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Winter in Sydney Part 1: Whale Watching

It seems the Summer in Sydney was only a few weeks away when in reality, we are well into Winter now. And of course we do all miss Summer already. Surprisingly, I’ve heard a lot that Winters in Sydney are plain boring with not much to do.  

I think there’s actually a lot more to do than we think during Winters in Sydney and yes, it can be super super fun! I’m going to prove it to you with this three part series article about three top activities to do and Winter will pass like a breeze!

One of the best things to do in Sydney during the Winter months and no other time of the year is… whale watching! From May to November, the Humpback Whale and its friends come back from Antarctica where they spent the summer and are setting along the NSW coast for a few months (see the top spots here).


The Southern Right Whale might be sighted as well although not as easily and comes on different months. They will come generally between July and September to mate and give birth to their calf.

There are many other types of whales like the Blue Whale but these are very rarely seen. You can also see dolphins and sea lions quite easily.

I went on the whale watching adventure at the end of May with Ocean Extreme and organised by Backpacker Deals. This was the first time for me to see whales so close in Sydney. The only whale I saw before was in November 2015 from Bondi Beach headlands and then in Byron Bay in October 2014. I also saw some whales in Alaska before but that’s pretty much it.  

The experience with Ocean Extreme was seamless and very fun from start to end. I embarked at Manly Wharf which was a good location for me but I thought after I should have embarked in Circular Quay to enjoy the fun ride in the harbour.

The boat itself is very very cool, all black and new, and super powerful. It’s also nice to not have too many people on the boat so you can move around very easily to take pictures and the captain doesn’t have to talk to you over a microphone!

We found the two Humpback Whales quite quickly off Manly beach and followed them for a good hour. We were spoiled with back tails and spouts but unfortunately no breaching. The captain explained to us in details about the whales and the pattern to see them wave the tail or breach. Breaching requires a lot of energy from whales as they need to go very deep down to then jump back up. It happens from time to time but not at every tour. Apparently the best time to see them doing this in around end of June / early July as this is when the male whales would be impressing females by doing so. But this is quite a bit of luck, you never know when they can breach!

If you are going for a tour, it’s best to go in the morning or late afternoon. Few tips when going on the boat:

  • Bring very warm clothing. The wind and air can be a lot colder on the ocean. You can always peel off. Ocean Extreme actually provides really cool waterproof and warm jackets as well so in case you forgot, you’re all sorted!

  • Sunscreen and glasses. The sun glare can be quite strong and reflection on the ocean is not forgiving either. Even if it’s winter, better be protected!

  • A good camera. It’s quite a hard task to capture the whales as they are constantly moving but after a few tries, you’ll be able to capture some nice moments. The captain also had a camera and offered to email pictures to anyone who would be interested so that’s nice too! But don’t forget to enjoy the moment of course.

  • Anti-seasickness tablets. This is very dependant on how you feel on a boat. Some days may be very agitated and some days should be fine. I know that I am fine on large boats but on smaller boats if going a bit further than the shore, I can get sick. So as a precaution, I took one tablet and I was fine. I definitely didn’t want to ruin this moment! Speak to your pharmacist before going on a boat to find out what you should take. If you’ve never been on a boat before and you don’t know if you are seasick, well you can try it out but if you are, it might not be a very fun ride!

After observing the whales for a good moment, we had a fun ride back home. We went zigzagging with the boat around the Manly headlands which was quite thrilling! I disembarked at Manly Wharf again but really wished again I went all the way to Circular Quay for more thrills.

Overall the experience was great, with a super intimate group and super powerful boat. The Ocean Extreme captain was super knowledgable on whales and happy to show it to the group.

Well worth the experience on a sunny Winter weekend in Sydney! Have you seen whales in Sydney before? If so where? Tell me more!

Thanks to Backpacker Deals and Ocean Extreme for organising this adventure!