Most whales, at some point, migrate to either breed or eat. Migratory patterns differ from species to species. There are at least 45 different species of whale that can be found in Australian waters through out the year, this is partly due to the vast and varied coastline of the island continent. The most commonly sighted migrating whales are Humpbacks and Southern Rights however you may catch a glimpse of Minke, Orcas, Pygmy Sperms, Bryde's Whale species.
Humpbacks are found in all the world's oceans. Humpback whales located in the Southern Hemisphere spend the summer months feeding in the Antarctic waters. From late autumn and through out winter, hump back whales migrate north to warmer tropical waters for breeding season. They return south in Spring.
SOUTHERN RIGHT MIGRATION
Southern Right whale have a similar migration cycle to Humpback whales. They feed in the arctic waters during summer and then migrate north in order to breed in warmer waters. Southern Rights have been sighted as far as Hervey Bay in Queensland between August and November however are more commonly spotted as far as Cape Byron in NSW throughout the winter months.
WHALE WATCHING SPOTS IN AUSTRALIA
In no particular order, here are ten top destinations along Australia's coastline to spot whales in their annual migration.
CAPE BYRON, NSW
Species Sighted: Humpback whales (May to November)
From Yamba to Tweed Heads, Cape Byron is one of the most popular whale watching regions in the country. Byron Bay is home to the most easterly point of Australia (head to Cape Byron Lighthouse) and it is thought that Humpbacks utilise the landmarks to assist the navigation of their migration which ties one of the world's largest whale species close to the coast.
Enjoy one of the great coastal walking tracks in Byron Bay with lookouts primed for whale sightings or take a whale watching tour (by either sea kayak or RIB vessel) to get upclose and personal with these magnificent creatures with the beautiful Byron Bay landscape as your backdrop.
HERVEY BAY, QLD
Species Sighted: Humpback whales (July to October)
It is estimated 17000 Humpbacks make the migration up the east coast of Australia between May and November. Whale watching season in Hervey Bay Queensland kicks off in July and whales can be sighted as late as October.
Between July and August the whales migrate north to the warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef where they will give birth and mate. The tropical waters make for perfect calving and mating areas. Then in late August to early October the population return to the waters of Hervey Bay on their migration south to the arctic waters for polar feeding.
EXMOUTH GULF, WA
Species Sighted: Humpback whales (August - November)
Exmouth Gulf, to the west of the Cape Range National Park is famous for the chance to dive with whale sharks, however Humpbacks also pass through the warm waters of the region.
The Western Australia coastline sees the largest migration of humpback whales in the world estimated to be nearly 30000 and is one of the best chances to see the magnificent male whales perform acrobatic displays as they compete for mates during breeding season.
Species Sighted: Humpback whales (June - November)
Eden and surrounding areas enjoys one of the longest whale watching seasons in the country. From as early as June, be treated as the adult Humpbacks pause to feed in the cool waters off the coast of the southeastern corner of NSW. Then from September to November see the mothers return with their young calves on their journey to Antarctica.
VICTOR HARBOR, SA
Species Sighted: Southern Right whales (July - August)
Each winter, Victor Harbor welcomes a population of Southern right whales to its shores. Some years, as many as 400,000 visitors flock to the seaside town of the Fleurieu Peninsula for the chance to see the pod which is affectionately known as a whaler's paradise.
The large rotund species blow spectacular sprays up to 5m in height and entertain the crowds with spy hopping (lifting their head above the surface), body rolls and other acrobatic displays making for spectacular viewings from land or sea.
BRUNY ISLAND, TAS
Species Sighted: Humpback whales and Southern Right whales (May - December)
The almost-arctic waters of Bruny Island, located near the southern tip of Tasmania, are one of the only places in Australia to have the chance to sight both Humpbacks and Southern Rights during their annual pilgrimage.
Better yet, Bruny Island has one of the longest whale watching seasons stretching from May to December (giving August a miss). Bruny Island is a marine life paradise, a cruise through the rugged coastline will give you the chance to spot: seals, albatross, dolphins as well as both species of whale.
Species Sighted: Southern Right whales (June - October)
For your chance to partake in whale watching in Victoria, your best bet is to head to seaside town of Warrnambool along the Great Ocean Road. Logan's Beach is a particularly great spot to see Southern Right whales give birth to and nurse their young calves in the sheltered bays.
Whale watching season stretches from June to October in Warrnambool and then the pod head toward Antarctica for the summer feeding season.
HEAD OF BIGHT, SA
Species Sighted: Southern Right whales (May - October)
Located near the Nullabor Plain of the far west coast of South Australia is the Head of Bight which provides one of the most unique and spectacular whale residencies in Australia. The Southern Rights frolic in this section of water for almost the entire five month period making whale sightings almost guaranteed.
It is estimated that 30 percent of all Southern Right whales born in Australia are born in the Head of Bight itself.
Species Sighted: Humpback whales and Southern Right whales (June - November)
Albany located in the great southern region of WA provide another rare chance to spot both Humpbacks and Southern Rights. Humpbacks pass through Albany waters on their way to warmer waters in the north and also on their way back to the arctic for polar feeding season.
In contrast, Southern Rights tend to mate and give birth in the bays of Albany making for spectacular whale watching opportunities.
CAPE LEVEQUE, WA
Species Sighted: Humpback whales (August - September)
Cape Leveque is located on the northwest tip of the Dampier Peninsula in the Kimberley region of WA. The area is popular with Humpbacks and enjoys a brief whale watching season lasting from August - September with the warm waters providing a hospitable environment for mothers to tend to their young calves.