By: Tatum Stafford
Western Australia is one of the world’s whale watching hotspots.
The state’s ‘Humpback Highway’ features the largest whale migration in the southern hemisphere, with approximately 40,000 whales travelling along pockets of WA’s coastline each year.
These numbers are impressive, but for those who haven’t gone whale watching before, finding out where, when and how to start spotting whales in WA can be a daunting task.
So we’ve done the hard work for you. Here’s everything you’ll need to know to begin whale watching in WA - starting with the types of whales you may be lucky enough to spot.
Humpback whales are the most common whales spotted off WA’s coast, and can be found in every ocean in the world. These giants can grow up to 19 metres in length, weigh up to 40 tonnes, and typically travel in pods. You’ll spot humpback whales in most North West towns, off of Hillarys or Fremantle, and in Dunsborough, Augusta and Albany down south.
Southern right whales
Another frequent visitor to the WA coast is the southern right whale. Preferring cooler waters, these whales take a shorter journey than humpbacks each migration season, and can usually be spotted between Augusta and Esperance before they head south in spring.
One of WA’s most unique whale-spotting experiences is with the orca. The fishing town of Bremer Bay holds a deep canyon that is home to the largest pod of killer whales in the southern hemisphere. For those wanting to get up close and personal with these fascinating creatures, daily research expeditions depart from Bremer Bay from late January to April each year.
Other common species
Other whale species common to WA’s waters are blue, pygmy blue, short-finned pilot, pilot, minke, dwarf minke, Bryde’s, sperm and beaked.
When is WA's whale watching season?
WA is fortunate to have one of the longest whale watching seasons in the world. This epic season follows the annual migration of humpback, southern right and rare blue whales from the food-rich Southern Ocean to the warm breeding grounds on the north Kimberley Coast.
Where are the best spots for whale-watching in WA?
One of the best areas in WA to spot whales is off the Kimberley Coast – and specifically, within the Camden Sound Marine Park. Established in 2013 by the State Government, the park protects the largest humpback whale nursery in the southern hemisphere. Within the nursery, humpback whales give birth in the calm, protected waters, and humpback calves build blubber to prepare for their return journey. The park is also a haven for pilot whales, pygmy killer whales and snubfin dolphins.
If you’re heading down south for whale watching, the port city of Albany is the perfect place to visit. Alongside some great vantage points for spotting whales, such as King George Sound and the Torndirrup National Park, Albany is home to the last shore-based whaling station in Australia. The Historic Whaling Station is now an interactive museum with whale oil tank theatres, artefact galleries and the chance to step onboard the iconic Cheynes IV ship.
For more, check out our 10 best whale watching spots in WA.
Ways to see WA's whales
There are multiple great vantage points on land across the state to spot whales, but if you’d rather get a little closer, consider swimming with them. Ningaloo is a great spot to embark on a guided swim or dive with these gentle giants, as there are many reef tour operators and dive experts well-equipped to take you towards the region’s humpback whale pods.
If you’re looking for a compromise between the shore and in the water, there are multiple charter companies who specialise in whale watching boat tours; many of which guarantee whale sightings during your time onboard. These tours depart from harbours across the state, and are a great way to be comfortably close to an expansive range of whale species.
Ready to start your whale-watching adventure?
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Last updated: February 2020