20th May, 2023

The best places to go whale watching in Sydney

May marks the start of the whale watching season, and Sydney is one of the best places on the planet to spot these gentle giants as they make their way from Antarctica to our picturesque shores on the annual migration.

With over 20,000 Humpback whales making the journey from sub-Antarctic waters to the Great Barrier Reef each year, you can spot these amazing mammals just outside of Sydney from mid-May right through to early November.

Whale 8332 - ST
Whale Watching off Sydney Harbour

Where can we see whales in Sydney?

The best places to spot whales include Cape Solander, Garie Beach, Sydney Harbour (on the water), North Head and South Head.

Cape Solander is arguably one of Sydney's most famous whale watching spots, located in the Kurnell section of Kamay Botany Bay National Park.

Next is Garie Beach Picnic Area, reported to be a popular pick with whale spotters - Governor Game Lookout is the place to be.

Both North Head and South Head boast some great spots for whale watching. Take the Fairfax walk to loop around North Head, easily accessible from Manly wharf if you're exploring the Harbour with a Captain Cook Cruises Hop On Hop Off 1 or 2-day pass. Across the Harbour, Watson's Bay offers some great vantage points. The Gap and the South Head Heritage trail offer endless ocean views for spotting humpback whales.

And rounding out the top spots is Sydney Harbour - surely there is no better way to experience the thrill of observing humpbacks up close than from the water, onboard a Whale Watching tour with Sydney’s iconic Heads as a backdrop.

Whale 3893 - ST
Observing common whale behaviours

See the whales from the water

Captain Cook Cruises offer several options to experience these majestic creatures as they pass by Sydney on their annual migration up and down the east coast.

A dedicated effort is made to ensure Whale Watching cruises are not overbooked or overcrowded so all guests have a fantastic view of the action.

Our captains know all the best viewing spots, and our marine wildlife expert and commentator will provide fun and entertaining insights into these beautiful creatures - and don't forget the dolphins, seals and birds!

So sit back in comfort and feel the breeze as you cruise to the whale-watching hotspots. Choose from various dates, departure times and packages to experience the wonder of Sydney's aquatic wildlife from comfortable front-row seats!

Options include a morning or afternoon Whale Watching tour, Whale Explorer including a morning tour and 2-Day Hop On Hop Off Harbour Explorer pass, and the ultimate wildlife experience - Whale Watching and Taronga Zoo combo.

Be sure to visit the dedicated whale sightings page for a preview of what you might see on your adventure.

Dolphins swimming towards the heads wildlife non-ccc dnsw
Sydney local marine life

What to expect on a whale watching cruise

One of the best things you can expect when whale watching is a ‘mugging’.

NSW law stipulates that our boat can’t get closer than 100 metres of a whale and 300 metres if a calf is present. However, if a whale approaches our boat the only thing the captain can do is simply turn off the engines and wait for the whale to pass - hence the general term ‘mugging’ which leaves us stranded in awe!

And while our primary objective is to see a whale (or many), on most cruises you’ll also be treated to an abundance of marine wildlife that call this unique ecosystem home.

Bottlenose dolphins are a relatively common sight along the coastline, as are Australian fur seals and little penguins that use Sydney Harbour as a hunting ground, not to mention plenty of birdlife including albatross and seagulls.

Observing whale behaviours

Dr. Vanessa Pirotta, wildlife scientist and science communicator, has been one of our experts onboard Captain Cook Cruises' Whale Watching cruises. On the video below, she explains whale behaviours and everything you need to know about Whale Watching. Be sure to check it out.

Experiences mentioned in this article

We use cookies on this website so we can provide you with a better browsing experience and show you more relevant content and promotions. By continuing, you consent to our use of cookies. For more details, please check our Privacy Policy.