Whale Watching

Our 2020 season has now concluded. It was fantastic to get back on the water after a late start to the season to see the majestic whales on their annual migration. Stay tuned for 2021 season details.

Sydney’s spectacular sandstone coastline is also a humpback whale highway and if you plan to visit Sydney harbour between May and October, it’s a veritable playground for whales of all kinds including humpbacks, orcas, southern right whales and minke. Whale watching with Captain Cook Cruises also offers full commentary as well as our unique whale watching guarantee, which means if you don’t see a whale, you cruise again with us for FREE!

Face masks are strongly recommended for passengers.

 

10:00am Whale Watching

  • 10:00am-1:00pm
  • Adult $95 | Child 4-15 $50 | T&C's 

1:15pm Whale Watching

  • 1:15pm-4:15pm
  • Adult $95 | Child 4-15 $50 | T&C's 

Sydney Harbour Whale Watching Explorer

10:00am Whale Watching Explorer

  • 10:00am Whale Watching tour plus 2-Day Hop On Hop Off Pass commencing on day of your Whale Watching tour
  • Adult $99 | Child 4-15 $59

 

Captain Cook Cruises is Sydney’s best whale watching cruise operator with a 95% success rate when it comes to whale sightings on Sydney harbour during whale watching season. 

Our whale guarantee offer applies when a whale is not sighted during the cruise and in this case, guests can cruise again for free subject to availability.

Watching whales on Sydney harbour is a unique way to also see the city’s skyline and dramatic coastline. This is as much a sightseeing cruise and open water adventure as it is an opportunity to catch a glimpse of these gentle giant cetaceans during their natural migration north. And expect to see much more than just whales, with dolphins being famously spotted during the tours, as well as many seals and birds too.

Whale’s migrate past Sydney’s iconic heads on their way up to warmer tropical waters in Queensland. Our whale watching cruise will take guests into the open water and outside the heads where you may become affected by motion sickness. It’s recommended that you eat lightly and if you are prone to seasickness, tablets should be taken before you depart.

Humpback Whale sightings have continued to increase over the last decade. In June and July these majestic marine mammals migrate north for breeding before returning south with their calves from September to November. Southern Right Whales do not migrate, instead moving along the coast finding protected shelters for their young. Occasionally a mother and calf make Sydney Harbour their home for a short while and thousands of locals come out to wish them well. 

Spotters on the land help to direct our certified whale watching cruises and also assist whale researchers by recording sightings and ensuring approach distances are strictly adhered to. Very rarely a whale is not spotted during the cruise. In this case your Whale Guarantee entitles you to another free cruise during the same season on a standby basis. 

In addition to Humpbacks and Southern Right Whales, other species you may see include:

  • Minke Whale
  • Blue Whale
  • Sei Whale
  • Fin Whale
  • False Killer Whale
  • Orca or Killer Whale
  • Sperm Whale
  • Pygmy Right Whale
  • Pygmy Sperm Whale
  • Bryde’s Whale

Whales are highly social and intelligent mammals that have graced our oceans for our fifty million years.  They breath air, give birth to live young and suckle their calves through mammary glands.  Their streamlined bodies are insulated from the cold by thick layers of blubber. The largest species of whales were hunted almost to extinction and have survived only thanks to conservation and protection efforts. There are 86 recognised whale species. The largest animal on earth is the gigantic blue whale.  

Whales can travel immense distances to meet their food, mating and calving needs. Many make annual migrations from cold to warm climates for calving.

The Whales close cousin, the dolphin is second only to humans in intelligence. The degree of intelligence of whales and porpoises is still to be determined however, their sophisticated behaviour and ability to learn suggest they have a capacity for complex thinking.

To the delight of passengers, whales and dolphins often approach the vessel. In these situations we are required to slow down gradually, stop and wait until the animal moves beyond the approach zone. Its the moments in between that make the cruise truly special.

Typical whale behaviour includes: Breaching, Spy Hop, Pectoral Fin Extension, Tail Slapping, Peduncle Slap, Tail Cocking, Tail Slash and Tail Swish, Pectoral Stroking and Pec Slapping all of which are explained on our About Whales - Whale Watching Guide.

