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Whale Watching In Southern Tasmania

Seeing a whale is such a thrill, especially if they’re feeling playful. Legend has it, whales in the Derwent River used to make such a racket overnight that residents found them annoying! 

Sadly, whaling in the 19th century drastically impacted the population. Humpbacks, Southern Right Whales, and Blue Whales are still classified as nationally endangered. Thankfully, these gentle giants are returning to our waters in growing numbers, passing through on their annual migration and delighting humble whale watchers.

Whale Watching. Image Credit: @pennicottjourneys
Whale Watching. Image Credit: @pennicottjourneys

When can I see Whales?

Humpbacks migrate north between May and July and return south between September and November. Southern Right Whales head north between June and September, and head back south between September and late October.

Where is the best place to look?

Whales like to travel along the sheltered East Coast of Tasmania during their migration. Sightings regularly occur at Frederick Henry Bay, near the South Arm Peninsula, around the tukana/Tasman Peninsula, in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, and around Bruny Island.

Grab your zoom lens and head to nearby beaches, or try higher vantage points like lookouts and coastal walking tracks.

Cockle Creek has a giant whale sculpture in the Far South, but if you’re lucky, you might see a real whale out in the distance.

Getting close and personal with Whales

Getting out on the water during whale season is a fantastic experience (boats must not approach whales closer than 100 metres).

Pennicott Wilderness Journeys offers a range of tours in their zippy yellow boats, and whales are regularly spotted during their Bruny Island Cruises and Tasman Island Cruises

For something a little more hands-on, the Southern Sea Ventures team offer various incredible sea kayaking experiences, including a Tasman Peninsula Sea Kayak and Whale Watch Escape.

Whale Watching. Image Credit: @pennicottjourneys
Whale Watching. Image Credit: @pennicottjourneys
Orca. Image Credit: Ange Anderson & @pennicottjourneys
Orca. Image Credit: Ange Anderson & @pennicottjourneys

What kind of whales are sighted in Tasmania?

Several whale species make their annual migration along the relatively calm waters of Tasmania’s East Coast, including mothers with calves (Tasmania Parks & Wildlife have a comprehensive species list).

Humpback Whales are the most commonly sighted species. These playful fellows are very acrobatic, often leaping out of the water and slapping or showing their tails before diving. Male humpbacks hang upside down in the water and sing.

A Southern Right Whale sighting is special, as they are still dangerously low in numbers (possibly just a few thousand worldwide). The population is slow to grow, as they only produce one calf every three years and take about 10 years to reach breeding age.

Orcas, or Killer Whales, have been spotted in recent seasons and are easily distinguished by their colouring and dorsal fin. They often loiter around seal colonies (look out, seals!) and can be quite playful, leaping out of the water, slapping their tails, or travelling at a quick speed.

Humpback Whale calf. Image Credit: Tourism Tasmania & bodhiimages
Humpback Whale calf. Image Credit: Tourism Tasmania & bodhiimages

What should I look for?

Scan the horizon and look for spouts of water. Hopefully, when you find some whale friends, they will treat you to a show! It’s a real thrill to watch their playful frolicking on the water’s surface and hear their powerful tail slaps.

Watch their tails disappear below the surface when they dive, and wait in excited anticipation for an epic breach!

Whale Hotline

To report whale sightings, call the Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Whale Hotline on 0427 942 537 (aka 0427 WHALES).

This is also the number for reporting stranded or injured whales, dolphins or seals, or sightings of unusual marine mammals and turtles.

Whale Watching. Image Credit: @scottgelston
Get Shucked - Bruny Island Oysters. Image Credit: Adam Gibson
Get Shucked - Bruny Island Oysters. Image Credit: Adam Gibson
Sunset at The Neck, Bruny Island. Image Credit: @whoishollyjean
Sunset at The Neck, Bruny Island. Image Credit: @whoishollyjean

Discover Bruny Island

Discover the wild and beautiful lunawuni / Bruny Island

How to get to Bruny Island

Bruny Island is around 30 minutes drive south of Hobart, Tasmania. Head down the Channel Highway to Kettering, then turn left into Ferry Road. SeaLink Bruny Island Ferries depart every 20 minutes (except from 12.30pm to 1.20pm) so there’s no real need to time your departure around the ferry. No booking is required, but don’t be surprised if there is a queue for the ferry during busy periods.

Bruny Island Ferry. Image credit: Jess Bonde
Bruny Island Ferry. Image credit: Jess Bonde
Bruny Island Accommodation

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