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Whale watching in Sydney

Turn your winter walk into a whale spotting expedition with these top sightseeing locations

Photograph: Wild About Whales

There are two distinct whale watching seasons in Sydney. During the first, humpback whales are heading north to give birth and mate (typically from May to August), later in the year they return south with their calves ahead of the Southern Hemisphere summer (from August to December) to feed in Antarctic waters. It’s in the first, winter, season that you’re likely to spot whales from the shore as 20,000 of them migrate along the New South Wales coastline. Alongside humpback whales you might also spot minke whales and orcas. Head to one of these lookouts with binoculars and a camera to capture the action. 

Lookout points


Barrenjoey Lighthouse

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. 

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Palm Beach

South Head

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 about an hour to complete so pack sunscreen, water and trainers.

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Watsons Bay

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 or North Era Beach, and in the winter you can 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. Make sure you pack wisely.

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Royal National Park

North Head

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 views of the sea and the most common whales spotted along the Northern Beaches are the humpback and southern right whales. Sydney Harbour National Park has park entry fees at North Head carparks, open from 6am-8pm daily. 


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Kamay Botany Bay National Park

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, undoubtedly one of the best spots to go whale watching in the city. Information on the whales can be found near the lookout and whales have been known to swim 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.

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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 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. 


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Whale watching tours

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!

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There's an app!

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.

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Take a hike

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.

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By: Time Out editors