Whale watch­ing

With more than 50 per cent of the world’s whales found in Aus­tralian wa­ters, am­ber ja­cobs shares the best places to spot them.

Holiday with Kids - - Contents -

With over 50 per cent of the world’s whales in Aus­tralia’s wa­ters, Am­ber Ja­cobs shares the best places to spot them.

Aus­tralia’s epic coast­line and prox­im­ity to Antarc­tica and the Pa­cific Ocean makes our shores the most whale-pop­u­lated in the world, with more than 45 species of whales, dol­phins and por­poises ei­ther call­ing Aus­tralia home or pass­ing through. Each year whales must em­bark on a mi­gra­tion to the shal­lower, warmer wa­ters up north to breed as calves are born with­out the pro­tec­tive blub­ber re­quired to sur­vive win­ter near Antarc­tica. This an­nual phe­nom­e­non of­fers an in­com­pa­ra­ble op­por­tu­nity to watch dot­ing mother hump­backs and south­ern rights bond­ing with their frol­ick­ing calves be­fore re­turn­ing to Antarc­tica for spring.

Vis­i­tors can mar­vel at or even swim with the world’s big­gest an­i­mals as they tra­verse Aus­tralia’s east­ern and western coast­lines, cu­ri­ously ap­proach­ing cruise ships, breach­ing and lob­tail­ing for their en­chanted au­di­ences.

Sun­shine Coast Fraser Is­land Queens­land

Hump­backs are par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar be­cause they are renowned for im­pres­sive breach­ing and sur­face be­hav­iours that give watch­ers views of their en­tire 15-me­tre-long bod­ies. Sun­reef Mooloolaba of­fers a rare op­por­tu­nity to swim with the gen­tle gi­ants in the warm wa­ters of the Sun­shine Coast. Weigh­ing in at a mere 36,000 kilo­grams, hump­backs move slowly and their calm pres­ence makes a close en­counter truly mov­ing. Kids must be aged eight or over and be strong swim­mers. There is no touch­ing to en­sure the safety and com­fort of both swim­mers and whales.

Her­vey Bay Queens­land

Tucked be­tween Queens­land’s main­land and Fraser Is­land, Her­vey Bay is a whale­watcher’s par­adise with hump­backs pass­ing through on their mi­gra­tion be­tween July and Oc­to­ber. Re­searchers have found it to be a so­cial hub and rest­ing place for whales as they re­group on the long jour­ney home to Antarc­tica. Hump­backs are com­fort­able around the whale-watch­ing ves­sels that sail through the bay, of­ten greet­ing pas­sen­gers with a tail slap or two. Dur­ing Free­dom Whale Watch cruises, pas­sen­gers will en­joy a visit to Platy­pus Bay to see the whales at play, fol­lowed by a trop­i­cal buf­fet lunch.


Fraser Is­land is a pop­u­lar rest stop for hump­backs on their 5,000-kilo­me­tre mi­gra­tion, dou­bling as a warm sanc­tu­ary to raise their young be­tween Au­gust and Oc­to­ber. Eco-friendly King­fisher Bay Re­sort of­fers day cruises for whale-watch­ers, with guests en­cour­aged to wave and make noise as the whales seem to re­spond to the spec­ta­cle. The whales ap­pear friendly, of­ten glid­ing up to Quick Cat II of their own free will. Close en­coun­ters are guar­an­teed, but if you’d like to get even closer to these mag­nif­i­cent mam­mals, there’s the op­por­tu­nity to swim with the whales.


War­rnam­bool’s Lo­gan Beach is the per­fect spot to view south­ern right whales as they pass through every June to Oc­to­ber on their way to sunny Queens­land. The south­ern right makes its own unique jour­ney with pre­dom­i­nantly preg­nant fe­males mi­grat­ing to Cape By­ron. This is dif­fer­ent from hump­back mi­gra­tion pat­terns, where both males and fe­males travel all the way to the Pa­cific. En­thu­si­as­tic watch­ers can see both moth­ers and calves from a pur­pose­built view­ing plat­form as Lo­gan Beach is trans­formed into a ‘whale nurs­ery’ for both baby south­ern rights and hump­backs.

Phillip Is­land Vic­to­ria

Killer whales join the hump­backs and south­ern rights at Phillip Is­land. The fastest swim­mers of all the cetaceans, killers have earned their name through their hunt­ing abil­i­ties. To get among the ac­tion, hop aboard Wildlife Coast Cruises’ Win­ter Whale Cruise and cir­cum­nav­i­gate the is­land. Kids of all ages will be en­thralled by the speed and stealth of the whales as they breathe the salt air and ad­mire coastal land­scape for­ma­tions from Pyra­mid Rock to the jagged head­land of Cape Woola­mai. Lit­tle ones will also love spot­ting dol­phins, al­ba­trosses and fairy pen­guins as well as thou­sands of fur seals at Seal Rocks.

