Whale Watching Tour Sydney - whale breaching during annual migration

Get Ready for Sydney’s Whale Watching Season: 5 Awesome Viewing Locations You Can’t Miss!

April 30, 2024

Sydney Harbour, with its iconic landmarks, vibrant culture and bustling activity, might seem like an unlikely place for whale watching. However, hidden beneath the surface of these busy waters lies another awe-inspiring sight not to be missed – over 30,000 Humpback Whales making the 3,500km journey along the East Coast of Australia for their annual migration.

Have you always wanted to see whales up close and in their natural habitat? Here we’ll show you 5 of the best locations where you can see whales in Sydney this for free this whale watching season.

The Sydney whale watching season offers visitors and locals alike, a unique opportunity to witness one of mother nature’s most jaw-dropping experiences – whale watching. So whether it’s from land or sea, you can see these majestic giants of the sea as they cruise along our coastline, providing an unforgettable experience for those who seek to witness their grandeur up close.

Join us as we delve into the underwater world of Sydney whale watching. Here we’ll explore where to see whales in Sydney, what are the best viewpoints, why whales behave the way they do, which species you might encounter, and the reasons why whale watching on Sydney Harbour is an experience not to be missed!

Where to See Whales in Sydney? 5 Free, Must-See Locations.

1. Whale Watching from Manly. Unparalleled Views Along Fairfax Walk at North Head

Humpback whale aerial shot, Sydney whale watching season.

Sydney offers a plethora of vantage points for whale watching, both from land and sea, but one of the most popular locations is North Head, Manly. With its spectacular view across the National Park, towards South Head, the vast expanse of ocean provides an excellent vantage point for spotting whales as they pass by. Standing proudly as the gateway to Sydney Harbour, North Head rises a towering eighty metres high, commanding a position further east than any other point in Sydney. As such, from this elevated vantage point, you’ll have an unparalleled view of whales as they swim by.

The Fairfax Walk walking track at North Head Sanctuary, which leads to North Fort and Fairfax Lookout, offers unbeatable views over Sydney Harbour Heads. With three great lookouts, the Fairfax Walk is an ideal destination for spending leisurely afternoons whale watching throughout the winter months.

Bring binoculars, sunscreen, snacks and water. There are drinking fountains between Manly Beach and Shelly Beach, including one fountain at North Head.

2. The Iconic Hornby Lighthouse and The Gap – South Head, Watsons Bay

South Head is a true treasure trove, celebrated for its rugged ocean cliffs, rich military heritage, and the picturesque Hornby Lighthouse that seems straight out of a story book. Yet, what truly captivates are the awe-inspiring ocean panoramas that stretch endlessly before you.

Venturing to The Gap, you’ll encounter an unparalleled lookout offering sweeping vistas of the Tasman Sea and Sydney Harbour. It’s here that you’ll find some of Sydney’s most iconic views, perfect for an unforgettable whale watching experience.

If you’re thinking of a rejuvenating winter swim, make your way to Camp Cove or Lady Bay Beach, where the crystal-clear waters beckon. And don’t forget to pay homage to the Dunbar shipwreck memorial and site, a poignant reminder of the area’s maritime history. After a day of sea air and exploration, indulge in a classic serving of fish and chips, at one of the charming restaurants nestled around Watson’s Bay. Alternatively pack your own picnic, but either way, you should complete your South Head adventure on a delicious note.

3. Whales in Bondi. Bondi Beach Coastal Walk : where even the whales go to be seen!

Whale Watching from Bondi Beach, North Bondi, Ben Buckler lookout

Step away from the hustle and bustle of Bondi and embark on a short journey just north to the tranquil haven of Ben Buckler in North Bondi. Forming the northern tip of the Bondi horseshoe, this point offers wonderful views of the entire beach and a sweeping panorama of the Pacific Ocean.

To get there, take a leisurely stroll along Bondi Beach, away from Icebergs and towards the 235-tonne, car-sized rock near the beach’s northern tip, which was spat out of the sea during a storm in 1912! The lookout is located at the end of Ramsgate Ave, or you can follow the trail that runs along the rocks from the beach.

When it comes to whale watching, altitude is your ally, and the ultimate viewpoint awaits at the Ben Buckler Point lookout. If you plan your visit for the morning when the waves tend to be gentler, you’ll be provided with optimal conditions for spotting whales in their natural habitat.

And once you’re done, you’re in prime position to visit the many fantastic cafe’s, restaurants, bars or pubs on offer in Bondi. The place to be seen, whether you’re a land dwelling, or sea-faring mammal.

Not much of a hiker? Would you prefer a whale watching cruise?

4. Barrenjoey Headland Walk & Lighthouse, Palm Beach

Nestled within the expansive Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, the Barrenjoey Lighthouse sits atop the northern tip of Palm Beach peninsula. Climb the 113 metre-tall heritage-listed lighthouse for an unforgettable opportunity to spot resident humpback whales. Combine your whale watching with a rewarding bushwalk during the winter months. Just be sure to pack a picnic and you can turn it into a full-day adventure.

