Whale Watching in South Australia
Every winter South Australia has the privilege of watching Southern Right Whales gather at its shores. Sightings usually begin around Mid-May and eagerly awaiting whale watchers gather atop the cliffs and headlands of the area’s stunning coastline hoping to spot the first Whale of the season.
Every year thousands of visitors flock to the seaside city of Victor Harbor, hoping to catch a glimpse of the gentle giants annual migration. Only an hour’s drive from Adelaide and boasting the incredible diversity of 30 different Whale species South Australia and the Southern Fleurieu Peninsula really are a whale watcher’s paradise.
Whale Spotting locations
Whales have been spotted right along the coast of the Southern Fleurieu Peninsula. This map of local whale watching hot-spots is a helpful guide for visitors and locals alike to hunt down locations from our sightings log.
Whale Watching Tips
Whale watching is be an incredibly humbling experience, it can also be incredibly frustrating. Whales can be tricky to see despite their immense size, and once you do find one getting a clear view or a photo from shore can be difficult.
We’ve put together our best whale watching tips to help you maximise your chances of being in the right place at the right time to spot one of these magnificent gentle giants. Enjoy!
WHALE WATCHING TIP #1: Know your locals.
Southern Right Whales are the most common of the larger whales found in South Australian waters and are mostly black with white bellies and white lumps on their head called callosities. This picture of two whales shows the callosities on the closest whales head and the white underbelly on the other. Picture taken in the 2014 whale season by Bill Stephens.
WHALE WATCHING TIP #2: Know your whales.
You can identify whale species by observing their distinct features as they move about in the water. Throat grooves, long pectoral fins and white colouration underneath their fins and underbelly are distinctive features of the humpback whale. You can find out more about identifying whale species by clicking here. Picture by Bob Brownridge from the 2014 Prints of Whales Photography Competition.
WHALE WATCHING TIP #3: Be prepared.
Have a pair of binoculars in your car – at all times if possible. You never know when a whale will show itself, so be prepared and you’ll reap the rewards. Picture by Fishing SA magazine.
WHALE WATCHING TIP #4: Learn the lingo.
This Southern Right Whale is exhibiting a behaviour called tail lobbing or tail slapping. Whales raise their tail out of the water then slap it down creating a loud sound to communicate with nearby whales and marine life. Photos by Bill Stephens.
WHALE WATCHING TIP #5: Get up high.
When safe to do so, try to get up high. You’ll be able to see more and take better photos. Visit our whale sightings page for a map of the regions top viewing platforms. Picture by Beth Nixon.
WHALE WATCHING TIP #6: Know your compass.
Traveling whales are reported in our sightings log with the direction they are traveling in. So as they say, Never Eat Soggy Weetbix and know which way is which so you can watch that whale. Wow that’s a lot of W’s!! Picture by Wayne Cornish.
WHALE WATCHING TIP #7: Blow your nose.
Well not really, but you may not know that Southern Right Whales have two blow holes, so they blow outwards and at mid height, creating a distinctive V shape. This is a common feature of a baleen whale. This picture is titled ‘Thar She Blows’ by Beth Nixon who was a finalist in the 2014 Prints of Whales photographic competition.
WHALE WATCHING TIP #8: Be patient.
This happy Humpback Whale was spotted in 2014 and its spectacular breach was captured on film by Debbie Prestwood, but only after hours of patiently waiting for the action to start. Whales move at their own pace and some are more active than others so be prepared to put in the hours to capture that moment. It’ll be worth the wait!
WHALE WATCHING TIP #9: Know the law.
Personal watercraft (such as jet skis) are prohibited from launching and must not operate a personal watercraft within the Victor Harbor Restricted Area during whale season: 1 May through to 30 September. In all other waters and at all other times they must keep a distance of 300 metres from all marine mammal (whales, dolphins, seals etc). Any other vessel within the Encounter Bay Restricted Area must not get within 300 metres of a whale and must not fish in the restricted zone. On land you must not get closer than 30m to any marine mammal weather on land or in the water be sure to know your limits whilst whale watching this winter and visit our sightings page for more information.
WHALE WATCHING TIP #9: Hot cinnamon doughnuts.
Hot cinnamon doughnuts never fail to warm your belly before you hit the whale trail.
Happy Whale Watching!
Picture by Stacey Richardson.