All You Need to Know about Whale Watching Tours in Sydney

Whale watching in Sydney is one of the amazing things to do in this beautiful coastal city. You’ll have the chance to spot various marine wildlife including the majestic migration of humpback whales. You can also spot dolphins, minkewhales, orcas and seals. A whale-watching cruise from Sydney will assure you of an unforgettable time. But with the many different whale-watching tours in Sydney being offered, it might be hard to choose the right one. That’s why I put together this complete guide to the best Sydney whale-watching cruises. I hope it will help you to make the right decision about which tour is the best for you!

When is the whale watching season in Sydney?

Whale watching season in Sydney is from May to November when humpback whales undertake their annual migration. More than 40,000 humpback and southern right whales then travel between their feeding and breeding grounds from Antarctica to the warmer waters of the Pacific. This timeframe offers the best opportunity to spot whales in Sydney and is an unforgettable experience! But because this period also overlaps with school holidays and is a popular time in general for whale watching in Sydney, tours book out quickly. So make sure to book your whale watching tour in Sydney in advance!  

Difference between all Sydney whale-watching tours

The main differences between all whale watching tours in Sydney are the following things:

  • Length of the tour 
  • Group size 
  • Time of the day 
  • Departure location
  • Type of boat 

Most of the whale watching tours in Sydney last 2 – 4 hours and depart either from Circular Quay, Crown Towers or Darling Harbour. Depending on the tour you can choose for the morning or afternoon option. Usually morning whale watching tours depart between 8.30 AM and 9.30 AM while afternoon tours depart around 12.30 PM or a little later. This will leave plenty of space to do other activities in Sydney on the same day.

The biggest difference between the Sydney whale watching tours is the type of boat. You can choose between a bigger boat such as a Catamaran or a smaller vessel such as a Zodiac speed boat. Both have their pros and cons. If you get easily seasick it is recommended to book the bigger boat. But if you want to get closer to the marine life then I recommend booking the whale watching tour in a Zodiac speed boat. There is also a fantastic option to combine whale watching with breakfast or lunch! This is also the longest whale-watching cruise, so it’s great value for money.

If you prefer a private whale-watching tour in Sydney then I highly recommend this luxury high speed motor catamaran private whale-watching tour.



Whale Watching Sydney by speedboat | 2 hours | 5 star reviews

Hop in the fastest commercial boat of Sydney and blast along Sydney Harbour and the iconic landmarks such as Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. Soon enough you will be out into the Pacific Ocean where you’ll have the chance to spot the majestic whales swimming and playing in their natural environment. Because this 2 hour whale watching tour by speedboat is in a smaller vessel, you will have the opportunity to enjoy close encounters with migrating whales. This is a huge advantage in comparison with a bigger boat. However, if you choose to go with a speedboat you should not be pregnant or have back, neck, or shoulder injuries or heart conditions. Another thing to keep in mind with speedboats it that you are not protected for changing weather conditions and wind.

Check here prices and availability for the 2 hour whale watching tour by speedboat


Small group whale watching tour Sydney | 2.5 hours | 4.8 star reviews

If you prefer to go whale watching in a small group for a more relaxed and intimate experience, then this 2.5 hour whale watching boat tour is the one for you. You will depart from Darling Harbour passing Sydney’s iconic landmarks on a vessel that is limited to 30 passengers. A live tour guide provides interesting facts and commentary while you can relax, sit back and enjoy the show! 

Check here prices and availability for this 2.5 hour small group whale watching tour

2-day hop-on hop-off cruise pass and a whale-watching cruise | 2.5 hours | Combo deal

This is a great package deal where you can combine a 2-day hop-on hop-off cruise pass and a whale-watching cruise for only AUD 109 per person! This hop-on hop-off cruise gives you the flexibility to visit up 6 different areas of Sydney and can be used over two consecutive days. The whale-watching tour must be taken on the first day. Booking this combo tour gives you two popular tours at one convenient price and saves you the hassle of figuring out how to travel the harbour by boat. You can explore Sydney Harbour and the iconic spots such as the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Manly & Watsons Bay. Another great guarantee is that if a whale is not sighted during your cruise, you’ll be given the opportunity to cruise again for free!

Check here prices and availability for this 2 day hop on hop off cruise in Sydney


Whale Watching Cruise Sydney | 2.5 hours | 4.3 star reviews 

Enjoy the beautiful coastline of Sydney and look for humpback whales during this 2.5 hour comfortable, all weather cruise with Captain Cook Cruises. During this boat tour, you will get informative commentary and besides the Humpback whales, you might also see southern rights, orcas and minke whales, along with dolphins, seals, fairy penguins, albatross and more! The great benefit from this tour is that there is a 95% guarantee of seeing whales or the chance to take a second cruise for free! The meeting point is at Circular Quay Wharf 6, Sydney.

Check here prices and availability for this 2.5 hour whale watching Sydney cruise

Private Luxury Whale Watching Cruise Sydney

This is the perfect, private whale-watching cruise for people who want a special, intimate experience watching whales, or groups of up to 23 people. With a luxury private high-speed motor catamaran, you will sail past Sydney’s iconic landmarks, such as the Sydney Harbour bridge, Sydney Opera House and then out into the Pacific ocean. From the amazing deck space you will the best views of the giant humpback whales. The indoor cabin, comfortable couches and custom-built viewing areas make it a very comfortable experience. Pick-up and drop-off is included.

