Luckily with its mammoth coastline and tropical waters Australia is one of the most attractive places for whales to pass on their annual migration from their southerly base. In fact on their journey northwards, those taking an easterly route tend to stay within five kilometres from Australian shores in order to miss the East Australian Current.
Generally more than 45 species of whales, dolphins and their cousins the porpoise, can be seen from Australia’s coastline with, excitingly, over half of the worlds whales inhabiting our seas.
Most commonly spotted are humpback and southern right whales, but orcas, minke and blue whales also splash and glide through Australia’s seas. Consequently, it’s a fabulous continent to watch for whales. And often, during their migration season, you can spot them popping their heads up, see mothers and calves playing, humpbacks breaching and southern right whales spy hopping, for free from safe headlands and public board walks.
So grab your binoculars, some comfy shoes, a bottle of water, a hat and something to munch on and start by heading to Eden NSW.
Eden is an especially good place to see large numbers of these magnificent aquatic travellers close to shore, as you can catch humpbacks at the start of their migration northwards from June to August. And then again from September to November there is the opportunity to see mothers and calves as they head back to the icy waters of Antarctica.
Slightly further out to sea (you’ll need binoculars for these chaps) cruise pods of sperm whales and orcas.
Whilst people tend to come to Merimbula in search of the humpback, this is also a great place to spot minke, blue and orca whales from July to December.
Even if you’re sticking to the big smoke of the state - Sydney – you can see whales close at hand from April to December as currents tend to steer them nearer to shore. Even just following the coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee can afford glimpses of these gentle giants. Or you can join Eco Treasures and take their walking tour to the headlands of Manly and Northern Beaches.
Port Stephens 26 golden sand beaches is the perfect place to not only catch the acrobatics of the humpbacks, on their northern migration June to August and then southern migration Sept to November, but is also home to a family of delightful bottlenose dolphins who love to show off their aquatic skills.
Make your way up to Smoky Cape Lighthouse nestled into South West Rocks as this is a great viewing platform with 360 degree views of the ocean. It’s also a superb place to be as humpback, southern right and sometimes pilot whale families like to make a pit stop here on their migration from April to November.
Byron Bay is a pretty nice place – whales or no whales – but when you are in Byron Bay make sure you walk up to the Cape Byron Lighthouse. This 3.7km loop track meanders through rainforest, across the beach and then up to the lighthouse on the cliff tops. Views are epic and in season this spot has grand whale spotting opportunities.
If you’re here out of season don’t despair - you’ll still be able to check out turtles, stingrays and dolphins in the seas below.
Given humpbacks swim close to Cape Byrons shores heading up and down the coast, if you want a closer look grab a tour and a kayak with Cape Byron Kayaks and paddle around Cape Byron Marine Park. If this feels like a little too much effort you can simply sit back on a boat trip with Cape Byron Whale Watching tours.
Watching the whales is pretty exciting but there is a rock star of the whale world – Migaloo. Migaloo, meaning “white fella”, is a white humpback – thought to be an albino - often spotted off Tweed Head both in June and then back again in September as Migaloo returns South.
Because he is such a unique whale he has special legislation enacted by the Queensland Government to protect him from harassment – thus vehicles including jetskis as well as planes are restricted in how close they can get to him.