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It is extraordinary to think that right in the heart of Australia's largest city you can have a unique whale watching experience. Whether you are a local or a visitor, whale watching in Sydney on the iconic Sydney Harbour and surrounding coastline is a magical experience.

Whales have been entering the beautiful headlands of Sydney Harbour since long before Sydney became the bustling city it is today. As you stand on the natural lookouts around Sydney Harbour, you’ll be watching these majestic mammals just as Aboriginal people have for millennia – at Balls Head in Wollstonecraft you can see ancient Aboriginal engravings, believed to be over 1000 years old, showing an image of a large whale.

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More recently, whales continue to delight nature lovers and frequently visit Sydney on their annual migration along the NSW coast. Keep your binoculars handy to spot humpback whalessouthern right whales and, if you are really lucky, blue whales.

Humpback whales, including females with young calves, have been known to seek shelter in bays around Sydney Harbour, such as at Manly. In October 2012, two humpback whales were seen in Rose Bay, within view of the iconic Sydney Opera House.

Although not as common in NSW waters, the southern right whale is also very comfortable in the shallow warm waters of Sydney’s bays and estuaries. Southern rights have been seen in Sydney Harbour, Pittwater and Botany Bay and, in July 2012, a southern right whale was spotted with a newborn calf just off Middle Head. Whale watchers enjoyed great views from Balmoral and the Manly Scenic Walkway in Sydney Harbour National Park at Dobroyd Head. Nature lovers normally just get to admire whales from a distance, but in July 2013 a southern right whale was seen off Bondi Beach. In fact, a surfer was knocked unconscious by the whale’s enormous tail when it emerged by surprise near the surf break.

In October 2012, lucky whale watchers also caught a glimpse of the largest animal on earth, the incredible blue whale, just off South Head. In July 2013, a blue whale was again spotted cruising off Cape Solander in Kamay Botany Bay National Park, in Sydney’s south. 

So grab your binoculars and head to one of the many great vantage points around the city to enjoy whale watching on magnificent Sydney Harbour. For a few handy hints, check out our tips and guidelines on how to spot whales in and around Sydney.