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Whale watching Sydney © Jonas Liebschner

Whale of a Time

Sabine Morgan shares the best places in Australia to watch whales.


ith a coastline stretching more than 35,000 kilometres and more than 45 resident species of whales, dolphins and porpoises, nearly 60 per cent of the world’s whales can be found in Australian waters. Now, as southern rights and humpbacks begin their annual migration up the west and east coasts of Australia from Antarctica to breed and mate, there are incredible opportunities for families to see the buxom beauties in their own environment, right from the accessible beaches and cliff-faces of our vast coastline.

The best way to see the whales is on the water, but it pays to do your research. Look for reputable whale-watching companies that offer quality vessels and plenty of experience to ensure your whale-watching adventure is one to remember for the right reasons.

Victor Harbor, South Australia

Just an hour’s drive from the Adelaide CBD on the Fleurieu Peninsula, Victor Harbor provides incredible opportunities for sighting southern right whales as they calve and mate in the sheltered bays from May to August. The best vantage points are along the cliffs and headlands, but they can also be spotted from the beach as the whales frequently frolic within 100 metres of the shore. Victor Harbor is also home to the South Australian Whale Centre, the best place to learn all about these gentle giants and enjoy hands-on school holiday workshops.

Warrnambool, Victoria

Every year between June and September, female southern right whales return to their nursery at Logans Beach in Warrnambool to give birth and raise their calves in the bays along the coast. The best spot to catch a glimpse of these mums and their behemoth bubs is from the free viewing platform off Logans Beach Road.


South Australian Whale & Marine Centre © Adam Bruzzone/SATC

Eden, New South Wales

This South Coast town has a long history of human connection with whales – killer whales. The orcas would herd bigger baleen whales into Twofold Bay, and alert the shore-based whalers, sometimes even helping to make the kill. Historians believe there is no comparable pact between man and these mammals anywhere in the world. You can learn all about their fascinating story at the Eden Killer Whale Museum. November is a great time to visit as it coincides with the annual Eden Whale Festival.

Sydney, New South Wales

Sydney and its surrounding coastline offer countless vantage points with whale sightings starting in May and continuing until late November. An estimated 20,000 whales pass Sydney each year on their way to give birth and mate in the waters of the Coral Sea. The majority of these are humpback whales but minkes and southern rights are also spotted. Whale Watching Sydney’s experienced crew has been taking families to spot the majestic whales since 1993. Their custom-built, fast vessels provide the smoothest ride possible and offer a top viewing platform offering 360-degree views and there’s plenty of space for kids to move around, meaning you’ll have the best views and enjoy the best day possible on the water. The Discovery Cruise Combo family deal offers a great-value experience with three hours on Sydney’s best whale watching vessel plus a 24-hour Eco Hopper Hop On, Hop Off Pass, so you can further explore the world’s most beautiful harbour at your leisure.

🔥Hot Tip: NSW-based whale watchers can download the Wild About Whales app, which shows where the whales are in real time and the best vantage points from which to spot them.

Port Stephens, New South Wales

Port Stephens, on the New South Wales coast, is home to 165 bottlenose dolphins, and is a top spot to see humpbacks and southern right whales from mid-May to October trip. There are several reputable operators running whalewatching tours, and pods are also easy to spot from Port Stephens’ 26 golden sandy beaches. Kids might also like to join a Discovery Ranger on a Wild About Whales tour in Tomaree National Park.

🔥Hot Tip:East Coast whale-spotters should keep an eye out for Migaloo, Australia’s best-known humpback. The rare all-white whale migrates annually to warmer waters.

Fraser Island, Queensland

Watch humpbacks socialise and nurture their young off the coast of Fraser Isalnd from August through October. Kingfisher Bay Resort is Fraser Island's premier eco-friendly resort, and offers a Whale Watching Cruise where the kids will be encouraged to make some noise and listen to the underwater sounds of the whales as they glide, spray and play.

Hervey Bay, Queensland

Three-and-a-half hours’ drive north of Brisbane, Hervey Bay is the jewel in Queensland’s whale watching crown. Often referred to as the Whale Capital of Australia, humpback whales holiday in the sheltered waters of Hervey Bay to rest and play from mid-July until late November, on their annual migration.

Albany, Western Australia

Each year humpback, southern right whales and rare blue whales head from the food-rich Southern Ocean to the warm breeding grounds off Broome. The mighty mammals can be spotted across Albany’s bays between May and October as they take shelter to give birth before returning south. Visitors can also visit Whale World, an interactive museum and former whaling station.

Whale Watching Sydney's top tips for kids

1. Check the weather forecast online with the Bureau of Meteorology before booking your cruise.

2. For the best experience choose a time which has waves below two metres and winds below 15 knots for a smoother ride.

3. Always pack warm clothes, spray jacket, hat, sunglasses and sunscreen for the kids regardless of weather conditions.

4. Limit kids’ food intake before a cruise, especially if they are prone to seasickness, and take seasickness medication prior to your trip for it to be effective.

5. Lower decks are better for younger children as there is less vessel movement. Fresh air is essential so lower outside areas are ideal.

Close encounters of the marine kind

Never approach or hop in the water with a whale, no matter how gentle they may seem, unless it is with an experienced professional operator like these.

Swim with whale sharks

Between March and September, whale sharks visit Exmouth to feed on zooplankton that thrives in the warm waters of World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef. Despite their name, whale sharks are actually the world's biggest fish, growing up to 18 metres in length. Marine-loving kids can don snorkelling gear to join the gentle giants in the water for the ultimate wildlife encounter.

Swim with Humpbacks

In an Australian first, Sunreef Mooloolaba offers the opportunity to swim with humpback whales in a completely natural experience. Operated under a strict Code of Practice to protect both the whales and the participants, strong swimmers over the age of eight and supervised by their parents can get wet with the whales and enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing eye-to-eye with the gentle giants.

Whale Shark,Ningaloo © Tourism WA

This article appeared in volume 52 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.

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