Port Stephens Vic­to­ria New South Wales

With 26 golden beaches to choose from, Port Stephens is def­i­nitely the place for beach whale-spot­ting be­tween May and Novem­ber. Boat Har­bour, Anna Bay, Fish­er­mans Bay and Barry Bay are per­fect lo­ca­tions to view whales or take a whale­watch­ing tour with Imag­ine Cruises, be­gin­ning in Nel­son Bay, to en­counter hump­backs, dol­phins and south­ern fur seals. If you would rather ex­plore on foot, head to To­ma­ree Na­tional Park and fol­low the To­ma­ree Head Sum­mit walk for one of the best van­tage points to see whale pods and some of the most mag­nif­i­cent ocean panora­mas in the coun­try.

By­ron Bay

Thou­sands of hump­back whales pass by this colour­ful, charis­matic, coastal town be­tween May and Novem­ber. There are plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to spot the whales frol­ick­ing from land-based van­tage points, in­clud­ing Cape By­ron Light­house. If you’re lucky enough to be stay­ing at The Oa­sis Apart­ments & Tree­top Houses, you may even be able to spot them from your own Tree­house or Vue bal­cony. If you’d rather be in the midst of the ac­tion, en­joy a whale­watch­ing cruise or try a kayak­ing tour to see these ma­jes­tic mam­mals up close.

Eden New South Wales

In spring, Eden be­comes a whale-watcher’s par­adise with its un­spoilt coast. The meet­ing of ocean cur­rents from the north and south makes Twofold Bay a nu­tri­ent-rich stopover for mi­grat­ing whales and dol­phins. Novem­ber brings the Eden Whale Fes­ti­val, which in­volves live shows, a pa­rade and fam­ily ac­tiv­i­ties. Eden’s Killer Whale Mu­seum of­fers ed­u­ca­tional tours and ex­hibits, where kids will be awestruck by the huge skele­tons as they learn about whales, whal­ing his­tory and how co­op­er­a­tion be­tween hu­mans and or­cas has be­come a sig­nif­i­cant part of the town’s story.

Al­bany New South Wales Western Aus­tralia

Al­bany’s coast at­tracts hump­backs and south­ern rights as well as the rarer blue whale. The whales visit be­tween May to Oc­to­ber on their trek to the warm breed­ing grounds of Broome. The en­dan­gered blue whale is the largest an­i­mal known to have ex­isted, grow­ing up to 30 me­tres. Al­bany was once home to a whal­ing sta­tion that stopped op­er­at­ing in 1978, but the town has come full cir­cle, now pro­vid­ing a sanc­tu­ary where calves can play and thrive. The old whal­ing sta­tion has been trans­formed into the His­toric Whal­ing Sta­tion mu­seum.

Ex­mouth Western Aus­tralia

The World Her­itage-listed Nin­ga­loo Reef is the long­est fring­ing coral reef in Aus­tralia, made up of 300 kilo­me­tres of vi­brant un­der­wa­ter gar­dens. Ex­mouth is one of the best places on Earth to see the en­dan­gered whale shark, which is ac­tu­ally the world’s big­gest fish, grow­ing up to 18 me­tres in length. Whale shark sea­son starts slightly be­fore whale-watch­ing sea­son, be­gin­ning from March. Hop aboard the Whale Shark Sa­fari for a 360-de­gree ocean view or don snorkelling gear to join the grace­ful crea­tures in the wa­ter.

Fleurieu Penin­sula South Aus­tralia

Just over an hour’s drive from Ade­laide, Vic­tor Har­bor’s clear turquoise wa­ters are a favourite hang­out for south­ern right mums and bubs. Watch in won­der from the pier or sur­round­ing cliffs as the mam­mals blow spray and do body rolls to re­veal their gor­geous white-speck­led bel­lies. For hands-on ac­tiv­i­ties, young whale en­thu­si­asts will love The South Aus­tralian Whale Cen­tre where they can learn about whales and other lo­cal ma­rine crea­tures in the in­ter­ac­tive ex­hibits, 3D the­atrette and Kidz Zone play area.

Whale Watch­ing Re­port Card

sun­reef.com.au free­domwhale­watch.com.au king­fisherbay.com imag­inecruises.com.au by­ronoa­sis.com.au killer­whale­mu­seum.com.au sawhale­cen­tre.com.au


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