New lookouts at North Head welcome winter whales

Visitors to Sydney’s North Head can now enjoy spectacular harbour views and ocean views with winter whales, with 2 new lookouts officially opened this weekend in Sydney Harbour National Park.

Breaching humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) worked with a leading local landscape architect and Aboriginal designers on new lookouts, including the names Burragula and Yiningma.

Burragula, meaning 'sunset', was selected for the southern lookout and for the association with burraga, the long-nosed bandicoot, which is most active at this time. 

The northern lookout is called Yiningma, meaning 'cliff edge', where views far out to sea as well as along the coastline can be enjoyed. 

The work completes the $4 million upgrade to the North Head area to provide improved access, safety and landscaping to this iconic location. 

Experienced landscape architects were engaged to plan and design 2 new lookouts considering topography, vegetation, natural character of the landscape, materiality and accessibility. 

The new lookouts and final improvements elsewhere at North Head include:

  • 1,200 square metres of new turfed recreation space 
  • new seating for visitors
  • new pedestrian footpaths and crossings
  • a new bus stop and picnic shelter
  • new stainless steel fencing around Fairfax Walk
  • accessible parking and ramps
  • over 10,000 native plants planted.

Visitors to other coastal national parks in New South Wales also have some of the best opportunities to enjoy the winter whale watching season, in which up to 35,000 humpback whales are expected to pass up the east coast to warmer waters.

New platforms at Cape Solander, in Kamay Botany Bay National Park, and at Crackneck Lookout, in Wyrrabalong National Park, allow even more people to experience one of the world’s great natural spectacles.

Additionally, during this whale migration, a special conservation project is underway to help identify one very rare group of whales.

The NPWS Right Whale ID Program uses highly trained volunteer drone operators and the social media hashtag #srw@100 to identify individual southern right whales by their unique head markings.

This work is part of a project funded through the Marine Estate Management Strategy, helping marine mammal experts identify individual southern right whales so they can be better protected when they are in New South Wales and monitor their recovery.

Unlike humpback whales, which are passing through NSW waters heading for their breeding grounds, southern right whales instead breed right here in New South Wales. 

There are fewer than 300 southern right whales migrating up the south-east coast each winter, including into NSW waters, so it is important we find out about them so we can provide better protection.

Highly skilled drone operators are located up and down the NSW coast and this citizen science program helps to better estimate population size and identify preferred areas to rest, give birth and nurture calves.

People are encouraged to report southern right whale sightings on 13000PARKS (1300 072 757) or the ORRCA Hotline on 02 9415 3333.

Quotes attributable to NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe:

'The new visitor facilities allow everyone to experience the excitement of seeing whales while protecting, enhancing and sharing the state’s national parks.'

'The 2 new lookouts are a stunning addition to both North Head and Sydney Harbour National Park, and provide an improved, accessible and safer experience for all visitors to enjoy.'

'I particularly appreciate the interpretive elements that recognise Country and the character of the surrounding landscape such as the use of sandstone to reflect the landscape and the circular form of the lookouts for gathering.'

'I encourage everyone during the winter school holidays to visit and experience for themselves the wonder of Sydney Harbour National Park from North Head.'