Whales in Tuross

Whale watching season runs from September to November annually. During their southern migration whales are moving slowly, they are often with calves and seem to travel closer to the coastline. Scan the waters and you are likely to be rewarded with a sighting with whales often venturing in so close you can hear their breath as they exhale.

Of all the whale species, it is ultimately the famous yet little understood acrobatics of the humpbacks that lure whale watchers with the possibility that they may see a “breach” as the whale leaps from the water and returns with a mighty splash, or perhaps the awesome slapping of their giant fins and tail flukes on the water.

Later in the season, a special sight for whale watchers are the female whales nursing their calves, often cruising just beyond the breaker s. The pair of them travelling all that distance - one a giant of around 15m and possibly over 50 years old and the other a tiny 4m and just a few weeks old


NSW whale migration: What you need to know


Best Whale Watching spots in Tuross:

Plantation Point and One Tree Point, Tuross Head

These two spectacular vantage points have delighted locals and visitors alike since the 1920’s as they watch the whales returning from the north.

The whales tend to hug the shoreline and mothers with calves take their time as they swim by, often resting in the bay to the south of One Tree Point.

Both of these points can be accessed via a short walks along good paths accommodating most ages and abilities

Whales can be sighted as close as 150 metres from the lookouts.


Humpback Whale Facts source

Distinguishing features and behaviours of the Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae).

The East Coast Australia population:

1960s: Just 200-400 individuals due to excessive hunting along their migration route.

2010 estimate: Around 15,000 individuals. Numbers are increasing at a consistent rate of 10-15% per year. The worldwide population is estimated at over 60,000 individuals.


Humpback distinguishing features:

Humpback Whales have a dorsal fin two-thirds along their back as well as unique tail flukes with scalloped edges. Their pectoral (front) flippers – up to 6m long – also have bumpy scalloped edges. Humpback Whales exhale from their twin blowholes, with a wide blow up to 4m high. Southern Hemisphere Humpback Whales may have a lot of grey or white on their bodies. ‘Migaloo’ is a famous albino humpback while that you may be very lucky to see as well as ‘Mini-Migaloo’ – another albino humpback spotted in Narooma in Spring 2011.


Humpback visible body parts:

Rostrum: Flat area above the mouth, extends back to blowholes and has bumps (tubercules) on the top.

Pectoral Fins: Forward fins, in proportion to a third of the length of the whale’s body.

Dorsal fin: A relatively small fin right on the back about two-thirds along the body. Humpback dorsal fins come in many different sizes and shapes.

Caudal Peduncle: Sometimes called the tailstock. This is the immensely strong rear section of the body between the dorsal fin and the tail flukes.

Tail Flukes: The two sides of the tail are called flukes. Quite often they carry scars and have bits missing from attacks when the whale was young. These marks are distinctive and can be used by scientists to identify individual whales.

What about the hump? They actually don’t have one. They get their name from the arch of their tailstock as they sound – the only whales to have such a pronounced u-bend.

Humpback behaviours:

Breaching: The whale leaps from the water, spinning in the air before re-entry. This may be done once or many times and sometimes several whales will breach together.

Cruising: The whale has 2-5 breaths at the surface then dives for up to 10-15 mins but usually less.

Sounding: The whale arches its tailstock into a u-bend as they dive. The distinctive humpback tail flukes are often held high for a moment. This usually indicates a deeper dive.

Lunging: Front of head (rostrum) comes out of water and dives back under. Sometimes whole head may appear.

Peduncle Slap: Tail is raised and chopped back into the water with a sideways motion using the flexible peduncle - the strong muscular area just before the flukes.

Tail Slapping: The whale is upside-down under the water and smacks its whole tail repeatedly on the water in either direction.

Tail Swish or Roll: A flicking movement where the tail is slammed sideways and down as the whale submerges.

Flipper Flapping or Pectoral Slapping: One or both pectoral fins are repeatedly raised and then flopped loudly back onto the surface. Sometimes the flippers are extended above water for several minutes or the whale may appear to be backstroking.

Spy-hopping: The whale hangs vertically, sculling in the water and the nose and head may rise upwards, sometimes as far as the eye.

Feeding: You may see one half of a tail fluke and sometimes the belly scything through the water, with rapid changes of direction, followed by a period underwater then a repeat of the process.


People can find out more about Right Whales, the Humpback Whale migration and the best spots to see whales at www.wildaboutwhales.com.au.

The site contains interesting information about whales, dolphins and seals and gives the public the chance to share their own whale sightings via twitter using the hashtag #whaleon,

or the Wild About Whales smartphone app.

Whale watching tips and information on whale approach
regulations can be found at the Wild About Whales website

Click here for more info on whale watching on the South Coast

1980 Humpback stranding (for the whale mentioned above) (see photos)

Whales washed up in 1932

2007 - Whale washed up and then buried by Council on Coila Beach
In the news

Extreme Whale watching off the coast video on YouTube

A close encounter July 2009 video on YouTube


Extract from the Moruya Examiner 14th July,1909,
provided by the Moruya & District Historical Society:

BIG WHALE - Mr P J Mylott informed us on Wednesday evening that about noon on that day an immense whale was being attacked by killers who had it hemmed in close to the breakers near the entrance to Coila Lake, which is situated about five miles south of Moruya Heads. The killers would spring up in a line like a regiment of soldiers and dart at their prey in a most vicious and determined manner every time the whale rose above the surface.

The scene was a most exciting one, the whale roaring in great agony, the water splashing mountains high and the noise of the monster's tail as it flopped on the water resembling war shells striking an iron ship. When Mr Mylott left Tuross for town the whale appeared to be becoming exhausted.

In describing the monster Mr Mylott said it was of darkish colour and appeared as long as the distance between McKeon's and Coxon's Hotels, which is 183 feet. Miss Nellie Mylott describes the whale as very dark in colour and when rising in the water appeared like the hull of a monster ship and in length would reach from the "Examiner" Office to McKeon's Hotel, a distance of 144 feet.

Speaking to Mr A Davidson, an old whaler, on the subject he says there is very little doubt but that this one was a "black" or "right" whale which if only 100 feet in length would be worth from £700 to £1000 .