Hervey Bay Whale Watching 2015

Whale Watching Capital of the World

Hervey Bay is often referred to as “The Whale Watching Capital of the World”, a title I can personally endorse having travelled to Hawaii, Mexico, Canada, Alaska, Norway and Iceland to see whales, as well as spending 3 months swimming and diving with whales in Tonga. To be fair, I am happy to allow Tonga to share the title, as the experience there is also amazing – but it sure is a lot harder to get to!! Whale Watching experiences in other destinations pale into insignificance compared to what is on offer in Hervey Bay.

Blue Dolphin Whale Watching

Why Hervey Bay?

Humpback whales follow an annual migration pattern, spending the summer months feeding on krill in the Antarctic, then migrating north to warmer climes to give birth and mate during the winter. Whilst there is no food source for the humpbacks in our waters, newborn whale calves are born without the blubber required to survive the icy southern ocean, hence the necessity for the annual journey north.

A big part of the attraction of Hervey Bay for whales is the 800 square miles of shallow and protected waters inside Fraser Island. The largest protected waterway on the east coast of Australia, Platypus Bay (Hervey Bay is the town) provides a calm and inviting playground for the whales and their newborn young, as well as providing some protection from their only natural predators – killer whales and sharks.

As an interesting side fact, the gestation period for a whale is 11.5 months, so all the associated courting and hanky panky also occurs here in Hervey Bay, which adds exciting elements of chase pods, courting serenades and breaching rituals to the experience. No wonder they love coming back to celebrate all those birthdays and anniversaries in our magic waters!

The Experience

The accolades for Hervey Bay are as much about the quality and consistency of the whale watching experience as they are about the unique aspects of why whales choose to spend their holidays in Hervey Bay’s sheltered waters.

The great advantage for a whale “watcher” is that this whale playground lies in the lee of Fraser Island. The predominantly calm waters  allow for open decked vessels with low waterline viewing positions where you are almost guaranteed an up close experience on EVERY cruise. The low and open boats in the fleet have all been designed specifically for local conditions, with many offering drop-down stern platforms so you can literally get eyeball to eyeball with a 15m long 40 ton humpback whale! Many boats also offer underwater viewing windows, through-hull cameras and hydrophones for listening to the whale’s underwater singing.

Blue Dolphin Whale Watching

Whale Watching 2015

“Whale Search” cruises will kick off this year from July 4th, with ¾ day trips hoping to spot the early arrivals for the season (the earliest we have seen whales is July 2nd). The majority of the fleet, however, begin cruising from July 19th, a date historically where we have always had whales in the Bay. Once August arrives you are pretty much guaranteed to see lots and lots of whales, with August and September being the best months to see all the action with the best conditions. As you approach October there is a higher chance that winds will swing north, making conditions in the Bay a little rough and the possibility of cancellation due to weather increases.  Last year was the earliest recorded finish to a season, with all the whales gone by the end of the second week of October. Occasionally the whales stay until the end of October before heading back to their home in the south. My tip for the best time to visit – between August 8th and September 25th.


There are half, three-quarter and full day cruises on offer by a variety of boats. All our fleet have extremely experienced skippers and crew. Your choice of the length of a trip will depend on your personal preference for being out on the water, month of travel, and travel itinerary. If you are prone to motion sickness you are better with a morning trip before a potential afternoon sea breeze develops. Be aware that early in the season (pre August 1st) and late in the season (after Oct 5th) there are no ½ day trips, as the ½ day boats operate a longer cruise to ensure a higher probability of finding whales.

Swim with Whales

Rule changes in 2014 have now allowed operators to explore some exciting new “immersion” experiences where passengers can get in the water with whales! There is no doubt that connecting with a 40 ton behemoth from only metres away whilst in their  environment would be an unforgettable experience!!

There are 2 operators (Blue Dolphin and QuickCat) offering an immersion experience this year. Be aware that there are a LOT of stars that need to align to present an opportunity for people to get into the water with whales – weather conditions, sea state, whales and water clarity – so I would expect opportunities to be rare rather than regular. As this season progresses (and in future seasons), I would expect the product offerings around “immersion” experiences to develop and mature, so keep up to date via our Facebook page during the season for exciting developments!

Compare Boats

The following tables summarize prices, attributes and points of difference for the whale watch fleet for 2015. Feel free to drop me a line for my personal advice given your particular circumstances. Visit our website for more information about individual boats, and for all our great Whale Watching, Fraser Island and accommodation packages – www.emeraldene.com.au .

2015 – All You Need to Know

Whale Watching Packages

Hervey Bay Whale Watching


We operate some fantastic packages that include accommodation at the Emeraldene Inn, whale watch cruises, and also Fraser Island and Lady Elliot Island trips if you choose to explore further afield. These start at $420 for 2 nights accommodation and a whale watch cruise for 2 adults. Please see our website for all our great 2 and 3 night Whales and Fraser packages. Check out our 2 night packages below …

2 Nights Accommodation plus Whale Watch Packages

2015 Whale Watch Packages

Includes 2 nights accommodation PLUS whale watch for 2 adults

For all our great packages … visit our Whale Watch Packages Page!

Hervey Bay is without doubt one of the best locations in the world to experience an up close connection with one of earth’s biggest and most amazing creatures. This is a bucket-list experience you will never forget, and I can assure you will want to repeat many times in the future!

