At the beginning of winter, whales prepare to leave Antarctica; food becomes scarce and the waters become too cold for these warm-blooded animals. They head straight up the east coast to take advantage of the warmer Pacific waters for mating and giving birth from April until mid-August. Here are the best spots in NSW to see a breaching whale or two.

Coast Track cliffs, Royal National Park
Cool weather, steep coastline and playful whale calves make the Royal National Park a great spot for a walk in autumn and winter. Or, drive to any of the beaches at the national park and take a shortcut to the cliff tops for a chance to see a pod of whales.

Fairfax Lookout and walking track, Sydney National Park
This gentle walk is close to Sydney, and has a view that stretches from the harbor to the CBD. In the other direction is the open ocean. Whales typically surface between June and July, and make a return trip between August and October. If you’re making the trip back home by ferry, stop by Papi Chulo for a toasted Cuban sandwich and a Hong Island Iced Tea. It’s conveniently located at the wharf.

Cape St George Lighthouse Booderee National Park, Jervis Bay
Here you’ll find white-sand beaches, and the high vantage point makes spotting gentle giants of the ocean easier. The ruined Cape St George Lighthouse, on top of sheer cliffs, is also worth investigating.

Bombo Quarry, Kiama
The unusual basalt columns at the historic Bombo Quarry protrude from the earth like something from a sci-fi film. This secluded spot takes you away from the Kiama crowds, so there won’t be anyone standing between you and a whale. If you’re not having any luck on land, Kiama is a great spot to jump on a whale-watching boat to increase your chances of a seeing one.

Stanwell Tops, Wollongong
Resting on the Illawarra escarpment, Stanwell Tops offers a panoramic view. As one of Wollongong’s northernmost suburbs, it’s not too much of a stretch for Sydneysiders, either. You won’t get up close to the action here, but armed with a pair of binoculars you might spot many mothers and their calves frolicking in the shallow waters.

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Barrenjoey Lighthouse, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
You can’t climb the Barrenjoey Lighthouse, but the headland it calls home is elevated well above sea level. This makes a sighting very likely. Towering 91 meters above sea level, the lighthouse is accessible with a guided tour on Sundays, and is a spectacular viewing platform. If you forget to pack lunch for the whale show, The Boathouse Palm Beach will sort you out with a bucket of prawns.

Gerrin Point Lookout, Bouddi National Park
Located along the Bouddi Coastal Walk – known for its rugged beaches, shady rainforest and panoramic views – this point is a perfect place to spot migrating whales. At Gerrin Point you’ll enjoy sweeping views of Maitland Bay and its marine extension. Get a head start by camping overnight at the nearby Putty Beach campground, which is just steps from the Tasman Sea.

Woolgoolga Headland, Coffs Coast Regional Park
Woolgoolga is widely known as the best whale watching area in the Coffs Region. Pack your binoculars and a comfy chair, because there are regular sightings between May and October. On the headland you’ll find walking tracks, endless coastal views, massive dunes and the rolling hills of the hinterland.

Trial Bay Gaol Campground, Arakoon National Park
Despite being a popular bay for travelling whales, Trial Bay really comes alive in spring. This is when the mothers and their calves use the bay as a place to rest on their southward migration. Camping provides a close base from which to spot waking whales during sunrise. In Arakoon, visit the Trial Bay Gaol, a 17th-century prison. There is also the Monument Hill walking track, which goes to the other bays in the National Park.