Free Whale Watching along the East Coast of Australia
There are many land based whale watching sites located along the coast line of Australia. During the winter migration Humpback whales travel close to shore making it easy to sight whales from land. It is best done with a pair of binoculars or monoscope. Cameras with high powered telephoto lens are able to take wonderful images from land as well.
Spotting Whales From Land
Tips and Best Position for Land Based
When searching the ocean for a whale passing it is best done on a calm clear day. Be situated as high as you can, maybe a headland which has clear views up and down the coast line. Look for the "blow" of the whales as they breath, this cloud of spray can be seen from far. The large splashes from breaches and tail slapping are also easily seen for a long way. If you think you sight a splash stop and watch that spot for a while. Whales travel in groups called pods and if you see one there is most probably more within a few meters of your first sighting. It is common for whales in each pod to rise to the surface and breath together before diving but down to the depths. Humpbacks can have different breathing patterns which can be broken down as "down time" (the length of time a pod is under the water between breathing cycles) and "up time" (the length of time the whales spend on the surface breathing). On the Gold Coast I have witnessed many pods with a 4 minute up time and a 10 minute down time. These animals are usually on the move, making good progress with their migration. Another breathing pattern can be up for 3-5 minutes down for 30-45 minutes. These pods are very hard to follow as they don't always swim in a straight line so they can surface in any direction a mile or two away from their entry point. I have also had many a whale follow me on the water for hours playing with my yacht. Whale video of an encounter with a humpback off the Gold Coast.
Places to go for Land Based WHALE WATCHING
In Queensland land-based whale-watching is best at Point Lookout on Stradbroke Island and Point Danger, near the Gold Coast/NSW border.
In northern New South Wales, the area from Cape Byron to Tweed Heads is a prime location for whale-spotting, as is Coffs Harbour. The cliffs around Jervis Bay also provide great opportunities for land based sightings of Humpbacks.
Southern Right Whales appear close to the Tasmanian, Victorian and South Australian coasts. In Victoria they can be seen from headlands along the Otway coast – near Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Portland. Logan's Beach at Warrnambool is an area where they calve and usually remain between June and October. There are boardwalks and lookout points along the beach for prime viewing (it can get a bit crowded if the whales are at play).
Adventure Bay on Bruny Island (near Hobart) is Tasmania's best area for sighting Southern Rights, with stays of up to five weeks and calving being recorded in the area. Other good spots are Storm Bay, Great Oyster Bay and Mercury Passage, for both Humpbacks and Southern Rights.
In South Australia, the cliffs along the Great Australian Bight Marine National Park are a great place to spot Southern Rights. The Head of Bight whale watching area on the remote far west coast has a viewing platform, accessed through an interpretive centre. Victor Harbour’s land-based whale watching areas attract tens of thousands of people each year. The best vantage points include the Bluff, Granite Island, Freeman's Nob and Middleton Point. Southern Rights are often seen within 100 metres of the shore. But remember – it is illegal to swim with whales.
The entire Western Australian coastline provides opportunities to see Humpbacks. Southern coastal areas from the Great Australian Bight to Albany and Cape Leeuwin are important breeding areas, with Albany’s King George Sound a favourite spot for whales from June to October.
Perth waters are an important temporary rest area for southward migrating Humpbacks between September and November when they can be seen regularly, as can Southern Rights.
At Kalbarri some of the best vantage points are at Natural Bridge and Eagle Gorge in Kalbarri National Park, and from the dramatic coastal cliffs of Red Bluff.
Further north, Point Quobba at Shark Bay and Ningaloo Marine Park is a prime place for whale-spotting, as are the Kimberley coast and the sheltered waters directly off Broome. The waters north of Cape Leveque are also an important calving and breeding area, with the peak period between mid-August and mid-September.
There are many whale watching tour operators who will also take you up close and personal with these majestic creatures.