Every year, people from around the globe flock to Australia during whale watching season. Our coastline offers some of the best places to see whales up close and there are a variety of whale watching cruises available to choose from. Don’t miss the opportunity to see these breathtaking creatures.
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Whale watching in Australia
A variety of species of whale can be found in the waters around Australia’s coast and during whale watching season there are plenty of opportunities to see these majestic marine mammals up close.
Southern right whales and humpback whales are most commonly spotted on these trips, but you may also see minke whales, orcas, blue whales and more. Around 45 species of whales, porpoises and dolphins are found in Australian waters, in all.
Around the coast, you’ll find a number of whale watching cruises and tours running between May and November. The reason? Thousands of whales are on the move. After spending the summer feeding in Antarctica, humpbacks and southern right whales start to move north to warmer waters (such as Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef) in late autumn to give birth.
During this time, you can see whales in breeding ground all along the east, west and south coasts of the country. They make the return journey, with their newborn, in spring. Charter boats are experts in taking you out to see whales during this time. When whales are sighted they’ll stop the boat at an appropriate distance, giving you chance to watch, take photos and, often, pause to catch you breathe at this incredible sight!
What kinds of whale watching trips are available?
As well as offering whale watching tours in a variety of locations, there are trips to cover all kinds of budgets and needs. Typically, you’ll be out on the water for between 2 to 3.5 hours, but check with the provider to find a length of time that suits you.
Some trips run for longer and make a real day of it, stopping at scenic locations along the way or supplying morning or afternoon tea and lunch. You can even turn it into a full day experience, the Whale Watching Sailing Catamaran Cruise in Exmouth is one trip that offers this, giving those on board the chance to take a swim and passing other points of interest.
Whale cruises can be a great way to learn too, with many tours providing interesting and informative commentary, covering everything from their migrating habits to their life cycle.
What’s the best whale watching vessel for you?
Whale watching RIB, ferry or catamaran? All are options available to you, and it’s worth thinking about what you’d prefer.
If you’re limited on time, or simply want to add an extra thrill to the activity you can hop on a sturdy and stable ocean RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat). This gets you out to the action fast and, with its position low to the water, gives you a unique and unobstructed viewpoint. Wind and waterproof jackets are supplied to give you protection from the splashing water. Sound good? One option to consider is the Extreme Whale Watching Safari, departing Sydney’s Circular Quay and Manly Wharf. Tours run morning, mid-morning and early afternoon.
If comfort is more important to you, then a bigger, more stable boat is likely to be a better choice. Many trips offer comfortable seats and refreshments, as well as the space to walk around and stretch your legs.
To travel in real style you could watch from the VIP Captain’s Lounge. Departing from Freemantle, Perth, this trip gives you access to the best seats in the house. It also has an underwater camera, giving you a glimpse below the surface, to see the life of whales and other local marine life without the need to get wet.
The hydrophone means you can even hear the whales while you watch from a comfortable seat on the on-board Whale Theatre. You can also enjoy local wines, beers, soft drinks, juice, coffee, tea and canapes during the tour.
What time of day is best for whale watching?
You’ll also want to think about the time of day you depart. Would you prefer a morning or afternoon experience? During whale watching season some providers run multiple tours throughout the day, but check to see when the waters are calmest (often this is in the morning) as this can make for a more comfortable journey and better sightings.
What is the best place in Australia to see whales?
New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria all offer great whale spotting opportunities. With a range of whale watching trips to choose from, which area is best is a matter of opinion. The truth is, all offer the chance to see these incredible animals in their natural habitat, usually with some amazing scenery to enjoy from the boat.
You may find there’s a whale watch experience close to home or where you’re on holiday, or you could be inspired to take a trip somewhere close to a location where it’s available. Some cruises even offer a sighting guarantee, offering you another trip during the same season for free if you fail to spot whales. Most trips will be expert at tracking whales and boats communicate with each other to report sightings. Some even have technology on board to allow you to listen to whales underwater!
Go whale watching today!
It’s incredibly enjoyable to see a gigantic whale cruising beside you as though you were part of its pod. You can also expect to see tail slaps, breaches, fluke dives, spy hopping and peduncle throws. These whale watching experiences offer what will probably be one of the biggest “wow moments” you’ll ever have.
While you can never guarantee sightings (these are wild animals after all!), Australia’s waters are exceptionally rich in whale life, meaning the vast majority of boats see whales (and much more besides). And if for some reason the whales just aren’t out to play that day, many whale watching experiences offer sighting guarantees. Book today and don’t forget to take your camera!