Whale watching peaks on the Central Coast
The Humpback whale migration is one of the most amazing wildlife experiences in Australia - and the Central Coast has access to some spectacular lookouts and whale watching tours.
It's easy to see the whales this season - book an ocean tour from Terrigal, picnic at one of our scenic lookouts, or take a coastal walk to witness the whales' epic journey...
The best Central Coast whale watching spots
One of the most breathtaking outdoorsy things to do on the Central Coast during winter is to spot Humpback and Southern Right whales breaching off the coastline. The best place to do this is from one of our many scenic lookouts. Check out our article on Where to catch a glimpse of whales on the Central Coast for full details on these whale watching locations, listed below from north to south.
- Wybung Head
- Norah Head Lighthouse
- Soldiers Point, Norah Head
- Crackneck Lookout, Bateau Bay
- The Skillion, Terrigal
- Captain Cook Lookout, Copacabana
- Gerrin Point Lookout, Bouddi Coastal Walk
Walk with the whales
You can also spot whales during the annual 5 Lands Walk from Macmasters Beach to Terrigal. This day-long festival is held on the Saturday closest to the winter solstice when the whales, a significant totem of the Darkinjung people, are migrating north, along 10km of our spectacular coastline.
Why do whales travel along the east coast each year?
The majestic Humpback whales spend summer in the Southern Ocean, feeding on the abundant krill and small fish while conditions are mild. In winter, deep low pressure systems form and the Southern Ocean becomes cold and stormy. This is when the whales know it's time to head north to seek out sub-tropical waters for the feeding and breeding phase of their life cycle.
The main reason for their annual migration is to have their babies; their calves.
Calves are born without a protective blubber layer under their skin and they simply wouldn’t survive a cold, Antarctic winter. To ensure their survival, the mothers swim approximately 2000km across the Southern Ocean, then 2000km up the east coast of Australia to give birth. Calves are born in areas such as Hervey Bay and the Whitsundays. The mother then has to produce about 200 litres of milk every day so that the calf can build itself up ready for the return journey to the Southern Ocean.
It is a big job to be a Humpback mum!
When do whales visit the Central Coast?
Humpbacks migrate up the coast of each continent from the Antarctic. Researchers have monitored Humpback whale songs and it appears that they mix in the Southern Ocean, but then stick to the same migration path that they learn as a calf. The mothers also teach calves the migration route as they return south. Other research indicates that they use the gravitational forces of the moon to navigate the oceans.
Male whales are an important part of the huge annual journey up and down Australia's east coast. They actually mate with non-pregnant females in the warm waters of The Coral Sea, in the calmer waters of Hervey Bay and The Whitsundays. It's the young males who normally lead the migration passing Central Coast waters in May to June.
“With a belly full of krill and driven by hormones, they put on an incredible acrobatic show of breaching and tail slapping. A pod of competitive whales is an incredible sight, up to seven whales charging along trying to outdo each other.”
Male whales not only use their vibrant displays of strength to court the non-pregnant females, they can also be romantic using their humpback song to woo the travelling ladies.
“It is a reflection of their beautiful nature that their courtship includes singing to attract the female."
Each year during spring, on their return journey from the northern waters, whale mothers pull in to protected bays like Terrigal Beach and Broken Bay on the Central Coast to rest and feed. It is a magical experience to see a new born calve with its mum, and for many nature-lovers and eco-travellers, this can be a highlight of the year.
Terrigal Ocean Tours skipper, Andrew Jones, shares his knowledge and experience of the annual whale spectacle,
“We have seen a calf playing with a bunch of seaweed and passing it to its mum. They are known to be altruistic, protecting other mammals such as dolphins and seals, and even humans, from predators in the ocean.”
Are Humpback whales endangered?
The population of east coast Humpback whales dropped to approximately 800 during the whaling era, but, amazingly, has recovered to around 35,000. This is increasing by 10.9% each year, which is hugely promising for a species targeted by poaching and illegal fishing. Get out to a coastal lookout or on a whale watching tour and enjoy this amazing wildlife experience.
More about whale watching on the Central Coast
The best way to find out more about whales and see them up close and personal is to ask the local experts.
- Terrigal Ocean Tours - headed up by skipper Andrew Jones, you can enjoy an Ocean Blast Ride from May to November aboard their high speed Eco Tour vessel, complete with a marine biologist on board. Tours depart from Terrigal Haven from 9am mid-week and weekends, simply book ahead via their website.
- Central Coast Marine Discovery Centre - This newly revamped education centre is a treasure trove of fascinating marine finds for kids and adults. From fossils to sharks, seal skulls to details on the dive wreck ex-HMAS Adelaide, the centre is run by passionate marine experts who can share fun facts and stories about marine life just off the Terrigal coastline.
Epic whale sightings off our coastline...