Top whale-watching tours & vantage points in Port Macquarie

The Port Macquarie region is an ideal location to witness the annual migration of whales between May and November, with plenty of on-land vantage points, cruises and even accommodation where you can get a close-up view of these magnificent giants at play.

Destination NSW

Destination NSW

May 2024 -
min read

When can you see whales in Port Macquarie? 

If you thought whales themselves were impressive, wait until you hear about their migratory patterns. Every year, around 30,000 humpback whales make the longest mammal migration in the world, travelling more than 5,000km from their feeding grounds in the Antarctic to the sub-tropical waters of Queensland where they breed. Then they make the trek back home in reverse during spring, with their calves at foot. 

Following a migration channel close to shore, they can be spotted any time between May and November, with the blue waters of Port Macquarie one of the best places along the coast for reliable sightings. From a viewing perspective, humpbacks are the stars of the whale-watching season, because they breach – rise and break through the surface of the water – and turn while in the air. 

Keep an eye out, too, for the rarer southern right whales, which have two blowholes that exhale a distinctive V-shaped plume up to five metres and are known for swimming into shallow bays. You might see southern rights and humpbacks spy-hopping, when they raise their heads out of the water and hold in a vertical position for a moment as they look around. Tail slapping is another striking display: it's when a whale lifts its fluke – tail – out of the water and then slaps it against the water. 

Humpback Whale breaching off Point Plomer, Port Macquarie

Point Plomer, Port Macquarie

Land-based lookouts 

There are near endless vantage points along the Port Macquarie coastline for spotting whales during migration, from a heritage-listed lighthouse and beach headlands to lofty lookouts in national parks.  

Lace up your walking shoes and tackle the trails that weave through Kattang Nature Reserve and the Crowdy Bay National Park, near Laurieton and North Haven – both have spectacular lookouts where you can soak up ocean views, spot whales and take a rest between treks. In Kattang, be sure to make a beeline for Perpendicular PointandCharles Hamey lookout. In Crowdy Bay, linger at Diamond Head and Mermaid lookout for unbroken ocean vistas.  

Coastal walking track at Perpendicular Point in the Kattang Nature Reserve, Camden Head

Perpendicular Point, Camden Head

Closer to home, the Port Macquarie coastal walkbegins at the Town Green foreshore, winding along the coast via Town Beach, Rocky Beach lookout, Nobby’s Beach and Harry's lookout overlooking Shelly Beach and on to Sea Acres. It ends at the Tacking Point Lighthouse, built in 1879 and a glorious spot to set out a picnic rug and watch for whales.  

Grants Head, at the northern end of Grants Beach, is another popular spot among whale-watching enthusiasts, accessed via a pretty coastal walk through native forest.  

Scenic views across the Port Macquarie coastline, North Coast

Tacking Point Lighthouse, Port Macquarie

Whale-watching tours & cruises 

It’s thrilling to spot whales from the shore, and even more exciting when you get the chance to be close to them at sea. A number of ethical operators ply Port Macquarie’s waters, including Port Jet Cruise Adventures, which offers whale-watching cruises from May to November, with two different experiences: one on the speedy Waverider, and the other on the Essence catamaran with three viewing decks and underwater viewing windows. Spotters direct the boats to the best sightings, allowing passengers optimum viewing time on the water. 

For a bird's-eye view of the action, take to the air for a scenic flight with Port Macquarie Seaplanes, Eastern Air Services or Affinity Aviation.  

People enjoying the Wave Rider at Port Jet Cruise Adventures, Port Macquarie

Port Jet Cruise Adventures, Port Macquarie

Spotting dolphins, seals & other marine life 

There are 45 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises – all members of the Cetacea order – swimming in Australian waters. You’ll see bottlenose dolphins frolicking in the Hastings River estuary and chasing fish in the waters just off the sandy beaches that hug the curves of the Greater Port Macquarie coast. 

Join a leisurely journey along the Hastings River with Port AdVenture Cruises, which offers dolphin-spotting expeditions during the day as well as at sunset. The latter is particularly beguiling. The Australian Cruise Group and Port Jet Cruise Adventures host similar experiences.  

You can also witness marine life with your head under the water when you sign up to dive with Scuba Haven, taking you to spots around Port Macquarie and Laurieton. Expect to glimpse schools of cod, grey nurse sharks, stingrays, moray eels, soft sponges and colourful corals.   

Wave Rider, Port Jet Cruises in Port Macquarie, North Coast

Port Jet Cruises, Port Macquarie

Accommodation with ocean views 

There are plenty of places to stay in Port Macquarie with water views, from ritzy resorts, apartments and beach houses to camping and holiday parks, such as the NRMA Port Macquarie Breakwall Holiday Park. 

Check in to Country Comfort Port Macquarie Waters Edge for sleek rooms with sea views, just steps from the town’s most happening dining precincts. The Rydges Port Macquarie takes your stay up a notch with a stellar ocean outlook, whether from your room with private patio or from the restaurant. If you’re travelling with a group, you’ll want to book Drift Beach House, replete with five bedrooms, an outdoor pool and stunning Pacific vistas. You can also walk to restaurants and cafes in town.  

Other places to check in with beach views include the Ibis Styles; three apartments at Blue Vista, opposite Town Beach; and Sails Port Macquarie by Rydges (the pool is a hit). 

Scenic views of the Hastings River from Sails Port Macquarie, Port Macquarie

 Hastings River from Sails Port Macquarie, Port Macquarie

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