Whale watching on the east coast of Australia is fast becoming one of the most popular activities during the Australian humpback whale migration season. Where is the best whale watching, and are there any differences between watching the whales in Queensland or New South Wales (NSW)?
The humpback whales migrate along both the east coast and west coast of Australia to find warmer waters during the Antarctic winter for breeding and giving birth to their calves. Humpbacks travel up both coasts, stay for a while and then return to their Antarctic feeding grounds for the summer.
The Australian whale watch season is approximately from May to November each year. The whales arrive earlier in the southern part of the east coast and as late as July in far north Queensland waters.
East coast whale watching is probably more popular, not because it is any better than the west coast, just that there is a greater population and a greater density of tourist or commercial whale watching operations based at various points on this coast.
Most of whale watch cruises operate from NSW or Queensland. Here are some of the pros and cons for each location.
Often first to spot whales and the last to wave goodbye at the end of the season.
No breeding grounds, the whales are mostly on the move either north or south.
In NSW whale watching boats are allowed to watch whales at any distance from the shoreline.
Water and daytime temperatures are cooler further south therefore less comfortable for whale watch cruise passengers.
Popular whale watch spots include Sydney, Jervis Bay, Coffs Harbour, Port Stevens, Byron Bay and Tweed Heads.
Whales stop to breed or birth their calves in several locations from Hervey Bay through to Port Douglas.
Many choices for whale watch cruises to cater for visitors to Queensland during the winter months.
In Queensland whale watch cruises must go out to 3 miles offshore before they are allowed to commence watching the whales.
Queensland has a more temperate weather during the whale watching season as it is closer to the equator. Water temperatures are warmer and visitors can enjoy warmer days on the water making it more comfortable to watch the whales.
Queensland’s south east coast whale watching enjoys one of the longest whale watching seasons with whales going in both directions during the mid season.
Popular whale watch spots include Coolangatta/Tweed Heads, Gold Coast, Brisbane’s Moreton Bay, Sunshine Coast, Hervey Bay, Whitsundays, Cairns and Port Douglas.
In south east coast of Queensland there are many whale watch cruise operators . The two most popular areas are Hervey Bay and Gold Coast. There are certainly far more opportunities to go whale watching in Queensland. The weather is usually warmer and kinder to the whale watchers too!
My advice? Wherever you are, if there is an opportunity to go see these magnificent creatures get out there and enjoy it. It is an experience of a lifetime.