It’s that time of year again. Humpback and southern right whales – the majestic marine monsters of the deep – are currently travelling from Antarctica to Australia’s northern waters to breed. If you’re wondering where you can witness this wonderful rolling, spurting, barnacle busting bonanza, here’s my top five whale watching spots in Australia.
Tip: Make an effort this year, as experts predict this whale season (which runs from May to November) is the biggest in 50 years. Whales are on the rise!
Jervis Bay, NSW
One of my all time favourite places in Australia, Jervis Bay is home to Hyams Beach – which reputedly has the whitest sand in the world – and is a favoured locale for humpbacks. It’s a superb spot to see these terrific titanic travellers, especially from the comfort of a boat. Luckily for me I often travel with my good friend and photographer Dee Kramer, who snapped some great shots here (the biggest lens I have is 85mm).
Tip: Try and catch the whales heading north (before they return), as they usually stay within five kilometres of the shore to avoid the East Australian Current.
The Great Barrier Reef, QLD
If you’re headed to Port Douglas anytime soon, head out to the Great Barrier Reef. I was on a boat ride to Opal Reef last August, a mere 50 kilometres offshore from Port Douglas, when humpback whales began breaching not 50 metres from our boat. I snapped the shot above with a 50mm lens, they were that close. Watching these mountainous mammals play around the bow of our boat was an incredible experience.
Tip: You don’t have to be in a boat to see the action – Australia has some of the best headlands and bays for whale watching in the world (see below).
Bays – Bruny Island, Tasmania
May to July and September through to December are the best times to see whales from Bruny Island, when they’re often stopping for a rest in Adventure Bay. Minke and orca whales have also been spotted here, and I was lucky enough to see several southern right whales flopping in the vicinity. The bay is a known whale hangout, so there’s a good chance you’ll catch sight of a few.
Fact: Right whales were so named as they were just right for whaling – slower and easy to catch.
Headlands – Cape Byron, NSW
I’m often strolling around Cape Byron, the most easterly point on the Australian mainland, as it’s just down the road from where I live. Not only is the lighthouse area a magnificent place for a stroll, it’s an excellent spot to view some handsome hefty humpbacks (between June and November). The headland beneath the lighthouse is particularly good, where I took the photo below just a few weeks ago. Arrgghh, I really do need a zoom lens.
Fact: Migaloo, or ‘white fella’, as he is affectionately known, is the only all-white humpback whale in the world. Just a few weeks ago he was reportedly seen flopping around nearby Brunswick Heads.
Albany, Western Australia
If you’re over in the west this time of year, head down to Albany. It’s a wonderful little seaside town and is a smashing spot for whale watching. Southern right whales hang out and give birth in the bays tucked around Albany, while humpbacks migrate north to Broome – all between June and November.
Of course there’s quite a few other first-rate whale watching spots in Australia. These are the places I have visited and can personally recommend. If you’re near any of them, make the effort to get out and watch our calm, colossal cousins in action.
This year’s the year!