Whether you're on a headland in Sydney or a tour boat at Byron Bay, the sight of a fifty-tonne whale lifting itself out of the water is something everyone should see at least once. You'll find prime whale-watching opportunities up and down NSW's east coast. The annual whale migration runs from May to November every year with peaks in July and September.
Whale Watching in NSW
When it comes to whale watching, Australia's pretty lucky. There are at least 45 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises found in Australian waters. In Sydney, whale sightings date back long before colonial times in fact, some Aboriginal rock engravings of whales found around the Sydney Harbour Foreshore are estimated to be over 1000 years old. Beaches and headlands around the coast offer great whale watching, especially Palm Beach headland, Bradley's Head in Mosman and North Head in Manly.
Sightings south of Sydney are best at Stanwell Tops near Wollongong, or join a group hike with Royal Coast Walks which organises whale watching adventures in the Royal National Park. Heading down the coast, you'll find great vantage points at the Kiama Blowhole, Gerroa in Seven Mile Beach National Park, Jervis Bay's Booderee National Park, Beecroft Peninsula and in Culburra, Bateman's Bay and Ulladulla on the far south coast.
North of Sydney in Newcastle and the Central Coast, whale fans are spoilt for choice. The whale is an important totem for the Darkinjung people of the Central Coast, and the gentle giants can be sighted at Terrigal Skillion, The Entrance, the Bush Street Reserve Norah Head Lighthouse, Soldiers Beach in Toukley and Crackneck Lookout in Wyrrabelong National Park. Redhead Bluff in the Awabakal Nature Reserve is arguably the best view in Newcastle, and Central Coast Charters & Nova Cruises run whale-watching tours from June to November.
On the mid-north coast, migrating whales are often seen from the bays, beaches and foreshores around Port Stephens, and in Tuncurry/Foster further north. Lighthouse Beach at Port Macquarie and Crowdy Head at Crowdy Bay National Park are also prime viewing spots, as is Woolgoolga Headland on the Coffs Coast and Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve in Coffs Harbour. Further north around Byron, prime spots to park yourself during the season include the breathtaking headlands at Ballina, Lennox Head and Byron Bay's Cape Byron.
If you decide to take a tour, many of the whale-watching vessels are equipped with hydrophones so passengers can listen to whales singing. The sensitivity of these devices can be limited, though, and new state-of-the-art underwater microphones are on the way which scientists believe could have benefits on migration tracking and future whale research.
For more information on whales please visit www.wildaboutwhales.com.au