Cruising the humpback highway
They call it the humpback highway, but there are plenty of other marine mammals cruising Australia’s east coast during winter.
Lake Macquarie is recognised as one of the best places in NSW to see them all, thanks to the dramatic coastal cliffs that provide a perfect land-based vantage point, and the availability of top-notch whale-watching cruises right on our doorstep.
More than 35,000 humpbacks are expected to migrate north this year, searching out warmer waters for the annual breeding season.
Southern right whales, false killer whales (which actually aren’t whales at all but a species of large dolphin) and even elusive sei whales have also been spotted off the Lake Mac coast.
Read on for some of the best places in Lake Mac to catch a glimpse of these amazing animals.
The height of Redhead Bluff and the way it juts out into the Tasman Sea make it the ideal place for land-based whale-watching. Head out in the morning, when the sun is in the east, illuminating the silvery geysers of spray as the whales surface to exhale. Head to the viewing area on Ocean Street, just near the corner of Cowlishaw Street.
Awabakal Nature Reserve
More isolated than Redhead Bluff but even more spectacular, this spot requires a 700m walk from the end of Ocean Street in Dudley (not to be confused with Ocean Street in Redhead), through beautiful coastal scrub along a track known as the Bluff Trail. It comes out onto an open patch with sweeping views up the coast to Port Stephens. As one of the highest points along the Hunter Region’s coastline, it’s a great place to watch whales migrate.
Spoon Rocks Lookout
This coastal lookout is a short drive south of Caves Beach, with a fire trail off Spoon Rocks Road leading to the elevated lookout. Down below is Spoon Rocks, a 500m spoon-shaped breakwater once used to load coal mined from underground seams nearby. If the whales aren’t breaching, there’s also an unpatrolled beach, where the breakwater provides shelter from the swell.
Wallarah National Park
Those with a little more spring in their step can continue past Spoon Rocks Lookout into Wallarah National Park, where a coastal walking track offers Insta-worthy vistas and views of migrating whales at every turn. The 5km round-trip leads to Pinny Beach, a 250m stretch of unpatrolled sand popular for fishing and surfing.
Catherine Hill Bay
Another elevated position, this one at the south-eastern end of the City, ‘Catho’ is unique for its views not just of the coast and passing whales, but the 240m jetty above the beach’s southern end. Catho Pub just back from the beach is the perfect place to unwind after a hard day’s whale-watching, and the heritage-listed village is also worthy of a stroll if the whales aren’t close to shore.
For a much closer encounter, CoastXP offers daily whale-watching cruises off the Lake Mac coast. The two-hour expeditions follow national guidelines for whale and dolphin-watching, keeping their distance as the mammals migrate.
Photo courtesy of CoastXP.