Best Lighthouses for Whale Watching in NSW
There’s something undeniably romantic about lighthouses; those silent sentinels that sit and watch out over the ocean, holders of fascinating history, with often awe-inspiring architecture.
Lighthouses are also ideal places from which to whale watch, thanks to their panoramic coastal views. There’re many to check out along NSW’s coast, some of which offer tours and overnight stays in restored heritage cottages. Spend the night at and wake up to the most perfect ocean views for whale watching at dawn.
Here are some of our favourite lighthouses along the NSW coastline:
Situated at Australia’s most easterly point, Cape Byron Lighthouse shines its light out over Byron Bay. The iconic white tower was built at the turn of the 19th century to protect ships passing along the coast. Take a guided tour, learn about shipwrecks and other stories of the sea in the Maritime Museum below, or stay at one of the lovingly restored heritage cottages and wake up to some of the best views of the hinterland on the entire coast. From here there are regular sightings of turtles, dolphins and whales.
Named by Captain Cook himself, after he watched Aboriginal fires blazing there in 1770, Smoky Cape Lighthouse is perched on a narrow headland with sweeping views of Hat Head National Park. The lighthouse itself is as beautiful as the views, with its winding staircase and octagonal tower. Built in 1891, this heritage lighthouse is one of the last designed by colonial architect, James Barnet. Tours are available and you can stay overnight at the Lighthouse Keeper’s cottages.
Tacking Point Lighthouse, near Sea Acres National Park
Located right next to Sea Acres National Park, Tacking Point Lighthouse is one of Australia’s oldest lighthouses. It was built on a rocky headland a few kilometres south of Port Macquarie in 1879. Do the beautiful Port Macquarie Coastal Walk, which takes in historic sites, coastal scenery, beaches and rainforests, and wind up at the lighthouse.
Historic Sugarloaf Lighthouse stands at the northern end of Myall Lakes National Park on a dramatic headland east of Sea Rocks village. Completed in 1875, it was the first lighthouse designed by colonial architect James Barnet and is one of only two towers in Australia with an external stairway. Below the lighthouse are the Lighthouse Keeper’s cottages, which have been carefully refurbished to offer spectacular holiday accommodation. Spend the night and wake up in one of NSW’s top spot for whale watching.
Barrenjoey Lighthouse sits at Sydney’s most northern point – Barrenjoey Head at Palm Beach – and is one of the most iconic sights on Sydney’s northern beaches. Positioned 91m above sea level, it can be reached by two walking tracks and offers outstanding views for whale watching. It's an easy day trip from Sydney and a great place to bring overseas visitors; they may even recognise the lighthouse from Home and Away.
A favourite of Sydneysiders and visitors alike, this iconic red and white lighthouse near Watsons Bay in Sydney Harbour National Park offers magnificent views of Sydney Harbour to the west, Middle Head and North Head to the north, and the expansive Pacific Ocean to the east. Walk the easy South Head Heritage trail to the lighthouse for magical views and great whale watching.
Connect with history while enjoying dramatic views, idyllic whale watching, amazing birds and marine wildlife at Montague Island Lighthouse. Built in 1881, it features an impressive granite structure and a staircase that winds all the way to the top. Catch your breath and enjoy the perfect vantage point for whale watching, thanks to jaw-dropping 360 degree views. Take a guided tour to learn more about the unique heritage of the lighthouse and surrounding wildlife. Tick “spend a night on our own island” off of the bucket list with a getaway at either Montague Island Head Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage or Montague Island Assistant Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage, both of which are perfect for groups and make a truly memorable experience.
This remote and scenic lightstation is simply one of the best places in NSW to enjoy the whale migration season. Just an hour from Eden, it makes a perfect daytrip if you’re in the area, but it’s also well worth the effort for a weekend or longer stay. Green Cape is remote, yet accessible, and there’s plenty to see and do, from spotting whales, dolphins and other marine and animal life to hiking some of NSW’s most pristine coastline. Top it off with a stay at one of the historic Green Cape Lightstation Keeper's Cottages. Guests receive a free guided tour.