THE 10 BEST Dolphin & Whale Watching in Sydney, Australia

Dolphin & whale watching in sydney.

  • Nature & Wildlife Tours
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  • Dolphin & Whale Watching
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  • Sydney Harbour
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  • Captain Cook Cruises
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  • The ranking of tours, activities, and experiences available on Tripadvisor is determined by several factors including the revenue generated by Tripadvisor from these bookings, the frequency of user clicks, and the volume and quality of customer reviews. Occasionally, newly listed offerings may be prioritized and appear higher in the list. The specific placement of these new listings may vary.

whale watching tour in sydney

1. Whale Watching Boat Trip in Sydney

whale watching tour in sydney

2. Whale Watching Sydney - 3hr Discovery Cruise

whale watching tour in sydney

3. Sydney Whale-Watching by Speed Boat

whale watching tour in sydney

4. Whales of Sydney Boat Safari

whale watching tour in sydney

5. Sydney Whale-Watching Cruise

whale watching tour in sydney

6. Sydney Hop-on-Hop-off Cruise and Whale Watching Cruise

whale watching tour in sydney

7. Whale Watching on Speed Boat with canopy from Sydney Harbour

whale watching tour in sydney

8. Whale Watching 2 hour Adventure cruise

whale watching tour in sydney

9. Private Luxury Intimate Whale Watching

whale watching tour in sydney

10. Whale Watching Sailing Experience in Sydney

Keep the fun going with other experiences in the area.

whale watching tour in sydney

Scenic Adventure Cruise

whale watching tour in sydney

Broken Bay Pearl & Oyster Farm Tours

whale watching tour in sydney

Overnight Yacht Stay in Palm Beach

whale watching tour in sydney

Morning in the Gorge

whale watching tour in sydney

Beautiful Middle Harbour Sunriser / Guided Kayaking Private Tour

whale watching tour in sydney

Whale Watching Cruise in New South Wales

What travelers are saying.

Jacq H

  • Whale Watching Boat Trip in Sydney
  • Whale Watching Sydney - 3hr Discovery Cruise
  • Sydney Whale-Watching by Speed Boat
  • Sydney Whale-Watching Cruise
  • Sydney Hop-on-Hop-off Cruise and Whale Watching Cruise
  • Runaway Tours
  • Splendour Tailored Tours
  • Sydney Boat Adventures
  • Dreamtime Girl Charters
  • Go Whale Watching Sydney
  • Sydney Wildlife Tours - Day Tours
  • Oz Whale Watching
  • Colourful Collective Travel
  • Whale Watching Sydney
  • Majestic Water Taxis

Sydney: Dolphin & Whale Watching Information

Sydney Expert

Whale Watching in Sydney: A Comprehensive Guide

Today we share everything you need to know to enjoy whale watching in Sydney. When is the best time to see whales? Can you see them for free? Which whale watching cruise should you book? For the answers to these questions and more, let’s get started.

Best Times for Whale Watching in Sydney

Whale watching tips and guidelines, whale watching from the water, things to consider before you book a whale watching cruise, best whale watching tours sydney, whale watching spots in sydney, whale watching spots in the south and east, whale watching in the north.

This post contains affiliate links. Our full disclosure policy is here .

When can you see whales in Sydney?

The best time to see whales in Sydney is from mid-June to mid-July, when numbers are at their peak. The official 2024 whale watching season will kick off in May and continue until November. Over 16,000 of these beautiful creatures will pass along our coastline during this period. The whale watching season covers the migration north for the winter and then returns south in summer. When they are heading north, the whales are closest to the coast and more likely to be seen from land. When they head back south, they travel further out to sea and are a little harder to spot, making cruising the best way to see them in the latter part of the season.

What is the best time of day to see whales?

Many say the best time of day to spot whales is between 11am-3pm when the sun is directly overhead and there is excellent visibility. However, for photography, the light is a little harsh at this time of day, and you will get much better shots in the morning or afternoon light. However, you can have success spotting whales at any time of day.

Where can you see whales in Sydney?

Along with all the cruises, there are many good whale sighting spots along the coast on either side of Sydney Harbour, with North and South Heads being the easiest for visitors to reach without a car. Check out our list of land-based whale viewing spots below.

What is the cheapest way to see whales in Sydney?

Obviously from land is the best choice for budget travellers, but you can also pick up bargain prices on cruises during the beginning and the end of the season. Your chances of spotting a whale are a little lower at this time, but they are around. This year there have been multiple sightings reported on many cruises.

Humpback Whale Watching in Sydney Harbour

Can you see whales in Sydney Harbour?

Whales have entered the harbour on several occasions over the last 15 years, but sightings inside the harbour itself are scarce. Two humpbacks entered Sydney Harbour and took a rest at Rose Bay in 2012.

In 2012, a Southern Right whale was playing off Middle Head and in 2013 off Bondi, we have even seen one in Botany Bay. However, while it is possible, it’s rare, so head to one of the spots listed below or jump on a boat for more certainty of seeing these fantastic creatures.

What type of whales can you see in Sydney?

You are most likely to see Humpback whales and occasionally Southern Right whales in Sydney.

Whale tail seen while whale watching in Sydney Harbour

Humpbacks are the most playful of all whales, so they are the easiest spotted. Other species like Minke whales, false killer whales, killer whales and pilot whales also pass along, but in much lower numbers, so while you might see one, it is less likely.

If you want the best chance of successful whale watching in Sydney, then you really should go on a whale-watching cruise. While it might seem a good deal to choose one of the cheaper cruises on offer, there are a few things you should consider before you make your choice.

whale watching cruise boats sydney

How much does a whale watching cruise cost?

The price of whale watching boat trips in Sydney can differ depending on what’s included and the length of the experience.

The price with a quality operator will vary between $75-$150 depending on the size of the group and the length of the tour. All the operators we recommend here will offer a safe and comfortable boat and staff who are experienced in spotting whales and can tell you lots about them. The more expensive options include a meal and drinks.

  • Some operators offer a free return cruise guarantee if you don’t spot a whale, good for those who like the idea of some insurance 😉
  • Do think about your sea legs, are you good on open seas? If not, choose a bigger boat for a more stable run. Regardless, you should probably pick up some anti sea sick tablets from the pharmacy before you board. There is one right at Circular Quay station that is sure to have a good supply.
  • Resist the urge to book a shorter tour – it will take you 20 mins to get out of the heads and 20 mins back, cruises less 2 hours are too short (except for the speedboat cruise below). Two and half to four hours will give you the best bang for your buck for those with sea legs. Novices to open water cruising may prefer a cruise between 2 and 3 hours.
  • Avoid operators who promise to get right up close to these magnificent creatures; boats may get within 100 metres of the whales; the whales can come to them when they are stationary, and sometimes they do, but vessels must not approach any closer than this.
  • Finally, the best cruises do book out in advance, so while the temptation to hold out and book on the day or the day before to catch the best weather, you will miss out during the NSW winter School holidays.

Captain Cook Whale Watching Cruises

Duration : 2.5 hours  | Departure point: Circular Quay | Book this tour  

The best-known cruise company in Sydney, Captain Cook, with great customer service and an outstanding record of sightings.

Whale jumping in Sydney

Indoor and outdoor seating in this comfortable catamaran give you the option to stay warm or brave the weather for a closer look. An experienced marine naturalist gives expert commentary with plenty of great information on the whales and their migration.

On offer are 2.5-hour cruises, a morning cruise that departs at 10am daily in the school holidays and on weekends. An additional afternoon cruise departs at 1:15pm on weekends only from $89.

Alternatively, join the 10am whale-watching cruise (2.5hrs) and then get off the cruise at Taronga Zoo at 12:15pm and join any Captain Cook ferry back to King Street Wharf – Book online from $99

All tours depart from Wharf 2 at King Street Wharf in Darling Harbour, an easy walk from Wynyard Station.