To reach the lighthouse, embark on an easy and picturesque 1km stroll along the Barrenjoey track. The walk to the summit takes approximately 30 minutes each way from the Governor Phillip parking area. Alternatively, opt for the more challenging Smugglers track. Though steeper and shorter, the Smugglers track rewards hikers with breathtaking views. If you trek up this trail, you’ll reach the Barrenjoey Lighthouse and enjoy front-row seats to the migrating whales as they pass by Sydney.

Witnessing these magnificent creatures frolic in the waters below is an experience that will stay with you long after you’ve left the lighthouse behind. Oh and don’t forget to act out your favourite Home & Away story-line. You may recognise the lighthouse from the Australian TV soap Home and Away and you can find the “Summer Bay Surf Club” nearby.

5. Royal National Park Sydney. Australia’s Oldest National Park.

look for water spurts to spot whales on whale watching tours

Just 30km south of Sydney lies the Royal National Park – or “Nasho” as the locals call it – Australia’s oldest national park. Despite its proximity to the bustling CBD, many Sydneysiders are yet to explore the pristine bushland and stunning coastline spanning over 15,000 hectares. For a day of swimming, trekking, picnicking, or simply an escape from the city, Royal National Park promises an adventure-filled getaway.

If you venture into the park, the picturesque Coast Track beckons, leading you to the rugged New South Wales coastline. Keep an eye out for more than just whales – eagles, silver gulls, terns, and an array of impressive birdlife also call this area home.

But it’s the whale watching season that truly steals the show here. Witnessing these majestic creatures pass within 100 metres of the coastline is a sight to behold. From mothers and calves breaching just below the cliffs to humpbacks rolling on their side to get a closer look, the “Nasho” might just be the whales’ favourite place for a bit of human-watching in Sydney.

Where is the best place to see whales in Sydney? On a cruise!

whale watching cruise, breaching whale, whale calf

Want to get even closer to whales this season? Book a Whale Watching Tour!

The best place to see whales in Sydney is by boat. So for a truly immersive experience, why not consider joining one of our guided whale watching tours departing from Sydney Harbour?

When booking a whale watching tour with us, you’ll be guaranteed a fantastic view of these magnificent creatures from inside or outside your chosen boat. Our vessels are equipped to handle all weather conditions, ensuring your comfort and safety throughout the tour. Plus, our expert guides are Sydney locals, increasing your chances of encountering whales up close and personal.

Boats are subject to proximity restrictions enforced by the New South Wales government. Personal watercraft and whale watching tours must maintain a distance of 100m from the whales. If the whale has calves, the distance requirement increases to 300m.

When choosing a tour, it’s essential to resist the temptation to opt for a shorter excursion. For the ultimate whale watching experience, we recommend selecting a tour lasting between 2 to 4 hours. This duration allows ample time to fully immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the ocean. It also significantly increasing your chances of encountering these beautiful beasts up close!

Want to know more about Whale Watching Cruises?

Whale Watching Tips

whale watching cruise, up close and personal

The When, What and Why You’ll See Whales in Sydney this Season.

Sydney boasts two distinctly different whale watching seasons. Between May and August, you can catch a glimpse of the resident humpback whales as they head north to mate in the warmer waters. Then, later in the year between August and October, you’ll see them heading south with their new calves in tow. They tend to swim a bit slower and stick closer to the shoreline during this migration period.

So what will you see? Whales are known for their fascinating behaviours, especially during specific times of the day. During sunrise, it’s common to witness whales feeding, which often leads to breathtaking sights such as breaching (jumping out of the water) or spy-hopping (rising vertically out of the water to look around for food sources or obstacles).

As the sun sets, you might still catch glimpses of whales in action. Look out for breaching or fluking (lifting their tail flukes out of the water as they dive), as well as socialising and playing. Migrating whales can often be seen close to the shore during this time. In New South Wales, it’s typical to encounter humpback whales, southern right whales, and dolphins. Lucky sightings might also include orcas, blue whales, minke whales, and sperm whales.

Ready to discover the magic of whale watching in Sydney?

Now that you know where to find whales, what to look out for and why they do what they do, you’re ready to venture out on a whale watching adventure! Follow the links above to a lookout near you, or book one of our guided tours departing from Sydney Harbour daily. Don’t miss out on this “bucket-list” experience, book your whale watching tour with us today.

At Sydney Harbour Days, we’ve built partnerships with multiple boats and yacht companies to ensure we can offer you the right option for your event. So why book with us?

  • Local Sydney business with a dedicated and experienced staff member to help you plan your chosen activity
  • An array of great yachts and boats for hire for groups of any size and budget
  • Access to exclusive and private skippered cruises with captain and staff
  • Special ticketed event boats for different occasions and special events on Sydney Harbour
  • Easy & stress-free booking process

And best of all, you pay the same price as booking directly with the boat company but have the ease of having us do the running around for you. Sounds good, right?

Ready to get out on the water?

Contact our team today to get started.