It was the end of June, and we were so lucky to be living in Australia at the time to witness the great annual whales migration. Pods of Humpback Whales travel along the east coast from their feeding grounds of Antarctica and head towards the warmer waters of the Pacific to breed.
We had a 4 months old baby with us last year this time and whale watching cruises were not recommended for safety reasons. Instead, we decided to go whale watching on land and explore some of the best vantage points and coastal walks in Sydney.
Our first whale watching experience on land was very underprepared, we didn’t know what to expect or what to bring, and had learned our lessons with the pro whale watchers.
So in this post, not only we share the best 5 free whale watching spots in Sydney, but we also share our tips on what to bring and what to expect when whale watching on land in Sydney.
At the end of the post, we include the top whale watching cruise travel deals from brands that we use ourselves, for those who prefer to experience whale watching on a cruise instead.
* This page contains affiliate links. (Full Disclosure)
The Best Time To Go Whale Watching
Although you can sight whales from May – November, the best season to see whales is around late June to early July. Most whale watching cruises run til November, but if you’re a coastal walk lover, try and get out to one of the vantage points below between 11 am – 3 pm late June to July.
What to Bring to Whale Watching
- Patience! (I’d leave the baby at home next time if I could!)
- Binoculars: if you’re not on the water, chances are you will only catch a tiny little glimpse of the whales.
- Warm jackets or even blankets: weather can change quickly, it’s usually quite cold and windy by the water, especially if you’re sitting still.
- Sun hat/sunscreen
- Chairs: You would be extremely lucky to sight whales without waiting, it’s not uncommon to wait for hours and hours to spot a pod, so bringing a chair sounds like a good idea.
- Bring lunch, snacks and water
- Pen and paper if you want to make notes
- Camera: preferably with a telephoto zoom lens for the photography lovers. Otherwise, expect this…
Top 5 Vantage Points To See Whales
1. Kurnell Cape Solander Lookout
Cape Solander Lookout is one of the best vista points for whale watching in Sydney. It’s a part of Kamay Botany Bay National Park in the suburb of Kurnell, only 40 minutes drive south of Sydney.
When we arrived, there were photographers patiently waiting on the reefs with their tripods already. A few groups of experienced whale watchers wrapped up in jackets, looked like they planned to be there from dawn to dusk.
I had a brief chat with the volunteers from NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service^, there were already 100 humpback whales sighted by 2 pm. The closest one swam past a few hundred meters to shore just before midday! Although we didn’t spend enough time there to catch a whale passing under our nose, I still learned a thing or two from the pros!
Why Cape Solander is our favourite spot
- Accessibility by car, ample free waterfront parking. No need for a hike to get to vantage point.
- Whales have been reported to be seen as close as 200m to shore.
- There were recorded sightings every day during that particular season according to Wild About Whales^.
- There are hiking trails in Kamay National Park for walks & hikes.
- It’s close to a string of beaches, which you can make a day out of beach hopping.
- Newly discovered: It’s very close to Drake’s Endeavour Oyster Farm. If you’re a seafood lover, be sure to check out this oyster farm!
2. The Gap, Watsons Bay
Gap Bluff one of our favourite coastal walks on the South Head Peninsula, facing Tasman sea. Watsons Bay is easily accessible by car or bus, but the best place to spot whales would be further up the track where you have a higher and broader view of the ocean.
3. North Head, Manly
Manly has so much to offer, so this would be a great day out while trying your luck with whale watching at North Head. Fairfax lookout is the best place to get a panoramic view of the harbour. You can read about our local guide to Manly here.
4. Barrenjoey Head, Palm Beach
This location requires a bit of walk uphill, but to coastal walk lovers, this is one of the most enjoyable walks in Sydney. Barrenjoey lighthouse sits at the northernmost point in Sydney overlooking Palm Beach and the Pacific Ocean. We recommend packing some light lunch and a picnic rug, spend some time there and try your luck on spotting whales with a binocular.
5. Royal National Park
The Grand Pacific Drive is one of our family’s top road trips from Sydney, so if you plan to whale watching at one of the vantage points in Royal National Park, make it a road trip! The coast track is 26km long, you can try your luck at one of the many headlands cliff lookouts.
Bald Hill lookout at Stanwell Tops is one of the vantage points that’s accessible by cars. This is also one of the popular tourists lookouts where you may spot people paragliding or parasailing over the coastline.
Other Vantage Points in Sydney
There are many other whale watching places in Sydney along either side of the coast. We listed some of the lookouts that don’t require a lot of hiking as we’re a young family. However, if you enjoy walks and hikes, the best spots are always the hidden gems inside national parks. Here are a few other places that are known for whale watching, if you have spotted whales here, share your experience with us below!
- Shark Island
- Bouddi National Park
- Bondi Beach
- Long Reef Point between Dee Why and Collaroy beach
- Malabar Headland National Park
- Cape Banks La Perouse
Whale Watching Cruises
If I wasn’t pregnant or with a small baby, whale watching cruises would actually be my preferred option to see whales up close. You can find some pretty amazing deals during whale watching season. One of the best travel deal sites our family use is BookMe*.
Alternatively, try these travel deals…
Don’t Be A Stranger!
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In the meantime…
Where have you sighted whale migrations? Have you taken a whale watching cruise before?