You can also buy a Whale Watching Cruise and HOHO ferry combined ticket

Duration : 2.5 hours Features : Free return cruise guarantee if you don’t see whales (Whale sightings are 95% guaranteed. In the unlikely event that you don’t see any whales, you can cruise again in the same season for free (standby and confirmed 24 hours in advance, subject to availability). Who should book this cruise? This is our best pick for families and nervous sailors, but great for all! Children under four years are free, but the cruise is not recommended for very young children.

Ocean Extreme Whale Watching

Duration : 2 hours  | Departure Points : Circular Quay & Manly | Book this tour  

A great choice for adventure lovers Ocean Extreme take to the water in smaller boats specially designed for whale watching, one is a 12-metre rigid inflatable vessel. Carrying just 21 passengers, the boat can get you closer to the whales than any of the other operators.

whale watching tour in sydney

They also have a slightly larger vessel that allows you to get a view nice and low on the water.

whale watching tour in sydney

The cruise is 2 hours long, which is a little shorter than some others, but with speeds of up to 90km per hour, you get out to the whales quicker than everyone else.

The cruise, which departs from Campbells Cove at Circular Quay, is not suitable for kids under 12 years or for pregnant women. You can also choose to depart from Manly Wharf if that is more suitable.

Duration : 2 hours Features : 2-4 departures per day. Ocean Extreme offers a  FREE complimentary trip  if a whale isn’t spotted on your day!

4 Hour Whale Watching Cruise

Duration : 4 hours  | Departure point : Eastern Pontoon, Circular Quay | Book this tour  

One of the longer cruises, this is another very professional company with a quality product and excellent reviews.

Oz Whale Watching Boat Sydney

Departing from the Eastern Pontoon, Circular Quay, you head out through Sydney Heads learning about whales and their behaviour along the way. The vessel the “Jerry Bailey” can carry 180 pax with the number limited to 95 pax on whale watching tours to ensure everyone has a good vantage point. Fully qualified crew on board.

I would highly recommend this one if you are looking for a more extended cruise. While on an older boat, this trip is a high-quality experience and one that I thoroughly enjoyed last year.

Duration : 4 hours Features : Breakfast (weekends) or lunch on weekdays.

Fantasea Cruising

Duration : 3 hours  | Departure point : Darling Harbour & Circular Quay | Book this tour  

One of the biggest operators of whale watching cruises in Sydney, Fantasea Cruises , offers morning and afternoon cruising on their large catamarans. This type of boat is best for anyone prone to seasickness, as they are more stable. 

whale watching tour in sydney

They have a marine biologist on the boat who helps you appreciate the beautiful creatures you will see during your trip.

Duration: 2.25 – 3 hours Features : State-of-the-art underwater microphones, free activity pack for kids, complimentary tea and coffee upon boarding, departures from Darling Harbour and Circular Quay Must know : No children under two years are allowed.

Tip : book early for the peak season end of June and the beginning of July as some dates are already booked out.

Whale Watching in a tall ship – with lunch

Duration : 5 hours  | Departure point : Darling Harbour & Circular Quay | Book this tour  

For the ultimate whale watching in Sydney experience, I think it’s hard to beat this one. This 5 hour trip aboard a tall ship, the Coral Trekker out through the heads gives you a good chance to feel what it must have been like for the first settlers who arrived on ships just like this from England.

whale watching tour in sydney

I think this one is excellent value for money and an enjoyable day out, with a hot 3-course lunch included. Braver souls than I can harness up and climb the mast for a bird’s eye view out to see.

Whale watching in a speed boat

Duration : 2.5 hours  | Departure point : Campbells Cove Floating Pontoon | Book this tour  

Personally, this is a little bumpy for me, but if you like the idea of an adrenalin-fuelled whale watching adventure, this might be right up your alley. The cruise offers 1.5 or 2-hour tours with departures from Manly or Circular Quay. The boat is one of the fastest commercial vessels in Sydney Harbour and is in touch with the central whale watching team to know where to head to spot whales quickly.

There are approximately 38 vantage points for viewing whales from the shore in the Sydney region. Below you will find brief details of the best spots near the city to see these majestic creatures. We have included public transport information for those who don’t have a car and some tips on other things you can do in the area.

Aerial view of Sydney coastline at Watsons Bay

Bondi Headland and Coastal Walk

Ben Buckler Point is the most easterly spot at Bondi and a popular place for keen whale watchers to hang out. You can also spot them from along the Federation Cliff Walk , which you should take the time to do while in the area.

Getting there : Take the 333 or 380 bus from the city or Bondi Junction Station to North Bondi. Tip : Stop by the much loved Speedos Cafe for coffee or eats.

Related: Check out our guide to the Bondi to Coogee walk for more ideas

South Head and Hornby Lighthouse and the Gap

South Head and the lighthouse seem like a perfect spot, but it’s not the best place at Watson’s Bay to whale watch. 

The Gap Lookout looking south Watsons Bay watching for whales

You will have a better chance of seeing whales at the Gap lookout. However, while you are here, you really should do this walk.

Getting there : Ferry to Watsons Bay, then a short walk to the coast. Tip: when you have worked up an appetite, check out the Tea Garden Cafe

Malabar Headland National Park

A little-visited park just south of Maroubra, this is a glorious spot to visit if you fancy combining a walk in the great outdoors with your whale watching session. You are likely to have the track pretty much to yourself mid-week and will wonder if you are still in Sydney.

Getting there : Take the 399 bus from Museum Station, then a 1km walk into the park. Tip : Once you are done, head around to La Perouse to check out Bare Island

Cape Banks – La Perouse

At under 20km from the city’s centre and with excellent public bus connections, La Perouse is a good choice for those without a car who want to spot whales in relative solitude. When you arrive at La Perouse, follow the sign to the beautiful Congwong Beach, an unofficial nude beach, and follow signs to Henry Head. The walk is just a 7km return and is considered suitable for people with moderate fitness. Along the way, you will pass an old shipwreck, WW2 bunkers and lots of lovely Banksia bushes. There is some excellent historical detail on this page .

While parking here on weekends is a nightmare midweek, you will find it relatively easy. An easy (although long, lol) bus ride from the city.

Getting there : L94 bus from Museum Station and hike to the headland. Tip : If you work up a hunger Bare Grill makes a mean burger

Cape Solander – Kurnell

On the headland directly opposite La Perouse is Kurnell. One of two spots staffed by volunteers in June and July, who, among other duties, provide details for the whale watching boats that operate out of the harbour.

Kurnell Whale Watching vantage point in Sydney

The volunteers are beneficial at assisting first-time watchers in finding their first whale; spotting them is not as easy as it seems until you know the signs to look for. Many consider this THE best spot near Sydney, with the whales getting as close as 200 metres from the shoreline. There are some great walks here too that will get you some great views as a reward; consider the Cape Bailey lighthouse walk and the Mura and Yena track .

Getting there : Train to Cronulla Station, then local bus 987 to Kurnell, then a 2.8km walk to the lookout. Tip : Explore more of La Perouse on this suburban walk

Royal National Park

The second oldest National Park in the world, the Royal has a high coastal cliff line, making it a perfect spot to glimpse whales.

The coastline in the Royal National Park great for Whale Watching

The Coast Track at the Royal National Park is a fantastic spot suited to anyone prepared to spend some effort in the hunt. The full coast walk is a moderate 30km hike, but to spot the whales, you just need to walk out to the coast from the ferry pier, which is less than 30 mins and you can then continue along as far as you like or settle in straight away and wait for them to come to you.

Getting there : Train to Cronulla, then the Tom Thumb ferry to Bundeena Wharf. From here, follow the coast track to Jibbon Headland. Tip : If you visit on the first Sunday of the month, be sure to check out the Bundeena Art Trail .

Sydney is one of the best places to experience whale watching with relative ease, and these spots on the north side are among the best.

Fairfax Lookout – North Head

With views across to South Head and out to sea, this is one of the best viewing spots on the north side. North Head Sanctuary is also a good choice for prams and wheelchair users, with level tracks and only a short walk from the bus stop or car park to the cliffs.

