What to expect from the Sydney Whale Watching season

Whale watching season is in full swing along the East Coast of Australia, so I was excited to be spending the next couple of hours on a Whale Watching tour from Sydney. We set out to see if we could find one of these majestic creatures from the deep.

Meeting on a cold winters day at Circular Quay we boarded our RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) ready for the most exciting and personal whale watching experiences on offer. The use of a smaller boat means we can get up close and personal with the whales as some of the larger vessels tend to scare them off. Armed with our spray jackets and cameras we sped off to Manly to pick up the last of our passengers and do a quick safety check.

Flotilla of whale watching boats. Its whale watching season off Sydney!
The regular flotilla of boats that follow the whales past Sydney Harbour on their migration north

In no time at all we were out of the Sydney Heads with our eyes peeled for that elusive white puff of spray that indicates a whale. Blake, our guide and Captain, ensures us we will see whales today as we’re in the height of their migration pattern from the Antarctic to the warmer waters of the South Pacific. Both male and female Humpback Whales migrate north to give birth and breed. Once past the heads we sped out 5 kilometres then south in search of these magnificent creatures. In no time at all a whale is spotted off in the horizon, we approach from the side so as not to scare her off and watch as the whale does a brilliant display of blows and lob tailing.

Whale watching off Sydney Harbour

The puff of water we see as the whale surfaces is him exhaling, this is seen a handful of times before the whale dives down, they can be down for approximately 10 minutes. Lob tailing is when the whale slaps its tail in the water, creating a great spectacle for us and communicating with the other whales in the area, earning a chorus of “oooh’s” and “ahh’s” from us. We were lucky to have this Humpback Whale come to investigate the boat, pivoting in the water to show us its white underside before finally taking a last breath to dive away. Being in a boat so low to the surface we were able to have some great photo opportunities and a personal connection with the whale. While watching this whale another one is spotted and we watch from afar before he dives.

Whale lob-tailing off Sydney on our whale watching tour
This whale came up to us, lob-tailing, off Sydney on our whale watching tour

Keeping a constant eye on the horizon we head off back up the coast where another whale watching vessel has spotted a pod of three. We quickly spot them and watch as the synchronising of their humps rise and fall from the surface. A Humpback Whale is distinct due to its steep arch in its back right before they dive, they travel up to 8 km/h but as slow as 1.6 km/h as they rest and socialise along their migration north. The sun hits the water surrounding the whales and highlights the large oil slick that is left behind from their skin when they surface. After some time the pod disappeared and it was already time to head back to Sydney. Blake quickly reminded us how fast this speedboat can go by heading straight for the sheer cliffs of the Sydney coastline before taking an abrupt left back into Sydney Harbour.

After dropping some passengers off at Manly we powered down the harbour, past all of the famous sights along the way, Watsons Bay, Rushcutters Bay, Elizabeth Bay, Fort Denison to finally arrive back at Sydney Cove where we left Blake and his RIB behind and head off for coffee and cake. A great conclusion to a wonderful few hours watching whales just off Sydney Heads.


Whale watching is a seasonal experience and runs during the winter months from Sydney. You can book one of Blake’s whale watching tours directly with us. Whale Watching Tour Sydney + Speed Boat Thrill

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