Each year, during winter, the majestic Humpback whales make their annual migration along the coastal waters of Southern Queensland. Where are they going? Legend has it that there’s an absolute rager of a whales-only party held in Hervey Bay each year and every whale who’s anybody attends because it’s the place to see and be seen. That’s not true, I just made that up. ‘Technically’, they move from the cold waters of the Antarctic to warmer, tropical waters for calving/a really wild party.
This affords us the opportunity to see these beautiful creatures during their migration. Typically, the whales show up in Hervey Bay from the end of July and some stay right through until November. Recently, Matt and I were lucky enough to take part in a whale watching tour thanks to the generous team at Whalesong Cruises. You can find Whalesong Cruises here.
We had an amazing day out on the water, learned so much about whales and the local area and got to see quite a few of Humpback whales up close! The day left us educated, inspired and in awe. If you’ve ever thought about whale watching but weren’t sure where to do it or why to do it, here are 14 reasons to get you inspired!
1. Hervey Bay is a beautiful place
There are lots of places you could go whale watching along Queensland’s Coastline, but Hervey Bay is the most beautiful destination of the lot. It takes around 3 1/2 hours to drive to Hervey Bay from Brisbane and it’s a very chilled out coastal town that’s bursting with typical Queensland beauty. There are around 63,000 people who live in the area and most work in tourism, which means it’s a spot with plenty to see, eat and do.
The weather in Hervey Bay is stunning and you can’t help but be blown away by the golden sunsets, long days with bright blue skies and the perfect, uncrowded beaches. As far as coastal destinations go, Hervey Bay is one of the best and it also just so happens to be the number one spot for whales to take a rest during their migration.
2. You get up close and personal with the whales
The tour operators know every single inch of Hervey Bay’s stunning waters. They know where the whales are likely to be and they are very experienced at being respectful of these gentle giants. Because of this, they’re able to get in the right spot to get you up close with curious whales. Yep, they’re very curious! I was really stunned to learn that the whales are looking at all of us hanging off the boat, just as much as we’re all gawking at them. They pop their heads out of the water and come right up to the boat to get a good look at us. They are so close you feel like you could reach out and touch them. #WhaleFistBump.
3. The water is the bluest of blue
The whales are majestic as anything, there’s no denying that, but the scenery all around you is just as incredible. The boat ride out to see the whales will have you sailing past the most picture-perfect spots you can imagine. The water is a vibrant, rich blue and it makes for some incredible photographs. If you aren’t from Queensland or Australia, you’ll be blown away by it. If you’re Queensland born and bred, like me, you’ll be filled with pride at how gorgeous our country is.
4. It’s an incredible way to spend a day
We went on a morning cruise and it was a fantastic way to spend half the day. You hit the open water in the morning at around 8am, with nothing but the horizon ahead of you. You cruise past Fraser Island and gorgeous parts of the coastline. You spend the day out in the fresh sea air, close to some of the biggest, most amazing sea creatures you could ever hope to meet and you get to do it in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. It’s a very memorable way to spend a day.
5. You gain a newfound respect for nature
If you haven’t been close to a whale before it’s hard to comprehend just how large they are. Being that close to them and seeing how big, beautiful, elegant, graceful and gentle they are is really humbling. It’s heartbreaking to imagine anyone chasing them down and taking their life. If you plan to go with kids, it’s a great way to get them excited about learning about marine life and educating them on the importance of conservation.
6. You’ll see more than just whales
Yes, there will be whales! But you’re also likely to spot a few other sea creatures too. There’s a very good chance you’ll see a dolphin cruising along with the whales or see an entire pod hanging out together. If you’re lucky, they’ll jump and play in front of the ship for you, riding the slipstream and getting a fun, free ride. You’re also in with a shot to spot a dugong or a turtle as well as a few seabirds.
7. Seasickness doesn’t really happen
I get horribly sea sick. It sucks. When I was younger I went whale watching with my Grandma and spent the entire time being sick. I didn’t see a single whale, but I distinctly remember the tour guide repeatedly exclaiming that he had never seen a whale calf so close to a boat before, breaching so many times. It was the worst. So, as you can imagine, I was terrified of getting very seasick this time too. I took 2 Kwells and 3 ginger tablets before we got on the boat and braced myself for the worst, but because Hervey Bay is protected by Fraser Island, the boat barely rocked and the water was smooth. So there was NO seasickness! I saw whales! I didn’t throw up! It was wonderful!
8. It’s so easy and affordable
Whale watching doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg and you really do get good value for money. Our tour with Whalesong Cruises cost AUD$120 per adult. This covered us for a 4-hour cruise, courtesy pick-up as well as fresh fruit, sandwiches and tea and coffee. There are also discounts available for seniors, lower rates for children and, of course, discounted rates for family bookings. The whole day was really easy for us, it was just no fuss, straight out on the water, whale watching, then back to the dock and off back to the hotel.
9. The locals are experts on spotting whales
The local tour operators are old-hands at spotting whales. They were spotting things I couldn’t see at all! It was amazing how easily and expertly they were able to spot the whales from a long distance away and also be able to see how many there were and what age they were. They didn’t use radar, sonar or any other equipment to find the whales, just their two eyeballs!
10. You get to wave at a whale or two
The whales are very curious and love to come near the boat to check you out and investigate what you are. When they come close to the boat they get even more curious if you wave at them. So you get to hang off the side of the boat like a crazed person, waving frantically at a very big, very curious whale.
11. There’s a chance you could see a Mama and her baby
You’ll most likely get to see whales of all ages, but if you’re very lucky you’ll get to see a Mama whale and her calf. We got to see them from a distance, but mum was quite protective of her little one, understandably, and they both hid when we got too close. If you happen to find yourself near a curious Mama and her baby, you may just get the chance to see her teaching the little one how to breach.
12. You get a holiday
If you’re going up to Hervey Bay, you may as well stay there and make a holiday out of it… Am I right?! There are loads of great places to stay in Hervey Bay and I recommend The Bay Apartments, which we stayed at and absolutely loved for its location and how great the self-contained rooms are. There are heaps of good places to grab a bite to eat, the beaches are beautiful, there are loads of fun activities to get into and it’s a really safe, laid-back little town. It’s the perfect spot to spend a week or just a few days away from home, unwinding.
13. Fraser Island is just a stone’s throw away
If you’re so inclined, it’s easy to get yourself over to Fraser Island on the ferry and join up with a tour of the island. There’s so much to see and do over there it’s not even funny so you may like to give yourself a few days to explore!
14. There’s plenty of cool stuff for the kids to learn
The Fraser Coast Discovery Sphere is a really cool spot to take the kids. It’s a chance for them to learn about the importance of conserving the land, waterways and the creatures who live in them. They’ll get to play around with microscopes, find Nemo and also learn about the traditional Indigenous owners of the land. The Discovery Sphere have a great video they run which tells the Dreamtime story of how Fraser Island came to be.
Other resources to help plan your trip:
- Head over to the Visit Fraser Coast website to get inspiration and information to help plan your trip
- Check out the Whalesong Cruises website to take a look at tours and prices
- Visit the Tourism, Events Queensland website to find more wonderful things to do in Queensland, Fraser Coast and Hervey Bay
- Check out the #WhalesHerveyBay and #VisitFraserCoast hashtags on Instagram for visual inspiration
Useful travel resources for your trip to Queensland
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Skyscanner – our go-to for booking flights
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TourRadar – a great search engine for booking tours