Fairfax Lookout North Head Sydney

There are several easy walking trails in the sanctuary and military fortifications, which were essential to Sydney’s defence in WWII, and the Australian Memorial Walk, a series of paved pathways that link five monuments commemorating battles and military service.

Q Station is also a great choice if you fancy staying a few days like we did recently.

Getting there: Bus 135 from Manly Wharf Tip : There is a lovely cafe with views looking back to Sydney Harbour, which is a great breakfast or lunch spot.

Long Reef Point

Long Reef Point sits between Dee Why and Collaroy Beaches with views that stretch north to Palm Beach and beyond. Surrounded by a marine reserve, the area attracts birds and sea life in large numbers. 

Aerial view of Long Reef Headland  (Sydney NSW Australia)

There are some lovely walking paths, and other than the path down to the water, the area is dog-friendly.

Getting there : the B1 Mona Vale bus from Wynyard takes 1 hour but is a very scenic ride. Tips : Great spot to watch hang-gliders in good weather. Be sure to stop at the Upper Crust pie shop on Pittwater Road.

Barrenjoey Head – Palm Beach

Take a walk up to the lighthouse on Barrenjoey Head. Unfortunately, my photo is the view looking back to the beach rather than out to see, but I think you get the idea 🙂

Take the walk up to Barrenjoey Head at Palm Beach to spot whales

Getting there : Take the L90 from Wynyard for a scenic tour of the Northern beaches on your way here. Tips : Once you have seen enough whales check out the sites of “Summer Bay.” 

🐋 The 5 Best Sydney Whale Watching Tours – [2024 Reviews]

Sydney is one of the best locations in the world to see whales breaching the water and performing their acrobatic frolics above the waves. This amazing natural phenomenon is something you must see at least once in your life.

If you’re as fascinated as I am by these magnificent creatures, the easiest way to see them is on one of the organized Sydney whale watching tours.

I’ve selected the 5 top-rated tours that I believe are the best in Sydney. Each has its own distinct features, and I’m sure you can find one that is perfect for you.

Best Whale Watching Tours In Sydney

Quick answer: the 5 best whale watching tours in sydney.

  • Port Stephens Small Group Whales & Dunes Combo
  • Sydney Whale Watching Cruise
  • Sydney: Taronga Zoo & Whale Watching Cruise
  • Sydney Whale Watching Cruise with Breakfast or Lunch
  • Sydney: 2½-Hour Whale Watching Cruise

Best Whale Watching Tours In Sydney Reviewed

#1. port stephens small group whales & dunes combo.

  • Departure Point : Laurence Church, 812 George Street, Sydney
  • Departure Time: 7:25 AM
  • Duration : 12 hours
  • Includes : Professional guide, whale watching cruise, 4WD dune tour, sandboarding experience, tea and coffee, licensed bar, and return transport from Sydney

After being transported from Sydney to Port Stephens, you’ll board a cruise boat and head out into the Pacific Ocean.

Aboard, you can help yourself to coffee and tea or buy a drink from the licensed bar. If you want to go for a dip, you can swim in the boom net attached to the ship.

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Your professional guide will provide a full commentary about humpback whales and the fight to stop hunting in these waters. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to spot the whales migrating through these waters from the spacious viewing deck.

The cruise will terminate at the Nelson Bay Marina, where you’ll have the opportunity to explore or grab some food (not included). Nelson Bay is a seaside resort popular with Australians.

From the marina, you’ll board a large 4-wheel-drive vehicle to explore the sand dunes around Stockton Beach. When you find a tall enough dune, you’ll have the opportunity to try your hand at sandboarding.

Tour Information & Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience, #2. sydney whale watching cruise.

  • Departure Point : Darling Harbor or Circular Quay
  • Departure Time: 9:00 AM, 1 PM
  • Duration : 2½ hours
  • Includes : 2½ hour catamaran cruise, onboard commentary, underwater microphones, children’s activity pack, children’s onboard play area, tea and coffee

Get your camera ready for when you pass the Sydney Harbor Bridge, Sydney Opera House, Fort Denison, and Shark Island.

From May until November, humpback whales pass Sydney during their annual migration. As you sail out into the Pacific Ocean, watch out for whales and other sea life, such as seals, dolphins, orcas, minke whales, and fairy penguins.

Underwater microphones allow you to listen to the eerie whale songs, while your crew provides an onboard commentary to help you understand what’s going on.

If you’re traveling with kids, the crew will hand them a children’s activity pack to keep them occupied while you observe the wonders of nature surrounding your catamaran.

As they color in those dolphin noses, I’m sure your kids will agree this is the best whale watching in Sydney.

#3. Sydney: Taronga Zoo & Whale Watching Cruise

  • Departure Point : Wharf #6, Circular Quay
  • Departure Time : 9:15 AM
  • Duration : 1 day
  • Includes : Expert guide, live commentary, ferry transfer to Taronga Zoo, zoo entry, cable car ride, and whale watching cruise

In the morning, you’ll take an inclusive ferry ride across to Taronga Zoo . From the ferry, you’ll see the iconic landmarks of Sydney Harbor, like the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge.

Inside the zoo, you can explore the themed areas like Wild Asia, Wild Australia, and the Great Southern Oceans. There are also great interactive shows, like the free Seal Show and free Bird Show.

Taronga Zoo provides a wonderful opportunity to see native animals without going into the bush. Admire wallabies and kangaroos, duck-billed platypuses and koala bears.

And you can even see the larger animals from above while riding the free Sky Safari cable car.

In the afternoon, you’ll board a modern ship from the zoo wharf for your whale watching tour. An expert guide will provide live commentary.

The comfortable, indoor lounge means that you won’t get caught out if it rains, and outdoor viewing decks allow a great 365 0 view when the whales swim past during whale season in Sydney.

Don’t worry if you don’t see any whales on your first time out. If you don’t see whales, you get a second cruise at no extra charge.

#4. Sydney Whale Watching Cruise with Breakfast or Lunch

  • Departure Point : Eastern Pontoon, Circular Quay
  • Departure Time : 7:30 AM, 12:15 PM
  • Duration : 4 hours
  • Includes : 4-hour cruise on a spacious, modern boat, breakfast or lunch, and expert commentary

And you have a choice between taking an early cruise and getting a hot breakfast on the weekend or taking an afternoon cruise with a barbecue lunch on weekdays.

Each cruise takes only a limited number of people leaving lots of space for you to stretch your legs and get into a good position for some wildlife photography .

Watch out for dolphins, seals, minke whales, orcas, and fairy penguins, as well as the main event—humpback whales.

You’ll hear expert commentary from the experienced guide about the life cycle and habitat of humpback whales, especially when you encounter a pod of whales.

And while you eat your breakfast or lunch cruising through Sydney Harbor, on your way to see the whales, why not take a few snaps of the largest city in Australia.

You get a much better view of Sydney from the sea and can take stunning photographs. If you’re looking for great whale watching Sydney deals, this one is for you.

#5. Sydney: 2½-Hour Whale Watching Cruise

  • Departure Point: Wharf #6, Circular Quay
  • Departure Time : 1:30 PM
  • Includes : 2½-hour cruise, all-weather indoor lounge, informative commentary, free second try if you don’t see whales

During your cruise through Sydney Harbor, your experienced guide will provide an informative commentary. You get spectacular views of Sydney’s skyline from the sea and ample opportunities to take great photographs.

The outdoor viewing deck provides great panoramic views. But if the sky turns grey, don’t worry. There’s also a spacious indoor lounge to keep you warm and dry whatever the weather.

And whether you’re indoor or outdoor, when a whale breaches the waves, you’ll be there to see.

Sydney Travel Guide

Every winter, during the whale watching season in Sydney, thousands of whales migrate from Antarctica to the warmer waters around New South Wales to give birth to their young.

According to the Organization for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (ORRCA) , 33,000 whales made the journey in 2018, and their numbers are growing.

Although Sydney was founded less than 250 years ago and began life as a penal colony, somehow it has grown to become one of the greatest cities in the world.

There are few other major world cities as modern or as multicultural. Its most famous cultural landmarks are less than 100 years old, yet they are recognized worldwide.

