Whale watching Sydney 2019

Your Guide to Whale Watching in Sydney in 2024

As a yearly routine in Sydney, I go for a whale watching tour every year during the whale watching season. I have always loved the whales and like to go up close (well, as much as possible) to see them in their natural habitat. The whale watching can be done by boat or from the mainland in Sydney during the whale migratory season.

Did you know that there are around 45 species of whales? The Humpback whale is the most common type of whale seen in Australia.

PIN for later reference – Whale Watching in Sydney

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PIN for later reference – Whale Watching in Sydney

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When is the Whale Migration Season in Sydney?

Whale migration happens between May and November in Australia. In the first part of the season, the humpback whales, including the pregnant whales, are seen heading from the south (Antarctica) to the north (Queensland).

In the second part of the season, the whales and their calves head back from the north (Queensland) to the south (Antarctica) again. They do this every year to escape the harsh, cold waters.

Did you know that a whale can migrate up to 5000 kilometres? And they do this every single year.

These whales migrate to warmer waters in Queensland, where the pregnant whales give birth to their calves. The types of whales we generally see near Sydney are the Humpback whales.

Even though the whales migrate between May and November, the best time to view them is during June and July, as there are higher chances of spotting them.

Whale watching in Sydney

Where Can You Spot Whales In Sydney?

Are you in Sydney during the winter season? Then, read my post about things to do in Sydney Winters to find all the cool things you can do in this beautiful city.

Whale Watching Tour

The best and most assured way to spot whales is by taking a whale-watching tour. The tour operators go up close near the whales, where you can spot one or two of them in that one trip. I have always seen whales every time I have gone on a whale-watching tour. However, there is no guarantee that you can see the whales all the time as we are watching the whales in the wild in their natural habitat, and it is a hit-and-miss.

Whale watching in Sydney

The whale-watching tour costs money, and the bookings must be made in advance. These tours generally last about 2.5 to 3 hours, and they operate twice a day, once in the morning and the other in the afternoon. It does not matter when there are more chances, as the whales can be seen throughout the day. But I like to go in the morning to finish the tour at lunchtime.

In Sydney, these tours depart from either Circular Quay or Darling Harbour. You can easily take public transport to both places, in time for the whale watching tours.

In Australia, tour operators must abide by the law and maintain a distance of 100 yards from the whales. The whales can come closer, which generally happens as the whales are extremely curious.

Whale watching in Sydney

Places to See Whales from the Mainland

Sydney has plenty of places where whales can be seen from the mainland. I always suggest going on a coastal walk where you can see these whales better. Watching these gentle giants from the mainland is free and can be done whenever you want.

Some of the walks that I can recommend are:

One place I can vouch for and where I saw the whales from the mainland is in the Bouddi National Park. Sitting on the cliff by the ocean for around 30 minutes, I saw at least eight whales.

How Do You Book and How Much Does the Whale-Watching Tour Cost?

Whale-watching tours in Sydney have many variances. They come with lunch, morning tea or just the whale watching tour. Some meetups conduct whale-watching photography tours.

Over the years, I have realised that there are always deals on Viator or GetYourGuide websites for whale watching. I have bought these tours many times and been with many tour operators. Every one of these tour operators is great. Since Australia has strict rules for wildlife, these tour operators have to abide by them, and this is perfect because the whales are treated with respect.

Whale watching in Sydney

The whale watching tours start from AUD 69 per person, and as I mentioned, these prices differ based on what add-ons or the type of boat you go on.

Swimming With Whales

Did you know there are a few spots along the East Coast of Australia where one can swim with humpback whales? Jervis Bay is the closest place near Sydney to swim with the whales. These swimming tours are run by the operator Dive Jervis Bay, and the cost of one trip is AUD 180 per adult.

The other place on the East Coast where you can swim with humpback whales is Mooloolaba in Queensland. Organised by Sunreef Mooloolaba, these swimming with whale-tours start from AUD 229 per adult.

How to Spot the Humpback Whales?

The number one rule is to look out for a blow on the surface. Whales blow out air/ water, creating a fountain (type). And if you see that blow on the surface, a whale is nearby.

Whale watching in Sydney

Important Tips for Your Whale-Watching Tour

  • Ensure you take a seasickness tablet before getting onto the boat. The ocean is generally rough and rogue, and the boat is rocky. The last tour I went on, the height of each wave was close to 2 metres and 2.5 hours of a roller coaster ride. Most of them on the boat fall sick.
  • And one more tip: when you feel seasick, the best place to be is in the open, with fresh air.
  • Buy the vouchers from Viator or GetYourGuide rather than the actual whale-watching tour websites to get discounts.
  • Book your whale-watching tour in advance.
  • Ensure to call and confirm the tour a day before the actual booking day, as sometimes, because of the weather; the whale-watching tours get cancelled.
  • Check the departing point from the operator. As mentioned, some boats leave Circular Quay and others from Darling Harbour.
  • If watching the whales from the mainland, carry a binocular for better visibility.
  • Wear warm clothes as the ocean gets very chilly.