Check here the current price and availability for this private luxury whale watching cruise


Sydney Whale Watching Cruise incl Breakfast or Lunch | 4 hours | 4.2 star reviews

This 4 hour cruise is the longest whale-watching cruise in Sydney and includes breakfast or lunch! Great value for money and because the number of people is restricted on this whale-watching cruise, you will have plenty of space on the boat. You have two options to book this cruise, either with lunch during the weekdays, while in the weekends breakfast and whale watching is the option. A great way to combine a yummy meal while enjoying the whales in ultimate comfort from the boat! For breakfast there are hot options while lunch is a great combo of BBQ items such as chicken fillet, Aussie beef sausage, salads, Vietnamese rice noodles and much more! This cruise departs from the Eastern Pontoon, on the Eastern side of Circular Quay. 

Check here prices and availability for the Sydney whale watching cruise incl brekkie or lunch


Sydney Whale Watching Tour by Catamaran | 3 hours | 4.2 star reviews

Hop on board of this custom-built catamaran, which combines high-speed sailing with 2 levels of viewing decks. It’s the fastest fleet of whale-watching boats in Sydney and will only take 15 minutes to get from Circular Quay to the open ocean. This results in more time to enjoy watching whales! And because of the 2 level viewing decks, there is plenty of space for everyone to get a view on the whales. This 3-hour whale watching tour also offers the opportunity to receive a free return cruise if no whales are successfully watched on your cruise. The discovery whale-watching tour departs from Circular Quay at 9 AM and 1.15 PM or from Darling Harbour at 8.30 AM and 12.45 PM. Make sure to choose the right spot from where you want to leave! 

Check here prices and availability for this 3 hour whale watching tour from Sydney

Express Whale Watching Cruise from Sydney | 2 hours | 4.3 star reviews 

During this 2 hour express whale watching tour from Sydney you will have the option to sit on the seated sun deck, covered rear deck or air-conditioned cabin. It’s great value for money as it’s the cheapest whale watching tour in Sydney. And another great thing is that whale sightings are guaranteed or you can go on another cruise for free! This tour is also wheelchair accessible and has an audio guide included. Because it only takes 20 minutes to reach the open ocean from Circular Quay, there is about 1,5 hour left to observe the whales. 

Check here prices and availability for this 2 hour express whale watching cruise

FAQ Whale Watching Sydney

What is the best time for whale watching in Sydney?

The best time of day for whale watching in Sydney is typically during the morning or afternoon. Whales are often more active during these times, with a higher chance of spotting behaviors like breaching and tail slapping. Morning trips often have calm seas and softer light for photography, while afternoon excursions can provide beautiful sunset backdrops. Especially if you book this sunset whale-watching tour. 

The best time of the year for whale watching in Sydney is generally from late May to early November. This period aligns with the annual migration of humpback whales along the coastline. 

How much does whale watching cost in Sydney?

Prices for whale watching tours in Sydney start from AUD 70. The exact price always depends on the type of vessel you choose and the duration of the tour.

Where is the best place to see whales in Sydney?

Your captain will always know the best current areas to spot whales in the ocean around Sydney. If you don’t want to go on a whale-watching boat tour, then you can also head to popular locations like North Head, South Head, and Cape Solander in Kamay Botany Bay National Park. These vantage points offer panoramic views of the ocean, providing excellent opportunities to witness the majestic humpback whales during their migration. 

What time of the year can you see whales in Australia? 

The best time to see whales in Australia is generally from May to November. This period is the annual migration of various whale species along the Australian coastline. Humpback whales are particularly prominent during this time, moving from their feeding grounds in Antarctica to warmer waters for breeding and calving. Depending on the specific region in Australia, peak whale watching season may vary slightly, but the months between May and November offer the best opportunities to witness these majestic marine creatures. 

Is whale watching in Sydney worth it?

Yes, absolutely! Whale watching in Sydney is an unforgettable experience. In fact, Sydney is one of the best, easiest and cheapest places in the world to spot whales! The thrill of seeing these incredible creatures breaching and playing in their natural habitat is an unforgettable spectacle. I always get goosebumps seeing these majestic animals. Besides whale watching in Sydney we also did whale watching in Vancouver and both experiences were equally good!  

What to wear on a whale watching tour in Sydney?

The most important thing is to dress comfortably and be prepared for varying weather conditions during the tour. Wear layers, so you can adjust to the temperature changes on the open ocean. Bring a windproof jacket to stay warm, especially if you’re on an open-deck boat. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen, eventually a hat (but hold onto it while you’re on the open deck!), and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun, as the glare of the water can be intense. Comfortable footwear with a good grip is essential, as the decks might get wet.

Things to prepare for whale watching Sydney 

  • Take enough layers of clothing with you as it might be chilly in the morning on the open sea. Better is to have a windbreaker or waterproof jacket with you and underneath that a sweater and t-shirt.
  • Don’t forget sun protection and your sunglasses.
  • Bring enough water and some snacks with you.
  • To avoid getting seasick you can do a few things. Don’t drink alcohol for at least twelve hours before your excursion. Look at the horizon in the direction that you’re going. Take a motion sickness medicine before you board the boat. Eat ginger 12 to 24 hours before your whale watching tour. Scientists discovered that this powerful root helps to prevent seasickness. If you don’t like ginger some sour sweets also do its job. The last funny tip when you’re already seasick is: put a cotton in the opposite ear of the hand you write with.
  • Of course don’t forget your camera and bring some extra empty memory cards. 

More Australia travel inspiration

I hope you enjoyed this blog post about the best Sydney whale-watching tours. For more Australia travel inspiration, head over to these blog posts.

Best Sydney helicopter tours – The Ultimate Guide

Best Melbourne helicopter tours – The Ultimate Guide

17 best things to do in Cairns Australia – The Ultimate Guide

8 best swimming holes in Cairns – The Complete Guide

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