Whale watching in Sydney

Turn your winter walk into a whale spotting expedition with these top sightseeing locations
Photograph: Wild About Whales
Advertising

There are two distinct whale watching seasons in Sydney. During the first, humpback whales are heading north towards warmer waters to mate and give birth (typically from May to August), then in summer they return south with their calves to feed in Antarctic waters. It’s in winter that you’re likely to spot whales from the shore, as 20,000 of them migrate along the New South Wales coastline. 

Humpbacks will be your happy companions on most whale watching adventures, but you might also spot orcas and minke whales. Head to one of these lookouts with binoculars and a camera to capture the action. Make a morning of it and experience these 90 things to do in Sydney before 9am.

If the majesty of these ocean giants isn't enough to lift your spirits as the cold weather descends, try these 20 ways to beat the winter blues.

Lookout points

1
Two walkers on the Barrenjoey Lighthouse Track
Photograph: Wild About Whales
Things to do, Walks and tours

Barrenjoey Lighthouse

icon-location-pin Palm Beach

The most northern part of Palm Beach peninsula has beautiful ocean views and is part of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. A popular attraction of this region is Barrenjoey Lighthouse, a heritage listed building that stands at 113 metres above sea level, and it's a perfect spot for spotting whales. It's free to enter the park on foot (parking fees apply for cars). Bring water and a picnic. 

2
South Head
Sport and fitness, Swimming

South Head

icon-location-pin Watsons Bay

Known for its steep ocean cliffs, military history and distinctive red-and-white striped Hornby Lighthouse, South Head has no shortage of lookouts. The best spot for whale watching is the Gap, an ocean cliff on the South Head peninsula. Climb to the top to gaze over the Tasman Sea and Sydney Harbour. If you’re feeling adventurous, walk the South Head Heritage trail. The 1km loop takes up to one hour complete, so pack sunscreen, water and trainers.

Advertising
3
Whale tail breaching the water
Photography: Wild About Whales
Attractions

Kamay Botany Bay National Park

icon-location-pin Kurnell

Located in the Kurnell section of Kamay Botany Bay National Park, Cape Solander is one of Sydney’s best whale watching spots. Named after botanist Daniel Solander, the cape includes an unbeatable lookout and is a good starting point for a walk through the park. Information on the whales can be found near the lookout, and you may spot a humpback as close as 200m to the coast. Take a virtual tour of the cape beforehand to plan out your day. Gates to the park are open from 7am-7.30pm from August to May, and till 5.30pm in June and July.

4
Royal National Park
Things to do

Royal National Park

icon-location-pin Royal National Park

The Coast Track walking trail in the Royal National Park takes you along a gorgeous stretch of NSW coastline, where you can spot sea eagles, silver gulls, and terns. In warmer months you can finish your walk with a swim at Garie Beach, and in the winter keep your eyes peeled for migrating whales. You’ll walk by cliffs, beaches and escarpments taking in magnificent ocean views. The 26km trail is of medium difficulty, running from Bundeena to Otford and the time suggested to complete the track is two days. So if you're going the full length, pack wisely and consult your map.

Advertising
5
North Head
Things to do

North Head

icon-location-pin Manly

Right in Manly’s backyard is a walkway of unspoilt coastline. It’s hard to believe you’re only 11km from the CBD, as there's never-ending ocean views and a panorama of the harbour and city skyline. The walking track at North Head Sanctuary – which leads to North Fort and Fairfax Lookout – features fantastic sea views and opportunities to spot humpback and southern right whales. Sydney Harbour National Park has varying park entry fees – they charge $5 per car for the day at North Head carpark.

 
6
Bouddi National Park
Travel

Bouddi National Park

A short walk from Putty Beach in Bouddi National Park is the Gerrin Point lookout. In the spring, you can take the Bouddi Coastal walk and enjoy the canvas of wildflowers, but in winter you'll want to grab your camera and climb the stairs to the highest vantage point to spot migrating humpback whales. The lookout has panoramic views of Maitland Bay, and there's a bench for visitors to take a rest. On windy days it’s best to bring a jacket as the location is exposed and you'll feel the wind chill. 

 

Whale watching tours

People on a boat looking out to whales
Photograph: Supplied

Sydney Harbour Discovery, Oz Whale Watching

Oz Whale Watching was awarded the New South Wales Gold and Silver Tourism Awards for 2015. It’s $94 for adults and each adventure cruise is four hours long. Opt for the brekky cruise, which leaves at 8am and see a humpback before lunch. If you don’t see a whale, they offer you another trip for free!

Advertising

There's an app!

Whale breaching in the harbour
Photograph: Wild About Whales

Wild About Whales App

One of the best ways to take a self-guided whale watching tour is to download the free app Wild About Whales. Google Maps will find your location and you can select sightings, vantage points or tours. Directions to the closest whales are only a click away.

Take a hike

Young woman standing on rock, halfway down lighhouse walk track
Photograph: Hamilton Lund
Sport and fitness, Walks

The best walks in Sydney

Coastal walks, bush walks, historical walks and inner city ambles: there are many routes to choose from to discover Sydney from a new angle. See our list of ten favourite places to wander.

Advertising
This page was migrated to our new look automatically. Let us know if anything looks off at feedback@timeout.com