Whale Watching Morning


  • Morning Whale Watching Cruise operates Sat & Sun
  • Afternoon Cruise operates daily
  • See Humpbacks & the occasional Southern Right whale during migration
  • Open water cruise through the entrance of Sydney Harbour aboard an ocean catamaran with open-air & all-weather lounge viewing
  • Whale sighting guaranteed or cruise again for FREE* (see more info for details)
  • 2hr 45min cruise with live commentary

Need to know


Departs 20 May - 01 Nov 2017 Circular Quay Wharf No.6 
Morning Cruise departs Sat & Sun  Depart 10.15am, return approx. 1.00pm
Afternoon Cruise operates daily Depart 1.30pm, return approx. 4.15pm

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Morning cruises operate Saturday and Sunday, while afternoon cruises depart daily. This has been an amazing season so far! Humpback sightings have continued to increase every year and these amazing mammals just love to show off with breaches, tail slapping and even a close up wink when they are feeling extra curious. Don't miss this extraordinary opportunity to see the gentle giants of the sea on their annual migration. More Info ...

Whale Watching Cruises 2018
- Details coming soon ...

Combine the sights of Sydney Harbour with an open water cruise through the entrance of Sydney Harbour to find the gentle giants of the sea.

Humpback Whales 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. Southern Right Whales do not migrate, instead move 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 morning cruise during the same season on a standby basis. 

The approach distance for a vessel is 100m from a whale or 50m from a dolphin. When calves are in the pod, the approach distance increases to 300m from a whale or 150m from a dolphin. Helicopters must not get closer (in height or distance) than 500m to a whale or dolphin. Other planes must not get closer (in height or distance) than 300m to a whale or dolphin.

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.

Selection of soft drinks and snacks available for purchase onboard, subject to change.

Whale Guarantee
We have a 95%+ success rate. The Whale Guarantee applies when a whale is not sighted during your cruise. Cruise again in the same season for free on Standby Basis confirmed 24 hours prior, subject to availability.

Passengers must complete a Contact Information form prior to cruising in case of emergency - submit online or download the form here & return by email to [email protected] after you have made your booking.

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

Daily Whale Sightings

Whale Images

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 between 7.15am & 9.00am on the day of your cruise for the latest information. If your cruise is cancelled by us passengers may (1) rebook another 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. 

Typical whale behaviour includes

Breaching: A much more spectacular way of announcing its presence is for a whale to breach. With 2 or 3 beats of its huge tail the creature hurls itself up through the surface sometimes clearing the water completely, and then falls on its back with a tremendous splash. Breaching is thought to communicate position to others. The splash can be heard for several kilometres.

Calves: A humpback calf normally swims along in close company with its mother.

Head Lunge: When a whale breaks the surface and falls forward instead of backward the action is called a head lunge.

Spy Hop: Humpbacks are curious, and often pop their head up above the waterline to look around. The creature raises its head vertically from the water until the eyes are exposed, maintains that position for a short period of time and then lowers its head back into the water. This common behaviour is thought to be used mainly for orientating themselves with the shoreline during migration.

Pectoral Fin Extension: Humpbacks are often seen waving their huge oar-like fins above the water. The creature lies on the surface and lifts one or both of its pectoral fins up out of the water depending on body position. Once extended, the fins can be waved about.

Tail Extension: Sometimes humpbacks are seen with their tail flukes extended above the water for up to 15 minutes at a time. This behaviour is rare but could be to do with feeding, as a calf is often seen bobbing around its mother's tail at this time.

Tail Slapping: Whales like to lift their huge tails high above the water and slap them down on the surface making a tremendous splash. This can be heard for great distances by others and is probably associated with marking position. Because of the formidable power of the tail, this behaviour should be interpreted as aggressive and the creature should be given plenty of room.

Peduncle Slap: The peduncle is the muscular part of the body nearest to the tail flukes. It is used in a variation of the tail slap where the tail is slapped in a sideways movement like a massive karate-chop. This movement is a sure sign that the creature could become aggressive.

Tail Cocking: Tail cocking is another sign of aggression that is used when stressed. An aggressor can cock its tail up in the air and then bring it down heavily on an opponent in a disagreement over territory. Humans should keep well clear.

Tail Slash and Tail Swish: Two further movements of the tail involve slashing from side to side in the water and swishing on the surface to create turbulence. Both these activities are also associated with aggression. Crews of whale watching boats watch for these behaviours as signs to move away.

Pectoral Stroking: Pectoral fins are the equivalent of human hands. They are frequently used to stroke the body of another of the same species, probably during courtship and mating. Mothers and calves also stroke one another as a display of closeness.

Pec Slapping: The humpback has the largest pectoral fins of any of the great whales. The fins alone can weigh up to several tonnes! When brought down onto the water from the extended position they create a forceful splash which can be heard from quite a distance, both above and below the surface. Pec slapping is a common behaviour among humpbacks, thought to be used as a form of communication. 

