Whale watching by bike

 Bruce Robertson

There are not many major cities around the world where you can just hop on your bicycle and go whale watching from shore. Fortunately Sydney is one of those cities and the usually fabulous weather makes it even better. From May to July the migration north to breed takes place, with the return to Antarctic waters from September to November.
National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) conducts an annual count, using volunteers, up and down the New South Wales coast, and the news is good – whale movements continue to recover from the devastating whale harvesting that continued up to the 1960’s. In fact numbers are now at 50-year highs.
One of the best and most popular viewing locations is at Cape Solander in Kurnell, part of Botany Bay National Park – and the migration can be easily viewed from the shore. It’s also a great route and destination for a bike ride. Kurnell is only 40km from the city and the ride is mostly flat – a rarity in the Sydney Basin.
Our ride starts in Centennial Park. The first stage is down to Tempe via Kensington and Mascot, along roads for the most part but avoiding the traffic.
On reaching the airport there are bike paths for most of the next section to Taren Point Bridge.  However on a Sunday it is often a better bet to take some of the back-roads to by-pass Brighton-le-Sands. The glorious winter weather is rightly bringing lots of people down to the coastal paths so congestion is pretty high – people, not cars this time! If you go down on a weekday you almost have the place to yourself.

Cape Solander lookout
After Taren Point, go through the industrial areas of Caringbah, which are a hive of activity, and traffic during the week - but the streets are mostly deserted on a Sunday. Then hop onto the bike path to Cronulla – this is a great path that many cyclists don’t even know about. Fortunately it is well signposted. This leafy green corridor passes through a wetlands area and there are plenty of reasons to just stop and take a break.
From Cronulla out to Kurnell you follow the Captain Cook Highway which again isn’t very busy on a Sunday – just check if the Cronulla Sharks are playing at home. By this stage you’re probably well overdue for a coffee stop or even an early lunch – fortunately there is a great café on the point, close to the Captain’s landing site in 1770. Once refreshed, it is just a 10-minute ride up to Cape Solander.
When you reach the viewing platform check out the sandwich board to see how many whales have been spotted that day, and so far for the season. The whales are mostly Humpbacks, with some Southern Right and Minke whales – and even the occasional Orca and Blue Whale. Bringing a pair of binoculars is a good idea, but you can easily tell if there are whales from the reactions of the counters and other watchers there – most will be more than happy to point them out so you don’t have to scan the whole ocean.
It’s a privilege to see whales but even if you don’t – at least you’ll have had a great ride. So did we see any whales? Unfortunately not this time.

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