How you spend your time in this culturally rich city is entirely up to you. But, because I want you to have fun, I’ve put together this brief travel guide to introduce you to the basic facts and features of Australia’s largest city.

Airports & Entry

In 1770, Captain Cook landed in Botany Bay, and British colonial history began. When you land at Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport, you’ll follow in his footsteps because the runways protrude into the same bay on land claimed from the sea.

Although Australia only has a population of 25½ million, Sydney Airport handles 42½ million passengers every year.

It is so busy that the roads around the airport become gridlocked when too many flights land at once, and a second international airport is under construction to better handle this congestion.

Sydney Airport has 3 terminals, and international flights arrive at Terminal 1. At peak times, customs, immigration, and the taxi queue can take more than an hour. The terminal is on 3 levels: arrivals, departures, and offices.

You can find food outlets and stores both airside and landside of immigration and security. Note that for some strange reason, the prices are cheaper upstairs in departures than downstairs in arrivals.

A great place to eat is the food hall in the central area departures, landside, just before security. That’s where you’ll find the best selection of food outlets at the most affordable prices.

When departing, there is a maze of duty-free shops after customs. However, note that you can avoid this labyrinth by taking the shortcut to one side that bypasses the shops.

If you want additional comfort while waiting for a plane, there are 8 luxury lounges you can enter for a fee.

When arriving, you can exchange currency at the airport, but you might want to wait. The airport bureau de change charges higher rates than those found around Sydney.

The easiest and quickest way into Sydney is on the train, which takes 13 minutes. The Airport Link train service offers trains running every 10 minutes.

You can take a taxi from the airport into the city, which would be a 25-minute ride in light traffic, but I wouldn’t recommend this.

During peak times the roads from the airport can become jammed, and you’ll end up stuck in traffic for a long time.

Likewise, there are regular bus services, but they’re slower than the train. There is a good selection of quality rental car services at the airport.

Planning Tips

There are many interesting things to do and see in Sydney, but it’s a big city, so it’s best to carefully plan your visit. Here are 5 tips I hope will help.

Tip #1: Decide what you want to do in Sydney before planning when to go

If you prefer mild weather, September to November is springtime in Sydney. It’s the most comfortable season for sightseeing, and it’s also when the Royal Botanic Garden looks its best.

If you’re a sun worshiper, November to February brings the summer sunshine to Bondi Beach. But if you’re into the cultural scene, March sees the annual Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras , which is one of the most popular festivals in the world.

And for 3 weeks around the end of May and beginning of June, you can experience the Vivid Sydney Festival .

This is “an annual festival of light, music, and ideas”, which attracts over 2 million people to its many outdoor events and exhibitions.

Tip #2: Buy unique Aboriginal artwork and gifts

For 65 thousand years before the British came to Australia, the Aborigines roamed the land and developed their own rich culture and traditions.

If you want a truly unique souvenir from your visit to Sydney, look out for where you can buy art or gifts with an Aboriginal look. For example, you can buy fantastic digeridoos and indigenous art from the Spirit Gallery in The Rocks.

Tip #3: Ware the Sydney sun!

The Australian sun is infamous for leaving visitors red in the face. Don’t forget to use a strong sunscreen and drink plenty of water on the beach.

You’ll find drinking fountains throughout the city, so carry a reusable water bottle to help you stay hydrated.

Tip #4: Book in advance

Sydney is a popular tourist destination, so tours and hotels often become fully booked, especially from September to March.

Many reputable tours offer full refunds for timely cancellations so book early to avoid disappointment.

Tip #5: If you smoke, watch out for smoke-free zones

Public smoking is restricted in Australia. Smoking isn’t allowed in bus and train stations or on public transport.

It’s also forbidden in any food outlet and in many public places, like sports grounds, recreation areas, and playgrounds. Sydney is a great place to go if you’re trying to stop smoking!

Restaurants & Eating Out

Food in Sydney is an incredible cultural experience. Before colonization began in 1788, the indigenous Australian population were hunter-gatherers with a cultural history stretching back 65,000 years.

The traditional food they still sometimes eat—now colloquially referred to as bush tucker—is unique to Australia.

Traditional Aboriginal cuisine is dominated by gathered wild plants, such as bush tomato, passion fruit, and saltbush.

Where meat is used, it comes from animals found in the bush, such as lizard, snake, crocodile wallaby, and kangaroo. And because they are nutritional, 2 key components of bush food are caterpillars and grubs.

The Europeans who colonized Australia each added their own dishes to Sydney’s menu, as did the Asians. Today, 43% of Sydney’s population were born overseas and 38% speak English as their second language.

This means the restaurants found around this multicultural city prepare authentic meals that represent dozens of cultures from all around the world.

If you want to try bush tucker, get down to The Royal Botanic Society Sydney . One Saturday afternoon in the middle of each month, Aboriginal guides help you use a traditional coolamon to gather native vegetables, seeds, berries, and fruits from around the gardens.

Then the guides demonstrate Aboriginal food preparation techniques and offer you a taste of bush tucker. You must book in advance, and it costs AU$85 per person.

But if your visit to Sydney doesn’t correspond with one of those dates, Gardener’s Lodge Café in Victoria Park, a vegan restaurant, serves bush-inspired vegan food and offers information about Aboriginal food.

And occasionally Regional Bushfoods Producers set up food stalls around Sydney to make bush tucker available to anybody brave enough to give it a try.

For those who want to skip the grubs and caterpillars and go straight for the meat, there are several restaurants around Sydney where you can sample a Skippy burger, crunch on crocodile spring rolls, or eat an emu pizza.

The budget-friendly option is to grab a Kangaroo burger from Moo Burgers at Manly Beach or Bondi Beach for AU$17.

But if you want more choice, then The Australian Heritage Hotel in The Rocks offers pizzas with emu, crocodile, or kangaroo topping.

The people we think of as “Australian” today—the descendants of British convicts and colonists—have their own food traditions.

Because the Australian colonial economy revolved around sheep and cattle, lamb and beef are the core ingredient of many traditional Australian dishes. And a popular way to serve meat was in a pie.

Traditional Aussie meat pie contains minced beef or lamb in a rich, dark gravy. Its pastry is light and flaky, cooked until golden brown.

A great place to grab your traditional Aussie tucker is Harry’s Café de Wheels , a chain of mobile fast food outlets with branches in the main tourist hotspots specializing in Aussie meat pies and hotdogs. Founded in 1938, Harry’s is a Sydney tradition.

Their signature pie is named after their founder, Harry “Tiger” Edwards. Harry’s Tiger Pie contains chunks of lean beef and is served with mashed potatoes, mushy peas, and dark gravy.

Of course, I can’t talk about food in Sydney without mentioning seafood. Sydney is not only an important seaport, but Sydney Fish Market is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.

You’ll find fresh seafood on the menu in many restaurants around the city. If you want an Aussie specialty, why not try traditional fish and chips from Bottom of the Harbor on Balmoral Beach.

But if you’re feeling romantic, then you’ll find 30 varieties of local oyster at The Morrison in the CBD.

And finally, don’t forget that the huge cultural diversity in Sydney means that you can find some of the best ethnic specialty restaurants in the world within this one city.

If you want to eat authentic Chinese, Greek, Vietnamese, Italian, or Filipino cuisine, you’ll find an excellent selection in Sydney.

Note that many restaurants and stores in Sydney close earlier than you may be used to. Many food outlets close around 9:30 pm, and stores as early as 7 pm, especially around the CBD.

Nightlife & Entertainment

Sydney is famous for its nightlife, especially when it comes to celebrating its large and vocal gay and lesbian population. You’ll find drag shows and gay and lesbian nightclubs aplenty around the city.

It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, you’ll find a warm welcome from the LGBT community in this culturally and ethnically diverse metropolis.

If you want to find bars open until 4 am and wild nightclubs, wander through the area from Darlinghurst to Potts Point. Along Oxford Street in Darlinghurst, you’ll find the highest concentration of pubs and bars in Australia.

