Once upon a time, my husband surprised me with a Whale Watching tour just off Sydney Harbour.
It was a seemingly unremarkable day, but the skipper did laughingly warn that once we left the relative protection of the harbour it “might get a touch choppy”.
The first signs of trouble hit the moment the bay was behind us. Apparently “a touch choppy” is when the upside becomes the downside and the skipper gets to say “Feeding the fish are we?” as the vast majority of passengers say goodbye to breakfast.
Oh, and we didn’t see any whales.
Not to put the kibosh on what I am sure is a wonderful experience for many, especially if you have great sea legs – it’s just not for everyone.
But the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (ORRCA) has announced a bumper whale season this year, and it seems unfair that some of us miss out on witnessing these majestic mammals just because we morph into Emily Rose on a boat.
Fortunately, Wollongong City Council has named the best spots for the Illawarra’s landlubbers to spot whales.
The trick is to scan the ocean for whales with the naked eye to look for the telltale “blow” before getting the binoculars out.
As we approach the humpback whale migration peaks (mid-winter) and they migrate north along the coast from Antarctica in search of warmer waters, grab your binoculars, sun protection, warm clothes and a comfy, collapsible chair and settle into one of these five spots.
On a clear day, the views down the coastline from Bald Hill are spectacular. Looking to the east, there’s plenty of scope to see whales. And while you mightn’t be as close to the action as in other Wollongong locations, the vista more than compensates.
From here you can look both to the north and south to get a closer look at whales. There are a couple of picnic tables on the top of the hill, so you can bring lunch and make a day of it.
Waniora Point/Bulli Beach
Offering stunning views up and down the coast, this headland offers the bonus of being right on the Grand Pacific Walk’s shared path. In between watching for whales, nearby cafes offer coffee and a bite to eat and a recently refurbished playground allows kids to burn off some energy.
Instantly recognisable thanks to the lighthouse, this spot offers views along the coast to the north and towards the steelworks in the south. Not only is it an easy pick for whale watching, there are plenty of refuelling options around, from fish and chips to ice cream.
Wollongong City Council says if you pick one spot for whale watching, make it this one. With the view over Fisherman’s Beach and towards the port on the north, and stretching out over Port Kembla Beach and towards the Five Islands to the south, you’ll have plenty of scope for spotting whales. But on top of that, the area has significant cultural value to the Aboriginal community and is also recognised as a key location in the country’s military history for the role it played in the nation’s coastal defence network.