Whale watching in Sydney. Best time, places and tour prices

Whale watching in Sydney is one of most interesting attractions during winter season. Whale watching season starts in the middle of May.  You can go whale watching all winter and spring (May – November)  in Sydney.  It is not the most tourist season in Sydney, but you should try whale watching if you are visiting the city during this period. Jump to:

Best time for whale watching
Best time of day for whale watching
Best places for whale watching in Sydney
Whale watching tour companies review in Sydney

Humpback whale near Sydney

Humpback whale near Sydney

Tours

Check this list if you are keen to go on whale watching cruise.
Choose your departure point for prices and time table:
Darling Harbour | Circular Quay | Manly | Sans Souci

Darling Harbour departures

Time Adult Child Tour operator
8:00 (except Monday) $115 $65 Australian Spirit Sailing Company (max 12 passengers)
8:45 $75** $50** True Blue Cruises (4hr whale watching cruise)
9:00 (weekends) $80 $60 Merimbula Marina/Go Whale Watching
9:15 (weekends) $80-94* $50-59* Bass and Flinders Cruises (3hr Discovery Cruise)
9:45 (weekdays) $80-94* $50-59* Bass and Flinders Cruises (3hr Discovery Cruise)
10:30 $51-60* $34-40* Bass and Flinders Cruises (2hr Adventure Cruise)
12:15 $94 $55 Princess Cruizes (Lunch Cruise)
12:30 (except Monday) $115 $65 Australian Spirit Sailing Company (max 12 passengers)
12:45 $80-94* $50-59* Bass and Flinders Cruises (3hr Discovery Cruise)
13:00 $75** $50** True Blue Cruises (2.5hr whale watching cruise)
13:00 (weekends) $80 $60 Merimbula Marina/Go Whale Watching
14:00 $51-60* $34-40* Bass and Flinders Cruises (2hr Adventure Cruise)

* – 10-20% discount for online bookings
** – 15% discount for online booking

Circular Quay departures

Time Adult Child Tour operator
9:15 $75** $50** True Blue Cruises (4hr whale watching cruise)
9:30 (weekends) $95 Ocean Extreme (Extreme Whale Watching)
9:30 (weekends) $90 $57 Sydney Adventure Cruises
9:45 (weekends) $80-94* $50-59* Bass and Flinders Cruises (3hr Discovery Cruise)
10:00 $90 Adrenalin (Extreme Whale Watching Safari)
10:00 (Mon-Fri) $90 $57 Sydney Adventure Cruises
10:30 (weekends) $95 Ocean Extreme (Extreme Whale Watching)
13:15 $80-94* $50-59* Bass and Flinders Cruises (3hr Discovery Cruise)
13:20 $51** $34** True Blue Cruises (2.5hr whale watching cruise)
13:30 (weekends) $90 $57 Sydney Adventure Cruises
14:00 $95 Ocean Extreme (Extreme Whale Watching)

* – 10-20% discount for online bookings
** – 15% discount for online booking

Manly departures

Time Adult Child Tour operator
9:45 $75** $50** True Blue Cruises (4hr Whale Watching Cruise)
9:45 (weekends) $85 Manly Ocean Adventures
10:30 $90*** Adrenalin (Extreme Whale Watching Safari)
10:45 (weekends) $85 Manly Ocean Adventures
14:15 (weekends) $85 Manly Ocean Adventures
Bass and Flinders Cruises – You can get free return ride to Darling Harbour or Circular Quay if you book ticket with Bass and Flinders Cruises
Ocean Extreme (Extreme Whale Watching) – on request

** – 15% discount for online booking
*** – 15% off if you buy 2 tickets

Sans Souci departures

Time Adult Child Tour operator
9:00 weekends only during June and July, also each day during school holidays 2nd-17th July $71.5 $45 Bass and Flinders Cruises

 

Here is a list of whale watching tour operators in Sydney with their no sightings policy and links to their websites:

Tour operator No sightings policy
Adrenalin Free trip on the same vessel during the same whale watching season
Australian Spirit Sailing Company If we do not sight a whale during your eco whale watching tour, you will be entitled to one (only) free return tour?
Bass and Flinders Cruises Return trip on another cruise in the same year with a return voucher
Captain Cook Cruises Resells Sydney adventure Cruises
Manly Ocean Adventures Free return trip
True Blue Cruises Free return trip
Manly Whale Watching It is not actual tour operator, but just others’ tour reseller, so it was removed from the list
Marimbula Marina Free return cruise is offered
Ocean Extreme Free return trip is offered
Princess Cruizes You are entitled to cruise again for free in the current whale watching season
Sydney Luxury Charters
Sydney Adventure Cruises Free cruise within the same whale watching season

So which company to choose? It depends on you – do want only whale watching or to do something else too, like speed boat ride? Do you stay in the city or in Cronulla or Manly?

One of whale whatching tour boats in Sydney

One of whale watching tour boats in Sydney

My personal choice was – Bass and Flinders Cruises. They are longest period in this business and also participate in whales research program with Macquarie University, has shore based whale spotters which helps them faster to spot whales. In the sea it looks like all other companies just follow their boats.

Whale watching from the boat in Sydney

Whale watching from the boat, view from South Head in Sydney

One important thing – lower your expectation if you go on whale watching tour.  Sometimes whales are more active, sometimes they are not. I was reading some reviews there customers were complaining – they saw not enough whale breaches because ship went back to harbor as the tour time was out.  How you can complain about that? Some people won’t be lucky to see a breach even once and it is not the show where you command whales what they should do. So it is better to have low expectation and you definitely will enjoy whale watching – coastal or on boat tour.