All signs point to a humpback whale watching season, cruise lines in the port report.
Imagine Cruises and Moonshadow-TQC Cruises said it has not been difficult to locate whales on its reconnaissance cruises over the past two weeks before the season officially kicks off on June 1, indicating that viewing opportunities will be strong this winter.
“Sightings have been strong during the early bird period and we’ve certainly been treated to some spectacular shows already,” said Mel Turner, Moonshadow’s director of business development.
“We didn’t have to travel far from shore to find the whales, with sightings made off Fingal Island and Box Beach. We had sightings of a minke whale, a few juveniles and some bigger whales that did wonderful acrobatics.
“The seal colony is also returning to Cabbage Tree Island. This is a great start and a positive sign of what is to come for the 2021 whale watching season.”
Frank Future of Imagine Cruises, which has just logged 25 years in business, said that in addition to the high number of whales expected to pass port this year, over 35,000, there were also indications that the visits would be strong, despite the restrictions. on international travel.
“Port Stephens has become the second busiest tourist destination in the NSW region,” said Mr Future, who is also a board member of Destination Port Stephens.
“We [Imagine] have enjoyed a good rebound in national visits which I think has spread to many other areas of Port Stephens. Due to our proximity to Sydney and restrictions on other travel, we have seen this increase in domestic travel. I think this will continue during the whale watching season.
“We are already seeing a lot of interest from visitors from Victoria and Queensland. Private charter groups for family reunions have also been popular. I think we are going to have a bumper season.”
Whale watching season in Port Stephens runs from mid-May to November. After a summer feeding on krill in Antarctic waters, humpback whales migrate north between May and August to their breeding grounds in subtropical waters.
The southward migration takes place from August to mid-November when mothers and hatchlings move back down the coast to feeding grounds in Antarctica.
This annual migration of up to 10,000 km draws thousands of visitors to coastal towns such as Nelson Bay as the creatures pass close to shore and can be spotted from land and water.
Starting Wednesday, June 5, Moonshadow-TQC Cruises will offer departures from Tea Gardens Wharf on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. Departures from Nelson Bay are daily at 10am and 1.30pm.
Dine and Discover NSW vouchers, which expire at the end of June, can be used on Moonshadow and Imagine cruises.
Land-based whale watching points
There are a number of land locations across the harbor where you can see whales passing the coast, including:
- The Tomaree Head Summit Walk, which is considered one of Australia’s top 10 scenic views.
- The beaches and harbor foreshore also offer good whale watching, particularly from Boat Harbor (accessible from Iluka Reserve), Anna Bay and Fishermans Bay.
- Barry Park in Fingal’s Bay. This park has a platform dedicated to whale watching.
- If you take a quad bike tour of the Stockton Bight sand dunes, you might be lucky enough to spot whales passing straight from the beach.
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