Special Conditions apply to all Special Offers

Other Options

Whale Watching Afternoon

Afternoon cruises operate daily, while morning cruises depart on weekends only. What an amazing year for whale watchers so far! Humpback sightings have continued to increase every year and these amazing mammals just love to show off with tail slapping, breaches, and even a close up wink when they are feeling extra curious. Don't miss this extraordinary opportunity to experience the gentle giants of the sea on their annual migration. More Info ...

Whale Watching Cruises 2018
- Details coming soon ...

More Info

Taronga Zoo & Whale Watching Cruise

Combine two amazing Sydney experiences with this cruise & attraction package. Cruise to Taronga Zoo aboard a Rocket Ferry, spend the morning exploring Taronga Zoo, then venture outside Sydney Harbour for an afternoon Whale Watching cruise during the annual migration. More Info ...

Whale Watching Cruises 2018
- Details coming soon ...

More Info

About Whales

Whales have graced the planet for over 50 million years and are present in all oceans of the world. The largest species of whales were hunted almost to extinction. Often referred to as the gentle giants of the sea, they capture our fascination like few other animals. More Info ...

More Info

Availability & Price Calendar - Legend

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86 % approval from 22 responses

1 month ago

Service: The spotting of the whales was great also in which direction they turned up and that we left them after a while. In the end we followed a calf and its mum for a while along the coast while they didn't dive but continued splashing along happily and we didn't seem to bother them at all.

It was pretty full on the upper deck but below there was lots of space and the kids liked it.

Product: we had bought two price reduced tickets (59$ on a weekend) the evening before but one of us fell sick with gastro over night and there wasn't any chance of being refunded or so which was a real pity.

1 month ago

Good communication

2 months ago

Excellent trip, fortunate there was only a little swell running, good commentary and friendly staff. Lucky to see 2 humpback whales breach next to each other only 40 metres away from the boat when we first stopped! Definitely the highlight of the trip.

2 months ago

Reasonable price for the experience, staff very friendly whales entertaining. Would do it again

2 months ago

The booking and the experience was as expected. Staff were fabulous. The whales a little disappointing - but would try again

2 months ago

We did a morning whale watch cruise. It was great. We started seeing whale quite quickly, and the captain was great to get the boat moved around so we could watch the whales.

3 months ago

El staff es muy amable pero la empresa muy pesima, el ticket es muy caro para la experiencia vivida. apenas vimos las colas y el medio cuerpo de algunas balenas a 200 metros de distancia.

En su publicidad muestran fotos de las ballenas saltando en el mar, lo cual es enganoso para nosotros los consumidores, quienes nos imaginamos que podemos verlos a las ballenas tal cual como se muestran. Pague $70 para ver algunas colas de ballenas a los lejos, encima vomite, me puse mal, y regrese muy mal del viaje.

No lo recomiendo al publico. un precio muy alto para no ver casi nada.

Response from Captain Cook Cruises: Hola, 

Gracias por tomarse el tiempo de escribirnos.Nos da mucha pena escuchar que no tuvieron una buena experiencia en el Whale Watching Cruise.

Aunque normalmente recibimos buenos comentarios de nuestros clientes, queremos asegurarnos de que todos sigan teniendo buenas experiencias.La seguridad y el bienestar de nuestros clientes es nuestra prioridad principal y en un crucero en mar abierto nos exponemos a condiciones riesgosas debido a corrientes o vientos fuertes. Por eso es que solo operamos cuando el clima nos lo permite y cuando es seguro para nuestros pasajeros hacerlo, ya que su seguridad es nuestra responsabilidad.En nuestro reporte del día de su viaje las condiciones estuvieron bastante bien, con buena visibilidad y se pudieron ver ballenas.

Como usted podrá entender no está en nuestras manos controlar las condiciones climáticas, pero hacemos un gran esfuerzo para asegurarnos de que nuestros pasajeros sepan que esperar cuando se navega fuera de Sydney Heads. De hecho, nuestra página web cuenta con un indicador que prevé nuestro mejor estimado del clima diario.

Otra vez, muchas gracias por sus comentarios y sentimos mucho no haber alcanzado sus expectativas.

3 months ago

Service: Fabulous whale watching cruise from Sydney harbour, staff really helpful and knowledgeable. Spotted a pod of whales and tracked them for over an hour amazing. Bit choppy but breakfast remained in situ! Definitely one of the highlights of my holiday.

Product: Great value. Fabulous trip.

3 months ago

It was professional from the time I approached the desk. The gentleman at the desk was extremely pleasant. The commentary on board by Bob was comprehensive. Most important we had the pleasure of seeing whales.

Good value for money. I would highly recommend this cruise.

3 months ago

Service: Friendly and helpful service. We lost our tickets before boarding but were issued with new tickets without too much hassle. Would not recommend losing your tickets, though.

Product: If not for the unfortunate conditions at sea, this would've been a 5-star rating. Large swells and windy conditions turned a clear day into a difficult task of tracking the whales, but we had some good sightings nonetheless and a friendly, helpful crew.

3 months ago

Service: yes

Product: because it was very interresting

4 months ago

The service was good, but it was quite long and a lot of people ended up quite sick as a result of the choppy water getting out of the harbour. Potentially 2-2.5 hour sessions would work better.

