There are many things that I love about winter in Australia. We have the best festivals scheduled, the food is just delicious, and it is also the time for the great whale migration.
There are many unique opportunities up and down the coast to spot one of the 20,000 whales this season as they are making their way up north to the warmer regions of the Pacific. Southern right whales are the most common whales you can see along the NSW coast, but there are also plenty of minke whales, orcas and of course dolphins.
Sydney has a number of well-known lookouts and vantage points that are just perfect for whale watching. All you need to bring is a pair of binoculars and some patience.
If you are looking to find some fantastic whale watching opportunities outside of Sydney – the Queen’s Birthday long weekend is coming up after all – then check out these 8 awesome whale related suggestions below. I have here a collection of great walking trails, romantic accommodation options, and educational experiences for the whole family.
Stay at heritage listed beach shacks in Byron
Up north, Byron Bay is one of the most popular tourist destinations in NSW. If you want to combine a whale watching experience with a unique stay in this beautiful part of New South Wales, have a look at the Imeson, Mildenhall and Thomson Cottages in the Cape Byron Conservation Area.
These cottages are from the 1920’s-1950’s, and you couldn’t wake up any closer to the beach even if you tried. Alternatively, on Australia’s eastern-most point you will find the heritage-listed Assistant Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage, also for rent. Imagine sipping a hot chocolate on your porch while the whales are passing by…
Walk along the coast near Port Macquarie
Camden Haven is just south of Port Macquarie, home to the beautiful Kattang Nature Reserve. A walk to the majestic Perpendicular Point is a perfect excuse to spot some whales.
Closer to Port Macquarie itself, the 9km Port Macquarie Coastal Walk is a string of connected boardwalks, beaches and viewing platforms which will eventually take you to Tacking Point Lighthouse which is the third oldest lighthouse in Australia.
Hop on a catamaran for a whale watching cruise
To spot humpback whales, jump on a cruise with the Pacific Explorer catamaran to the Solitary Islands Marine Park which departs Coffs Harbour. It usually takes no more than 15-20 minutes to see the first whales – such an exciting experience!
From Newcastle, board Nova Cruises which offer 2.5-3 hour ocean cruises with the added bonus of a free harbour or outer beach cruise.
Explore the Legendary Pacific Coast Whale Watching Trail
This famous Whale Watching Trail can be found between Avoca Beach and Tweed Heads on the Central Coast. It features 71 of the best places to spot a whale including lighthouses, national parks, scenic lookouts, sand dunes and cruises. Check out the official website for more detailed information.
Book yourself on a special event cruise in Jervis Bay
Jervis Bay is a perfect place for some serious whale watching: not only is not too far away from Sydney and can be easily visited on a day trip, there are also many scenic lookouts that offer rewarding views of NSW’s gorgeous South Coast.
Options include the Penguin Head in Culburra, and the Booderee National Park located at Cape St George Lighthouse.
The best and most unusual experience, however, is guaranteed with Dolphin Watch Cruises, where you can combine whale watching with other exciting experiences such as sunset viewings, BBQs and even weddings.
Opt for an Aboriginal experience
Whales are of course also important for the indigenous communities in Australia, and the best way to learn more about their role in Aboriginal life is by walking the Bingi Dreaming Track from Congo to Tuross in the very south of the country. This 14km coastal trail follows the ancient Song Lines of the Yuin Aboriginal people. Make sure you stop at Bingi Bingi Point for some breathtaking views of golden beaches and the untouched coastline.
Stay on an island
This is my most favourite all experiences: What is more romantic than waking up on your own private island, surrounded by the endless blue of the Pacific Ocean?
Grab a cup of coffee from your cottage, take a pair of binoculars and watch for the tell-tale signs of water spouts out at sea.
Montague Island is operated by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and features a handful of carefully restored lighthouse keeper’s cottages that are rented out to bigger groups. The island is not just right in the migration route, you will also find here plenty of penguins and seals, perfect for taking some stunning photos and enjoying a weekend away in one of the most unspoilt parts of this world.
Access is by permit only, so check out the official website for further information. There is currently a 3 nights for 2 deal!
Visit the Killer Whale Museum
The little town of Eden has a long history of whaling, and you will find an interesting Killer Whale Museum here that will be great for the whole family.
Kids will love meeting Old Tom, the only complete skeleton of an orca in the Southern Hemisphere. The museum which is run by a group of volunteers focuses on the Australian whaling industry, the logging industry and local social history. You can combine a visit to the museum with a stint to Eden’s Killer Whale Trail which boasts a great interactive map.