The best spots for whale watching

See a show that will leave you breathless !!

It’s time to join the annual whale migration and explore the beautiful Port Stephens coastline. Humpback whales are the stars with up to 40,000 passing by the coastline of Port Stephens from May to November.

These majestic creatures are renowned for their spectacular behaviour. Humpbacks will leap out of the water, roll in the air with their huge pectoral fins outstretched like wings, and crash noisily back into the water. The male Humpback whale is famous for its extraordinarily long and complex songs which travel very far throughout the oceans.

There are ample whale-watching opportunities during this time, on a dedicated cruise, or armed with binoculars from headland outlooks in Tomaree National Park.

For more information please call the Port Stephens Visitors Information Centre on 1800 808 900 or book a cruise online.


Want to get close to the whale watching action? Then you’ll certainly want to head out on the water on one of Port Stephens many whale watching cruises departing daily from d'Albora Marina, Nelson Bay.

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Image: Lisa Skelton Photography

Moonshadow-TQC Cruises with over 39 years’ experience and some of the largest vessels in Port Stephens will get you close to the whale action. Watch in awe as you witness these extraordinary animals show you a display of pectoral slaps and body rolls. Lasting roughly three hours, the boat tours take you out into the bay to some of the coast's outer islands to watch the whales showing off. You'll probably get to see some of the region's resident dolphins and seals.

moonshadow cruises nelson bay weekend notes
Image: Moonshadow-TQC Cruises

Alternatively, set sail aboard a 16-metre-long catamaran with the friendly and knowledgeable crew from Imagine Cruises. Witness the whales as they migrate past the islands of the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park and keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and flocks of oceanic sea birds.

Sailing Aboard Imagine Cruises Port Stephens2
Image: Imagine Cruises

Aquamarine Adventures offer a "Whale Watching Express" trip which takes 90 minutes. Head straight out to the whales, less travelling time, more time with these awesome animals! Lookout for dolphins and pay a visit to the Fur Seals and watch as they laze on the rocks at spectacular Cabbage Tree Island. This shorter boat trip is ideal for people short on time and who like smaller groups. Envision holds just 22 people, so it feels more like a private adventure.

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Image: Aquamarine Adventures


You don’t need much preparation to enjoy some of the great whale watching spots in Port Stephens, but a little planning will enhance your experience.

Learn more about typical whale behaviour, which species you might see and how to identify them. Flat calm days are obviously better for spotting a whale but once you know what you’re looking for you will be able to spot them even on a rough day. Look out for the tell-tale “water spout”.

Read the whale watching tips and guidelines.

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Boat Harbour Headland. Image Sue W. Weekend Notes.

Tomaree Head Summit Walk, Shoal Bay
A beautiful walk in its own right, and once you reach the top you’ll have 360-degree views to spot the whales swimming by, look for the tell tale water spout, tail slap, body roll, and if you are lucky a whale breach. Follow the track amongst gums and natural bushland, where you’ll start to catch idyllic views as you wind your way to the top. Tomaree Head Summit Walk is the ultimate whale watching lookout with 2 viewing platforms and a picnic table where you can sit and soak up the view. Don’t forget the camera and binoculars.

*Be aware the start is quite a steep walk and you should take notice of the signs at the base of the path before starting. Allow up to 1.5-2 hours for a return walk, wear sturdy shoes and take plenty of water, the view is well worth the effort. More Information. Map.

Tomaree Head Summit
Image: Tomaree Head Summit, Destination Port Stephens.

Barry Park Lookout, Fingal Bay
Head to the end of Marine Drive at Fingal Bay and you’ll discover Barry Park with a purpose-built whale watching platform. There are benches on the headland and an easy well signed boardwalk track which will take you around the headland. Take a thermos, a snack and a set of binoculars and keep your eyes peeled for that tell tale waterspout. More Information.  Map. 

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Barry Park, Fingal Bay. Image Sue W. Weekend Notes.

Boat Harbour Headland
Located just a short 15 minute drive from Nelson Bay. Boat Harbour headland is a popular spot for locals and visitors to walk up to the end of the headland and look for whales as they frollick past close to the coastline. 

Drive through the sleepy town of Boat Harbour to Noamunga Street. There is a gravel car park and a short walk up to the rocky platform, which has two log seats to sit on to stay for a while. If you have sturdy shoes, there is also a rocky walk to the far end of the headland (where you will find a lifesaving ring), for an even better view. More Information.

Boat Harbour Whale Watching Path is located a few minutes walk away. Accessible from a car park near Solace Place look for the small metal plaque at the beginning of the walk and follow the path through the trees and up towards the headland. There are posts along the way with pictures of whales on them, for you to follow. There is no whale watching platform, but plenty of areas along the headland to look for whales.

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Boat Harbour Headland. Image Sue W. Weekend Notes.

Birubi Beach and Birubi Point, Anna Bay
Drive to the end of James Patterson Street, Anna Bay. Walk along the beach and around the rocky headland (tides permitting) or alternatively walk along the bike track past the skate park through Robinson Reserve and around to Iris Moore Reserve.

There are plenty of perfectly formed rocks along the way you can sit on and use as viewing points on the headland walk.  

Crest Birubi Beach café sits perched on the headland where you can grab a coffee and enjoy something to eat in the warmth of the indoors or order a takeaway and sit in the sun on the grassed area with eyes peeled. Disabled access and parking and amenities are available. Map.

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Birubi Point, Anna Bay. Image Sue W. Weekend Notes.

Iris Moore Reserve, Anna Bay
This coastal gem is an ideal location and one of the best spots for whale spotting up-close. In the afternoon, enjoy breathtaking views of the dramatic beach sunset. There's a large grassy area complete with covered picnic tables and on-site parking. More Information. Map.

Iris Moore picnic area NSW National Parks
Image: Iris Moore Reserve, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service

Fishermans Bay 
Close to Anna Bay this hidden gem is a great spot for family picnics and rockpool walks or if you’re there between May and October it’s a good spot to watch whales on their annual migration along the north coast. More Information. Map.

Fishermans Bay foreshore NSW National Parks
Image: Fishermans Bay, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service

For more information or to book a cruise please call the Port Stephens Visitors Information Centre on 1800 808 900 or book online.

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