Little preparation is necessary to enjoy some of the great whale watching spots in NSW national parks, but sometimes a little planning can enhance the experience. Knowing typical whale behaviour, the species you might see and the features that will help you identify the different species, can really make a difference.
Download our app
A great first step is to download the Wild About Whales app for Apple and Android and go mobile with our whale watching guide. You’ll find information on the best vantage points, different whale species you might see and tips for spotting them, as well as a map with the latest whale sightings. You can also record your own sightings and connect with other whale watchers via Twitter and Facebook.
Where to go
There are a number of great places along the NSW coastline to spot whales stretching from the south to north coasts of New South Wales. The national parks in each of these regions are a great place to start planning your next coastal adventure. Check out our top spots here!
What to take with you
- Warm clothes and a blanket
- Chairs to sit on
- Hat and sunscreen
- Thermos with a hot drink or soup
- Drinking water and food
- Binoculars and sunglasses
- Camera, with a telephoto lens if you have one
- Wild About Whales app on your phone
Typical whale behaviour
Whales are quite active in the water and display a range of spectacular surfacing behaviours that are amazing to witness. Experts believe that some of these behaviours help them to work out their position in relation to land, or allow them to communicate with other whales. Fin slapping may also be a warning of danger nearby. Another theory is that whales launch themselves out of the water and fall back with a splash to rid themselves of skin parasites. Of course, they may just be having fun!
Read more about whale behaviour.
Things to look for when identifying a whale
You can determine species by identifying these different physical aspects:
- Body length
- Presence of a dorsal fin
- Size and position of the dorsal fin
- Shape and size of flippers
- Shape of the head and general body shape
- Presence of a beak
- Shape of the blow
- Body colour and patterns
- Swimming characteristics
- Presence of teeth or baleen and number of teeth.
Safety when whale watching
Remember to always be aware of your surroundings as many coastal walks and vantage points have exposed cliff edges. Keep a safe distance (at least five metres) from edges and rock platforms, pay attention to signage and take advice from NPWS staff for your safety.