This is also the setting for the annual Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras , which attracts hundreds of thousands of people to the city every March and is one of the largest street festivals in the world.

If you’re interested in Sydney’s famous LGBT scene, check out ARQ on Flinders Street. This nightclub is where you’ll find the drag queens and gay celebrities.

A well-known live music venue in Darlinghurst is Oxford Arts, where you can listen to international bands, DJs, and indie electronic producers.

But if live music is your thing, you can find a more active scene for live performances in Newtown. King Street in Newtown is famous for the number of Australian bands to emerge from its live music venues.

Lively bars and clubs can also be found around The Rocks, Circular Quay, Kings Cross, and Darling Harbor. In Darling Harbor, you will find The Star, which is Sydney’s only casino, and Home.

Home is a popular nightclub with 8 rooms spread over 3 levels where you can dance to electro, EDM, trance, techno, and spinning house.

Getting Around

Sydney boasts a well-developed public transport system, so it’s easy to get around by train, light rail, bus, or ferry. To use public transport in Sydney, you must use a pre-paid smartcard called an Opal Card.

You can buy and top up an Opal Card from convenience stores, post offices, newsagents, and many other participating outlets.

To use the card, you tap it on the reader when you board and also when you alight from the vehicle.

The easiest way to get around Sydney is on the City Circle. This is a train service that runs in a loop around the most important parts of the city and crosses the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

The local transport company provides a handy Trip Planner that you may use to plot your train journey. A limited Light Rail Network runs from Central Station to Dulwich Hill and is useful if you want to visit Chinatown or the Australian National Maritime Museum.

While not as fast as the trains, the Bus Network reaches everywhere the rail network cannot. Some private bus companies, like Sydney Bus Tours , offer hop-on, hop-off services that circle around the key attractions in the city.

Occasionally, it’s faster to take a ferry from one spot to another. Ferries from Circular Quay to 8 tourist hotspots, such as Luna Park and Taronga Zoo Sydney . Again, the local public transport company provides a handy map .

It’s also possible to walk, take taxis, or hire a car. However, Sydney is a very busy and spread out city, so realistically you’d be better off taking a train.

Accommodations

Because of Sydney’s efficient public transport system, you can stay anywhere you like in the city and still visit all the attractions you want.

However, the different regions of the city do have their own distinctive character which may influence where you decide to stay.

The Central Business District (CBD), The Rocks, and Darling Harbor are the oldest parts of the city as evidenced by the narrow streets originally built when Sydney was a penal colony.

A hotel here would put you within walking distance of many key attractions, and you’re at the heart of the public transport network.

You can find accommodation to suit any budget within the CBD, from the plush Park Hyatt Hotel, with its views of Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge, to the basic budget hostel—The Grand Hotel Sydney. However, the CBD is not a great area for bars, cafés, and restaurants.

For visitors who prefer a more active nightlife, look east from the CBD. Darlinghurst and Potts Point are the two best places to stay for late-night bars and nightclubs.

Darlinghurst is also a key site for the annual Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras. But if you’re into live music, Newtown is the location of the most live music venues and has a reputation as the cradle for emerging musical talent.

The two best areas for artistic types are Paddington and Surry Hills. These trendy areas host art centers, exhibitions, and boutique restaurants. Paddington is also only a bus ride from the beach.

If you’re in Sydney for the beaches, the two best places to be are Bondi and Manly. Bondi is the most famous beach in Australia, but the beach and surrounding area are very commercialized.

It gets crowded in summer and is not the best place to be unless you’re a dedicated surfer. Manly is less crowded than Bondi and only 15 minutes by fast ferry from the CBD.

If you plan to spend most of your time swimming and sunbathing but also want to visit the central attractions, Manly is the best place to be.

When planning a visit to Sydney, it’s important to remember that Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere.

This means its seasons follow the opposite order to those of nations in the Northern Hemisphere, like the USA and European countries.

When it’s winter in Wichita, it’s summer in Sydney, and when it’s fall in Fresno, Sydney is enjoying spring.

Because Sydney is on the coast, the ocean moderates the weather, making the city relatively cool in summer and warm in winter.

Sydney enjoys warm summers and mild winters, with an average daily high of 79 0 F and low of 66 0 F in January and a high of 61½ 0 F and low of 46½ 0 F in July.

The difference in day length between midsummer’s day and midwinter day is 4½ hours, with the longest day in December lasting 14½ hours and the shortest in June lasting 10.

During the summer, the water temperature reaches as high as 75 0 F, and Australians hit the beach.

Fall sees a drop in humidity and temperature, with fresh breezes and the possibility of spotting migrating whales off the coast making this the ideal season for a walk along the coastline.

Winter sees Sydney’s highest rainfall and a water temperature of 65 0 F. Australians still hit the beach, though they’re more likely to wear a wetsuit to surf. Spring sees higher temperatures and humidity, but it isn’t as humid as summer.

Attractions

While Sydney is not the capital city of Australia, it is the largest city in the country and the place where its colonial history began in 1770.

Consequently, here is where you’ll find many major museums, organizations, and government buildings usually found in a nation’s capital.

It is perhaps strange that many people outside of Australia would be unable to even name the capital city—Canberra—but most would easily recognize and name the 2 main landmarks in Sydney.

The 2 most iconic landmarks in Sydney are the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House .

Like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Sydney Harbor Bridge has become a symbol of the city, but it is the twin view of the opera house and the bridge together that most visitors crave.

Sydneysiders call the bridge The Coat Hanger because of the shape of its distinctive arch. If you’re feeling brave, it is possible to ascend to the top of the arch and enjoy a 360 0 panoramic view of Sydney Harbor.

When the Sydney Opera House was first built, its design was controversial. However, now it is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Sydney wouldn’t look the same without it.

It slightly resembles 2, 4-mast sailing boats side-by-side, but most refer to the sails as shells. Its structure is massive, rising to 220 feet at its highest point, and covers an area of 4.4 acres.

But you don’t have to restrict your visit to the outside of this iconic building. Every year, 350 thousand people enjoy a guided tour of the Opera House’s maze of corridors, orchestra pits, green rooms, and dressing rooms.

A great time to admire both Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge is at night during the Vivid Sydney Festival .

During this annual festival, colored lights and patterns are projected onto the Opera House’s shells and the bridge, giving them a more vivid and aesthetically pleasing appearance.

The festival runs for 3 weeks around the end of May and beginning of June.

If you’re interested in colonial history, the Rocks is a great place to explore. Adjacent to the CBD, the Rocks is an area frozen in time, a relic of the earliest days of British colonization.

You’ll find a labyrinth of cobbled streets, alleyways, and period buildings erected when Sydney was a penal colony. Watch out for the original Georgian townhouses, cottages, and warehouses, many serving as museums of 19 th -century life.

For those curious about the LGBT scene, consider checking out the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Holocaust Memorial in Green Park, Darlinghurst.

Green Park is in the heart of Sydney’s LGBT community and close to the Sydney Jewish Museum , making this an especially appropriate location for a monument commemorating those members of the LGBT community who died alongside the Jews, communists, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other “Untermenschen” during the Second World War.

The memorial takes the shape of a giant pink triangle reminiscent of the cloth patch homosexuals were forced to wear on their uniforms in concentration camps.

If you’ve come to Australia to see some of the unique plant life, you don’t have to go bush. You can find many unique Aussie plants at The Royal Botanic Society Sydney .

Here you can take a relaxing walk past ponds filled with lotus blossoms, see cockatoos squawking in the trees, and admire the Wollemi pine. This lush park is where Sydneysiders bring their families for Sunday picnics.

But for those who want to get out of the city and see more of Australia’s landscape, the Blue Mountains are a great place to visit. Only an hour’s drive from Sydney, the peaks in this rugged wilderness rise to 3,280 feet.

Watch out for wallabies threading through the undergrowth and the eucalyptus trees that blanket the mountains’ slopes, ridges, and valleys.

And while you’re in the mountains, check out the Jenolan Caves. The cave system is so extensive that it is still being mapped.