What to bring
This is an open water cruise and you will experience sea motion. We recommend you eat lightly before and during the cruise. Travel sickness tablets are generally most effective if taken prior to the cruise. Please dress according to the weather - it will often feel colder at sea. Smoking is not permitted onboard.

Whale Guarantee
We have a whale sighting success rate of over 95%. In the unlikely event a whale is not sighted during the cruise, passengers are welcome to cruise again for free, in the same season, on a standby basis. Bookings can be confirmed 24 hours prior, subject to availability.

How close can we get to whales?
There are strict guidelines on how close vessels of all kinds, from kayaks to cruise boats, can approach whales. It also depends if there are calves in the pod and the number of vessels in the area. As a guideline, the approach distance can range from 100m to 300m. This however does not stop whales from taking matters into their own hands for a close look of us! At all times, Captain Cook Cruises operates with the safety and enjoyment of both our passengers and the whales. 

Is commentary included?
All whale watching cruises include expert commentary from marine specialists with a passion for whales. We carry some of the most experienced commentators on Sydney Harbour.

Are there facilities for children?
All children must be escorted by adults. Children are welcome to cruise, however please keep in mind that you are on the vessel for up to 3 hours and sometimes children do get restless. Infants under 4 years are free of charge but not recommended on open water cruises. 

Will I get seasick?
This is an open water cruise and you will experience sea motion. We recommend you eat lightly before and during the cruise. Travel sickness tablets are generally most effective if taken prior to the cruise. Please refer to our Predicted Comfort Levels & Weather web page for a 7-day forecast.

Are there bathrooms on board?
Yes, all vessels are fitted with toilets.

Check-in & Boarding
Boarding passes are to be collected 30 minutes prior to departure from the company’s ticket offices. To ensure speedy and efficient check-in, please ensure you have completed the Passenger Contact form prior to arrival as this is a legal requirement of all open water cruises in case of emergency - submit online or download the form here & return by email to [email protected] after you have made your booking.

Are seats assigned?
Seating is not assigned for sightseeing cruises. All vessels feature spacious outdoor and indoor seating. The starboard side is usually closest to the shore and the port side closest to the harbour action.

Reconfirmation & Cancellation
As this is an open water cruise, names of all passengers and their individual contact details are required for each passenger. Cruises are subject to cancellation due to weather & other operational requirements. Please ring (02) 8062 3623 from 7.15am on the day of your cruise for the latest information. If your cruise is cancelled by us passengers may (1) rebook another afternoon Captain Cook Whale Watching Cruise in the same season or (2) seek a refund from the original place of purchase or (3) a credit can be made with Captain Cook Cruises towards another cruise within 12 months of original date of travel. If purchased through an agent, please refer to the agent’s terms &conditions. 

This Week's Predicted Comfort Levels & Weather
Waves, swell, winds & visibility can be very different outside the Harbour. 

Car Parking 

Quick Links

Children Under 18 Years

  • Please note children under 18 years must be accompanied by an adult on all licensed cruises.

Terms & Conditions 

  • Special payment and cancellation conditions apply to all special offers and special events. View our terms and conditions

Inclusions

  • Experience the wonder of the Humpback Whale migration 
  • Expert commentator providing fun and educational insights into whale behaviour
  • Family friendly, comfortable indoor and outdoor seating over multiple viewing decks
  • Approx. 3-hour cruise
  • Whale sighting guaranteed or cruise again for free

Need to know

Timetable

Whale Watching Cruises

  Darling Harbour, King St Wharf 2
Depart 10.00am, return approx. 1.00pm Sat & Sun
Additional Dates: please check availability for extra dates
Depart 1.15pm, return approx. 4.15pm Sat & Sun 

Whale Watching Explorer

Car Parking Specials   Remember to check your date for NSW road closures

Find Us

Other Options

Hop On Hop Off

Hop on Hop off Cruises recommence from 05 December 2020

Don’t be fooled, Sydney is a big place to explore over just one weekend and while its world class natural harbour is part of the enduring charm, it is also one of the reasons that makes sightseeing in by normal public transport so challenging. But with Captain Cook Cruises you can do what the locals do and travel on the harbour highway with our famous Hop On Hop Off ferry pass conveniently allowing you to explore Sydney’s best bits - Circular Quay (The Rocks & Opera House), Taronga Zoo, Shark Island, Watsons Bay and Manly - all with the convenience of live commentary from a friendly local throughout your journey. 

