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


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

Darling Harbour departures

Time Adult Child Tour operator
8:00 (weekends) $94 $55 Princess Cruizes
8:30 $80** $35** Adrenalin
8:45 $69-79* $49* Bass and Flinders Cruises (3hr Discovery Cruise)
9:00 (weekends) $70-80 $60 Merimbula Marina/Go Whale Watching
9:30 (weekends) $49-59 $15 FantaSea Cruising
10:30 $65* $49* Bass and Flinders Cruises (2hr Adventure Cruise)
12:30 $80** $35** Adrenalin
12:45 $69-79* $49* Bass and Flinders Cruises (3hr Discovery Cruise)
12:45 $70-80 $60 Merimbula Marina/Go Whale Watching
13:30 $49-59 $15 FantaSea Cruising
14:00 $65* $49* Bass and Flinders Cruises (2hr Adventure Cruise)

* – 10-20% discount for online bookings
** – up to 45% off for online booking

Circular Quay departures

Time Adult Child Tour operator
9:00 (weekends) $95 Manly Ocean Adventures
9:15 $69-79* $49* Bass and Flinders Cruises (3hr Discovery Cruise)
9:45 (weekends) $80-94* $50-59* Bass and Flinders Cruises (3hr Discovery Cruise)
10:00(Fri-Sun) $49-59 FantaSea Cruising
10:15(weekend) $49-79 Captain Cook Cruises
11:00 $85** Adrenalin (Extreme Whale Watching Safari)
11:00 (Mon-Fri) $95 Manly Ocean Adventures
11:30 (weekends) $95 Manly Ocean Adventures
13:15 $69-79* $49* Bass and Flinders Cruises (3hr Discovery Cruise)
13:30 $49-79 Captain Cook Cruises
14:00 $95 Ocean Extreme (Extreme Whale Watching)
14:00 $49-59 FantaSea Cruising

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

Manly departures

Time Adult Child Tour operator
9:15 (weekends) $90**** Manly Ocean Adventures
11:15 (daily) $85*** Adrenalin (Extreme Whale Watching Safari)
11:15 (Mon-Fri) $90**** Manly Ocean Adventures
11:45 (weekends) $90**** 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

*** – 16% off if you buy 2 tickets
**** – 5% off if you buy 2 tickets

Sans Souci departures

There are no Sans Souci departures any more. Let us know if you know any cruises departing from San Souci.

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
Bass and Flinders Cruises Return trip on another cruise in the same year with a return voucher
Captain Cook Cruises Whale Sighting Guaranteed or cruise again for FREE. Cruise again in the same season for free on Standby Basis confirmed 24 hours prior, subject to availability.
FantaSea Cruising If you don’t see a whale on your next cruise, it’s FREE. Terms and conditions apply
Manly Ocean Adventures If whales are not spotted on a whale watching tour, each passenger will be issued with a ‘Standby Ticket’ for another Whale Watching tour during the same whale watching season. ‘Standby tickets’ are eligible for redemption no greater than 24 hours prior to the new requested departure. Subject to availability. Standby tickets are not transferable.
True Blue Cruises the same as Bass and Flinders Cruises
Manly Whale Watching/Ocean Extreme Whales guaranteed or free return cruise
Marimbula Marina In the event that no whales are sighted we will give you the opportunity to come on another whale watching cruise free of charge. This offer is valid for the current season only and is not transferrable. This offer is not redeemable for a refund. If no whales are sighted during the last few weeks of the whale watching season a voucher will be issued for the following whale watching season.
Princess Cruizes Free return trip if you don’t see whales
Sydney Adventure Cruises the same as Captain Cook Cruises

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.