It’s that time of the year where people along the east and west coast of Australia turn their attention to the sea.
The warmer tropical climate of Queensland and north West Australia not only beckons those wishing to escape the colder southern winter, the yearly migration of Humpback, Minke and Southern Right whales from the cold Antarctic waters takes place from June to October.
You can see this migration yourself from vantage points all along the coast. Places like the North Heads lookout on Sydney Harbour are great viewing spots for those wanting an easy journey, but you do need a good pair of binoculars and a dash of luck, as there are no guarantees that they will pass by on any given day.
This is also true with whale watching cruises that you can take all along the coast. It’s very much being in the right spot at the right time, but you can narrow the margin of chance.
Along the east coast we recommend whale watching cruises from Sydney during June and July as the best time. Then again during September and October as the whales make the return journey from the warmer tropical waters with their new born calves. We took a cruise out from Darling Harbour once and didn’t see any whales. The cruise company gave us a free ticket for the next day, where we did see several pods. Awesome.
These cruises can be rough, as once you leave the protected waters of Sydney Harbour, you are in the open sea. Take sea sickness pills if you are prone to motion sickness. We have even been lucky enough to see whales inside the heads of Sydney Harbour while aboard the Manly ferry.
Queensland’s Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast all have tour operators where the migration route is not far from land. Again you are in open seas so are advised to take motion sickness tablets before embarking.
Hervey Bay is probably the best place to see the whales along the east coast. Here the waters are sheltered from the prevailing south east winds by Fraser Island, making a much calmer experience for whale watching vessels. The whales also seem to meet and mate here, and it is a place where the waters are safer for the new borns to grow and put on a layer of blubber before the journey back to the cold Antarctic Sea.
There is a variety of whale watching boats that you can choose operating from the Hervey Bay Marina. There are large vessels or small number boats. Half or full day cruises. All give a great opportunity to see whales at fairly close range.
Then there are the Whitsundays.
At this time there are no cruises that specifically target the whale watching industry, yet during the season, most day cruises to the island resorts and Great Barrier Reef see whales during the course of the day.
As there are 74 islands that comprise the Whitsundays group, most of the year the seas are calm and ideal for sailing and of course whale watching. We here at Funtours live in the Whitsundays and we have even seen whales during ferry transfers between Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island Airport.
A few years back, we took a cruise from Mackay to Whitehaven Beach in September and saw whales all the way there and back again. Our first sighting was just a hundred meters from the Mackay Marina. What a way to start the day.
Last year sailing operators such as Illusions Whitsundays, who operate a dive and snorkelling cruise to Blue Pearl Bay, which is on the shores of Hayman Island, posted daily pics of whales they saw during the day between Airlie Beach and Hayman Island.
This is a cruise we highly recommend as while seeing whales is only a possibility, you will definitely see amazing corals and tropical marine life while snorkeling or diving.
The photo below was taken at Blue Pearl Bay by dive instructor Naomi Stent last August/September.
Exciting times are here again. It is such a thrill to see these enormous creatures and their numbers are now increasing each year, thanks to campaigns to stop their slaughter. If you have the chance, do some serious whale watching this year.
Don’t forget. Hervey Bay and The Whitsundays are both perfect locations to see the whales during the migration season and an ideal place to have a great time if you are unlucky. Most whale watching companies do give a free pass if no whales are seen during your cruise.
Harvey Bay is probably the best choice of all locations with the largest probability to see whales during the peak season between June to October