Which whale watching boat is for you?
Guess what guys… the whales are almost here! And boy, are we flippin’ excited.
From June to November each year, humpback whales come to rest, play and have their bambinos in our warm waters before moving south on their annual migration to the Antarctic.
And while there are plenty of opportunities to catch them all along our coastline, it’s in Hervey Bay where the action really kicks off. Dubbed as the whale watching capital of Australia, you can expect guaranteed sightings of these tail-slapping beauties in all their glory.
But with so many tour options available, where does one even start? Here’s a handy guide to help you decide which whale watching experience is for you.
If you’re after a quickie… Tasman Venture Whale Watching
Short, sweet and spectacular is the name of the game on the Tasman Venture.
Offering four-hour half-day tours aboard their speedy 20-metre catamaran, this three-levelled water beast (complete with five viewing decks, underwater viewing windows and a hydrophone to hear the whales sing) is the go-to vessel for those who’ve found themselves with a spare morning or afternoon to sneak in a whaling good time.
The crew here don’t muck around when it comes to delivering an unforgettable experience during their brief windows of time, with a team that’s been in the biz for over 20 years.
When to go: 16 July – 29 October
Cost: $115 per adult
Includes: Tea and coffee with biscuits and cake, an antipasto platter on the way home, a Close Encounters Whale Watch DVD, onboard WiFi and courtesy transfer from your Hervey Bay accommodation.
If you want to swim with the whales… Hervey Bay Whale Watch Quick Cat II
Just seeing these magnificent animals up close is enough to make you pinch yourself, but getting the chance to actually share the same space as them? Mind = blown.
The Quick Cat II is the only vessel in the whale watch fleet where you can swim with humpback whales in their natural environment. Once an assessment has been completed on one of their morning or afternoon tours, swimmers get face down, snorkel up, and led out onto a mermaid line for a face-to-face encounter.
Note: Numbers are limited and swimming option cannot be guaranteed; only available if weather and conditions permit.
When do they run: mid July to late October
Cost: Starting at $110 per adult (swimming with the whales is an extra $95 and paid once completed)
Includes: Light breakfast and morning tea or afternoon tea
Good to know: Wheelchair accessible
If you’re bringing the kids
For an (almost) full day out… Spirit of Hervey Bay
Parents with youngins keen as a bean for a day out at sea should opt for the 3/4 day tour on the Spirit of Hervey Bay for three very good reasons.
Firstly, a spacious five levels of viewing decks (including a large underwater platform) means there’s plenty of room for your kids to move about in to find the best views. Secondly, there’s the kids activities onboard including toys and activity books to occupy them when the whales are playing hide ‘n’ seek.
And last but not least, you’ll be back around 2pm just in time to wind down for dinner and bedtime.
When do they run: 15 July to 17 September and 2 October to 29 October
Cost: Family packages start at $330 (two adults + two children)
Includes: Courtesy transfer from your Hervey Bay accommodation, a souvenir whale DVD, onboard WiFi, and morning tea and buffet lunch
For a half day… Whalesong Cruises Hervey Bay
With their wide decks and low passenger numbers of 25-45 people, your munchkins are guaranteed a prime position during their four hours at sea, with views close enough for them to interact with curious whales who approach the vessel.
As the sun starts to set and you make your way back to shore, parents can toast to an epic day with a cold one from the licensed bar while the kids come down from their high with activity sheets and toddlers toys.
When do they run: Mornings from 15 July to 31 October and afternoons from 22 July to 16 October.
Cost: Family packages start at $280 (two adults + two children)
Includes: Courtesy bus pick up in Hervey Bay, and morning tea and buffet lunch or light lunch and afternoon tea
Good to know: Wheelchair accessible
If you’re doing it on the cheap… Boat Club Adventure Cruise
She may be the newest member of the whale watch fleet, but Cpt. Phil House of the M.V. Amaroo has over 15 years experience skippering whale watching vessels in Queensland, so rest assured you’ll be in good hands here.
But let’s get down to the main selling point of this cruise: their half-day tour prices for under $100 per adult. #shutthefrontdoor
Yes, you read that right, and don’t think their budget prices affect their value for money, with refreshments onboard, a knowledgeable crew, and a modern vessel decked out with three purpose-designed viewing decks, hydrophone and underwater camera.
When do they run: late July to late October
Cost: $95 per adult (and for each paying adult, one child under 14 is free)
Includes: Morning and afternoon tea or coffee, and all bookings receive 10% off breakfast, lunch, dinner and coffees at the Boat Club (so hang on to your boarding pass)
If you want to make the most out of a day at sea… Freedom Whale Watch
It’s not every day one gets to bask in the company of these beautiful creatures, so if you want to spend as much time as you can out on the water, book in for the 3/4 day cruise with Freedom Whale Watch.
With approximately six hours of sea time, you’ll get maximum exposure to humpback whales as they rest and play in the protected waters of Hervey Bay’s Great Sandy Strait Marine Park.
And with everything taken care of for you aboard the Freedom III (fun fact: she was previously owned by renowned Australian documentary film producer and conservationist Ben Cropp), all you need to do is kick back, relax, eat those chicken wings and homemade profiteroles – bless you, skipper Keith – and take in the show.
When do the run: Late July to 31 October
Cost: $140 per adult
Includes: Courtesy transfer from your Hervey Bay location, gourmet morning and afternoon tea, tropical buffet lunch, and onboard WiFi
If you want an intimate experience… Blue Dolphin Marine Tours
Taking whale watching to the next level is the award-winning Blue Dolphin, an eco-friendly sailing vessel specialising in small, personalised full-day tours. Capped at 24 passengers per tour (even though they could have more), the crew here prefer to keep things comfortable and intimate.
While it’s easy to slip into vacay mode as you lounge about this luxury catamaran with a wine in hand, don’t forget there’s some prime whale watching to be done, and an even closer encounter when you get eye-to-eye with curious whales who’ve come in for a look at their in-water immersive platform (don’t forget your swimmers!).
When do they run: 16 July to 23 October
Cost: $150 per adult
Includes: Courtesy transfer from your Hervey Bay accommodation, morning and afternoon tea, buffet lunch, complimentary beverage (beer, wine or soft drink) and onboard WiFi
If you’re staying on Fraser Island (or you want to combine it with a bargain stay)… Fraser Island Whale Watch
Fraser Island or whale watching… well, as the little girl in the Old El Paso ad would say, why not have both!
Whether you’re camping out or staying at one of the resorts or holiday homes, you can still experience this epic show of nature during your stay on the island. Hit up the team at Fraser Island Whale Watch who’ll have you onboard the Quick Cat II as it passes through on its morning half-day tour.
Haven’t booked your accommodation yet? Take a squiz of the Fraser + Whale combo package on their website, which includes two nights stay at the Kingfisher Bay Resort with the third night free! #score
When do they run: 1 August to 31 October
Cost: $391 per adult / twin share
Includes: Light breakfast and morning tea
Good to know: Wheelchair accessible