Year after year as the weather turns cold for winter, the prolific humpback whale population and their less abundant cousins the southern right whales migrate from the cold waters of Antarctica with its fertile feeding grounds to the warmer waters of the Barrier Reef to mate and calve.
An estimated 17,000 whales make the annual pilgrimage up the east coast of Australia in search of warmer waters.
In Western Australia a similar migration occurs with the whale pods travelling close to the coast from Perth to around Broome. On top of this the southern coast of our beautiful country is part of the humpback migration route and also a breeding ground for southern right whales.
The sheer size of these magnificent creatures and their often playful behaviour in the coastal waters has made whale watching a favourite pastime for tourists with hundreds of thousands of Australians heading to the coast to see these beautiful animals in their natural environment. As the whales travel nearly the whole length of the east coast of Australia and a good stretch of the west, there are literally thousands of vantage points to watch these majestic ocean mammals. However, as whales tend to take the easiest route, the most eastern or western points of land offer the closest viewing experiences with the whales coming closest to land as they take the most direct route.
There are however, a few Australian locations that boast ideal conditions to see the whales at their most playful and up close. All of these locations offer whale watching tours during the migration period but not all tour operators are the same.
A tip from one operator is to choose your tour carefully as cost isn’t always an indicator of quality when it comes to whale watching tours.
Choosing a smaller boat can often lead to a closer encounter, as the whales aren’t intimidated by the size of the boat and may even come close to explore. Some vessels aren’t designed well for whale watching, so make sure you choose a boat with viewing decks around the entire boat to maximise whale watching opportunities.Without further ado, the best whale watching towns in Australia are…
1. Hervey Bay, Queensland
It’s common knowledge that Hervey Bay is famous for its whale watching and there are a few reasons why Hervey Bay is ideal. From around August to November the warm, sheltered waters of the bay offer a protected place to rest on their journey especially on their way back south with their young.
The protected waters are also perfect for cruising and sailing and there are a number of whale watching tours operating in the bay during whale watching season. Local colonies of dugongs, dolphins and sea turtles can also be spotted in the warm waters. Choice hotels have a fabulous Hervey Bay hotel to stay at: Comfort Inn on Main Hervey Bay – luxurious Hervey Bay accommodation close to most major Hervey Bay attractions.
2. Whitsundays, Queensland
The warm sheltered waters of the Whitsundays are the final destination for the annual humpback whale migration and the perfect nursery for newborn calves between May and September. The whales hang around the Whitsundays for a while before starting the long trek back to Antarctica for summer feeding. There are several whale watching tours running out of Townsville.
3. Albany, Western Australia
Thousands of humpback whales pass through the coastal waters of this historic town on their annual migration north, however it is the southern right whales that use the bay to mate and calve between June and November with the playful calves often breaching and putting on a show in the shallows.
4. Victor Harbor, South Australia
Like Albany, South Australia’s Victor Harbor is a haven for Southern Right Whales as they use the harbor to mate and give birth from May to October. The harbor is also home to a colony of Little Penguins and Australian Sea Lions, the world’s rarest sea lions. Choice Hotels’ Comfort Inn Victor Harbor is located only one block from the seafront and features comfortable, spacious Victor Harbor accommodation.
5. Warrnambool, Victoria
Again, the waters surrounding the coastal town of Warrnambool are used for breeding and calving for the southern right whales and the whales and their calves can often be seen playing close to the shore for days at a time. There are four gorgeous Choice Hotels to choose from in Warrnambool – Comfort Inn Western – located amongst restaurants, nightlife and the main shopping area. The 4 star Comfort Inn Warrnambool International, which features a range of rooms including spa rooms and apartments. Comfort Inn on Raglan boasts award winning Warrnambool accommodation with a range of room types, wireless internet access and a free gym and swim access at nearby Aqua Zone.