Where to go whale watching in Queensland
From June to November every year, humpback whales undertake a 10,000km annual migration from Antarctica to have a babymoon holiday along the Queensland coast.
While they’re enjoying the warmer ocean, baby calves are born and taught life skills that are vital for them in the cooler Antarctica waters.
Here are 7 whaley good places to go whale watching in Queensland.
Hervey Bay, Fraser Coast
Humpback Whale Watching Capital of Australia
Let’s start the list with the real deal: Hervey Bay is hands down the bucket list experience for whale watching in Australia. This is where around 7,000 humpback whales and their new calves choose to stopover to rest and play in the bay’s calm and safe waters.
Mother humpbacks use this time to teach newborns survival skills before they head back to Antarctic waters. These gorgeous interactions make Hervey Bay the whale watching capital of Australia with guaranteed sightings on calm, sheltered waters. Jump onboard Freedom Whale Watch, Spirit of Hervey Bay (the largest boat in the fleet) and Tasman Venture for an epic day on the water.
Best time to go: August – October
Whale watching in Hervey Bay: All of the options | 6 things you never knew about the Humpback Whales of Hervey Bay | More info
The Gold Coast welcomes the first pods of whales into Queensland waters and is the best place to watch them with their new calves at the end of the season as they make the way back to Antarctica.
For the highest possible land-vantage point in Queensland, do the SkyPoint Climb atop the Q1 building and watch for breaching whales out on the horizon.
Best time to go: August – September
Whale watching on the Gold Coast: All of the options
Brisbane – Moreton Bay Marine Park
As the humpback whales make their way up the coast, they come in close to North Stradbroke Island and Moreton Island, making land-based whale watching from the lookouts possible – just bring binoculars for a closer look.
Jump on the water with Brisbane Whale Watching from Redcliffe or the Tangalooma Whale Watch Cruises to see whales do their thing in the Moreton Bay Marine Park. Indigenous operator Quandamooka Coast has also recently launched Yalingbila whale watching tours that depart from Brisbane CBD, Cleveland or Dunwich – and guests will spend the day with local Aboriginal guides who will share the deep spiritual connection between their community and whales.
Best time to go: September – November
Here you have another opportunity to swim with the humpback whales with Sunreef Scuba Diving Services from Mooloolaba.
The best land vantage points include Point Perry, Point Arkwright, Mount Coolum and Mount Emu.
Best time to go: October
Whale watching on the Sunshine Coast: All of the options
Southern Great Barrier Reef
Wherever you are on the Southern Great Barrier Reef during June to November be vigilant, you never know when a whale might want to say hello!
- Score a front row seat to the action with Keppel Konnections by joining a three hour boat tour, available throughout humpback migration season.
- Keep an eye out for whales when you are transferring by boat over to both Heron Island and Lady Musgrave Island where regular sightings happen – or jump onboard the Lady Musgrave Experience for a whale watching tour that departs from Bundaberg between June – September.
- Take to the sea with Freedom Fast Cats where you’ll get lunch and a show as you explore the spectacular Keppel Bay Islands.
- On the scenic flight over to Lady Elliot Island there are plenty of whale sightings from the air and you can also hear them underwater when snorkelling and diving.
- From vantage points along the Capricorn Coast, whales can also be spotted frolicking in Keppel Bay.
Fall asleep to the whales singing to each other in the cabin of your overnight sailing adventure and keep an eye out for them playing in the sheltered waters of the Whitsunday Islands and the Whitsunday Coast.
Ocean Dynamics run a dedicated whale-watching cruise to watch these amazing creatures play against the idyllic Whitsunday backdrop, while Paradise Explorer offers whale watching tours that depart from Bowen Marina and cruise out toward Gloucester and Middle Islands during migration season.
Best time to go: July – September
Tropical North Queensland
Tropical North Queensland has a magical whale encounter that is one of a kind! This part of the reef is the only place in the world where you can snorkel with the elusive dwarf minke whales that come to holiday on the Ribbon Reefs during June and July every year.
Best time to go: June – July
Have you been whale watching in Queensland? Share your experience with us in the comments.
This article was originally published in May 2018 and updated in July 2019.