Every May to November Australia’s east coast transforms into the “humpback highway” as whales – humpbacks, but also southern right whales – swim north to mate and give birth, before heading back south with their newborn calves.
The Shoalhaven region in New South Wales is one of the best places to catch this phenomenon, boasting a bunch of vantage points and on-the-water tours that allow visitors to see the whales as they wave and dive their way along the coast (the area also has a particularly long whale-watching season). It helps that the region is also stacked with restaurants, cafes and museums.
Here’s a bunch of experiences to make the most of a trip along the humpback highway.
Whale Watch at the Coast’s Lookouts and Viewing Platforms
The Shoalhaven’s dramatic coastline is defined by towering cliffs, prominent headlands and sheltered bays, many of which boast fabulous lookouts and viewing platforms. Try some whale watching at Crookhaven Heads and Penguin Head, which bookend Culburra Beach and have views towards Shoalhaven Heads in the north all the way round to Currarong in the south, or Point Perpendicular Lighthouse lookout, which overlooks the sheltered Jervis Bay – a favoured rest stop for whales and their calves when they’re heading back south. Perhaps most dramatic of all is Gosang’s Tunnel, a 30-metre-long passage near Currarong that opens onto a cliff with breathtaking views across the sea.
Eat / Drink: In Culburra Beach hit up The Little Snapper for elevated dude food washed down with local wine and beer. In Currarong, make some time for fish and chips on the deck at Zac’s Place, an exquisite little cafe with seaside views.
Get Out on the Water With a Whale-Watching Eco Cruise
If you want to get a little closer to the action, consider heading out onto the water with one of the region’s specialised eco cruises. In Jervis Bay, there’s Jervis Bay Wild and Dolphin Watch Cruises. Further south, Ulladulla Fishing Charters runs smaller groups out for sightseeing tours that – beyond the sea life – provide punters with brilliant views of Ulladulla Lighthouse and, in the distance, Didthul Pigeon House Mountain.
Eat / Drink: If you find yourself in Ulladulla, Rick Stein at Bannisters in nearby Mollymook Beach is just a 10-minute drive away. A meal at the world-famous TV chef’s South Coast outpost is essential for anyone passing through the region.
Explore the Shoalhaven’s History at Jervis Bay Maritime Museum
A good way to get to grips with the history of the Shoalhaven is with a visit to Jervis Bay Maritime Museum. This terrific little facility boasts an extensive collection of maritime artefacts, models, photographs, paintings and drawings. There’s also the Jervis Bay History exhibition, which helps visitors learn about the region’s Indigenous past. The centrepiece of the museum is the Lady Denman – a beautiful timber Sydney Harbour ferry that was constructed in Huskisson in 1911 and returned to the area after being decommissioned in 1979.
Eat / Drink: Tie in a visit to the museum with dinner at another storied local establishment, the Huskisson Hotel. This grand 88-year-old boozer serves plates of local seafood, pizzas and classic pub meals.
Swim With Whales With Dive Jervis Bay
There’s whale-watching from a lookout or a boat, and then there’s pulling on your provided wetsuit and actually going for a swim with these giants. Dive Jervis Bay’s half-day snorkelling trip lets you get as close as 30 metres to the whales – if they’re inclined to approach you, of course. The best probability of an in-water whale experience is June, July, September and October.
Eat / Drink: In the morning, hit 5 Little Pigs for a pre-snorkel slap-up breakfast and terrific espresso coffee. Afterwards, head to Wild Ginger for elevated Southeast Asian meals in a slick dining room.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Shoalhaven Tourism.