Each year from May to November the coast of New South Wales (NSW) is home to a beautiful phenomenon, the annual whale migration, where an estimated 20,000 whales will travel thousands of kilometres north along the NSW coast for warmer waters.
According to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, over 50% of the world’s cetaceans are found in Australian waters. In Sydney, engravings of whales found around the Harbour Foreshore are estimated to be over 1,000 years old.
From aptly named Whale Beach to Bondi, there’s no need to leave the city to spot these gentle giants – with lookouts, foreshores and national parks in Sydney and surrounds offering the perfect vantage points for whale watching in winter.
Destination NSW CEO, Sandra Chipchase said: “Nothing beats the sight of seeing a whale frolicking in the ocean, and with over 2000kms of coastline in NSW there are numerous vantage points to witness these beautiful mammals without even having to leave the city. I encourage everyone to take advantage of this unique time of the year in Sydney and go whale watching!”
Destination NSW offers these ten suggestions for whale watching in Sydney this winter:
1. Hop aboard a whale watching tour: Sydney’s whale-watching cruise operators have years of experience spotting whales in local waters. There are two, three and four-hour tours on state of the art vessels departing from Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, San Souci and Manly for all ages aboard a variety of different-sized boats
2. Barrenjoey Lighthouse: Barrenjoey Lighthouse stands high up on Barrenjoey Head in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park at Palm Beach on the Northern Beaches. Built in 1881, this heritage lighthouse is a beloved Sydney attraction and the perfect spot to look out for migrating whales. It’s a steep walk to the top but you’ll be rewarded with amazing ocean and Pittwater panoramas
3. North Head Lookout: The northern headland of Sydney Harbour’s magnificent entrance, North Head, has towering heath-covered clifftops, ocean views and a spectacular panorama of the harbour and city skyline. The 1km Fairfax Walking Track is a paved path from the car park to the lookout and provides great vantage points for whale watching
4. Georges Heights Lookout: Georges Heights, in Headland Park, Mosman offers some of the most stunning vantage points for whale watching with uninterrupted views across the harbour. The showpiece of Headland Park, Georges Heights Lookout, is the perfect place to enjoy the panorama from an elegant sandstone platform
5. Freshwater North Headland: In this beautiful park overlooking Freshwater Beach on the Northern Beaches, there’s a circular stone viewing area where you can sit and soak up the stunning seascape as you watch for whales. There’s a car park right on the headland, too, so on particularly chilly days, you can whale watch from inside your vehicle. Steps lead down to Freshwater ocean pool providing access to a lovely boardwalk path along the rocks and round to Curl Curl, with views out to sea and benches for viewing
6. See whales in style from Jonah’s: Sydney’s only Relais & Chateau hotel, Jonah’s, is perched high on the cliff overlooking Whale Beach. Gaze out from the restaurant, gardens and rooms which have unobstructed ocean views; sip on a glass of wine (there are 1600 on the hotel’s wine list) or enjoy something tasty from the hotel’s acclaimed restaurant as you watch whales passing close to shore. The Jonah’s restaurant team are on constant whale alert, letting guests know as soon as they spot one, with binoculars at the ready
7. Cape Solander: The viewing platform at Cape Solander in Botany Bay National Park is known as one of the best whale-watching locations in Sydney. The site is also part of a long-running, whale-counting volunteer program from June to July each year when volunteers count every whale that they see pass by for the National Park and Wildlife Service
8. Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk: It’s no surprise this coastal walk, winding along 6km of beautiful Eastern Suburbs ocean coastline, is one of Sydney’s most-loved attractions. As you follow the trail along cliffs and around bays through Marks Park, Mackenzies Point Beach, Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly and Coogee, you’ll come across numerous whale-watching vantage points; fellow walkers are quick to alert others if they spot a whale. It’s a great way to combine walking with whale-spotting
9. South Head Heritage Trail: Located next to beautiful Camp Cove Beach in Watsons Bay, this short loop track meanders along the coastline and clifftops, with the best whale-viewing spot at Gap Bluff. Along the way, you’ll see historic gun emplacements, native bushland, a heritage signal station, Macquarie Lighthouse and lighthouse keeper’s cottages. Afterwards, relax on the top deck at Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel. Last season, a frolicking mother and calf were sighted from this chilled-out location
10. Royal National Park: The world’s second oldest national park is within an hour’s drive of the CBD. Sydneysiders regard the 16,000ha Royal National Park as their big beautiful backyard, a place to roam the stunning coastline, camp, be close to nature – and see whales swim by. The 30k Coast Walk, skirting the park’s eastern edge along towering sandstone cliffs, delivers exceptional coastal scenery and frequent glimpses of the travelling whales.