Sightseeing

We chose the Port Stephens Small Group Whales & Dunes Combo as our Editor's Choice for the best whale watching tour in Sydney.

Robert Baker

Related articles, the 5 best blue mountains tours from sydney – [2024 reviews], the 5 best moreton island tours from brisbane – [2024 reviews], the 4 best wine tours in australia from melbourne [2024 reviews], 🐧 the 5 best phillip island penguin tours [2024 reviews].

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whale watching tour in sydney

Who are we?

Ocean Extreme is a family owned business that started over 15 years ago and is the pioneer of small boat whale watching adventures within Australia. Owned and operated by a local, Ocean Extreme prides itself on offering the most personal and exciting offshore boat tours in Sydney.

Whale Watching on EXTREME II

Jump onboard Sydney’s most personal and most exciting whale watching experience that has been thrilling locals and tourists for over a decade.

Daily departures from Circular Quay and Manly Wharf from May until November.

Whale sightings are guaranteed*

Whale Watching on OSPREY

NEW in 2023, OSPREY is a similar size and can travel a similar speed to EXTREME II however it does so in slightly more comfort. It has a full canopy for protection from sun and rain, and traditional seating which allows kids as young as 6 years old to attend.

Osprey will depart at the same time as Extreme II and the two vessels will work together to find and watch the most active pods in the area.

whale watching tour in sydney

Custom adventures & Passenger Transfers

During the summer both our vessels are available to hire for events. Think of it like a really fun water taxi.

Get in touch for a free quote for your next event.

Recent Sightings

Ocean Extreme

Ended the season on a high 🙌 Last trip of the season today and we picked up a mother and calf just outside the heads. Calf gave us a couple of breaches. Great trip. Epic season! Thanks to everyone who came out. 🙏🚀🐳 ... See More See Less

whale watching tour in sydney

Some pics from a mother and calf cruising off Dee Why today. 🐳 ... See More See Less

Some pics from a mother and calf cruising off Dee Why today. 🐳

Found whales on both trips today. 8am was tipped off about some whales in close to Long Reef headland and there ended up being three pods in there enjoying the shelter from the southerly. 11am found a mum and calf offshore of Long Reef, head lunging into the huge swell. And a big sun fish ☀️ 🐟 ... See More See Less

Found whales on both trips today. 8am was tipped off about some whales in close to Long Reef headland and there ended up being three pods in there enjoying the shelter from the southerly. 11am found a mum and calf offshore of Long Reef, head lunging into the huge swell. And a big sun fish ☀️ 🐟

Pics from our 8am trip today. 🚀🚀 No luck on the 11am today. All passengers receive a credit valid next season. This season finishing Monday 6th. 📅 ... See More See Less

whale watching tour in sydney

Mum showing her calf how it’s done 🚀 2:49pm this afternoon off Curl Curl Beach. ... See More See Less

whale watching tour in sydney

25 mins from the CBD of Sydney. Hard to believe. Love this city. 📷 3pm this afternoon. ... See More See Less

whale watching tour in sydney

He took a ride with us!

Check out our celebrity gallery. VIEW NOW

Departure Location

Campbell's Cove Pontoon, Circular Quay West

Manly Kayak Centre, Manly Wharf East

Contact Info

1300 60 40 80

[email protected]

PO BOX 1082, Manly, 1655 NSW

Special Offer this Month – Use the Promo Code LOVEWHALES for over 22% off adult and child tickets.

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EXPERIENCE THE JOY OF WHALES!

Let us share our love of the whales with you, 19 years of experience interacting with whales, connect with the ocean, enjoy the adventure, be inspired by the beauty, learn how you can protect these majestic animals.

whale watching tour in sydney

Whale Watching in Sydney is a full sensory experience. .

Breathe in the fabulous fresh ocean air. Hear the sounds of the waves and the whales as they come to the surface to breathe. Take in the sights, the majesty and incredible acrobatics of the humpback whales. Share this experience with your family and friends. Connect with Nature!

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We promote responsible and respectful whale watching

Whale season is Go Whale Watching Sydney’s favourite time of the year. We are passionate about whales and enjoy sharing this with our passengers. Your tour will be relaxed, friendly and informative. Join Go Whale Watching Sydney from May to November. See these amazing wild mammals in their natural environment. Tours depart regularly from King Street Wharf 6, Darling Harbour.

Go Whale Watching direct from Sydney Harbour

Season Starts 20 May 2023 Don’t Miss Out Special Offer this Month – Use the Promo Code LOVEWHALES for over 22% off adult and child tickets.

Whale Watching Tour in Sydney

Our most popular tours are from 2 to 3 hours in duration, enough time to get out into the waters that are frequented by the whales and to show you not just many examples of the fantastic humpback whale but dolphins, Orcas and other marine life that can be found in this part of the world. One of the reasons that many people prefer whale watching in Sydney to any of the alternatives is the sheer variety of marine species they have the chance to spot when out on a boat in local waters. Whilst we cannot guarantee the appearance of any particular species, we always do our best to ensure that our guests enjoy studying the natural behaviours of a wide selection of marine life during their time with us. It is our expertise with humpback whales that has helped to make us so popular over the years but it is our genuine passion for all marine life that helps to make our tours unique.

Join us for the Humpback Migration

It is incredible to think that just outside Australia’s busiest city is one of the world’s most amazing animal migrations! A short boat ride through the magnificent Sydney Harbour and you are out in the Pacific Ocean. It is here that our crew will introduce you to the wonders of the sea. One of the reasons that so many people choose to come whale whale watching with us in Sydney is the wide variety of marine species that they have the chance to encounter. Humpback whales, dolphins and seals are regularly sighted on our cruises. Southern Right, Brydes, Minke, Orca and other whale species are also a possibility. It is our expertise and experience that has helped make us so popular over the years but is our genuine passion for all marine life that helps to make our tours unique.

The Best Vessels for Whale Watching Tours in Sydney

As you might expect from the people who provide the best whale watching Sydney has to offer, the boats that we use are all designed specifically for our purpose. We have three custom designed, ocean going catamarans, all of which boast 360-degree viewing decks. During the Sydney whale watching season, all three of our boats are kept busy with the constant demand we experience from all new and returning customers. Comfort, speed, and safety are all of paramount importance to us and the vessels we use were designed with these three factors in mind. If you would like to go whale watching with the best team in the area, on the best equipped vessels available, please do not hesitate to call or email us to make a booking or to ask for further information on the packages we provide.

See the Harbour

Sydney Harbour is the perfect location for your next corporate team building day, birthday party, family reunion, bucks/hens party or other group get together. Go Whale Watching Sydney’s boats are available to show you the sights of Sydney Harbour and our crew will work with you to make your special function a memorable one! Please contact our friendly staff to discuss options available to you .

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Sydney Whale Watching: The Best Tours and Tips

humpback whale with belly showing and fin in air

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them I will receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

Every year, tens of thousands of whales pass through the waters along the Australian coast for their annual migration . With its extensive coastline, Sydney is, without a doubt, one of the top places in the country to catch this journey.

To get a front-row seat to see an incredible whale watching experience, there is a collection of fantastic tours in the city will take you to see them in their natural habitat.

These cruises take off from scenic locations like Circular Quay and Darling Harbour, and they’re often led by experienced marine naturalists, providing insightful commentary on the whales and their migration patterns.

Seeing the whales up close is absolutely a bucket list experience.

In this Sydney whale watching guide, you’ll learn about the best whale tours in the city and what distinguishes them from the others.

You’ll also learn how to prepare for the experience, what you can expect to see, and even where you can catch a view of marine life from various viewpoints on land.

Let’s dive into the ultimate guide on Sydney whale watching and the list of the best whale watching tours.

Note: These tours can sell out quickly, so it’s recommended to pre-book to secure your spot.

Best Sydney Whale Watching Tours

1. whale tales.

whale breaching out of the water

The best whale watching experience in Sydney, Whale Tales gets you up close and personal with the migrating humpbacks.