My Whale-Watching Stories Over The Years

The Year 2019

In 2019, the whale-watching tour held a deeply profound significance for me. Despite witnessing many spectacular sights throughout my life, I had never experienced such intense emotions until that moment. As I beheld the awe-inspiring sight of two whales gracefully swimming near our boat, I was overcome with joy and emotion. It was unprecedented, as I had never shed tears while observing wildlife. The entire experience was thrilling and breathtaking, leaving an indelible imprint on my memory that I will cherish forever.

Whale watching in Sydney

The Year 2018

Guess what’s back? It’s the Humpback Whales, and they’ve returned to grace us with their presence again – my absolute favourite part of winter! It’s officially whale season from mid-May to mid-October, and there’s no way I could resist the opportunity to witness these majestic mammals in action. This trip marks the first of many more to come this year.


For this excursion, I opted for the Harbour Cat Sydney tour. Priced at around AUD 39 (discounted rate) for a 3-hour journey aboard a cozy small party boat, the tour also included a delightful afternoon tea. Our guide and instructor, Colin, was simply fantastic. We wasted no time as we set sail straight towards the ocean.

Our first encounter was with a breathtaking humpback whale, which Colin informed us was a pregnant female. It’s fascinating to note that pregnant whales migrate northward towards the Great Barrier Reef to give birth in warmer waters during this time. Once their calves are born, they journey back southward. I find watching the calves particularly enchanting – they’re curious and often breach more frequently than their mothers.


During our tour, the pregnant whale treated us to a single breach, but unfortunately, my camera wasn’t quick enough to capture the moment. Undeterred, Colin guided us further into the ocean, where we were treated to the sight of two more whales surfacing, exhaling plumes of air, and gracefully descending beneath the waves. It was truly a spectacular sight, reaffirming my deep admiration for these magnificent creatures.

The Year 2017

A while back, I shared a photo on Instagram reflecting on my whale-watching experience:

“I don’t care what anyone thinks of me.

Except whales…

I want whales to like me.”

And I truly meant every word. My affinity for whales runs deep, and I genuinely desire their approval because I admire them. That’s precisely why I make it a point to go whale watching at least once every year without fail. Even when it seemed like this year’s tradition might be broken, my friend Vijay ensured it didn’t happen, and for that, I’m incredibly grateful.

The Year 2016

As part of my annual pilgrimage, I embarked on whale-watching tours twice this year, opting for different tour companies each time. One of the standout experiences was the Thunder Jet boat tour, which impressed me thoroughly. The Thunder Jet, a compact vessel, promises passengers a memorable encounter with these majestic creatures. For me, it marked the first experience of being in such proximity to these gentle giants, making it a truly unforgettable moment.

The Year 2015

Whale season, they had returned once more! Between April and August, humpback whales undertake their annual migration from the southern to the northern parts of Australia, known as the Northern migration. And without fail, every year, I seize the opportunity to embark on a tour and witness these magnificent creatures in action.

Over the past three years, I’ve participated in numerous whale-watching tours. Still, none compare to the exceptional service provided by Captain Cook Cruises. They go above and beyond to ensure that every passenger on board has an unforgettable experience and their booking process is hassle-free.

My first whale-watching tour of the season took place on June 13, 2015, and it remains one of the most remarkable experiences I’ve ever had.

After navigating the ocean for about an hour, we were treated to an extraordinary sight: a young juvenile whale, approximately two years old, according to our captain, who put on an impressive show of continuous breaching for an hour to an hour and a half. It was indeed a sight to behold!

However, one particular incident stands out in my memory. Despite having seen many whales, this interaction was exceptionally close and heartfelt. As the juvenile whale breached repeatedly, all of us onboard were captivated, snapping countless photos. Suddenly, the whale decided to swim beneath our boat, gliding from the left to the right side. We rushed to the opposite edge of the deck to catch a glimpse as he emerged gracefully from the water on the right side without ever touching our vessel. It was a breathtaking spectacle of nature’s grandeur.

I was overwhelmed by the experience and regret not capturing it on video. Nonetheless, Captain Cook Cruises announced a challenge upon our return to the Wharf: whoever had captured the best photos of the breaching whale would receive a free ticket for a future whale-watching tour. To my delight, I was awarded a free ticket, a testament to the unforgettable encounter I had been blessed to witness.

Whale watching Sydney

“Willie” Got His Name After “Willy”

On August 9, 2015, we commemorated Willie’s birthday. He would have turned six years old on that day.

Willie (his picture posted here for context only)
Willie (his picture here is for context only)

In honour of our beloved Willie, we celebrated his special day with a whale-watching tour. Why a whale-watching tour, you ask? Well, Willie was named after the iconic whale ‘Willy’ from the movie ‘Free Willy,’ making it the perfect way to pay tribute to our cherished friend.

Whale watching Sydney

Closing Notes

For fellow wildlife enthusiasts, I wholeheartedly endorse embarking on a whale-watching tour to witness the breathtaking beauty of these majestic gentle giants. Experience the awe-inspiring sight of whales in their natural habitat and create unforgettable memories. Happy Whale Watching!

If you’ve had the privilege of encountering whales, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Feel free to reach out to me at Solopassport@gmail.com.

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Your Guide to Whale Watching in Sydney in 2024
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    PIN for later reference – Whale Watching in Sydney

    PIN for later reference - Whale Watching Sydney
    PIN for later reference – Whale Watching Sydney