 

Sydney Harbour Explorer 2 Day Hop On Hop Off Pass

2-Day Hop On Hop Off Pass

  • 2 consecutive calendar days
  • Captains Special
    - Adult $50 | Child $28
    - Normally Adult $52 | Child $29

Sydney Harbour Explorer 1 Day Hop On Hop Off Pass

1-Day Hop On Hop Off Pass

  • 1 calendar day
  • Captains Special
    - Adult $35 | Child $20
    - Normally Adult $39 | Child $25

Big Bus Sydney Pass

Hop On Hop Off + Big Bus Sydney

  • Hop On Hop Off 2-Day Pass
  • Big Bus 24-Hour Classic Ticket
    - Valid within 7 days of cruise
  • Adult $99 | Child $59
More Info

Attractions

Pre-purchase your entry to any of Sydney's attractions and beat the queue when you arrive. Visit Sydney's famous harbourside attractions including Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, Wild Life Sydney Zoo, Madam Tussauds, Sydney Tower, Taronga Zoo or explore the city & surrounds with Big Bus. For a flexible harbour sightseeing option, select a 1 or 2-day ferry pass allowing you to hop on and off at famous harbourside attractions including Circular Quay, Manly, Watsons Bay, Shark Island and Taronga Zoo.

Big Bus Sydney

Big Bus Sydney Classic Ticket

  • Valid for 24-Hours
  • Special
    - Adult $52 | Child 5-15 $36

    - Valid for sale to 31Aug20
    - Normally Adult $65 | Child $45

Sydney Hop On Hop Off 1-Day Pass

1-Day Hop On Hop Off Pass

  • Recommencing 05Dec20
  • Hop on and off at up to 5 famous stops
  • Flexible harbour sightseeing
  • Captains Special
    - Adult $35 | Child $20
    - Normally Adult $39 | Child $25

Sydney Hop On Hop Off 2-Day Pass

2-Day Hop On Hop Off Pass

  • Recommencing 05Dec20
  • Hop on & off at up to 5 famous stops
  • Valid 2 consecutive calendar days
  • Captains Special
    - Adult $50 | Child $28
    - Normally Adult $52 | Child $29

WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo

  • Due to Covid-19, currently only available direct through attraction

Madame Tussauds 

  • Due to Covid-19, currently only available direct through attraction

Sydney Tower Eye

  • Due to Covid-19, currently only available direct through attraction

SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium

  • Due to Covid-19, currently only available direct through attraction

Taronga Zoo

  • Due to Covid-19, currently only available direct through attraction

 

More Info

Rocket Sightseeing

Rocket Sightseeing Cruises recommence from 05 December 2020

Jump on the Hop On Hop Off Harbour Explorer for a single loop of Sydney Harbour on a rocket sightseeing tour. See all the famous landmarks as you travel between Circular Quay and Manly, stopping briefly at various locations around the Harbour. The cruise takes approximately 80 minutes and departs regularly throughout the day from Circular Quay between 9:30am and 3:00pm.

More Info

Harbour Experience

Coming soon - Harbour Experience

Sydney is a modern, thriving metropolis that is also steeped in culture, historical monuments, hidden coves and a rich colonial past. The adage ‘people make a place’ is also more relevant in Sydney than anywhere else in the country. Our unique Harbour Experience cruise helps to bring to life the unique stories of Sydney through smart mobile commentary of the people, places and the events that have made Sydney harbour the most beautiful and exciting natural harbour in the world. On this cruise, you can listen to the stories of Sydney while cradling a glass of Australian sparkling wine, whilst also indulging on a dozen of delicious Sydney Rock Oysters from the onboard purchase bar. Sydney’s best sightseeing cruise draws from over 50 years of experience and is the culmination of it’s predecessors, the Coffee Cruise and Harbour Story Cruises. 

More Info

95 % approval from 21 responses

Date
Rating
4 months ago
5/5

Service: The customer service at Captain Cook Cruises is second to none. The staff in the office were so incredibly helpful, while the staff on board were fantastic, friendly, knowledgeable.
Product: Definitely worth the price.

