It’s that time of year again – whale watching! You can spot whales already off the coast. Look for the telltale blows of water and the flash of black and white as they splash the water with their fins.
20,000 humpback whales are expected to travel past Newcastle on their annual migration. There they give birth to their babies in warmer waters before returning back with them to Antarctica.
Wondering where is a good place to spot whales from the shore? We’ve done all the work for you. We’ve put together a list of the best whale watching spots in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens and flagged our favourites for those whale watching with kids.
If you’re whale watching on a weekend, head up to Nobbys Headland. From this high point, you can spot whales north and south. The Lighthouse Grounds are open from 8am to 4pm every Saturday and Sunday and entry to the site is free. It’s a 10 minute walk (550 metres) from Nobbys Beach carpark to the gate. From the gate, it’s a 5 minute (220 metres) uphill walk to get to the Signal Master’s Cottage. It’s all paved so suitable for those pushing prams or strollers. Just be aware that there are no toilet facilities at Nobbys Headland, so stop at facilities at Nobbys SLSC.
Try spotting whales north of the harbour at Stockton. You can either try searching for them at Stockton Beach or head out to the breakwater for a closer look. While you’re on the breakwater, check out the wrecks along this walk dubbed the Shipwreck Walk.
You can get up close to whales at Newcastle Beach if you’re swimming close to shore. Here is a photo from Newcastle Oceans Bath from a couple of years ago. On that day, the whales were swimming just off the beach. It’s a great spot for families to whale watch as it’s close to food and amenities.
Another place for whale watching is at Fort Scratchley. From here you’ll enjoy views up and down the coast. While you’re at the Fort, wander around the grounds of Fort Scratchley. General admission to Fort Scratchley is free. Fort Scratchley is open six days a week, 10am to 4pm (closed Tuesdays). OPEN ONLY ON WEEKENDS DUE TO COVID-19
The white obelisk is one of Newcastle’s oldest navigational markers visible to sailing vessels along the coast. Now, it’s a popular park and lookout with expansive beach and harbour views which makes it a great place to spot whales. It’s accessible via steps at Tyrrell Street at The Hill.
Shepherds Hill Lookout
Shepherds Hill Lookout at King Edward Park is a top spot for whale watching. In fact, we just spotted a few whales there the other day. Great views down to the coast towards Port Stephens. Climb up on the old gunning platform for a better look.
Anzac Memorial Walk
This 450 meter cliff top walkway at Bar Beach is one of the top places to spot whales. It features incredible 360 degree views of Newcastle from the coast to city but more importantly has views up and down the coast. The Anzac Memorial Walk is also pram and wheelchair accessible from the Strzelecki Lookout section enabling you to travel all the way to the viewing platform before looping back.
For families, Bar Beach is a great spot to see whales. Order some fish and chips and look out to sea and see what you can spot. A good place to base yourself is in the viewing platform just near the car park, or the area above the kiosk or choose one of the shelters on the Bathers Way walkway towards Dixon Beach. If it gets a bit chilly, simply park your car in the Bar Beach car park and try to spot whales from your car.
Yes, you can whale watch at Merewether close to the coffee and snacks of the kiosk and Surf House but to get some height, head to the parking lot above the ocean baths or to the grassy lawn on the hill near the headland. From there, you’ll have better views of the coast.
Combine whales with a play at Redhead Beach. First climb up to Redhead Bluff and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views looking south down the coast. See how many whales you can spot. Picnic tables and toilets are nearby and if the kids get bored, just take them to the nearby Webb Park Playground.
Head to Caves Beach to spot whales. From Caves Beach, follow the cliff top walk south towards Pinnys Beach. Along the way, spot whales out to see. You’ll also find Spoon Rocks, a beautiful secluded beach, named because the rocks and beach resemble a spoon.
If you’re up at Port Stephens, head to the top of Tomaree Headland at Shoal Bay for a great vantage point to spot whales. It’s best suited to older kids who have the stamina to walk to the top. It’s a steep walk to the summit of Tomaree Headland which is 161 metres high. The path consists of paved areas and a series of metal steps. It’s a 2.2km return journey and can take up between 90 minutes to 2 hours for the trek. From the top, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Port Stephens including views of Zenith, Wreck and Box Beaches, Fingal Island and Point Stephens Lighthouse.
If you don’t have the energy to climb up Tomaree, visit Barry Park in Fingal Bay. From here, you’ll be able to see migrating humpbacks on their annual migration. Plus, you’re there is a playground and cafe at nearby Fingal Beach SLSC.
Also in Port Stephens is the headland at Boat Harbour. From here you’ll be able to spot whales coming from Newcastle. It’s a top spot for families as there’s a playground, toilets and barbecue area. Bring a picnic or cook up some snags while you’re whale watching.
Map of whale watching spots
How to spot whales
The easiest way to look for whales is to look for the blow. This is the water the whale sprays into the air as it exhales as it comes to the surface. You’ll see it from a distance as a big disturbance of water and is much easier to spot when seas are calm. You might also spot whales breaching as most of their body leaves the water. Keep an eye out for slapping. You might see a flash of black as a whale slaps the water with his fin or tail.
Use the Wild About Whales app available on Apple and Android . Created by NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, you can see where the whales are right now with logged sightings. You can also learn about different whale types and share your own sightings and whale shots as well.
To make whale watching more fun for the whole family, wear warm clothes, bring some chairs and a blanket and pack food and hot drinks. Bring a pair of binoculars to make it easier to see whales off in the distance.
Whale watching cruises around Newcastle & Port Stephens
To get up close to whales, head out on one of the local whale watching tours. Coast XP runs whale watching cruises from its base in Honeysuckle. It’s a fun family-friendly tour that explores the coast of Newcastle and gets you to close to migrating whales. Also leaving from Honeysuckle is Nova Cruises which feature vessels with indoor and outdoor areas. Moonshadow Cruises and Imagine Cruises run whale watching cruises from Nelson Bay in Port Stephens.
You might also like:
Started in late 2012 by a local mum, Newy with Kids has grown into a thriving go-to family guide for the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie & Hunter region. Parents visit the Newy with Kids website to find things to do with babies, kids and teens. Whether it’s local attractions, upcoming events, kids eat free, school holiday activities or birthday party ideas, Newy with Kids is the best website for local parents to find local kid-friendly activities and information 24/7.