On the way to the open water, you’ll make your way through the Sydney harbour, passing the Harbor Bridge, Opera House, and the Sydney skyline.

The smaller boat provides more of an intimate setting than others on this list; you’ll feel more immersed in the surroundings of the whales and ocean.

25 guests are the maximum they allow on the boat, making the experience more personal and relational. The crew comprises an experienced captain and a marine expert who offer excellent hospitality and knowledge.

Whale Tales also provides a “Whale Guarantee,”: if you don’t spot a whale, you’ll be given a free return trip.

Cost: $70/person

Length: 2 hours 30 minutes

2. Captain Cook Cruises

humpback whale fin coming out of water in australia

Almost certainly the most popular whale watching cruise in Sydney, Captain Cook Cruises has a reputation for offering incredible and reliable whale watching experiences.

Their boats are specifically designed for whale watching and give guests clear views of the humpback whales in action. The tour departs from Circular Quay, so you’ll get a view of the top landmarks and the eastern suburbs.

An onboard marine biologist shares their knowledge of recent whale sightings and their typical behaviors. Sometimes, the tour guides on Captain Cook will even communicate on the radio to other boats to pinpoint where the action is.

This cruise is very family-friendly, so bring the kids with you on this one. Food is available for purchase on-board.

Cost: $56/person

3. Sydney Princess Cruises

humpback doing a backflop into the ocean

Sydney Princess Cruises also departs from the beautiful Circular Quay. They offer a great tour with a longer runtime, giving you a higher likelihood of spotting a whale.

The highlight of the cruise is the custom built boats, optimized for whale watching with ample and comfortable seating.

In addition, throughout the cruise, the accommodating crew tells interesting whale facts, all engaging and informative, which aid the overall experience.

Sydney Princess Cruises also stands out for its additional amenities. Refreshments and a meal are included (FYI, the food is amazing), which elevates the experience and helps you relax and enjoy the views.

Cost: $62/person

Length: 4 hours

4. Fantasea Cruising

overhead shot of humpback mother and calf swimming in australia

Fantasea Cruising , a famous name in Sydney’s whale watching community, has an excellent catamaran with a large, two-level viewing area. If you need a sun break, the air-conditioned interior space will give you some relief.

What distinguishes them is the combination of speed and educational content. With perhaps the fastest fleet in Sydney, there’s less time traveling and more time in the prime whale spots.

Their onboard marine biologist or staff member does an amazing job of providing in-depth knowledge on whale habits and migration patterns.

The staff on Fantasea Cruising includes a photographer who will take great photos of the whales breaching in case you missed the shot with your cell phone.

Cost: $60/person

Length: 3 hours

5. Ocean Extreme

close up shot of an outstretched humpback whale fin

Ocean Extreme is the best option for those looking for a more time-efficient tour. With their high-speed boat, you’re more likely to get a close-up whale encounter in a minimal time.

The boat is designed to venture deeper into the open ocean, which makes you feel more immersed in the elements.

They also do a great job of ensuring the boat is in the right spot at the right time. If you go at the right time of year, you’re almost guaranteed to have multiple sightings. Maybe even a double breach!

The amenities are useful, with comfortable outdoor seating, a variety of snacks, and a marine biologist who provides full commentary about recent sightings and their behaviors.

Cost: $83/person

Length: 2 hours

Essential Items and Equipment for Sydney Whale Watching

A must-have to get a closer look at distant whales. Consider ones with a large prism so you can see in lower-light situations, like sunrise and sunset.

whale watching tour in sydney

Gosky Binoculars

Lightweight and specifically designed for nature watching.

WATERPROOF CAMERA

Take advantage of that quick moment of whales breaching or tail slapping. I recommend waterproof cameras with a good digital zoom function.

whale watching tour in sydney

HICSHON Waterproof Camera

Waterproof camera that captures high quality photos and videos.

Windbreaker or Waterproof Jacket

Sydney’s oceans can be chilly, even on a sunny day. Look for lightweight options that are easy to pack and offer protection against unexpected splashes. It’s also great for those rainy, uncomfortable days.

whale watching tour in sydney

COOFANDY Waterproof Jacket

Waterproof jacket that offers wind and water protection.

You’ll need a sun hat almost anywhere you find yourself in Australia. Because whale watching tours are at least 2 hours, you’ll need to stay protected from the harsh UV rays.

whale watching tour in sydney

Columbia Unisex Sun Hat

A sturdy and breathable sun hat that offers UV protection.

Sydney Whale Watching FAQ

What type of whales can you see on cruises in sydney, humpback whales.

humpback whale jumping out of water with white belly

Humpbacks are the most commonly sighted whales during the Sydney season, engaging in northern and southern migration. They’re also almost certainly the most fun to watch, with their acrobatic breaching and tail slapping.

Southern Right Whales

Southern Right Whales are seen less frequently than humpbacks but are exciting to see when spotted. They have broad backs without a dorsal fin and a distinct callus on their heads. They’re often seen closer to the coast, especially during their breeding season.

pod of orcas swimming next to each other in australia

Orca movement around Sydney is slightly less predictable than other whales, but they are known to be spotted from various viewpoints along the oceanfront.

Minke Whales

Minke whales prefer deeper water, so you’ll have to get lucky to catch one close to the shore.

However, if you’re on the lookout for them, they have slender bodies and a white band on each flipper.

Dolphins (Bonus sightings)

pod of dolphins swimming in australia

Bottlenose and Pacific White-sided dolphins often swim in the same vicinity as humpback whales. You’ll have a great chance of seeing them from Sydney lookouts throughout the year.

You may even see them swimming in the harbour!

Other Marine Life

Seals often lay around on the rocks or swim in the harbour; Australian fur seals and New Zealand fur seals are the two most common types.

In addition, a variety of seabirds hover around looking for fish.

What’s the Best Place in Sydney to See Whales?

Cape solander, kurnell.

cape solander viewpoint in sydney

Cape Solander, in the Kamay Botany Bay National Park, is one of the best places in Sydney to whale watch from the land.

It has a dedicated viewing platform, and marine experts are on hand during peak times, detailing whale sightings and fun facts.

The Gap at Watsons Bay

A cliff-top viewpoint with views of the open ocean. The high vantage point increases the chances of spotting whales, especially during their southern migration. You’ll also have great views of the city.

North Head Sanctuary, Manly

north head sydney dolphin watching viewpoint

Positioned in a way that has panoramic views of the water. In particular, the Fairfax Lookout is the standout point. It’s a perfect viewing spot during the whale migration.

Dobroyd Head, Balgowlah Heights

The Arabanoo Lookout at Dobroyd Head provides a great view of the ocean. It even has informative plaques, which give information on the lookout’s significance and history.

Barrenjoey Lighthouse

barrenjoey head lighthouse in sydney

The Barrenjoey Lighthouse, located at the northern end of Palm Beach in Sydney, is one of the best spots in Sydney for land-based whale watching. You’ll have unobstructed ocean views after a scenic hike to the top.

What is the Best Time of Year for Whale Watching in Sydney?

humpback doing a jump on its side into the water in sydney

Sydney whale watching season typically spans from May to November, coinciding with northern and southern migrations.

Northern Migration (April to August)

During this time, humpbacks travel north from the cold Antarctic up Australia to the warmer breeding grounds near the equator.

By June, whale sightings are in full swing as they travel closer to the shore.

Southern Migration (August to November)

This is when whales, including mothers and their calves, head back south through Australia to the Antarctic waters.

Late October and early November are the most active times when you can expect to see many whales.

Weather Considerations

While whales can be spotted in any weather, calm and clear days provide the best visibility and comfort.

Sydney’s weather can be unpredictable, so checking the weather forecast before booking a tour is essential.

humpbac breaching with birds flying around

Other Factors

For those looking to avoid crowds, consider weekday tours or those outside of school holiday periods.

Morning tours often offer calmer ocean conditions, which might be preferable for those prone to seasickness.

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Casey Gleason

Casey is a seasoned traveler with a long history of venturing to numerous countries around the globe. Over the last decade, he has relentlessly explored the world's diverse cultures and landscapes. Casey shares his valuable experiences and insights through his travel blog, cloudjumpertravel.com.

