The best whale watching spots along the Barrington Coast of NSW.
With whale numbers booming in recent years, the Barrington Coast is the perfect place to watch the parade. Here are our top 10 spots for whale watching: lookouts, headlands and cruises. On land or at sea, pick any spot on this list and you'll be mesmerised by these gentle giants.
When is whale watching season in New South Wales?
Whale watching season is an annual event where whales migrate north to give birth to calves in warmer waters. We start seeing whales as they head north from late April to July. Whales then start returning to the rich southern feeding grounds in the Antarctic during August to early November. The later the season, the greater chance you will see calves.
Where are the best whale watching spots on land?
1. Cape Hawke Lookout at Forster
Just five minutes from Forster, Cape Hawke Lookout offers spectacular 360-degree views along the coast from the top of a dedicated tower, perfect for whale watching. Positioned right at the northern end of the national park, this superb lookout is worth every step of the 500m hike through regenerating littoral rainforest. Pull on your walking shoes and bring some binoculars and a camera – after approximately 420 steps you’ll reach an 8.4m tower with 360-degree views of the surrounding area.
2. Bennetts Head Lookout at Forster
Prefer an easy drive and no walking? Then drive to Bennetts Head at the end of Bennetts Head Road. This spot is easily accessible with car parking at the lookout and you can park right next to the edge.
Or if you don't mind the short walk then the famous sand dune at One Mile Beach is the next-best spot for feeling like a sea eagle watching the whales. 360-degree views can be enjoyed while listening to the gentle crash of the waves on the cliffs below.
3. One Mile Beach sand dune at Forster
One Mile Beach is located in the residential area of Forster and is extremely popular with surfers and families. The sand dune at the northern end is an incredible vantage point to spot waving fins and water spouts out to sea. If the kids get bored, bring along a boogie board for some sand dune downhill racing.
4. Booti Hill at Pacific Palms
Starting at The Ruins Campground, walk out to the stunning Seven Mile Beach and look for the signpost for the Booti Hill walking track – this climbs up the northern side of Booti Hill through twisted eucalypts. There are rest spots along the way, and a small opening with a scenic view of Seagull Point right before you enter some refreshing rainforest. Eventually the track emerges onto the ridge above Lindemans Cove and joins a fire trail that leads to a small clearing. Go straight ahead for Elizabeth Beach and a terrific opportunity for an ocean dip, otherwise get the binoculars out and start looking for those flapping fins! There are also tables and a barbecue just 100m along the trail, so don’t forget your picnic.
5. Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse at Seal Rocks
Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse stands on a dramatic headland east of Seal Rocks village. Sugarloaf Point is a top spot for watching whales as they migrate on their journey along the coast. There’s a dedicated grassy lookout point behind one of the cottages, with chairs to relax and take in the view. Or climb all the way to the top of the point and observe out over the cliffs below from the lighthouse itself.
6. Yacaaba Headland at Hawks Nest
Yacaaba Headland offers spectacular views. The final section of the walk to the top is very steep and unformed, its more suitable for experienced walkers. There is no formal lookout but the top is marked by an old trigonometrical survey point. The walking track begins from Bennetts Beach (also called Hawks Nest Beach) and the initial section is a well-formed path, winding its way through a tall open forest. You'll walk 6 km in total and ascend 228 metres above the glittering waters of the Pacific Ocean and Port Stephens. Allow three hours for a return journey.
8. Black Head viewing platform
One of the best purpose-built vantage points along the Barrington Coast region’s pristine coastline. The Black Head viewing platform is solid timber and stands 4 metres tall to ensure the protection of its littoral rainforest surrounds. Access the platform via the street behind the Black Head Surf Life Saving Club (off Main Street).
9. Crowdy Head Lighthouse
The panoramic views at historic Crowdy Head Lighthouse are breathtaking. Looking north you can see beyond Diamond Head and the Three Brothers mountains. To the south you can see as far as Seal Rocks. This is a great spot for whale watching as Crowdy Head has a great easterly position.
10. Diamond Head Loop Track
At the northern boundary of the Barrington Coast you'll findDiamond Head Loop Track. This option combines the best of bushland hiking and spectacular coastal views to make it the perfect vantage point for whale watching.
If you're searching for Migaloo swimming past our coastline, this 4.3 km track combined with Diamond Head Campground as a base, is the way to go.
Where are the best cruises for whale watching?
Whale watching cruises:
Prefer to get up close to whales? Then try one of these cruise options:
- Epic Surf Ocean Adventures from Forster (jet boat cruise, be prepared to get wet.)
- Dive Forster from Fisherman's Wharf Forster
- Reel Ocean Adventures from Tuncurry (charters for up to 22 people, suitable for group bookings.)
(NB. Amaroo Cruises from Forster currently not operating whale watching cruises)