The Humpback Highway: Top whale watching spots on Sydney’s Northern Beaches

Sydney’s Spectacular Whale Migration

From May to November the waters off Sydney’s Northern Beaches come alive as over 35,000 whales embark on their annual migration. There are numerous land-based spots along the Northern Beaches offering spectacular views for whale watching. Interestingly, 43 species of whales travel through Australian waters, though the most commonly seen along the Northern Beaches are the humpback and southern right whales. During the first part of the season spot the whales as they head north to the warmer waters of Queensland to have their calves. Then, in the second half of the season, you’re in for a treat as the whole family return to the southern waters for feeding. This is usually when they are at their most playful.

Top whale watching spots along the peninsula

North Head

Located near Manly, North Head offers spectacular views of Sydney Harbour. The newly renovated Fairfax Lookout is a great spot to perch. Complete the 1km loop track and take in the coastline between two lookouts – offering views south towards the city skyline and South Head, or North, past dramatic cliffs to Blue Fish Point. Both are stunning spots to see if any marine friends are cruising by. The loop track is an accessible walkway with new sandstone blocks to sit and admire the views. If you’re after something a little more tucked away, head around to Shelly Beach car par and up to the lookout on the cliff. You’ll often spot whales breaching from this vantage point.

Dee Why to Curl Curl Walking Track

The coastal track connecting Dee Why and Curl Curl follows the cliff’s edge, as you meander up and down rockfaces and through clearings, all with the Pacific Ocean on your left or right hand side, depending if you’re walking north or south. There are many spots along the way to pause, and take in the stunning ocean below, or sit and wait for the passing marine life to cruise by. The best thing? There are definitely no Bondi to Coogee crowds to contend with on this track.

Long Reef Headland

Long Reef Headland is a popular locals spot for whale watching. It’s a short stroll from the car park, past the golf course, and up to the top of the headland. From here you can see all the way south to Manly, and further north as far as the Central Coast! There’s a viewing platform with plenty of space to sit with a picnic and take in the surrounds.

Palm Beach – Barrenjoey Lighthouse

Palm Beach and Barrenjoey Lighthouse are the iconic whale watching spot on the Northern Beaches. The northern most point of the peninsula delivers, not just on stunning views (and holiday homes), but also on whales. The walk to the top of the headland is steep, but you’re rewarded with panoramic views from the top. You can see the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Hawkesbury River to the north, and the stunning, calm waters of Pittwater and Broken Bay to the west.

Tips for whale watching

  • Patience is key!
  • Look for the blow of water coming from the surface as the whale breathes out.
  • Don’t forget the binoculars. This will allow you to get up close and personal with the whales from the shoreline.
  • Spotting them is easier in calmer seas, when there are a limited number of white caps. Choose your day!
  • Scan the horizon line for movement.
  • Remember warm layers as peak whale season is usually during the cooler months. You don’t want to have to leave early and miss them breaching because your teeth were chattering.
  • Know your whales – looking for key details about their fins, tails and even their blow patterns to distinguish the species you’re looking at.