Whale watching is a fun, family-friendly activity to add to your list of ‘things to do in Margaret River’.
For almost half of the year, whales can be seen off the Margaret River coast, during their annual migration. We regularly see them on our Cape Track walk at the end of the day.
Humpbacks and Southern Right whales are the two most common species. The giant Blue whale may make a rare appearance.
The migration characteristics for each of the whales is significantly different.
Humpback whales migrate much further north along the West Australian Coast. Starting in June, they swim north, away from their feeding grounds in the cold waters of the Southern Ocean, to their breeding grounds in warmer waters of the Kimberley region in northern Western Australia. Whales give birth to live young, which are suckled and nurtured in ‘maternity wards’ such as the Camden Sound Marine Park, as they build up the strength for their return journey south.
In November and December, the whales return south to feed and grow. The whales follow the continental shelf and tightly hug the coast as they migrate with their calves so the southern migration is ideal for land-based viewings. The southern migration is also a slower and more playful journey, possibly to accommodate the pace of the new calves. There is regular breaching and tail slapping activity that gives an insight to these creatures’ playful nature.
Southern Right whales prefer the cooler waters so don’t tend to migrate beyond Augusta, about 50km south of Margaret River. In the spring they return south to Antarctica, for the summer months.
Whale-watching cruises are a popular way to view the whales. Cruises are usually half a day and depart from either Augusta or Dunsborough, according to the season and where the whales are in their migration. There are strict protocols boat operators have to observe, including a requirement to remain at least 50m away from whales. But if you’re lucky the whales will be curious and come to visit the boat, giving you a much closer experience.
It is also possible to get great views of the whales from land, especially on the southern migration. Land-based viewings are ideal for those who may not have time (or the stomach) for a sea cruise. The Margaret River Discovery tour visits on of these land-based vantage points as part of the day touring Margaret River’s highlights. We regularly see whales during the migration season, from our cliff-top viewpoint.
When are there whales in Margaret River?
Where should you go to see whales in Margaret River in June, July, August? Flinders Bay, Augusta .
Throughout June, July and August, Humpbacks and Southern Right whales can be seen in Flinders Bay in Augusta, about 45 minutes’ south of Margaret River. The Humpbacks are beginning their journey north and the Southern Rights are at their turnaround point. The ocean here can be a bit wilder and rougher than Geographe Bay to the north, you’ll often get more spectacular mating behaviour. Lots of males fighting and interacting to attract some female attention. Including regular breaching activity and tail slapping.
Where can I see whales in Margaret River in September, October, November, December?
In the spring (from September to early December) the Southern Right whales will start their journey south back to the cold waters of Antarctica. At this time the Humpback whales appear in Geographe Bay and along the Margaret River coast, with their young calves. It is an ideal time to view the whales playing during their slow journey south, where they summer in Antarctica.
This is the best time of year to do a whale watching tour if you want some up close interaction in the calm waters of Geographe Bay. This is also the best time for land based whale watching. We will regularly see whales almost every day on our Cape Track walk during the Discovery Tour. Some day we might see 10-20 whales during a 30minute walk!
There are a bunch of water based tour operators offering Whale Watching experiences. A few of our favs are –
Image courtesy of Naturaliste Charters. Humpback whale tail with Leeuwin Lighthouse in the background.
Margaret River Discovery Tours
Sean Blocksidge is the owner operator of the Margaret River Discovery Company, an avid photographer, blogger and South West WA ambassador. In 2010 he won Western Australian Guide of the Year and his tours have been rated the #1 thing to do in Australia on the Tripadvisor website for the past two years.