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SYDNEY HARBOUR WHALE WATCHING TOURS

Experience sydney harbour whale watching in style.

Private whale watching on a luxury, high-performance sports cruiser is the ultimate wildlife adventure in Sydney. Our fast, award-winning whale watching vessel will get you up-close to these gentle giants, as they frolic in tranquil waters off the coast of Sydney on their annual migration to and from the Antarctic to their breeding grounds near the equator.

From June to November more than 30,000 humpback whales pass just a few kilometres off Sydney Harbour in one of the longest whale migrations in the world.

Our private, eco-certified whale watching safaris are perfect for couples, families, and small groups looking for a unique and personal wildlife experience, while in Sydney.

Sydney Whales Sea Safari

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whale watching tour in sydney

The Best Whale Watching Sydney Eco Tour Experience

After moving to Australia in 2011, we’ve finally ticked off a whale watching Sydney Harbour tour with Sydney Eco Whale Watching tours.

If you’re wondering what the best whale watching Sydney tour is, whether you’ll actually see any whales or you have other questions like when the whale watching Sydney season is, we’re here to answer everything for you.

Here’s our whale watching Sydney review.

Whale Watching Sydney season

If you’re wondering about when the whale watching season starts in Sydney, 30,000 whales migrate up north to give birth in warmer waters from June – August each year. They then return back from August – November so you could be in with a chance of spotting a whale between these months.

If you’re looking for things to do in winter in Sydney, check out the below post. 

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35 Things To Do In Sydney In Winter 2024 Guide

The best time to visit is actually between June – July which is the peak time to spot a humpback whale.

When Sydney Eco Whale Watching started their tours in the year 2000 (they were just the third boat in Sydney to start whale watching tours), there were just 3,000 whales which passed by Sydney, now it’s gone 10 fold which is incredible!

The best time for whale watching in Sydney is right now!

Whale sights Sydney

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If you’re lucky, you might be able to see some whales from land. I’ve seen them from Coogee Beach once before but the likelyhood of seeing them often are slim.

There are nearly 40 vantage points to spot whales in Sydney but here are some of the most popular places to get a glimpse.

⇒ North Head

⇒ South Head

⇒ Bondi coastal walk

⇒ The Royal National Park

⇒ Palm Beach

⇒ Newcastle

You might be able to spot a whale in Sydney from the beach but without a doubt the best way to see them is by boat.

Why you need to book your whale watching NSW tour with Sydney Eco Whale Watching

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We are actually really pleased we picked this tour because when we saw some other whale watching boats, they were packed full of people all trying to get a view of the water. It didn’t look fun at all.

What’s eco about Sydney Eco Whale Watching?

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If you’re wondering what sets Sydney Eco Whale Watching tours apart from the other whale spotting Sydney tours, here’s what makes them eco.

⇒ As we mentioned above, they don’t over crowd the boats full of people and will only take a maximum of 12 people on board.

⇒ Sydney Eco Whale Watching keep the regulated distance of 100 metres away from the whales so they don’t overcrowd them (unlike some of the other tours in Sydney).

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⇒ At the same time because the boat is lower, you could get closer to the whales than on a bigger boat that has multiple levels. We had three whales which magically turned up on next to our boat and it was truely an amazing experience.

⇒ They make sure they keep the noise level to a minimum around the whales – we noticed how the other boats sounded a bit like Disney World with the guide eco’ing across the water with their commentary via a loud speaker.

⇒ You’ll get an environmental scientist on board who will tell you everything there is to know about whales. Honestly their knowledge is incredible, you’ll be reeling off all the facts you learnt to your friends and family afterwards.

⇒ Sydney Eco Whale Watching don’t clock on and clock off . The people who run the tours are incredibly passionate about whales and if everyone on the boat is happy, they might stay out fora bit longer if you come across some entertaining whales.

What was the whale watching tour like?

Because the tour starts at lunch time, make sure you eat an hour or so beforehand as only snacks and water are supplied on the tour.

We got on the boat at Darling Harbour and set sail around 12:15pm and underneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This in itself is a beautiful and one of the romantic things to do in Sydney that your date will be impressed before you’ve even spotted any whales.

As soon as we got out towards the heads and into the ocean (that’s South Head near Watsons Bay area and North Head near Manly), we quickly spotted whales.

Whilst we all sat in awe at the beautiful sight of knowing we were actually witnessing the whale migration in Australia, we stayed there for a while taking it all in.

Our guide Tony spotted a few more whales over towards the South Head and asked everyone if they were happy to continue down towards the cliffs. By this time all of the other boats had disappeared and we sailed over to be the only boat watching the magnificent whale with not another person in sight.

whale-watching-sydney

We arrived back a little later than expected but that shows the passion Tony and his team have for the whales when they have such a small group on board, they are able to enjoy the whales for a bit longer if needed.

When we told the tour guides we had seen Blue Whales in Sri Lanka (the largest whale in the world), the look on their faces were a picture of pure excitement. We felt almost guilty for having seen them whilst being around the team who would do anything to witness an experience like that.

Tip before you do the tour

romantic-sydney-date-idea-whale-watching

If you’re looking for things to do in Sydney or romantic date ideas in Sydney, we 100% recommend booking this tour with Sydney Eco Whale Watching Tours.

Sydney-whale-watching-tour

Most tours charge between $50-$80 for a 2 hour tour. Our 4 hour tour costs $135 per adult and $65 per child. It’s more on the expensive side because it’s like you’re going on a personalised tour on a sailing boat.

Cheap whale watching Sydney tours are cheap for a reason. Personally, I’d go on a sailing boat anytime over a cruise boat packed full of people.

For $135 you basically don’t just get a whale watching tour, you get to go on a sailing boat across Sydney Harbour and there’s a sunset cruise thrown in as well.

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Whale Watching and Harbour Lunch Cruise

Oz Whale Watching provides a unique whale watching experience in Sydney. Onboard Sydney's most comfortable and exclusive whale watching vessel you will marvel at these awe-inspiring creatures who are passing by Sydney in increasing numbers and can often be spotted just outside Sydney Heads!

Featuring a full buffet barbecue lunch this cruise is a perfect half day experience on the water enjoying the sights of Sydney Harbour and the unique opportunity to venture out through Sydney Heads. Featuring informative whale watching commentary this cruise is not be missed during the Sydney whale watch season from June to November.

Location - Physical Address               Eastern Pontoon Circular Quay Sydney NSW 2000 Australia

Accessibility

Disabled access available, contact operator for details.

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    The best time to see whales in Sydney is from mid-June to mid-July, when numbers are at their peak. The official 2024 whale watching season will kick off in May and continue until November. Over 16,000 of these beautiful creatures will pass along our coastline during this period.

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    Cruise the ocean waters off of Sydney to look for humpback and southern right whales as they migrate between Antarctica and the Great Barrier Reef from May to November. Your whale-watching experience starts out of Sydney Harbour and heads to the open ocean on a custom-built catamaran with large viewing windows and spacious decks that provide excellent sightlines. Often, dolphins, sea birds and ...

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  20. Whale Watching and Harbour Lunch Cruise

    Featuring a full buffet barbecue lunch this cruise is a perfect half day experience on the water enjoying the sights of Sydney Harbour and the unique opportunity to venture out through Sydney Heads. Featuring informative whale watching commentary this cruise is not be missed during the Sydney whale watch season from June to November.

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    Whale Watching Sydney - 3hr Discovery Cruise. 104. Spot majestic humpback whales swimming and playing in their natural environment during this whale-watching cruise from Sydney. Sail across Sydney Harbour, past the iconic Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, to the open waters of the Pacific and get up close to the gentle giants.

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    Sydney, New South Wales. Sydney Hop-on-Hop-off Cruise and Whale Watching Cruise. from $76.84. Sydney, New South Wales. Self-Guided Sydney Middle Harbour Kayak 3 Hour Tour by Double Kayak. 8. from $90.20.