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

4 months ago
5/5

Service: Good service
Product: Nice scenery really good experience

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

4 months ago
5/5

Service: Professional
Product: Great trip, have recommended and will do another whale watching trip myself

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

4 months ago
4/5

Overall it’s been a nice experience on board Captain Cook’s whale watching cruise, but we have returned to Darking Harbour about 20 minutes earlier, which we could use to track the whales a little bit longer.

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

4 months ago
2/5

Service: The crew were friendly but seemed to lack information about birds seen. I thought the MC talked too much. The facilities were clean
Product: Reasonable value for the experience

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

4 months ago
5/5

Service: The boat was clean and the crew told us what to expect on a wet Sunday AM cruise. the weather did ruin the day with rain at 45 degrees in exposed areas for viewing and windows blurred by the rain but it was the experience and did see only a few tails and missed the breach while trying to get a better look. Dylan commentated on the cruise and was very informative.
Product: Easy online booking with all info re parking etc.

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

4 months ago
5/5

Service: Thank you for the tour! It was my Birthday and I had a great time! Captains' comments were interesting and informative. great job!
Product: The weather was perfect and we saw whales.

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

4 months ago
4/5

Service: Easy to book, friendly staff and the cruise was organised well. We were able to see many whales during our experience.

One thing which could be improved was better communication about where to meet for the cruise as there are two check-in offices. This was not made overtly clear.
Product: Easy to purchase and good deal!

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

4 months ago
4/5

Good safety. Great knowledge from Paul commentating. Good views up top. Not crowded. To make better a sunny day and would have loved to buy a cuppa tea and biscuit. Let people know to bring own snacks and drinks. Overall a great experience.

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

4 months ago
5/5

Service: - friendly and attentive staff throughout the trip (office and boat)
- easy booking online with offers for booking in advance
Product: - Great audio guidance on board
- safe and comfortable ride offshore
- change of route when there were no more wales to see to make the cruise enjoyable

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

4 months ago
5/5

Service: Friendly. Good information. Covid safety easy booking great value.
Product: Great value The experience was live giving

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

4 months ago
5/5

Service: It was a wonderful occasion for both my grandson, whose surname is actually WHALE, and myself. Even though I live part of the time on the oceanfront where whales regularly pass, here you were seeing them at close hand which was amazing. A great experience!
Product: It was 3 hours for a little over $100 for two. The time length was getting a little hohum by the end of the tour but I still feel it was worth it. Whether I would repeat the exercise is questionable.

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

4 months ago
5/5

Friendly and informative crew. Very still conditions. Our Family really enjoyed the afternoon sailing off the coast of Sydney and seeing the many whales, some quite close.

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

4 months ago
5/5

Service: We took four of our grandkids on this cruise and we all had a great time. Very close to an inquisitive whale. Very enjoyable day.
Product: Smooth process and good value for money.

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

4 months ago
5/5

Service: Great boat trip, excellent guid with good explanation and funny too.
All services on board, bar with drinks and snacks, toilets, seats on 3 levels, both inside as outside.
Seen a lot of whales!
Have great follow up on current COVID standards/obligations.
Product: Great boat trip, excellent guid with good explanation and funny too.
All services on board, bar with drinks and snacks, toilets, seats on 3 levels, both inside as outside.
Seen a lot of whales!
Have great follow up on current COVID standards/obligations.

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

4 months ago
5/5

Service: Fantastic! day out on the water. We did the afternoon cruise and was lucky enough to have still waters and plenty of whales around! Crew were fantastic
Product: Fantastic! day out on the water. We did the afternoon cruise and was lucky enough to have still waters and plenty of whales around! Crew were fantastic

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

4 months ago
5/5

Great experience, would definitely go again next season! Nice and friendly crew, loved their enthusiasm! Thanks guys!

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

4 months ago
4/5

Service: the crew were friendly and knowledgeable, I thought the trip was good value.
Product: Good Value for money, comfortable boat

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

4 months ago
5/5

Service: very enjoyable cruise, lovely to see the whales. staff very friendly, informative & all covid 19 measures were in place. happy to recommend the cruise
Product: very enjoyable day, friendly staff, good information, observed all covid19 precautions

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

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