Are There Dolphins in Sydney Harbour blog cover image with the famous bridge spot in sydney



Are There Dolphins in Sydney Harbour?


Sydney Harbour is more than just a cultural icon, it’s also home to a diverse and surprising collection of sea life.
While there are many mysteries about what lurks below the surface, we do know that Sydney Harbour is home to a thriving population of bull sharks that make their presence known during the warmer months.
For most of us, that’s enough to keep us at arm’s length when admiring the harbour. But dive a little deeper (figuratively of course) and you might be surprised to know that Sydney Harbour is home to some less fearsome sea life from time to time.

Are There Dolphins in Sydney Harbour Infographic from Sydney Harbour Escapes blog

Can you find dolphins in Sydney Harbour?

Yes! Bottlenose dolphins have been known to frolic in Sydney Harbour in pods of up to 15 at any one time. While many associate the dolphins on the New South Wales east coast with beach sightings, bottlenose dolphins can also be found in the harbour.
Dolphins are known to surface near the water's edge around the harbour and its many islands during the warmer months. Chasing bait fish and dodging the passing boats, bottlenose dolphins have been known to stray as far west as the Parramatta River up to Rhodes and the Silverwater area. Whilst sightings so far west of the Harbour are rare (last reported back in 2016), they are a sign that Sydney’s harbour ecosystem is slowly improving.

How do dolphins get into the harbour?

Sydney Harbour connects to the Tasman Sea, so marine life like dolphins are free to swim in and out of the harbour as they search for food, shelter, and natural migration patterns. The waterways and currents facilitate their movement and are known to travel in search of food or natural migration patterns. Dolphins are highly intelligent and naturally curious, so they may also be drawn to new places and new areas like the harbour out of a natural knack for exploring.

Where is the best place to see dolphins in Sydney Harbour?

Spotting dolphins in Sydney Harbour is contingent upon one very important ingredient – luck.
Unlike other marine life in Sydney Harbour, bottlenose dolphins are notoriously hard to spot. Where humpback whales are known to start migrating in May, dolphins are extremely hard to predict.
The good news is that the movement and behaviour of Sydney’s sporadic bottlenose dolphin visitors is now the subject of a citizen science project. Led by Dr Vanessa Pirotta from Macquarie University, the general public is encouraged to contribute to the study by logging any sighting directly with the researchers. Public reports help researchers to get a better understanding of the harbours’ transient dolphin population and offer hints that could help with spotting them in the future.
Sydney Harbour National Park is one location where bottlenose dolphins have been recently spotted. Various lookouts around the Sydney Harbour National Park and neighbouring South Head and Manly lookouts offer sweeping views of the water which, if you’re lucky, may offer a look at visiting pods.

An infographic about dolphins in sydney harbour with two questions and answers related to it.

When is the best time of year to see dolphins in the harbour?

Unlike some marine life, there is no “right” time to see dolphins in Sydney Harbour. Bottlenose dolphins. Peak migration time for marine life in Sydney Harbour typically occurs between late May and November each year. During whale watching cruises, it’s not uncommon to see dolphins frolicking in the harbour as well as the open waters.


What other marine life can I see in Sydney Harbour?

Sydney Harbour is home to a diverse and growing marine life population. While it’s the bull sharks and humpback whales that steal most of the headlines, the harbour is home to more than 600 different species of wildlife. From the protected blue groper, to rays, octopus, and invertebrates like the giant cuttlefish, Sydney Harbour has plenty to offer from above and below the surface.
And while we’re on the subject of marine life that demands attention, it would be remiss not to mention the little penguins that forage for food throughout Sydney Harbour and along the Sydney coast with sightings around Mosman, Vaucluse, Bondi, and Botany Bay.

For those looking to get a closer look at Sydney Harbours’ eclectic collection of marine life, a harbour cruise is the perfect way to get up close and personal (with plenty of breathing room from the bull sharks). Sydney Harbour Escapes offers a range of private boat hire and charter options that offer an unmissable, up-close view of the harbour.   




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