For over 60,000 years, humpback whales have travelled along the Australian coast. The annual northern migration of these magnificent creatures along the east coast of Australia has already started, and is expected to run until August.

In days past, the local Aboriginal people marked the migration with a ‘Welcome to Ocean’ Country ceremony. This tradition is continued by Living Ocean, a non-profit organisation based in Palm Beach.

Local elder Uncle Neil will perform a smoking ceremony, followed by whale songs on the didgeridoo. Then, the local community will call the whales in the traditional way by squeaking their feet in the sand. The ceremony will start at 8.30am on 1 June at the Avalon Surf Club, 558 Barrenjoey Road, Avalon Beach.

‌Palm Beach local Robbi Newman, co-founder and president of Living Ocean, says this event celebrates not only the return of whales to our shores, but also marks the beginning of two unique environmental projects: the humpback behavioural research project, which spans from Pittwater, and the East Coast Ocean acoustic project.

“The 2024 research program is critical as it will help fill significant data gaps on shifting migratory patterns due to climate change,” he says. “We are setting call acoustic devices out on the ocean floor. We’re spearheading with other people to record every sound in the ocean.”

Robbi says that they will be opening spots on the research vessel for citizen scientists to track whales and record their behaviour. “People can jump on the boat, and we’re out for about five hours on average and follow the whales up close,” he says. For more information, visit the Living Ocean website.

The headlands of the Northern Beaches are the perfect place to see the whales on their journey. Here are the five top spots to catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures.

Barrenjoey Headland, Palm Beach

Enjoy the panoramic views of Pittwater, Broken Bay and Palm Beach from Barrenjoey Headland. Be sure to take binoculars.

Bangalley Headland, Avalon

This reserve is one of the largest bushlands in the area. The climb to its highest point may be rugged, but the stunning views are worthwhile.

Bilgola North Headland, Bilgola

Just off The Serpentine at Bilgola Beach is the Bilgola North Lookout. Robbi recommendes this whale-watching spot.

Long Reef Headland, Collaroy

Another of Robbi’s favourite spots for whale lovers. Situated between Dee Why and Collaroy Beaches, it allows you to gaze across the ocean. On a calm day, keep your eyes open for whales gliding past the dramatic cliffs. Be sure to look out over the deeper waters, where there’s a better chance of seeing a whale breaching.

North Head, Manly

This lookout, situated close to Manly, is a haven for whale watchers. It provides breathtaking views of Sydney Harbour. Keep a lookout for whales breaching and tail slapping in the distance. Look for telltale splashes or fountains of water spouting from the whale’s blowhole to spot them easily.