It’s that time of year again! The iconic Humpback Highway comes alive as over 35,000 whales embark on their annual migration.

The Northern Beaches, with some of the best whale watching spots in Sydney is a prime location to witness this awe-inspiring spectacle from May to November.

A magnificent breech. Image: Ocean Extreme Tours

Humpback whales and southern right whales are the usual stars of the show, but keep your eyes peeled – orcas, blue whales, minke whales, and even sperm whales have been known to grace our beautiful waters.

Best places for whale watching

The Northern Beaches has many prime locations for spotting whales.

Captain Blake at Ocean Extreme Whale Tours says, “During the first half of the season when the whales are heading north I find the best land based location on the beaches is North Head.”

Capturing the moment. Image: Ocean Extreme Tours

“In the second half of the season when the whales are heading south you can’t go past Long Reef as the best spot,” says Blake. “The whales tend to track in very close to that headland on the way back down the coast.”

Here are a few surefire bets:

  • North Head:  This headland is a whale watcher’s dream.  The lookout behind Shelly Beach carpark is a popular choice, with whales often putting on a show with breaches and tail slaps in the distance.
  • Dee Why & Curl Curl: previous seasons have seen a mother and calf spotted frolicking at Dee Why headland and plenty of action off Curl Curl beach.
  • Long Reef Headland: Keep your eyes peeled for whales gliding past the dramatic cliffs, especially on calmer days.
  • Manly Panorama: Combine your whale watching with a scenic stroll. Take a leisurely walk along the Manly to Shelly Beach track and keep an eye out for breaches in the distance. Stop in at one of the cafes along the way to grab a coffee and enjoy the show.
  • Palm Beach: For a different perspective, scale the iconic Barrenjoey Lighthouse. The climb is rewarded with breathtaking ocean views and a prime position to spot whales migrating past.

Encounters of the Whale Kind

A southern right whale mother and calf about 10 metres from surfers in Manly in 2020. Image: Matt Connor/The Guardian

While whale sightings are never guaranteed, the Northern Beaches has a history of incredible encounters. Last season, lucky onlookers witnessed a Southern Right Whale mother and calf duo resting at Long Reef. A few years back, another mother and calf playfully frolicked close to shore at Shelly Beach. The pair came within 10 metres of surfers.

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) asks people to keep their distance to avoid disturbing the whales which might cause them to move on, tiring them unnecessarily. All watercraft, including vessels, surfers, jet skis must stay at least 300 m away and drones are strictly prohibited within 100 m of the whales, in all directions.

Whale Watching Tips

  • Whales are wild animals, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t spot one right away. Be patient, keep your eyes peeled, and enjoy soaking in the beauty of the surroundings.
  • Invest in a good pair of binoculars to get a closer look at these magnificent creatures and truly appreciate their size and grace.
  • Download the ‘Wild about Whales’ app. This handy tool provides real-time whale sighting information, helping you increase your chances of spotting one.
Image: Ocean Extreme Tours

Pack your picnic basket, grab your binoculars, head to one of these stunning locations or consider booking a whale watching tour. With a little patience and the right conditions, you might just witness one of these beautiful creatures in the wild.

Ocean Extreme tours

Offers guaranteed sighting. Tours kick off from May 18.

Departing Manly Wharf at 8:15am, 11:15am and 2:15pm weekends and 11:15am weekends.

For more info:

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