The ultimate guide to whale watching in Byron Bay

As the most easterly point on the Australian mainland, Byron Bay has a front row seat to the annual whale migration along the Humpback Highway. Spot these gentle giants as they breach and blow – whether from shore, on a cruise or in a kayak.   

Destination NSW

Destination NSW

Aug 2023 -
min read

When can you see whales in Byron Bay?

Every year, from May through November, more than 25,000 humpback whales travel up and down the east coast of Australia on their annual migratory path from Antarctica. They linger in the warm waters off the Byron Bay coast, the most easterly point on the mainland, providing ample opportunities for whale watching. It's important to note that while you can spot them as early as May, tours generally don't start operating until June. 

Whale from the boat breaching, Wild Byron

Wild Byron, Byron Bay - Credit: Wild Byron

Whale-watching on dry land   

The Cape Byron Headland Reserve is where thousands of morning people flock every year to watch the first sunrise across mainland Australia – this is the continent’s most easterly point (islands excluded). Views abound for observing migrating whales, whether you’re at the whitewashed Cape Byron Lighthouse that gleams year-round, or wandering through glorious coastal forest to deserted beaches.    

Travel just 30 minutes south to coastal Ballina to watch whale acrobatics from Lighthouse Beach (also a hotspot for seabirds and dolphins), or from the viewing platforms at Angels Beach, Flat Rock and Skennars Head. In between Byron and Ballina, Rocky Point and the Pat Morton Lookout in Lennox Head also provide ideal vantages.    

To experience the best such vistas up and down the coast, book a tour taking you to top whale-watching locations with Boomerang Bus Byron Bay.    

Lennox Head in Northern Rivers - Byron Bay - North Coast

Lennox Head, Northern Rivers 

Whale-watching from the water   

Want to get closer to the whale-watching action? Companies along the coast offer eco-friendly cruises out to ogle these agile creatures in their natural environment. Try Blue Bay Whale Watching, Wild Byron or Out of the Blue Adventures – the latter is the only tour in the area with a marine biologist on board.    

Some cruise boats have hydrophones that let you listen to humpback whales singing; many are escorted by experienced marine biologists with expert insight into these fascinating creatures.

Humpback whale breaching and rolling

Humpback whale breaching, Byron Bay - Credit: Wild About Whales, National Parks

For eye-level encounters with the whales, take a tour with Go Sea Kayak Byron Bay or Cape Byron Kayaks, or snorkel around Julian Rocks with Sundive Byron Bay. If you have your own equipment, paddle and snorkel through Cape Byron Marine Park to enjoy dolphins and whales in your wake. Does it get any better than this?     

Aerial over a guided kayak tour with Go Sea Kayak, Byron Bay

Go Sea Kayak, Byron Bay

Accommodation in Byron Bay with ocean views

What could be more memorable than spotting one of the ocean's gentle giants from your front porch? The Assistant Lighthouse Keepers' Cottages enjoy sweeping views of the coastline surrounding the Cape Byron Lighthouse – there are two cottages, each with three bedrooms, sleeping up to six.

Also boasting spectacular coastal vistas, as well as direct access to one of Byron's best beaches, Mildenhall Cottage is perfect for those wanting to spend their holiday in the water – and potentially spotting whales from the verandah. Other fantastic beachside retreats include Shambhala at Byron, Raes on Wategos, Heroes at Wategos. The Hawk and Reflections Holiday Parks Byron Bay.

Balcony view of Assistant Lighthouse Keepers Cottages, Cape Byron State Conservation Area

Assistant Lighthouse Keepers Cottages, Cape Byron State Conservation Area - Credit: John Spencer, DPE

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