Plenty of whales to see off the Port Stephens coastline across the long weekend

It was a bumper weekend for whale watching cruise operators in Port Stephens over the Queen's Birthday long weekend.

Imagine Cruises owner Frank Future said that the fine, sunny weather and the abundance of whales on their northern migration had attracted visitors in their thousands to sample many of the Port's alluring attractions.

"We were fortunate to have such great weather over the long weekend, the mornings were a little breezy but the afternoons were perfect when the winds dropped. And the whales were plentiful."

Mr Future said that around 75 per cent of patrons had used their discover vouchers and that there was every indication the crowds would be again flocking to Port Stephens, vouchers in hand, for the July school holidays.

"The most recent surveys suggest there are in excess of 30,000 humpback whales making the annual migration. Their population is thriving and what's more they are in good health, we haven't seen any sick ones."

He said that the whales' playful nature had attracted a growing number of photographers and photo groups.

"We have noticed a marked increased interest from wildlife photographers and people who are interested in capturing the whales in their natural environment. And of course Port Stephens has that beautiful backdrop."

Mr Future also paid tribute to Eileen Gilliland and the team at Destination Port Stephens for their successful promotion of Port Stephens, particularly in Sydney, and the 'Incredible by Nature' campaign.

About the whale migration 

Each year between April and November, Australia's eastern coastline comes alive with the spectacular acrobatic displays of humpback whales.

After a summer of feeding on krill in Antarctic waters, the humpbacks migrate north to sub-tropical waters migrate where they mate and give birth.

The whales travel past New Zealand, through the Tasman Sea, towards Sydney where they begin popping up for people to see.

They continue north towards Port Stephens where the whales swim quite close to the shore so as to avoid the East Australian Current.

The majority of humpbacks head back towards the Southern Ocean from September to November. This annual migration takes mature humpbacks on a 10,000 kilometre journey. The migration path is also referred to as the 'humpback highway'.

The southern migration is when whale watchers will spot calves with their mothers. Calves stay with their mothers for up to 12 months before becoming independent.

Humpbacks are a favourite with Port Stephens whale watchers due to their showmanship.

The creatures are well known to use their tails and pectoral fins to slap the water, spy hop (when the whale's head bobs out of the water), body roll (a 360 degree spin giving waters a glimpse of the whale's underbelly), and the most spectacular, breach - when the whale seems to jump out of the water and slam back down.

Best whale watching vantage points

There are a number of land-based spots across the Port that are considered the best to spot whales:

  • The Tomaree Head Summit Walk, which is considered one of the top 10 panoramic views in Australia.
  • The Port's beaches and foreshores, especially off the rocks at Boat Harbour (accessed from Iluka Reserve), Anna Bay and Fishermans Bay.
  • The Boat Harbour whale watch lookout off Noamunga Street.
  • Barry Park in Fingal Bay. This park has a dedicated whale watching platform. There are also plenty of opportunities to spot whales on the Tomaree Coastal Walk from Fingal Bay to One Mile.
  • If you're on a quad bike tour on the Stockton Bight Sand Dunes, you could be lucky enough to sight passing whales right from the beach.