Whale watching peaks on the Central Coast
Find the best whale watching spots on the Central Coast
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 Humpback whale migration from May to November is one of the most amazing wildlife experiences in Australia - and the Central Coast has access to some spectacular lookouts and ECO Certified whale watching tours.
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 shores of the Central Coast can look like a 'humpback highway' making it easy to spot these majestic creatures. With many vantage points along out coastline, we have listed a few of the best places to watch them. Don't forget to wrap up warm and bring your binoculars!
Gerrin Point Lookout, Bouddi National Park - Start the Bouddi Coastal Walk (8km) at Putty Beach and follow the track for approx 1.2km, climb the stairs to the boardwalk leading to the lookout, providing panoramic views of Maitland Bay and the Bouddi National Park Marine Extension.
Marie Byles Lookout, Bouddi National Park - Honouring one of NSW's early environmentalists, this spot is part of Bouddi National Park accessible via the Scenic Road at Killcare Heights providing commanding views of Putty Beach, Box Head, Broken Bay and Barrenjoey Head.
Captain Cook Lookout, Copacabana - located off Del Monte Place, this high vantage point is a great place to take the kids. The recently upgraded lookout's provides two viewing decks, interpretative signage and a fully accessible path.
The Skillion, Terrigal - This iconic tall outcrop has amazing views of North Avoca and Avoca beaches to the south, and Wamberal and Forresters beaches to the north. Make your way to the top by utilising the walkway on the northern side of the Skillion.
Crackneck Point, Wyrrabalong National Park (South) - *Newly re-opened with more seating and parking* Located at the end of Bateau Road, Crackneck Point has ample room to park and set up a picnic blanket ready for some whale spotting, with views over The Entrance and Shelly Beach.
Norah Head Lighthouse, Norah Head - with stunning views across the Pacific Ocean this unique viewing location is home to the annual Whale Dreamers Festival (July). Lighthouse tours are also available.
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 40,000-50,000. 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.
Marine adventures on the Central Coast
The best way to find out more about whales and other marine wildlife is to see them up close and personal - just ask one of our local experts.
This newly ECO-Certified tour operator is headed up by marine biologist and 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 dedicated Central Coast tours page.
🐋 Whale Watching Tour from Terrigal Haven
Experience one of Australia's greatest wildlife events, the Humpback Whale migration in safety and style in their purpose-built Ecotour RIB, with a short trip to respectfully witness their annual migration path along the east coast.
🐋 Seal and Dolphin Watching Tour from Hardys Bay (90 mins)
Glide across the waterways of scenic Broken Bay on a high-speed adventure boat. Visit a local seal colony and a Little Penguin colony at a respectful distance. Watch for playful dolphins and migrating whales. Learn about the area's rich history and marine life from the trained crew.
🐋 Bay and Beach Tour (3 hours)
All aboard a chartered adventure boat, this tour includes watching for dolphins and seals, swimming in the ocean, stand-up paddle boarding, and even the most scenic picnic stop you could imagine.
🐋 Broken Bay Explorer (5 hours)
Charter a 36ft eco boat and enjoy the stunning the tranquillity and captivating scenery of surrounding Broken Bay and the Hawkesbury River. Watch for seals, dolphins and whales from May to November. Discover intriguing history including
early contact with the Darkinjung Aboriginal people. Pull up on an exclusive beach for a BBQ lunch.
Another ECO-Certified business is the newly refurbished marine education centre. It is a treasure trove of fascinating finds for kids and adults alike. From fossils to sharks, seal skulls to exciting details on the scuttled dive wreck ex-HMAS Adelaide, the centre is run by passionate marine experts and volunteers who can share fun facts and stories about what lies under the surface just off the Terrigal coastline.
Whale treasure hunt
Come and spot the whales these school holidays from Crackneck Point Lookout and Bouddi National Park with a National Parks and Wildlife Services Guide. Kids can record you’re your findings on your whale treasure hunt card as well as hear and learn all about this huge creatures.
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. Find out more and register here
Whale watching tips
Spotting whales is a fun way to spend the morning or afternoon however each day is different. Patience is the key and knowing what to look for and being prepared will help you enjoy this awe-inspiring activity.
Whale migration seasons: June -August (Migrating North) and Oct - Nov (Migrating South)
Take your time: Have patience these majestic creatures are not on the clock.
Be prepared: Take a comfortable chair, wear warm clothes, put on sunscreen and a hat, find a protected spot from the wind, take a pair of binoculars and don't forget your camera!
What to look for: Movements through the water, spray air, water, water vapour and mucus from their blowholes which is known as the 'blow'.
Identify the species: With a little practice you'll be able to identify the species of whale you are seeing. There are ten different species, however Humpbacks are the stars of the migration and are the most likely ones you will see.
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Epic whale sightings off our coastline...