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Blog: Whale tales

Paul Chai journeyed up the NSW coastline during the 2012 whale migrating season. Recount his trip.

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Sydney and Surrounds

Walking, picnicking, swimming – or just admiring iconic Sydney harbour views - everyone can enjoy Sydney’s magnificent national parks all year round. Ranging from exploring native flora and fauna to learning more about Australia’s indigenous people at Kamay Botany Bay National Park, there’s always something for everyone.

This region also provides countless opportunities for whale watching, many of these within short distance of the CBD:

 

Barrenjoey Head Aquatic Reserve (Ku-ring-gai Chase NP)

The reserve includes the entire rocky platform around Barrenjoey Head; from the northern end of Station Beach to the northern end of Palm Beach, and extends 100m seaward from the mean low water mark.

Location and Access

The reserve is located 42 km north of Sydney CBD. To get there, go to the end of Barrenjoey Road, Palm Beach and then it is a 30 minute, medium grade walk to the lighthouse. There is parking available at Governor Phillip Park.

Fees

Vehicle entry fees apply

Facilities

    * There is a track to the lookout summit. 2.3 km medium difficulty. The top off the headland offers panoramic views both north and south.
    * The historic lighthouse is also worth a visit

Top Experiences

    * Historic Barrenjoey lighthouse
    * Amazing views of the peninsula

 

North Head (Sydney Harbour NP)

The North Head lookout provides inspiring views across Sydney Harbour towards South Head.

Location and Access

North Head lookout is located in the suburb of Manly. To get there Follow Darley Road past Manly Hospital and turn right onto North Head Scenic Drive, Manly

Fees

Vehicle entry fees apply

Facilities

    * A 1km paved path leads to the lookout
    * Interpretative signs explain the various plant and animals you may see in the area

Top Experiences

Explore the old military fortifications that protected Sydney. Take a guided tour and learn more about this fascinating side of Sydneys history. For more information visit North Fort.

 

Dobroyd Head (Sydney Harbour NP)

From the coastal heath of this spot you can look across the harbour's entrance and out to sea. You'll also get an interesting perspective on the suburb of Manly.

Location and Access

Dobroyd Head is located in the suburb of Balgowlah Heights. To get there follow Dobroyd drive. You can also get here along the Manly Scenic Walkway

Fees

No fees apply

Facilities

    * Excellent viewing platforms provide opportunities to spot whales within the harbour.
    * Interpretative signage

Top Experiences

The Spit to Manly walk is a great walk that hugs the harbour shoreline, taking in beaches, Aboriginal sites, community parks, forests, scrublands and even pockets of subtropical rainforest. Make sure you're prepared for all types of weather - take protective clothing and plenty of water with you. The walk is 9.5km one way, of medium difficulty.

 

South Head (Sydney Harbour NP)

Known for its sandstone cliffs, historic fortifications and scenic walks. South Head is a great spot to see the whales.

Location and Access

South Head is located in the eastern Sydney suburb of Watsons Bay. It is reached via New South Head Road. To get there turn into Hopetoun Avenue, then go past Watsons Bay shops into Cliff Street where you can park.

Fees

No fees apply

Facilities

    * The South Head heritage trail takes you to the lookout as well as past the historic Hornby lighthouse.
    * The walk is 15 minutes, and of easy/medium difficulty

Top Experience

Enjoy the natural ambience of Sydney Harbour National Park with a stay in one of the park's tranquil and historic harbourside accommodations.

Cape Solander and Cape Banks (Botany Bay NP)

Cape Solander is one of Sydney's best whale watching spots. The lookout is perched high up on beautiful sandstone cliffs, at a point where migrating humpback whales often come in as close as 200 metres to the coast. Cape Solander is also the site of a long-running volunteer program, where enthusiasts have been counting whales for a couple of months each year for more than a decade.

Location and Access

The park is accessed from the end of Captain Cook Drive Kurnell.
There is limited parking at Cape Solander and plenty more at the Visitor Centre near the Kurnell entrance to the national park, off Captain Cook Drive. A free shuttle bus runs regular circuits from the Visitor Centre to Cape Solander on weekends during the whale watching season.

Fees

Vehicle entry fees apply

Facilities

    * The lookout has a viewing platform and a permanent display with information on humpbacks and other whales seen in Sydney waters.

Top Experiences

The park offers plenty of beautiful diving spots suitable for all levels of experience. You'll find rocky reefs at the entrance of Botany Bay, and underwater sea grass meadows inside the bay itself.
In the park's northern section, the best diving spots are around Bare Island and the La Perouse headland. The wreck of the Minmi lies just off of Cape Banks. On the other side of the park, around Kurnell, try diving around Inscription Point or off the more sheltered Sutherland Point.

 

Whale watching tours and activities

Once you have explored the many land-based whale watching opportunities that this region offers, you may want to go on a whale and dolphin watching tour.

  • NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service
  • NSW