Cruise through beautiful Sydney Harbour and out to sea in search of humpback whales on this fabulous Sydney whale watching cruise with lunch. Enjoy guided commentary and a delicious BBQ buffet. Weekend and breakfast cruises are also available. Duration: 4 hours (approx.)
Best price guarantee: If you find this tour elsewhere at a cheaper price, we will beat it by 10%. Some conditions apply. There are no booking or credit card fees when you book this tour with The Big Bus tour and travel guide.
The dazzling colours of Sydney’s Vivid Festival mark the official beginning of the annual whale spotting season — where up to 30,000 predominantly humpback whales swim north along the Australian coast to escape the Antarctic winter chills.
While there are plenty of good spots along the Sydney coastline to witness the migration, you’ll get a much better view on board Oz Whale Watching’s daily Sydney whale watching cruise — which includes a BBQ lunch on the water. This popular cruise is a chance to see the giants of the deep up close and at their majestic best. There’s even a guarantee of another cruise free of charge if the whales don’t play ball (some conditions apply).
Whales have been migrating along this route for centuries, and while hunting in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries took its toll, whale numbers continue to rebound — making it easier than ever to catch a glimpse of the largest animal species on earth. Whale-watching is certainly one of the top things to do in Sydney for visitors and locals alike.
We board the luxurious Jerry Bailey in bustling Circular Quay. Our captain seems just as excited as we are about what the afternoon might hold, despite having made this journey countless times. He guides the boat away from the wharf as the crew unveils a buffet of barbecued meats, accompanied by crispy potato wedges, colourful salads, and noodle and pasta dishes. Drinks are available for purchase from the licensed bar.
Appetites satisfied, we head out on deck to enjoy the sea air and warm winter sunshine. There are cushioned seats and prime whale viewing spots on the bow.
We pass by the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. David’s commentary includes some of the history of the waters around Sydney, where whales were hunted for their rich oils — both to fuel the colony and for lucrative export.
Swinging around North Head, we wave to the fisherman along the jagged water’s edge, before heading out to sea and onto the Humpback Trail. This stretch of the Pacific Ocean — hugging the coastline from Victoria all the way to Queensland — heaves from May to August with a steady stream of northbound whales, headed for warmer waters to breed. From September through to November they’ll make the long journey back.
The crew scan the undulating waves for the jet black fins or grey sheen of a curved humpback near the surface. The mist of white water sprayed into the air as whales exhale before diving is also a tell tale sign of activity. Suddenly, one of our group shouts out and points almost directly ahead. David smiles and moves in that direction. Everyone marvels at a perfect trio of whales — each around 15 metres long and weighing more than 35 tonnes. Even an adolescent dwarfs our boat.
David skilfully manoeuvres to the best vantage point. The engine idles as we float beside the gentle giants; the bright sun kept behind us to dodge dazzling reflections on the water. The humpbacks pick up speed and dive and breach a dozen times — their colossal tail fins propelling them through the water. The surge of our engine hints at their rapid pace.
Before each breach, a rocketing water spout shoots skyward. The whales’ powerful pectoral fins make echoing slaps against the water, before their chins lift and they dive again, exposing grey and white bellies — each as unique as a fingerprint.
Three hours seem to pass in an instant, and reluctantly it’s time to head for home — but the show isn’t quite over as it turns out. On our approach to North Head we get a bonus sighting. Another pair of whales pass within metres of our boat!
Closing in on Circular Quay, we sidle past a towering cruise ship slowly making its way out to sea. Holidaymakers wave as they prepare to accompany the humpbacks on their long ocean journey.
Barry travelled as a guest of Oz Whale Watching.
Additional images: Bigstock
Barry Johnson is a freelance writer living in Sydney, but with a trail of Aussie souvenirs scattered throughout previous homes in Europe, America, Asia and the Middle East. Barry believes travelling is an adventure where the highlights push you on to the next trip and the lowlights can be laughed at with hindsight. Without a passport, he’d have missed getting lost in the Californian forest a week after the Blair Witch Project went viral, building a giant Buddha on a Cambodian mountain, camel racing in an Egyptian desert and teaching English to Peruvian children as they taught him Quechuan — the language of the Incas.