When is Whale Watching Season in Sydney?


Whale watching is one of the most magical natural experiences you can have — ask anyone who’s seen a whale breach the surface of Sydney Harbour and they’ll tell you that it’s simply unforgettable. 

Given that whales don’t appear all year round along Sydney’s coast, you’ll need to know when whale watching season in Sydney comes around if you’re planning to catch these gentle giants up close.  


When Is the Best Time to See Whales in Sydney?

The period between May to November is when whales make their annual migration to and from the south up to the North-east part of the Great Barrier Reef in tropical Queensland. 

As the waters get cooler along Australia’s north coast, whales make their way up from Antarctica to give birth to baby calves in the Coral Sea. During this time in May to August, keep your eyes peeled for migrating to-be mother whales. 

After giving birth to their young, the whales will then make the same trip back to Antarctica the way they came, creating a second whale-watching opportunity for those who might’ve missed their first pass. This part of the migration takes place from mid-August to November and includes the bonus of spotting baby whale calves playfully swimming alongside their mothers. During the peak period of the whale watch season in Sydney, it’s not uncommon to see whales dropping into Sydney Harbour to say hello too. 

Post-November till the end of the year is when whale activity gets lower — though you might still be able to spot some stragglers if you’re lucky. 

Whale Season in Sydney – What to Expect

Now that you know when to look, let’s talk about where you should look.

Sydney’s wide expanse of coastlines is where you’ll want to plant yourself for some whale sightings. It’s theorised that whales swim close to the coast to use it as a guide, which is great because it makes them easy to spot. 

Some of the prime spots during the whale watching season in Sydney include:

  • Crackneck Lookout in Wyrrabalong National Park 

  • Burragula and Yiningma lookout points at North Head

  • Viewing platforms at Cape Solander

  • Barrenjoey Lighthouse in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

  • Hornby Lighthouse in Sydney Harbour National Park


How to See Whales in Sydney 

Spotting whales from coast lookout points can be done with a handy pair of binoculars. 

But if you really want to get the best experience of whale watching in Sydney, you should consider going on the water to meet them on a boat tour, or a whale watching boat hire. 

Whale-watching tours pop up everywhere during the whale-watching season in Sydney. Depending on which tour company you book with, whale-watching tour boats can carry up to 100 passengers at a time. 

In our experience, having so many people on the boat clamouring for a good angle to watch the whales is less than ideal, which is why we recommend hiring a private charter boat for whale watching. Whale-watching boat hires can get you up close and personal with the whales as they swim and frolic around, and best of all, you won’t have to compete with others for memorable photo opportunities.  

Best Time of Day to See Whales In the Water

Late mornings and early afternoons are the best time to see whales as they are often most active at this time. Try to pick a viewing time between 11 am to 3 pm to give yourself the best chance to spot them. 


The Different Types of Whales You’ll See in Sydney

Humpback whales are the most common type of whales you’ll come across while whale watching. Experts estimate that around 40,000 humpback whales are travelling along Sydney’s coast. Apart from humpbacks, there have been sightings of southern right whales, sperm whales, and even orcas in Sydney’s waters as well.


Making the Most of Your Whale Watching Experience

As one of the most popular and iconic Sydney experiences, whale watching is best enjoyed when it’s planned ahead and prepared for. 

Whale-watching spots can sell out rapidly near the start of the season in May, so we recommend booking your tour or boat hire at least a month beforehand to secure your spots early. Aim to go whale watching either in June or September, as these are months that have historically had the highest whale activity. 

With Sydney Harbour Escapes, we offer a range of private boat charters ideal for whale watching. Hire the Alila from May to November, and you’ll get a private whale-watching experience with a full crew - or book the Zeus boat for a group whale spotting session.

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