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The Best Places To Go Whale Watching in Australia

Picture of Tom Smith
Updated: 13 March 2018
With approximately 36,000 kilometres of coastline, Australia boasts no shortage of excellent places to catch a glimpse of the many species of whale that inhabit Australian waters. These are eight of the best places for whale-watchers to spot these magnificent marine mammals.

Hervey Bay

You can’t talk about whale-watching in Australia without starting in Hervey Bay, the final stop on the ‘Humpback Highway’ along the East Coast. Every winter, tens of thousands of humpback whales escape freezing Antarctic waters by heading north to the warm waters Queensland, eventually using the world’s largest sand island — Fraser Island — to shelter themselves in Hervey Bay, where they give birth and raise their calves.

Humpback whale in Hervey Bay © eGuide Travel / Flickr
Humpback whale in Hervey Bay | © eGuide Travel / Flickr

Albany

Formerly a whaling station and now home to the Whale World museum, this sleepy seaside town 400km east of Perth on Western Australia’s south coast enjoys one of the longest whale-watching seasons in the country, with humpbacks, southern right and some blue whales spending months in Albany’s calm waters in the second half of the year. A rare congregation of about 100 orcas — better known as killer whales — also gather in Bremer Bay near Albany between February and April, attracted to cold, nutrient-rich currents that blow north from Antarctica.

Whale World in Albany, Western Australia © denisbin / Flickr
Whale World in Albany, Western Australia | © denisbin / Flickr

Head of the Bight

It’s a fair journey from any major city to the Head of the Bight — 11 hours’ drive west of Adelaide and 17 east of Perth, to be precise — but it’s worth the trip to see southern right whales calve during their winter migration. The boardwalks of the Head of the Bight Lookout — the northern extent of the Great Australian Bight on the country’s rugged south coast — provide the perfect vantage point for whale watchers between June and October.

Southern right whale © Gregory Smith / Flickr
Southern right whale | © Gregory Smith / Flickr

Great Ocean Road

These majestic mammals are perhaps the only thing that can wrestle onlookers’ attention away from the beauty of the Great Ocean Road, the jaw-droppingly gorgeous touring route along the Victorian coast west of Melbourne. Logan’s Beach in Warrnambool is a nursery of southern right whales between June and October, while further east in Portland, you can also spot southern rights between June and August as well as blue whales over summer, feasting on krill from November to May.

Logan’s Beach in Warrnambool, Victoria © Simon Yeo / Flickr
Logan’s Beach in Warrnambool, Victoria | © Simon Yeo / Flickr

Sydney

As if you needed any more convincing to visit the sparkling waters of Australia’s biggest city, the abundance of whales making their way up the Humpback Highway each winter provides yet another reason. Whale-watching cruises depart Circular Quay almost every day between May and November, gliding through the harbour and then out through the heads to try and spot acrobatic humpbacks breaching through the air, with Sydney’s coastline serving as the stunning backdrop.

Whale watching in Sydney © Christopher Eden / Flickr
Whale watching in Sydney, Australia | © Christopher Eden / Flickr

Eden

There’s something in the water around Eden… literally. Sitting halfway between Sydney and Melbourne on the drive along the coast, this serene seaside town is where currents from the north and south meet — meaning the waters of Twofold Bay are rich with nutrients, and therefore the perfect place for humpbacks to stop for a feed on their way to or from Antarctica. September to October is the best time to head to Eden to spot whales on their annual migration.

Humpback breaches in Twofold Bay, Eden © Thomas Williams / Flickr
Humpback breaches in Twofold Bay, Eden | © Thomas Williams / Flickr

Freycinet Peninsula

This scenic patch of Tasmania is best known for the postcard-perfect Wineglass Bay, but the procession of whales each winter is every bit as spectacular. The east coast of Tasmania is one of the first places whales pass as they depart Antarctic waters — witness humpbacks on their way to Queensland between May and July before they cruise back from September to November, while southern rights heading for the south coast of the mainland depart June to August and return September to November.

Wineglass Bay, Freycinet Peninsula © UltraView Admin / Flickr
Wineglass Bay, Freycinet Peninsula in Tasmania, Australia | © UltraView Admin / Flickr

Byron Bay

The drive north from Sydney to Hervey Bay takes in a string of renowned whale-watching hotspots, including Port Stephens, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and the Gold Coast, but few are as picturesque as Byron Bay. Australia’s most easterly point offers a panoramic view over the Pacific as the humpbacks cruise back and forth — Cape Byron, home to the town’s iconic lighthouse, is a particularly impressive vantage point.

Cape Byron lighthouse in Byron Bay © Stephanie Watson / Flickr
Cape Byron lighthouse in Byron Bay | © Stephanie Watson / Flickr