Sign up for whale spotting tours, or to join the indigenous saltwater people celebrate this annual migration through ceremonies, festivals and more. The peak periods are July and September.
1. Port Macquarie
Home to the second most easterly point in NSW, Port Macquarie ensures close-up encounters just metres off the coast, and tours that take less travel time out to open ocean to find the whales. The 9km coastal walk from Town Beach to Lighthouse Beach hugs the coastline and offers stunning vantage points and a number of seats at different headlands along the way for whale watching encounters. For those looking for an adrenaline-filled experience, Port Jet’s Wave Rider can reach speeds of up to 100km/h, making it one of the fastest commercial boats offering whale watching cruises.
Ballina Head Lookout on the North Coast, located between Shelly and Lighthouse beaches, offers panoramic views over the sparkling blue water out to the Pacific Ocean. Enjoy whale spotting from this headland, or stroll down onto the beach and watch the whales go by as you swim or as you enjoy a meal at the cafe above the surf club at Lighthouse Beach. Another great spot in Ballina is the Black Head viewing platform, which is easily accessible on a short walk through a rainforest.
3. Iluka and Wolli
Iluka Bluff is a dedicated whale-watching platform that offers 360-degree views along the coast. Local tour operator Wooli Deep Sea Tours runs whale watching tours that includes cruising in the beautiful Solitary Island Marine Park, home to a rich abundance of sea life, including dolphins and turtles.
4. Port Stephens
For land-based whale spotting, set out with your binoculars to locations like Tomaree Headland, Barry Park at Fingal Bay, Fishermans Bay, Birubi Point and Stockton Beach. A favourite spot for whale sightings is the Boat Harbour headland, off Noamunga Street. Look for a ‘V’-shaped puff of spray as the whale surfaces. Humpbacks are the most surface active of all the whales, so you might even see tail slaps, pectoral fin waves, body rolls and the mighty breach.
Book a tour with NOVA Cruises departing from Newcastle Harbour, which is only a short trip out into open water to find the whales. For land-based whale spotting in Newcastle, try Shepherds Hill Lookout, a popular spot with the locals.
6. Lake Macquarie
With spectacular ocean views for most of the way, Caves Beach Walk is just the spot for whale watching. This picturesque coastal bushwalk traverses the cliff tops south from Caves Beach to secluded Pinny Beach in the Wallarah National Park. Also not to be missed are the views from Redhead Bluff, a red rocky headland that offers views that stretch across the ocean and south over Nine Mile Beach towards Blacksmiths and Swansea – a prime cetacean spotting location.
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7. Central Coast
The whale is the totem of the local Darkinjung people of the Central Coast, which plays host to a series of whale talks at Crackneck Point (below) over a number of weekends. For more details, call the local National Parks and Wildlife Service office on the Central Coast.
8. Jervis Bay
Jervis Bay marks the halfway point for the 4,000km whale migration, so it’s no wonder many of the cetaceans use the bay’s waters as a resting point and a place for the newborn calves to learn, play and rest. Jervis Bay Wild provides whale-watching tours that get you up close to these majestic animals as they enjoy the calm waters of Jervis Bay. For land-based viewing, go to Penguin Head at Culburra and the viewing platform in Booderee National Park, located at Cape St George Lighthouse. Whales have also been spotted from Caves Beach in Booderee National Park, a popular camping spot.
9. Montague Island and Narooma
Narooma Charters runs regular whale-watching tours to the stunning Montague Island which sits off the coast of Narooma (above). In recent years southern right whales, fin whales, Bryde’s whales, sei whales and blue whales have also all been seen off Narooma, and the extremely rare albino humpbacks called Migaloo and Migaloo Junior (MJ) have also been sighted. In 2011, MJ was photographed off the coast near Montague Island by Daryl Stuart of Narooma Charters, in a stunning lunging pose. The angle of this cheeky pose has been of great help to scientists in identifying its gender. This year, MJ will be seven years old and not quite so junior anymore.
10. Broulee & Moruya Head
A top spot on the South Coast is Broulee Island at Broulee (below), which is joined to the mainland by a sandbar so it’s always accessible. Whales in season and dolphins all year round may be sighted from any side of the island which takes about an hour to walk around. Also don’t miss Toragy Point at Moruya Heads, this lookout offers great views of the giant creatures along the north coast and interpretive signage about whales and marine life.
Renowned as one of Australia’s best spots for whale watching, Eden’s calm Twofold Bay offers respite for young calves before making their final leg of the journey south and is one of the few places in the world that humpback whales feed on their southern migration in spring. The Eden Whale Festival, from November 3 to 5 is the perfect time to celebrate all things cetacean. The festival is the chance to get out on the water with Cat Balou (below) or Freedom Charters for a sea-based whale-spotting experience, join a land based tour, visit the historic Davidson Whaling Station to hear about the strong history of Eden and its whales, as well as feast on local produce and enjoy entertainment, music and films.
– TEXT BY PEH YIWEN
PHOTOS: SUPPLIED, INSTAGRAM, NOVA CRUISES FACEBOOK, JOHN HICKS, EUROBODALLA COAST TOURISM DESTINATION NSW, EMMA SCOTT
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.