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Amazing Whale Watching Experiences on the Gold Coast

As a popular stop on the ‘Humpback Highway’, the Gold Coast is an excellent spot for whale watching. Thousands of humpback whales visit each year on their annual migration, giving visitors the chance to witness these majestic mammals up close in their natural environment.

We’re not talking about a few hundred whales here. Thousands of humpbacks migrate through the Gold Coast on their annual tour of the east coast — an estimated 35,000 of them!

Seeing them frolicking, breaching and blowing is an experience your family will treasure forever. Here are some of the reasons why the Gold Coast is an ideal whale-watching destination for families

When is whale-watching season on the Gold Coast?

A whale on the Gold Coast

The whale watching season on the Gold Coast stretches from late May to October, encompassing two school holidays and providing ample opportunity to hop aboard a tour. At the start of the season, the whales head north from Antarctica along Australia’s east coast to mate and calve in the warmer waters of the tropics. Mothers wait for their young to grow in size and strength before making the return journey with their calves, passing through Gold Coast waters in great numbers through September and October. But it’s not uncommon to see mothers with their babies as early as June!

Where to see whales on the Gold Coast

See a whale up close on the Gold Coast

Parents might not be thrilled to hear it but, “Are we there yet?” applies to nautical voyages as well as road trips. Fortunately, there’s minimal travel time involved. The Humpback Highway is in close proximity to the golden shores of the Gold Coast so it’s only 20 to 30 minutes before you’re watching whales play. Tours depart from a range of locations including Runaway Bay, Main Beach, The Spit and Surfers Paradise. There are plenty of three-hour tours available, which is a good amount of time for little ones. It also means you can go whale watching in the morning and spend the afternoon at the beach or exploring other Gold Coast attractions (like the region’s famous theme parks). 

Why whale watching on the Gold Coast is an unforgettable experience

A whale breaching off the Gold Coast

While kids tap into an innate sense of wonder every day, it can take something truly extraordinary to get the same response in grown-ups. An up-close encounter with these sentient aquatic mammals is awe-inspiring, humbling and exhilarating. Some of the largest humpbacks are up to 16 metres long and weigh in excess of 30 tonnes. They can live up to 100-years-old, meaning some of these animals have been making this migration for decades! Don’t miss spotting them, as a whale watching cruise is truly one of the must-do experiences when visiting the Gold Coast

Whale-watching tours from the Gold Coast

A whale fluke on the Gold Coast

You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting a whale watching tour to suit your family’s preferences. There are several operators who offer a huge range of experiences in various sized vessels for different-sized groups. You can go for a few hours or a whole day, enjoy a bacon and egg roll and a cuppa on a breakfast cruise, or join a half-day research expedition where your observations will assist with whale conservation. Take a tour on a chartered yacht for a more intimate experience, or step aboard a custom-built vessel with multiple viewing platforms and underwater microphones so you can hear the whales sing!

Spot whales on a Spirit of Gold Coast cruise

One thing all the whale watching operators on the Gold Coast have in common is that they offer a 100 per cent whale guarantee. So, if by some small chance you don’t encounter whales on your voyage, you can return for free on another day that suits your schedule.

What to pack for a whale-watching tour

Little girl taking a picture of a whale
  • Sunscreen (even in winter)
  • Hat (one with chinstrap for little kids — it gets windy)
  • Sunglasses
  • Flat, sturdy shoes
  • Camera
  • Binoculars
  • Weatherproof jacket
  • Anti-nausea tablets if required
  • Snacks and drinks (many tours provide refreshments)
A whale watching cruise on the Gold Coast

More Information

In partnership with Destination Gold Coast.

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