcoming and knowledgeable tour guides.
We’ve compiled a guide to some of the best locations around Australia that you can add to your whale watching list. A trip to these destinations is the perfect opportunity to revel in Australia’s beautiful coastline as you observe whales in their natural environment. A truly unforgettable experience - you're sure to have a whale of a time!
Hervey Bay, Fraser Coast QLD
Known as the whale watching capital of the world and often referred to as the jewel in Queensland’s crown, Hervey Bay is the ideal destination to see humpback whales up close. Hervey Bay has 14 kilometres of golden-sand shoreline, allowing visitors to try their luck whale-spotting from the beach, or you can hit the water with a guided excursion. Many of the whale watching tours operating out of Hervey Bay offer buffet breakfasts so you won’t go hungry while you unwind and enjoy marvelling at these giants of the sea. The humpbacks have made Hervey Bay their backyard, and as one of the most acrobatic and active species, they provide spectacular displays of breaching and tail flipping. Some whales may even stay for extended periods of time to relax and play with the whale watching vessels – just be sure to steer clear of any Moby Dick look-a-likes.
Season: mid July to early November.
Image: Whale watching, Hervey Bay. Lauren Bath; Tourism & Events Queensland
Cape Nelson, Great Ocean Road VIC
Cape Nelson is recognised as one of the few places in the world where whales can be seen feeding from land. Blue whales are drawn to the area by the Bonney Upwelling: a spring phenomenon where a shift of winds pumps extra nutrients into the water. That added nutritional bonus plus sunlight equals an explosion of phytoplankton (a whale delicacy) to feed on. If the yellow flag is flying outside the Portland Visitor Information Centre then there’s a high chance that you may catch a glimpse of southern right whales during winter. The best view of the world’s largest creatures is from atop Cape Nelson Lighthouse, a 10-minute drive from the centre of Portland. Humpback whales can also often be spotted blowing water and diving off the coast.
Season: May to October for southern right whales; November to May for blue whales.
Jervis Bay, South Coast NSW
Image: Whale watching, Jervis Bay. L McGillivray; Destination NSW.
With its rugged cliffs, ancient sea caves and pristine beaches, the Jervis Bay region is a magical destination for water-lovers. Explore hidden coves and lagoons, or take to stand-up paddle boarding or sea kayaking. The area’s turquoise waters are the ideal migration channel for whales, and the world-famous white-sand beaches and vantage points atop the headland provide views so perfect you won’t need binoculars. For a closer look, hop on deck of a charter boat where local guides share all there is to know about whale and dolphin behaviour. Keep an eye out for the resident dolphins that play in the bay all year.
Season: May to November.
Head of Bight, Eyre Peninsula SA
Head of Bight is an hours' drive from Yalata and up to four hours from Ceduna on the Eyre Peninsula. With ample vantage points along the coast, Head of Bight hosts an array of marine life sightings. The peninsula juts out from the mainland, overlooking the Great Australian Bight and providing picturesque views. You’ll feel on top of the world as you watch the glorious, uninhibited sights of whales passing by. If you’d like to pair your adventurous side with some magnificent panoramas, Eyre Peninsula is also home to the appropriately-named Whalers Way – 14 kilometres of unsealed walking tracks, offering coastal scenery with spectacular lookouts on the way. Southern right whales whales visit this section of coast before heading north to warmer waters so don’t miss the opportunity to catch these marvellous mammals! Calving whales may even stay in the area for the entire season.
Season: mid May to October.
Image: Whale watching, Head of Bight. Adam Bruzzone; South Australian Tourism Commission.
Albany, South West WA
Brush up on the history of Albany’s old whaling station, its historic port and channel, and the islands in the King George Sound. Enthusiastic whale watchers are treated to a unique experience on board charter boats, which use a hydrophone to pick up the underwater sounds of humpback whales. Land-based lookouts provide views of whales basking in the bay during calving, and frolicking with their young throughout the season. Sightings of southern right whales have recently increased between Middleton Beach and Gull Rock, with more than 35 sightings reported in just one day – it’s over-whale-ming!
Season: late May to early October.
Great Oyster Bay, East Coast TAS
The most rewarding encounter with whales in Tasmania comes by booking a whale watching cruise from Coles Bay. The majority of whales travel a substantial distance off the continental shelf and it is therefore best to head out onto the water to meet them. Look back to land and take in spectacular views of the coast with its rugged shoreline, pink granite cliffs and secret white beaches. Humpback whales can be spotted off of Tasmania’s East Coast as they return to their sub-Antarctic feeding grounds between September and November. Southern right whales return southward between September and late October when some give birth in Tasmanian waters. Observe the not-so-small baby whales as they whirl and reel with their mothers.
Season: May to July, September to November.
Hero image: Hervey Bay. Vince Valitutti; Tourism & Events Queensland.
Thumbnail image: Whale, Hervey Bay. Jewels Lynch; Tourism & Events Queensland.