Best whale watching tour company and look out points

By Lincoln McLeod, McLeod Tours Guide and Whale Enthusiast

For a real winter treat, you can’t go past whale watching in Margaret River. Whale watching tours operate from Augusta Harbour in May, June and July, and from Dunsborough in August to December. Plus, there’s some fantastic lookout points only a local would know about where you might spot a whale if you’re lucky.

Read on to find out more about these awe-inspiring creatures, which tour company we recommend and where you might see whales from land.

Happy whale watching!

Lincoln


Annual migration

Each year these incredible creatures swim thousands of miles in their annual migration. Around May they begin their journey from the food-rich waters of the Southern Ocean, to the calving grounds north of Broome, to give birth and suckle their calves.

Upon having their babies around the warm Kimberley waters of Camden Sound, then begin the 5000km trip home. They return to the cold Southern Ocean to grow and mature.

This migration makes for incredible whale watching opportunities for us. While it’s never guaranteed, it’s a pretty good bet that you’ll see whales off Augusta during May, June and July, and off Dunsborough, Busselton and the Cape to Cape region from August to December.


May to August – Go whale watching in Augusta

Firstly, you get to check out the spiffy new $36 million Augusta Boat Harbour. It’s made from granite carved out of the hillside – and has a great triple boat launching ramp. It’s home to about four different whale watching tour operators – our pick being Naturaliste Charters – and tours run twice a day, 10am-12noon and 2pm-4pm.

Pre-book at their website and let them know they were recommended by McLeod Tours.

They’ll take you out on one of their luxury whale watching vessels – perhaps the Alison Maree catamaran which just launched this month. I joined them earlier this month and the water was lovely and calm, but if the swell is up you might want to visit a chemist beforehand to pick up some anti sea-sickness tablets.

The boat cruises around Flinders Bay, Augusta. The skipper has a great view and an eagle eye for spotting whales, and will take you to 50 metres from the whales. During my last visit, a couple of juvenile humpbacks were very curious, and approached the boat, having a good look at us and swimming right under the boat. This amazing whale was nearly close enough to touch!


August to December – Go whale watching in Dusborough

On their journey south, the whales follow the current which hugs the coast and brings them into Geographe Bay. They seem to swim anticlockwise through Geographe Bay, past Bunbury, Busselton, Dunsborough, Cape Naturaliste and the Lighthouse, then south along the coast past Yallingup.

The waters of Geographe Bay are nicely protected by Cape Naturaliste. You don’t get the big waves in the bay that you’d find on the ocean side. The Bay is at least 50 kilometres across – it’s huge – so it’s fantastic for whale spotting. Again, the boats cruise out and will usually find pods of whales fairly quickly. If you’re lucky, the whales will feel like showing off, performing some breaches where they jump out of the water.

Again, several tour operators run twice daily tours out of Dunsborough from August to early December.


Tour companies we love

There’s about 4 or 5 companies running various tours and safaris. They’re all excellent boats. We just think that Naturaliste Charters owners Paul and Alison are particularly good people, and we really get along with them. We’ve been on their tours and our guests speak very highly of them. Their office is based at 25-27 Dunn Bay Road, Dunsborough, so you can walk in and make a booking if you’re staying up that way.


Where else should I look out?

Hey, come join us on a tour, there’s a small chance you’ll see a whale. We usually finish the Eat Drink Explore tour with a trip to Surfer’s Point to see the Indian Ocean. From August to December, Surfer’s Point is an awesome little spot for whale watching. You’ll need to keep your eyes peeled, but it’s an elevated spot so there’s a good chance you’ll see a whale.

On the Forest, Cave and Lighthouse Tour we’ve seen whales from the Lighthouse and around various lookout points in Hamelin Bay and Augusta.

And of course on the 3 Day Margaret River Escape Tour you triple your chances, with both of the opportunities mentioned above plus two nights staying very close to the beach.

My other favourite spots are further north; Yallingup, Cape Naturaliste and Point Piquet. At Yallingup go to the 3rd carpark, within the National Park, there’s a lookout point that’s more elevated and has an incredible sweeping view. Great for whale spotting, particularly when the sea is fairly calm.

Cape Naturaliste – stop at the Lighthouse carpark and take the whale watching walk – you’ll find a great lookout spot. Lighthouse Tour guides often see pods of whales right through to early January, but August to December is the time you’re most likely to see whales up here.

Finally, Point Piquet is a tiny little spot between Meelup and Eagle Bay. It’s where the local conservationists do their whale monitoring, as the water right in front of the rock is deep enough for a blue whale to swim. Again, you need calm water, but it’s one of those fail-proof whale watching spots, and incredibly pretty.


Whale of a good time?

Absolutely. If you’re down south between May and Christmas, you’ve got to look out for the whales. Whether you treat yourself to a whale watching tour, or seek out the look out points I’ve told you about, I really hope you spot some beauties!

Now, if you’re really pressed for time and want to do a whale tour and a McLeod Tour on the same day, I reckon you could join our Coffee Kickstart tour (9.25am-12.30pm) and get a dose of caffeine, wine and fun before heading down to Augusta for a 2pm-4pm whale watching tour. You’d even have time to drive Caves Road back up the coast to see a beautiful Surfer’s Point sunset – winning all round!

Images credit: Naturaliste Charters