Whale watching near Nelson Bay, Port Stephens
With plenty of rocky headlands, Boat Harbour offers some of Port Stephen’s best land based views of whales migrating each year. So much so, that a whale watching area has been constructed off one of the headlands for locals and tourists to enjoy up close views to these stunning creatures as they pass by the Port Stephen’s coastline.
This headland gets you up close to the whale watching action, without needing a boat or venturing out on whale watching cruises.
Boat Harbour is a small coastal suburb located around 15 minutes from Nelson Bay in Port Stephens. The area is somewhat of a local secret compared to some of the more popular locations around the bay, such as Shoal Bay or Fingal Bay.
The suburb features rocky headlands and a small bay with calm, shallow waters which is a popular spot for swimming, fishing and snorkelling in the summertime.
During whale season it is one of the best land-based whale watching spots.
Whale season in Nelson Bay
Port Stephens whale watching season runs between May and November each year as they make their way up and down the Eastern Coast of Australia during their annual migration.
In the winter months the whales migrate north to warmer waters. During this time they are often closer to the land and easier to see.
As they migrate back down south towards the end of whale season, they are usually further out to sea and harder to see from land.
The most common whale species seen migrating along the Port Stephens coast are the Humpback Whale and the Southern Right Whale.
Getting to the Boat Harbour Whale Watch Lookout
Finding the whale watch lookout is really easy. As you head into Boat Harbour down Blanch Drive, you follow that road straight down into Noamunga Street, where you will find a gravel car park leading up to the headland and whale-watching platform.
Accessing the whale watching platform
From the car park on Noamunga Street, there is a gravel path to the top of the headland. Along the path there are a number of areas where you’re able to stop and watch the passing whales from different angles.
There is one area that has small concrete stools where you’re able to sit and look out towards the southern headland. Another area towards the end of the headland has two log seats. Whales aside, the area provides some stunning views of the Port Stephens coast.
You’re able to walk over to the furthest point of the headland across the rocks. The walk up is quite uneven and a little steep in the last part, so children may need some assistance. From there you’ll be able to get as close as possible to the passing whales.
While we were there, the whales were around 100-150 metres away from us.
During the time we were there, the sea was relatively calm so accessing different areas of the rocks was somewhat safe.
While you are positioned high up if you’re remaining on the headland, I’d still urge visitors to please exercise caution when heading anywhere near the ocean on rocks.
A lifesaving ring is located on the rock platform in the unlikely event anyone is swept off the rocks.
When is the best time of day for whale watching?
You are able to see whales during whale season at any time of the day, however we have found the best time to see them is earlier in the morning when the ocean is calmer and they are easier to spot in the softer light.
We chose to visit during the morning, arriving around 11:00am and we spotted around 20 whales during the time we were watching – although they were tricky to photograph!