Catch the tail end of the whale watching season
Spot humpback and southern right whales from unique shoreline spots; and keep an eye out for rarer species such as minke, sperm and even blue whales.
Breaching, lobtailing, spyhopping… whale watching brings with it its own amazing set of terms. These words come to life in front of you when you visit the Kiama area. From approximately May through November tens of thousands of whales migrate along the New South Wales coast, starting their journey from the cold waters of the Antarctic traveling north, then heading back down south later in the year. This offers plenty of time to catch sight of a whale as it breaches or flops its flippers on the surface of the ocean. Or you might see tails or spouts of spray (or two—or three—or four!).
From Gerroa in the south, through Kiama Harbour, and Minnamurra in the north, the area offers a trail of unique on-shore spots, promising a front-row seat to nature at its wildest and most breathtaking.
Perched on a sweep of land sheltering Gerroa beach, Black Head Reserve is an expansive rocky outcrop blessed with unimpeded sea views north and south: the ideal place to spot whales. Look for humpback whales migrating north from May to July, or heading south with their calves from September to November. How do you know if it’s a humpback? Their backs arch steeply as they dive (which is how they get their name) and they have unique black and white markings on the underside of their tail flukes.
There is nothing quite like seeing a giant whale breach the water: all power, speed and grace, as awe-inspiring as it is surprising. The whale watching platform at Gerringong, high on the cliffs above the gorgeous coastal town, is positioned perfectly to capture the moment.
One of Kiama’s most famous and well-visited attractions, Blow Hole Point is an apt spot to cast around for southern right whales exhibiting their distinctive breathing technique — spraying a sudden cloud of vapour out of the ocean, in a mirror of the rush of water that blasts up through the 260-million-year-old blowhole.
Family groups of whales often venture closer to the shore. Even around Kiama Harbour you can sometimes witness both adult and juvenile whales cheekily waving their fins. Check out our interactive map to find restaurants and cafes with stunning harbour views.
If anywhere sums up the laid-back pace of the region, it’s Bombo, a dog-friendly headland and beach where surfers ride foaming breakers. From the headland, you might spot whales pass at their own leisurely tempo, which slows from a top cruising rate of 18km/h to a migration speed of just 6km/h. And even if there are no whales in sight, the view of Cathedral Rocks, a jagged ridgeline of towering basalt columns, is still breathtaking.
Sitting snuggly in a grassy area just a stone’s throw from the rugged sea cliffs, the elevated Minnamurra Whale Watching Platform is located north of Kiama, and forms part of the spectacular Kiama Coast Walk. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch passing humpbacks spyhopping: lifting their heads vertically out of the water to scan the environment. Locals report that the whales cruising by are sometimes so close you can hear them.
During the migration season, whales can pass by at any time, so download the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service’s Wild About Whales app to keep up-to-date with the latest local sightings.
Header image photo credit: Anthony Walsh