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Humpback Whales In The Whitsundays

Humpback Whale Season

humpback whales in the Whitsundays

Early June To Late September


The Whitsundays is home to 74 island wonders, pristine beaches, and thousands of different marine animals. Undoubtedly, humpback whales in the Whitsundays attract lots of tourists to visit the region during the cooler months of the year. Humpback whales are one of the most extraordinary animals to navigate the warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Every year the Whitsundays is host to hundreds arriving from their annual migration from Antarctica. Whales are one of the oldest living animals on the planet, and the chance to witness their majesty in the wild is definitely a bucket list item for almost anybody you speak to. These encounters can be experienced on a topnotch luxury cruise.

In addition to the humpback, you can spot several different types of marine mammals in the Whitsundays. Including other cetaceans, such as pilot whales, dolphins, and porpoise’s, and sirenians like dugongs. Most of these can be found year-round in the smooth protected waters of the islands and inner reef. The humpback whales only visit once a year, making it all the more special when we see them.

With its warm winter temperatures and calm waters protected by the reef and islands, the Whitsundays is an ideal location for female whales to give birth to their calves every year. Most whale sightings around the Whitsunday islands are of a mother and her calf, either feeding or playing together. Keep a keen eye out for energetic whales breaching at the surface as they move around too.

About The Humpbacks

The humpback whale is a species of baleen whale, which means they filter feed by taking big lunges at their prey. (mostly krill, small shrimp and fish) With their feeding apparatus, then push the water out of their brush-like baleen plates, much like a strainer. They don’t feed while they are in the Whitsundays but instead do all of their feedings further down south, opting to fast during their journey. These mammals can grow up to roughly 20 metres in length, weigh up to 45 tonnes, and live on average for 50 years. However, there has been documentation of them reaching as old as 100 years old! Being a mammal, they need oxygen to survive. They utilise their blowhole on their backs to grab a quick breath without jumping out of the water, conserving energy for a big dive.


Humpbacks areย easily identifiable, and the most commonly spotted whale in Australia. Usually, they are black on top with a white underbelly, but colouring ranges differently from animal to animal. They have large heads with a big mouth full of baleen, almost mimicking a wide grin. You’ll also notice bumps and barnacles adorning the gentle giants, as they cruise through the seas at a slow pace. They can have up to 22 throat pleats, which almost look like a ribbed sweater, which stretches the length of their underbellies. It starts from their chins down to their large fluke, or tail. There is a small dorsal fin, and their pectorals are roughly a third of the length of their body!



Every winter thousands of humpback whales migrate from the frigid waters from Antarctica. They have been filling up on krill and are ready to bask in the warm, sub-tropical waters of the northeast coast of Australia. While ‘whale season’ in the Whitsundays has historically been in the winter months from early June to late September. Some locals and seafarers have seen an increase in population over the last decade, meaning more are coming a little earlier and leaving a little later.

Why The Whitsundays?

The annual humpback migration dates back hundreds of thousands of years. Pregnant cows will only give birth when the conditions to feed their young are favourable, and it appears the Whitsundays fits the bill perfectly! Since temperatures average about 20 degrees Celcius (or 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit) between June and October. This warm cosy playground is the perfect place for them to stop and give birth in the protection of the islands and reefs.

These beautiful mammals can be encountered during a Whitsunday Island cruise or sports fishing adventure.


Marlene Hicks Owner operator of Topnotch Game Fishing Airlie Beach & Billfish Babes founder.