Whale Watching

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 now strongly recommended for passengers.

 

10:00am Whale Watching

  • 10:00am-1:00pm
  • Captains Special from $59
    - Normally Adult $95 | Child 4-15 $50 | T&C's 

1:15pm Whale Watching

  • 1:15pm-4:15pm
  • Captains Special from $59
    - Normally 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: 08Aug-11Oct 2020
Fri, Sat & Sun: 12-28Oct 2020
Additional Dates: please check availability for extra dates
Depart 1.15pm, return approx. 4.15pm Sat & Sun 03Jul-28Oct 2020

Whale Watching Explorer

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

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YOUR SAY BRILLIANT DINNER - Food was amazing, service and atmosphere just great. Raelene

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86 % approval from 44 responses

Date
Rating
2 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

2 months ago
5/5

Service: Good service
Product: Nice scenery really good experience

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

2 months ago
5/5

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

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

2 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

2 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

2 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

2 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

2 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

2 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

2 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

2 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

2 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

3 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

3 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

3 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

3 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

3 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

3 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

3 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

11 months ago
5/5

Service: Safe vessel, friendly, professional, informative crew and glimpses of whales eventually. The boat stayed in the area of the sightings for longer in the hope we would see more.
Product: Booking was straight forward and full information was provided. I would definitively book again with Captain Cook Cruises.

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

11 months ago
2/5

Clarification around cost of things, I was charged $45 for two palartis classes and I $800 for what i thought was vitamins . Staff didn't speak very good english. Put that money together and i could have gone on another cruise.

Response from Captain Cook Cruises: Dear Customer,

Thank you for your kind review. We are disappointed to read that the service on your cruise wasn't to your standards. We can assure you that all our hospitality and catering staff are all fluent in English and we employ a range of nationalities from many countries. We can also confirm that our staff are trained to provide our customers devoted and efficient service.

Thank you once again for your feedback.

Kind regards,
Head of Customer Service
Captain Cook Cruises

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

11 months ago
5/5

Really appreciated that they honoured my clients companion card so his support worker could attend the cruise with him

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

11 months ago
2/5

Service: The whale watching cruise is too much bumpy when sailing and maybe we are in the end of the whale watching season and the sea is not so calm but we still manage to see some whale. The whale watching cruise crew is awesome and give us very good service.
Product: The sea is not calm and bumpy in the end of the whale watching season. I seen more than half of the passenger onboard was vomited but we still manage to see some whale. The cruise crew was awesome and giving us the best service they could. Like a vomit bag to each of us. lol

Response from Captain Cook Cruises: Dear customer,

Thank you for your review of your cruise experience. As you may know, we endeavour to provide our customers with the best experience possible. As you know, the movements of whales and sea conditions are unfortunately outside of our control.

Thank you once again for your feedback.

Kind Regards,
Head of Customer Service
Captain Cook Cruises

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

11 months ago
4/5

Service: nous avons bien aimé cette sortie en mer, afin de voir les baleines , avec la possibilité de revenir, pour une autre sortie si on ne voie pas de cétacés. je recommande...
bateau comfortable .
Product: bien sous tout rapport ,absolument rien à redire.

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

11 months ago
4/5

The cruise was on time. I saw many beautiful whales asnd dolphin. The only thing was that I bought ticket online. It was not mentioned on email that I need to exchange to paper ticket. It was a bit of a rush to go to the counter and exchanged it at last minute.

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

11 months ago
5/5

The boat was clean, the guide was excellent she had a lot of knowledge on the sea life and presented it in an interesting way. The crew went out of their way to find us a whale and they were successful. Thank you.

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

11 months ago
5/5

Great experience with caotain cook

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

11 months ago
5/5

Service: A fantastic journey with the humpback whales! Staff service was excellent n equally excited about spotting whales with us. At sea searching for 1hr plus and finally we were treated to a fantastic 30min show by the whales! Beautiful mother n baby whale, acompanied by a grand looking male humpback! So happy we got to join us in their journey. Thanks Captain Cook!
Product: Online booking was easy. Ticket collection was convenient. Thanks for the special price deal on that day.

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

11 months ago
5/5

Happy with everything

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

11 months ago
2/5

I was very disappointed with the fact that upon ordering no one asked about the age of my son and charged us for it only to find out he wasnt meant to pay as he is under 4.
No where on the email did it say we needed to go print the tickets and we waited in the wrong line for no reason.

I did contact the company post cruise and had the money for my son refunded but still left a bad taste so to speak

Response from Captain Cook Cruises: Dear customer,

Thank you for your review of your Captain Cook Cruises experience. We apologise for the inconvenience. We are pleased to note that this issue has been resolved, and your child's ticket has been refunded.

Apologies once again.

Kind Regards,
Head of Customer Service
Captain Cook Cruises

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

11 months ago
5/5

Service: Excellent experience, staff extremely cooperative. Would love to be in the cruise again.
Product: Fares are reasonable & fully satisfied with the trip.

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

11 months ago
5/5

Great service

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

11 months ago
5/5

Service: Great experience. We saw whales, a baby calf, breaching, as well as seals. The tour guide, was excellent, enthusiastic and genuinely happy to share her knowledge. She has a PhD in Biology and whales are her thing :) . She is a star!
Product: Great experience and great value for money. A great day on the seas full stop! Highly recommended

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

11 months ago
5/5

Service: We had a great trip with plenty of whale action. The crew were excellent and very helpful.
Product: A great trip with plenty of whales to see.

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

11 months ago
4/5

Service: Great, friendly staff, always checking to see if everyone was ok. Nice clean boat. Couldn't hear what the captain was saying on the top deck of the boat
Product: Good value for money, very quick with response once booked online

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

11 months ago
2/5

Service: Cruise met its objective of seeing whales but crew onboard was lacking friendliness.
Product: Purchase via website was straightforward.

Response from Captain Cook Cruises: Dear customer,

Thank you for your review of your Captain Cook Cruises experience. We are disappointed to read that the service on your cruise wasn't to your standards. We can assure you that our staff are trained to provide our customers devoted and efficient service. We always encourage guests to talk to the Cruise Director on board if they have any concerns, especially regarding service as they will be able to solve the problem immediately. Please be assured your concerns have been forwarded to our hospitality manager.

Thank you once again for your feedback.

Kind Regards,
Head of Customers Service
Captain Cook Cruises

Review for Whale Watching and Taronga Zoo

12 months ago
5/5

Service: This was a great whale watching cruise especially for my first time. My Dad and i enjoyed viewing from the middle deck. The service was fantastic and the on board commentary from Vanessa was great. You could tell how passionate she was about marine life and ecology. We got to see a female humpback whale and baby whale and on the way back got to see a group of seals sunbaking off south heads. Exceeded my expectations and wpuld highly recommend. Was very peaceful and enjoyable experience that took usbout from Sydney Harbour pass south heads towards Bondi.
Product: We got a discount as we has previously booked through captain cook for a vivid lights cruise. We only paid $49 each

Review for Whale Watching - Morning

12 months ago
5/5

Service: Very organised and enthusiastic staff. Made it very exciting identifying the pods.
Product: Good value for money ....

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

12 months ago
4/5

The service provided and punctuality of the team is commendable.

Review for Whale Watching and Taronga Zoo

12 months ago
5/5

Saw lots of whales and enjoyed the narration - the guide was very enthusiastic and informative! Amazing to see so many whales so close to Sydney!

Review for Whale Watching - Afternoon

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