Overall saw a number of whales, very informative and had a great time (minus said vomit)

Response from Captain Cook Cruises: Thank you for the review of your Whale Watching Morning cruise with us on Sydney. We are pleased to read that you enjoyed the cruise and the service, and that you were able to see those beautiful animals. As you know this cruise goes on open waters, which can be rocky. We advise people who are known to have seasickness to please take it into consideration.

Once again thank you for your feedback, it is appreciated.

Kind regards,
Head of Customer Service
Captain Cook Cruises

5 months ago

We enjoyed the cruise and we followed 3 whales for the most part.

5 months ago

Service: You have to realise that not everyone understands English.Like an aircraft, explanations about safety are in pictures. That might be an idea to consider for the boat. At least a range of A4 sheets in different major languages (Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Japanese, French at least) about whale watching could have been useful. While the whale expert's enthusiasm was indicative of Australian friendliness, she was somewhat a little too in your face (and I'm Australian!).

Product: Reality and fantasy were different. I also took sea sick pill which made me really really sleepy. I actually slept most of the trip!!! I liked the fact we all saw whales but after one or two or three sightings the trip became boring.

Response from Captain Cook Cruises: Dear customer,

Thank you for your review of your Whale Watching cruise us on Sydney Harbour. We are sorry not to meet your expectations as we usually receive good feedback on this cruise. We do not offer seasickness pills onboard but we recommend people who are known to have this condition to take it into consideration. We will forward your ‘safety explanation in different languages’ comments to our Marine Manager for his appreciation.

Once again thank you for your valuable feedback, it is appreciated.

Kind regards,
Head of Customer Service,
Captain Cook Cruises

5 months ago

Service: Booked Sunday morning whale watching, cost $185 for 2 adults 1 child. Became quite sick Saturday night, ring their customers service early Sunday morning, the line is closed till 10am.

The lady with calm voice told me there was 100% cancellation fee for the same day call. I asked could you book me another time, the answer was "there is nothing i can do for you."

I understand ince money in your account it cannot be refunded, but can't rebook is pretty ripping off.

Product: Kid was very excited about this, but because we were sick we couldn't make it. They can't be re-booked because I didn't call them 24 hours before the cruise, money wasted. Totally not happy.

Response from Captain Cook Cruises: Thank you for your comments regarding your conversation with one of our reservations consultants.

Whilst cancellations advised within 24 hours prior to travel incur 100% cancellation fee  as this was booked via our web with strict booking conditions,  our senior member of the reservations team does usually have the authority to provide an alternative.

We are happy to re book you and your family at a fee of $20 per person, and one or our customer support team will be in contact with you shortly.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused and look forward to welcoming you on board for Whale Watching.

Kind regards
Head of Customer Service
Captain Cook Cruises

5 months ago

Service: Food kiosk very limited in what it sold. Could have had tea, coffee, cake and perhaps sandwiches.

Product: Great say many whales some breeching

5 months ago

Service: Great service with sense of humour from the Captain Cruise team members !! We saw you reported on the whale apps of our whale sightings in Sydney Harbour .

We ( 4 adults and 2 kids ) were on the 8 July Saturday morning cruise and we were so abolutely thrilled and lucky to see close shot performance of at least 6 humpback whales . They really entertained us and so did you .

Thank you .

Product: Great whale sighting experience !! Truly blessed on 8 July .

Response from Captain Cook Cruises: Dear customer,

Thank you for the review of your Whale Watching Cruise with us on Sydney Harbour. We are delighted to read that you enjoyed your time observing the performance of these fantastic whales. As you know we have no control of how these animals are going to behave and we are happy you were on board with us on such a wonderful day.

Once again thank you or your review, it is appreciated.

Kind regards,
Head of Customer Service
Captain Cook Cruises

5 months ago

Service: 我對貴公司當天的船員服務很感滿意,都很主動的對顧客提供幫助,在此再次感謝貴公司及船員為我們提供了一次美好的觀賞鯨魚體驗。

Product: 手續簡易,方便快捷。

本來我是給4星的,但因這 Feedback 強迫我要多填15個字,所以剩下3星!

5 months ago

Service: I have already recommended to colleagues and friends that they take this tour. The boat was clean and comfortable; crew were friendly and very courteous; commentator maintained a friendly, informative dialogue; and the whales were magnificent!

Product: Bith online booking and process at Circular Quay were very easy

Response from Captain Cook Cruises: Dear Jennine Freshwater,

Thank you for your review of your Whale Watching cruise with us on Sydney Harbour. We are pleased to know that you recommended our whale cruise and that you found the staff professional and friendly. Your feedback has been sent onto our respective Managers and staff and it is very much appreciated by all our customer service staff.

Once again thank you for your review and recommendation.

Kind regards,
Head of Customer Service
Captain Cook Cruises

5 months ago

Service: The captain of the boat went the extra mile to ensure we had a unique but fun and safe experience.

Product: The captain went the extra mile to ensure we had a unique but safe experience.

5 months ago

The MC made the cruise, he was brilliant.

6 months ago

Service: Very good service and very friendly employees

Product: On time and very mindful employees. We saw whales and learned about them as well

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