Humpback Whale Southern Migration

If you’re planning a trip to Sydney from October to December, then you should definitely put whale watching in Sydney on the top of your itinerary.

This is arguably the best time to go whale watching in Sydney.

That’s because humpback calves are escorted by their mothers, sometimes with another female, to the southern feeding grounds of Antarctica. This is a migration route that is just off Australia’s east coast.  It’s the best two for one (or three for one if you’re lucky) package in town.

Humpback calves are like most children – curious about new things.  A calf will often start mugging, or approach boats to get a closer look. This is awesome for those on a whale watching cruise, because the calves get quite close to the boats.  There are regulations on how close the boats can get to the whales. Naturally, there are no regulations for the whales!  Or at least, no one has said anything to the whales yet.

Whale watchers often get an extra show from a calf due to the attention the calf is receiving. Calves also have a strong need to release bottled-up energy.  Humpback calves can be quite frisky and if you’re lucky you’ll see a tail slap, or a breach, or even a spyhop (when a whale rises out of the water partially and holds that position).

But let’s not forget about Mom.  Being a good chaperone she will put herself between her calf and the boat full of eager onlookers.  This is often a great photo opt for those camera-ready whale watchers.

Whale watching in Sydney, Australia
Whale watching in A Sydney

Whale watching tour in Sydney

Join the crew of Sea Monkey Sailing and experience a lifetime of the ocean’s most awe-inspiring and majestic creatures.

The purpose-built whale watching vessel departs daily from Crown Towers Wharf in Barangaroo, passing Sydney’s famous landmarks before heading out to sea to view the annual migration of humpback whales.

Whale Tales is a specially designed whale watching boat that allows you to get up close and personal with the whales!

Unlike other boats, their boat has specially made platforms on both sides so you are at eye level and close enough to see the whales. Thanks to the powerful engines, you can be out and about in less than 3 hours.

With only 25 passengers, they offer a personalized experience. Unlike the usual excursion boats with 100 or more passengers, here only a small group goes along to give you a unique and personal experience.

Knowledgeable staff provide information about the harbor and the history of whaling.

This family-friendly activity guarantees a whale sighting on every trip.

During the tour, you’ll get an excellent commentary on the life cycle of these fascinating animals. If you are lucky, you may even see the whales jump out of the water.

It is worth mentioning that the captain always makes sure to keep a respectful distance from the whales.

Price: AUD 109
Duration: 2.5 hours

Book your whale watching experience directly with the tour operator here

Whale jumping out of the water during a Sea Monkey Sailing whale tour in Sidney, Australia.
Whale jumping out of the water during a Sea Monkey Sailing whale tour in Sidney, Australia.

And if you’re looking for something a little more special, opt for a private Whales Tales and Sails charter.

This includes:

  • Pick-up from a pier near you
  • Sailing on a luxury catamaran, including sailing lessons
  • Opportunity to watch whales from your own private sailboat
  • Anchoring in a secluded bay for lunch
  • Maximum of 12 guests on board
  • Great introduction to sailing
  • Family friendly safety nets provided
  • A customized experience that typically lasts approximately 6 hours

Price: AUD 1,950

Whale splashing during a Sea Monkey Sailing whale tour in Sidney, Australia.
Whale splashing during a Sea Monkey Sailing whale tour in Sidney, Australia.

Albino Humpback Calf Sighting

In mid-October I was lucky enough to be on a whale watching cruise and saw an albino humpback calf and mother migrating south.  As you may have guessed, albino whales are very rare.  There is one albino humpback whale that is quite well known in Australia, even has a couple websites dedicated to him. 

Whale watching cruises in Sydney are also a great idea. The whale watching cruise I was on was one of the first to spot the whales, but it wasn’t long before several other boats showed up to get a closer look at the albino calf. 

There was even a helicopter from the local news station on the scene.  All the attention did not stop the calf from a tail slap or two, plus some mugging for the photo- hungry tourists on board!

Other Whale Watching Options

Don’t have the time or the funds for a whale watching cruise in Sydney?

Don’t worry, because during the period from October to December’s southern migration, the mothers and calves tend to swim very close to the shoreline and can often be seen directly from land.  They often stop in protected areas along the coastline and beaches to rest and feed. 

The South Coastal Walk from Bondi to Coogee is an excellent area for spotting whales.

If your planning on taking the ferry to Watson’s Bay to try some of Doyle’s famous fish and chips, as recommended by most of the guide books, then consider the coastal walk around the Inner South Head of the Sydney Harbour with a stop at Gap Park for some coastal whale watching.


  • Travel Dudes

    I'm sure you've had similar experiences I had whilst traveling. You're in a certain place and a fellow traveler, or a local, tip you off on a little-known beach, bar or accommodation. Great travel tips from other travelers or locals always add something special to our travels. That was the inspiration for Travel Dudes.