With over 160 km of coastline, the Shoalhaven region is a paradise for exploring marine life and sea animals. Spot whales, seals, dolphins, penguins, shorebirds, and fish during your stay with our helpful hotspots guide. Book a guided trip with specialized operators or venture out on your own. Stay aware of marine park regulations for fishing, boating, diving, approach zones, and safe viewing distances to preserve our Sealife. Catching a glimpse of these creatures truly is a holiday experience to remember.
May to November is peak whale watching season in the Shoalhaven. Humpbacks, Southern Rights, Minkes, and Pilots migrate to Pacific’s warmer waters for winter breeding and calving. 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 in the middle of the 4000km migration route, Shoalhaven, especially Jervis Bay, is a favourite stopover for new moms.
They rest, play and relax here on their journey back home to Antarctica. 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 before 1922, its excellent vantage point makes it an official survey spot for whale researchers. Experience boat-based viewing with acclaimed operators Jervis Bay Wild and Dolphin Watch from Huskisson Wharf. Cruise peacefully along the pristine sea as you keep an eye out for some glorious sightings. Numerous whale watching hotspots along our coastline provide ample opportunities to witness these majestic creatures.
Another wonderful marine animal is the Australian Fur Seal, one of the rarest fur seal species in the world. In the protected waters at Drum & Drumsticks, Jervis Bay, a resident seal colony resides. Catch glimpses of seals hunting, playing, swimming, and relaxing on rugged shores by joining tours with Woebegone Freedive , Crest Diving or Dive Jervis Bay. Snorkel or scuba dive into caves to swim alongside seals and colorful fish in close proximity. Some neighbouring New Zealand fur seals can also often be spotted here, lounging out on the rocks.
Stay dry on the South Coast Passage Tour with Jervis Bay Wild for seal sightings. Visit Governor Head Lookout or Coomies Trail at Abrahams Bosom Reserve to spot seals in Winter at Lobster Bay, Mermaid Inlet and Gosangs Tunnel. Seals at Warden Head often float near bommies and reefs with one flipper raised, an adorable and cooling sight. If you find a seal on the beach, don’t approach. In NSW, maintain 40m from adults and 80m from pups.
In Jervis Bay, about 90 Bottlenose Dolphins, beautiful and intelligent, captivate with their wild presence. Dolphins use different sections of the bay for a variety of reasons, each specific location serving its own special purpose. Dolphins socialize and feed near the shore in small groups, while older ones babysit pups in nursery areas. Out in the open ocean, pods of hundreds feed on baitfish. You can 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. With populations regularly swelling, you have a great chance to spot whole pods swimming, playing, and socializing in the sea.
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.
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.