Whale Watching in Sydney Harbour

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The whale migration season has started with over 20,000 whales expected to head north along the eastern Australian coast over the next few months. From May to July, the whales migrate from the Antarctic to warmer northern waters to breed, and can be seen returning south between September and November. The most common are the humpback and southern right whales, although minke and blue whales make the occasional appearance

Sydney offers some of the best places to see the migrating mammals as they pass this iconic city with its spectacular coastline. Occasionally the whales actually enter Sydney Harbour, to the delight of locals and those on whale watching boats, and social media goes wild with images as they breach and blow within one of the most beautiful harbours in the world.

There are many whale watching tour boats operating from Sydney, providing a close-up view of the whales as they frolic and even appear at times to be observing the whale watchers. Cruises run daily during the season and depart from Circular Quay, Darling Harbour and Manly Wharf.

Whales Passing Q-Station, Manly
Whales Passing Q-Station, Manly          Image: Wiki CC

Instead of taking a boat however, you might prefer to observe Sydney’s whales from land. Two of the most popular locations are North Head, a short walk from Manly, and the Barrenjoy Lighthouse in the Kuringai Chase National Park.

North Head offers magnificent views across Sydney Harbour, out to sea and back towards Manly Cove, presenting visitors with a perfect view of whales in the ocean as well as within Sydney Harbour. You can access viewing platforms via a one kilometer track that winds through the natural bushland of the Sydney Harbour National Park.

Q-Station, formally known as North Head Quarantine Station, is also located at North Head and provides good views of the harbour close to the scenic shore line.

Barrenjoy Head
View to Barrenjoey Point         Image: Michele Solmi

One hour drive north of Sydney is the Barrenjoey Lighthouse, 91 metres above sea level within the Kuringai Chase National Park, which can be reached by a picturesque 1 kilometre walking track. The high viewing location provides a superb vantage point for spotting whales.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) recently launched Wild About Whales, a fascinating website educating people about the species, as well as providing a guide to sightings, the best viewing spots, maps and tours. You can even download the Smartphone app that will help you find the best national parks along the coastline for some great whale watching.

Main photo courtesy Whale Watching Sydney. For more great photos of whales in Sydney Harbour, visit the Gallery page at Whale Watching Sydney.

Cotswald Outdoor