Each year the ocean around South Australia’s coastline becomes home to hundreds of whales as they leave the cold Antarctic waters looking for a warmer area to spend the winter during their annual migration and to give birth to the next generation. Here are the best places for South Australia whale watching.
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TL;DR? Here's the outline
Where to find Whales in South Australia
Whales can actually be found all along the South Australian coast, right from the Victorian border across to the Western Australia border. In theory, you could see whales anywhere if you are looking out for them.
Types of Whales in South Australia
The most common whales found in South Australian waters are Southern Right Whales. There is also a good chance that you will see Humpback whales too. More rarely, and mostly offshore, it’s possible to see Sperm Whales, Pilot Whales, and even the biggest whales of all, the Blue Whale.
Whale Watching Season South Australia
When it comes to the best time for whale watching South Australia has a season that runs from June to September. Unfortunately for us, this coincides with winter here in SA, so standing on a cliff looking out for whales can sometimes be a cold, wet and windy pursuit.
Seeing these amazing creatures is worth it though, so come prepared with warm, weather-appropriate clothing. A waterproof jacket with a hood, for example, is preferable to an umbrella because of the wind.
Whale Sightings South Australia
If you want up-to-date information to see if the whales are around during your visit, the SA Whale Centre keeps a whale sighting log that they update any time they are notified of a whale sighting anywhere in South Australia. Click here to see the listing.
Best Places for Whale Watching in South Australia
While it is possible to see whales along the whole coast of South Australia, there are some particular whale-watching spots where it is more likely that you will see them. Here are those places.
Victor Harbor is one of the most popular places to go if you would like to catch a glimpse of the whales as it is only ninety minutes south of Adelaide. It is part of the Encounter Marine Park, a protected area around the Fleurieu Peninsula and across to Kangaroo Island.
There are also plenty of other things to do here that can be incorporated to make a pleasant day trip when you are whale watching at Victor Harbor.
The best place to spot the whales is to climb to the top of The Bluff for a good view over Encounter Bay. This hill-on-a-headland, formerly known as Rosetta Head, sits up about 100m and gives great 360-degree views of the area – but of course, we are only interested in the ones out to sea.
The walk from the car park to the top of the Bluff is about an 850m return loop.
While in Victor Harbor, visit the SA Whale Centre. In years past this area was known for being part of the whaling industry, and the South Australian Whale Centre shares a little of that history as well as information related to preservation of the whales today.
The centre is over three levels, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it is large – it isn’t. It is currently housed in the old tram barn, right in the centre of Victor Harbor where the Causeway goes over to Granite Island.
There are two boat tours that can be taken to see the whales during whale season – the 45-minute Seal Island Boat Tour and a 1.5-hour Southern Ocean Adventure both operated by The Big Duck Boat Tours. These tours operate year-round, in the summer months spotting plenty of seals dolphins and sea birds.
Just one bay over from Victor Harbor is the even smaller town of Middleton. These two could potentially be bunched together as a whale-watching location, but I thought that the small area that has been set up at Basham Beach was worth its own section.
Here there is a small platform with some great interpretative signs about the whales and other marine mammals from the area, the Murray Marine Park and the migration patterns of the whales. There is also a pair of those binoculars you put a coin in to use.
The best part of this little area is that it is only a few metres from your car to the platform, so if you have young children or someone who can’t make the climb up to the top of The Bluff, then this is a much easier place for whale watching.
Kangaroo Island is just across the water from Victor Harbor, and the whales like to shelter in the bays here too. This is another place where whales could be spotted from any coastal area, so if you are visiting between June and September, keep your binoculars handy and your eyes peeled.
Kangaroo Island is the closest location to the Blue Whale feeding area, offshore in what is called the upwelling zone (where the cold water from the deep ocean comes to the surface). While you are unlikely to actually see the Blue Whales, it’s pretty cool knowing the largest animals on the planet are not too far away.
The best way to see the whales is to take a Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari. These boat trips are available from Penneshaw all year round, where you are guaranteed to see dolphins and seals, and in the winter it is likely you will also see whales too.
Another area that is popular for whale watching in South Australia is on the far west coast of Eyre Peninsula. Fowlers Bay is the closest of the locations to Adelaide, a mere 900km away.
Southern Right Wales and Humpback Whales often come into the protected waters of Fowlers Bay to rest after their trip up from Antarctica.
The best way to see the whales at Fowlers Bay is to take a whale-watching cruise. This 2 1/2 hour cruise will not only let you see the whales up close but also some of the other marine wildlife and birds that live in this pristine area.
If the cruise doesn’t get you close enough, then you could instead take a kayak tour out to spot the whales. For more information on the tours, click here.
Head of the Bight
If you have come all the way to Fowlers Bay, you may as well go another 200km to see the Whales at Head of the Bight. This is now getting super isolated, and most people who come here are driving across the Nullarbor between Western Australia and South Australia.
Just off the highway, just where the Bunda Cliffs begin, is the Head of the Bight Visitor Centre, with boardwalks out along the cliffs.
This whole area is a part of the Yalata Aboriginal Community and access to the shoreline is restricted, but here at the Head of the Bight is a great place (if not the best place!) to see whales in South Australia.
it’s possible to see whales here from mid-May until late October, although the best times are still June until September, when you will be able to stand on the cliffs and see dozens of whales.
Here they are again mostly Southern Right Whales with possible Humpback sightings too. The whales tend to stick to a 15km stretch of the coast here, and it really is an impressive sight to look out to sea and there are twenty different mother/baby pairs within view.
This is one that’s not on a lot of the whale-watching lists – at least not yet. When I was in Port Lincoln last winter, some of the locals told me to try my luck in visiting a lookout point at the end of Sleaford Bay Road.
This lookout point is just outside of the Lincoln National Park, but Sleaford Bay itself is mostly inside, and this is where the whales like to hang out.
Apparently, in recent years whale sightings have become more common and the numbers are growing each year. We were lucky enough to arrive there just as a mum and her calf were passing by. It’s about a twenty-minute drive to the lookout from Port Lincoln.
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