7 Whale-y Cool Spots to See Whales This Season
We've got the local knowledge on where to position yourself for some whale action this season!
After having been hunted almost to extinction until the 1970’s, the whale population has recovered to such a level that an estimated 35,000 whales migrate from the Antarctic to the warmer waters of the Margaret River region every year. The region plays host to these amazing creatures for a period of six months between June and early December – making it one of the longest whale watching seasons in Australia!
Humpback, Southern Right, Minke and Blue Whales all make the epic journey, and whether on land or out at sea you can witness part of it by finding the perfect vantage point and keeping your eyes peeled. From topping man-made structures to hiking spectacular cliff trails to getting yourself on a purpose-built whale watching vessel, here are seven places to spot whales in the Margaret River region this season!
From the Top of Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse
The first point of call for our cetacean mates is down in Flinders Bay, on the region’s Southern Coast in the town of Augusta. This is one of few places in the world you can witness Southern Right Whales and Humpbacks interact as they gather in great numbers to court, mate, and even give birth to their young. As the whales begin to migrate north around Cape Leeuwin, the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse serves as one of the best land-based vantage points to witness their majesty (and maybe their acrobatics, if you’re lucky!). Situated on the southwestern-most tip of Western Australia, the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse on mainland Australia and looks out over Flinders Bay to the east, and the point when the Southern and Indian Oceans meet to the west. A visit to the lighthouse also offers insight into the region’s maritime history, as well as its present-day purpose as a vital working lighthouse for vessels navigating the treacherous cape. There is a viewing deck fitted with binoculars, but if you want to spend some solid time whale spotting we recommend bringing your own!
Best time to see whales: May – August
From the Boranup Lookout Over Hamelin Bay
Deep within the Boranup Karri Forest you’ll find the Boranup Lookout, which takes in picturesque views over the entire forest and, more importantly for whale watchers, the stunning waters of Hamelin Bay! You will definitely need binoculars to spot whales this far from the coast, but it’s one of the more unique spots in the region where you can experience both forest and sea simultaneously. Surrounded by towering karri trees – some of which reach up to 60metres tall – you can catch the whales on their way up to northern waters while plotting the day’s bushwalk. Or, head right down to Hamelin Bay Beach and set off on one of the spectacular coastal cliff walks to get yourself to a better whale watching vantage point.
Best time to see whales: July – August
While Walking the Cape To Cape Track
The region’s flagship coastal hiking trail, walking part of the 135km-long Cape to Cape Track is the perfect way to guarantee some one-on-one time with the whales! The track runs along the Leeuwin-Naturaliste ridge, bookended by the Cape Leeuwin and Cape Naturaliste lighthouses and offering unparalleled ocean views. Setting off from Gracetown (which itself offers great lookout points at both South Point and North Point) and heading north on foot toward Yallingup is a great section if spotting whales is your main game. This section of the track is dotted by cliff-top bench seats which are basically purpose-built for whale watching walkers! Plus, it takes you up to the immense Wilyabrup Cliffs, which make a stunning backdrop to any whale action you’re witnessing from above.
Best time to see whales: May – December
From Canal Rocks
Canal Rocks isn’t just one of the most stunning natural attractions in the Margaret River region, it’s also one of the best places along the coast to spot whales from. Standing out on the wooden crossing bridge, watch as the swell rolls in, crashes onto the rocks and rushes beneath your feet! It’s a totally immersive experience, and one that’s made all the more surreal when the whales are passing through. Find yourself a good vantage point among the rocks and settle in to watch out for these gigantic animals – look out for spouts and blows and flipping tail flukes. Remember, whales will typically surface, dive down (to varying depths, but sometimes lasting ten minutes or longer), and then come up for air in a different place – so remain vigilant if you really want to see some action!
Best time to see whales: September – December
From the Top of Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse
If you’re visiting toward the warmer end of whale season, the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse should be your first point of call to get a load of these majestic animals! It’s easier than most lighthouses to climb, so you can reach the top and start spotting whales without the physical exertion required to climb its southern counterpart. From the top, enjoy sweeping views of the Indian Ocean, Cape Naturaliste, the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park and Geographe Bay, where you can often see mother whales nursing their young before they return south. If you want to hang around longer and have a bit more space to yourself, head out onto the brand new viewing deck, which offers uninterrupted views of the big blue – and the whales! After you’ve got your whale fix for the day, don’t forget to pop into the newly restored Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage Café for a treat!
Best time to see whales: September – December
Somewhere Along the Busselton Jetty
What better way to soak up the turquoise waters of Geographe Bay and get out close to the whale action than by journeying out to the end of the Busselton Jetty? Whether you’re happy tackling the 1.8km on foot or jump on the Jetty Train to enjoy a leisurely ride out to sea, you’ll be in prime position to spot whales frolicking in the bay. While you’re there, get to know the other animals that call the ocean home by heading down into the Underwater Observatory – a spiral staircase that descends 8metres to the ocean floor, offering views of an incredible artificial reef based around the Jetty’s pylons that’s home to more than 300 species of coral, sponges, fish and invertebrates. You can hang out on the jetty for as long as you like with one of their day passes, making for a pretty awesome afternoon with the whales.
Best time to see whales: October – December
On a Locally Run Whale Watching Charter
The only way to really gauge the size and agility of the gigantic whales is to encounter them up close on a whale watching cruise- you’ll be in awe as you witness a small part of their magnificent journey and their antics along the way. The captains and crews of the local whale watching charters are incredibly experienced at recognising whale behaviour, and they know how to get you in the perfect spot to get a full view of these awesome creatures! Whether it’s luxury, comfort or a wild adventure you’re looking for, one of the region’s many whale watching charters will have the vessel for you – complete with on-board refreshments, expert commentary and even hydrophones that allow you to listen to the mesmerising sounds of whale song!
Depart from Augusta: June – August
Depart from Dunsborough/Busselton: September – December
Get yourself on a whale watching charter now for the experience of a lifetime!