Whale watching in NSW
Every year, humpback whales and southern right whales migrate along the NSW coastline. They head north throughout June and in the first week of July, and return southwards from around September to November.
Other whales you may see include:
- minke whale
- blue whale
- sei whale
- fin whale
- false killer whale
- orca (killer whale)
- sperm whale
- pygmy right whale
- pygmy sperm whale
- brydes whale
Migaloo, a white male humpback, was first seen off the east coast of Australia in 1991, and has been sighted almost every year since. He makes the annual migration from Antarctica to the warmer oceans of the tropics along with others and offers whale watchers a unique experience.
Where can you go to see whales?
During their northern migration, most whales come within 3 km of the NSW coast. Headlands and lookouts in national parks can be the perfect place to see them. Here are some popular parks:
1. Cape Byron State Conservation Area
2. Bundjalung National Park (Iluka Bluff)
3. Yuraygir National Park (Angourie Point)
4. Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve
5. Hat Head National Park (Smoky Head)
6. Kattang Nature Reserve
7. Tomaree National Park (Tomaree Head)
8. Wyrrabalong National Park (Crackneck Lookout)
9. Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park (Barrenjoey Headland)
10. Sydney Harbour National Park (North Head)
11. Botany Bay National Park (Cape Solander and Cape Banks)
12. NSW Jervis Bay National Park
13. Eurobodalla National Park (Moruya Head)
14. Ben Boyd National Park (Red Point)
Late morning and early afternoon are reasonably good times of the day to whale watch from most vantage points, as the glare off the water doesn't make sighting the tell-tale 'blow' too difficult. Early morning can also be a good time as the 'blow' is often highlighted by the back light of the morning sun.
Approaching whales and dolphins in NSW
Vessel-based whale watching is popular in NSW. Unlike Hervey Bay in Queensland, where whales are resting with new-born calves, most humpback whales in NSW waters are actively migrating. Any disturbance by vessels could affect these animals.
Whales require 'personal space', and harassment may severely stress them - possibly causing accidents both for humans and whales if the whales feel threatened. This is especially important in the case of the adults with calves, which may be either resting or suckling. Research has shown that whales are highly sensitive to engine noises. You should also be aware that during the mating season, males competing for females may engage in rough physical contact.
Whales are protected animals, and if you go out on the water, you should follow the regulations for whale watching. They've been designed to make whale watching enjoyable and safe, without interference to the whales.
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Amendment (Marine Mammals) Regulation 2006
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Amendment (Marine Mammals) Regulation 2006 was introduced to protect marine mammals such as whales and dolphins while allowing people to appreciate them in the wild. View a summary of the Regulation's provisions.
Page last updated: 13 June 2012