From land or by sea, a discovery of our glorious marine animals is a favourite winter activity
The Shoalhaven region stretches over 160 kilometres of glorious coastline. Which means there's a wonderful paradise of marine life and sea animals that's waiting to be explored. Many species of whales, seals, dolphins, penguins, shorebirds and fish can be spotted during your stay and we're here to give you all the hotspots. Book a guided trip with one of our specialised operators or venture out on your own, just make sure to stay aware of approach zones and safe viewing distances so that our sealife remains safe and happy around visitors. Catching a glimpse of these creatures truly is a holiday experience to remember.
May to November is peak whale watching season in the Shoalhaven. Species including Humpbacks, Southern Rights, Minkes and Pilots begin their annual migration to their winter breeding and calving grounds in the warmer waters of the Pacific. Orcas can also be spotted too if you get lucky! As a general rule of thumb, any lookout with a lighthouse is an excellent viewing point from land. Geographically sitting smack bang in the middle of the 4000km migration route, the Shoalhaven coast, especially Jervis Bay is favourite a stopover for mums with newborns in tow. They rest, play and relax here on their journey back home to Antartica. With 20kms of NSW's tallest coastal sea cliffs, there are key viewpoints at Point Perpendicular and Booderee National Park. Cape St George Lighthouse in Booderee is laden with history. It was built, then partially demolished all before 1922 and its excellent vantage point makes it an official survey spot for whale researchers. Boat based viewing is an amazing travel experience and our highly acclaimed tour operators Jervis Bay Wild and Dolphin Watch will escort you out from Huskisson Wharf. Cruise peacefully along the pristine sea as you keep an eye out for some glorious sightings. With many whale watching hotspots all along our coastline, you'll have plenty of opportunities to see these majestic creatures.
Another wonderful marine animal is the Australian Fur Seal, one of the rarest fur seal species in the world. There is a resident colony in the protected waters at Drum & Drumsticks in Jervis Bay and the best way to catch a glimpse of the seals hunting, playing, swimming, and relaxing on the rugged shoreline is on a tour with Crest Diving or Dive Jervis Bay. A snorkel or scuba dive into the caves lets you swim right beside the seals, alongside many of varieties of colourful fish. Some neighbouring New Zealand fur seals can also often be spotted here, lounging out on the rocks. For those who'd prefer to stay dry in the search for seals, then head out on the South Coast Passage Tour with Jervis Bay Wild, take a walk up to Governor Head Lookout or venture along Coomies Trail at Abrahams Bosom Reserve, where you can often see seals in Winter playing in the shallows at Lobster Bay, Mermaid Inlet and Gosangs Tunnel. The seals can also be viewed from Warden Head, where they like to float around near bommies and reefs with one flipper raised, a very cute sight and a way for them to cool down! If you happen to discover a seal on the beach, please do not approach it, in NSW you must stay 40 metres from adults and 80 metres from pups.
Beautiful, intelligent dolphins are always so captivating to see in the wild and we're lucky to have roughly 90 Bottlenose Dolphins that call Jervis Bay home. Dolphins use different sections of the bay for a variety of reasons, each specific location serving its own special purpose. They feed and socialise in small groups near the shore, older dolphins babysit new pups in nursery areas and further out in the open ocean, pods of hundreds of dolphins are usually feeding on schools of baitfish. You can even spot them surfing the waves at our many beaches - Shoalhaven is a surfing mecca for everyone after all! The best way to see these lovely marine mammals is in on a Dolphin Tour with Jervis Bay Wild or a Dolphin Cruise with Dolphin Watch. Populations tend to swell quite often so there's a great chance that you'll be able to spot an entire pod swimming through the sea, playing and hanging out together.
Meet our Friendly Local Stingrays
Did you know that stingrays are actually flattened fish that are closely related to sharks? Don't let this scare you, though! These mesmerising sea animals are not normally aggressive. To the contrary, if they don't feel threatened or under attack, stingrays are known for being quite gentle and placid around humans. Our resident stingrays are no exception and it's pretty awesome when you get the chance to catch a glimpse of one (or more!) at the beach. All coastal boat ramps are good spots to see stingrays, where they often venture up to shore in search of food scraps left by local fishermen. There are usually many sightings around Jervis Bay, Bawley Point and Bendalong, where you can often see them gliding in the shallows at dawn and dusk. A favourite hotspot is pet friendly Washerwomans Beach with its calm and protected waters.
Possibly one of the cutest marine animals you'll come across in the Shoalhaven is a lovely, Little Penguin. There is an enormous colony on Bowen Island which lies at the entrance to Jervis Bay within Booderee National Park. With a population of around 10,000 penguins in total and maintained as a protected seabird habitat, you can't actually venture onto the island. However, a kayak paddle out to the nearby waters can sometimes get you close enough to spot some little penguins bobbing around in the sea. The kayak ride is a beautiful experience in itself and you can head out on your own (an easy launch from the small beach on the north side of Murrays Boat Ramp) or go on a guided tour with Sea Kayak Jervis Bay. Jervis Bay Wild also has a number of Eco Cruises around the bay to accommodate your penguin spotting adventure.
Saving our Special Shorebirds
Conjola Beach, Meroo National Park and the beaches around Ulladulla are all birdwatching havens, with endless opportunities to see shorebirds like Pied Oystercatchers, Sooty Oystercatchers, Black-browed Albatrosses, Little Terns and many more. You'll be able to spot these birds in flight but also nesting around rocky outcrops, headlands and along sandy beaches. Download our detailed Bird Walks Guide to find out the best routes for your next birdwatching adventure. Although we welcome all visitors wanting to catch a glimpse of our beautiful birds, it's important to keep an eye out for signage and fencing, placed in key nesting areas during breeding season. If you do see little birds running along the beach or larger birds calling, the best thing to do is give them enough space, especially at places like dog-friendly Seven Mile Beach at Shoalhaven Heads, a common shorebird habitat. Their nests often get trampled by humans and dogs and if the birds feel even the slightest bit threatened, they may abandon their homes and babies completely. In order to combat a massive decline in local nesting beach bird populations, a shorebird recovery program has been implemented to ensure that our most threatened species can continue to thrive for many generations.