Visit this year’s regional campaign website – Whales Hervey Bay!

by Rob Lennon       Emeraldene Inn & Eco-Lodge, Hervey Bay

Email contact          rob@emeraldene.com.au

Hervey Bay Whale Watching 2013

Hervey Bay - Whale Watching Capital of the World

Hervey Bay is recognised as one of the best destinations in the world to watch, experience and interact with whales. Often called the “Whale Watch Capital of the World”, several geographical and physical conditions align to present optimal conditions for humans and whales to interact.

Platypus Bay is bounded by Fraser Island and the mainland creating almost 450 square miles of relatively shallow and mostly calm waters for the whales and their newborn calves to stop and play. These protected waters in the lee of Fraser Island offer the whales a natural sanctuary to pause on their way back to Antarctica in order to teach, feed and prepare their young.

Whales migrate north in the winter to give birth (and then mate), as their young are born without the insulating blubber that protects them from the frigid waters of the Antarctic. They travel north until they encounter water warm enough for the birth of their calves (somewhere close to the Whitsunday Islands).  Gestation period for a whale is a perfect 11 – 12 months, allowing them to birth and then mate in the warmer northern waters. They then bring their newborn young into the sheltered waters off Hervey Bay in order to feed them and build their strength for the long journey back to their feeding grounds in Antarctica.

Why Whale Watching in Hervey Bay?

Up Close - Whale Watching Hervey Bay

There are many whale watch tours on offer on the east coast of Australia, however in all destinations other than Hervey Bay the whales are in transit – they are on a mission heading north (to give birth and mate) or south (to get home to feed). They do not stop, pause or rest anywhere else on the east coast other than Hervey Bay, and as a result the whale “watching” and “sightings” in other destinations are often only a series of misty “blows”, surface humps and dorsal fins.

The prevailing south-easterly to north-easterly winds put the whale watching grounds of Platypus Bay in the lee of Fraser Island, offering comfortable and calm waters for visitors to be amazed by up-close encounters with humpback and sometimes minke whales.

Whales are naturally inquisitive creatures, and the newborn young are fascinated by boats and the attention of viewing “humans”. Off Hervey Bay it is just as much “people watching” by the whales as “whale watching” by the people!

While the whales are pausing to rest, holiday and feed their young they put on a great show for visitors! Lunging, breaching, tail slapping and spy hopping are regular experiences on EVERY cruise in Hervey Bay (rather than a treat for other destinations along the coast). The playful young trying out their new aerial skills coupled with the huge male bulls trying to impress the females in their competition for mating partners provides amazing action-packed experiences for whale watchers, often only metres from the boats.

The whale watch vessels travel out into the Bay until they encounter whales and then turn off their engines. The calm waters mean the boats can sit comfortably while the whales come over and often spend hours playfully circling and engaging with their newfound friends. Guests have regularly been “snotted on”, as whales blow so close to the boat you can experience that “special” connection that cannot be had anywhere else but Hervey Bay!

Another unique Hervey Bay experience is whale karaoke! The boats all have hydrophones that they can drop into the water to listen to the whales sing, which is an awesome experience! (Only the males sing, and they only sing in warm shallow waters. It is thought this is a mating ritual.)

When to come and what trips are best?

Hervey Bay - The BEST Whale Watching Experience

The Hervey Bay Whale Watching season runs from late July to the end of October. The boats begin ¾ day “whale search” trips from July 20th, however the whales can be a long way up the top of the Bay (up to 40 miles) in the early days, and whale sightings are not “guaranteed” until 1st August. The absolute best time for the most whales and the best action is from the middle of August to the end of September.

There are half day (morning or afternoon) trips that run for 4 hours, ¾ day trips (6 hours) and full day trips (8 hours) on offer, with prices ranging from $110 – $125 for adults, and $300 – $370 for a family of 4. For the half day trips, as far as action is concerned there is not really a preference for morning or afternoons, however it is often calmer in the mornings, particularly in October.

For a half day trip WhaleSong offers a great small group experience, with a meal included in the ticket price (breakfast or lunch, $120 / adult). The boat is licensed to carry 100 passengers but limits this to 60 to ensure optimal viewing for all. WhaleSong launched a new purpose built vessel in 2012. (Wheelchair and pram accessible)

Spirit of Hervey Bay also offers a half day experience and is the biggest boat in the fleet. Licensed to carry 300, the Spirit has 3 viewing decks and underwater viewing windows. If you are concerned with motion or sea sickness, Spirit is the most stable of the vessels. Morning or afternoon tea is included in the ticket price ($110 / adult).

QuickCat rounds out the recommended half day fleet with a wide bodied power catamaran that carries up to 95 passengers. Quickcat has underwater viewing, includes morning or afternoon tea,  and is wheelchair and pram accessible. As the morning cruise travels via Kingfisher Resort on Fraser, I would recommend the afternoon trip if travelling with QuickCat. ($115 / adult)

Freedom III offers a fantastic ¾ day experience with morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea included in the ticket price ($125 / adult). This 6 hour cruise departs at 9:30am and returns at approx 3:30pm, allowing a casual start to the day and a sleep-in for those that relish a rest while on holidays!! Freedom is a small group trip (45 passengers) on a spacious 58ft power catamaran with plenty of comfortable viewing space.

For those that love the water and want as much time as possible with the whales Blue Dolphin offers a magnificent full day and small group experience (24 passengers). Blue Dolphin is the only sailing catamaran in the fleet and departs at 7:30am retuning at approx 3:30 – 4:00pm. Meals and refreshments are included in the ticket price ($120 / adult).

All trips offer complimentary transfers from your accommodation and all boats have licensed bars on board.

Whale Watching, Fraser Island and Accommodation Packages

Whale Watching Hervey Bay Style

We have some great accommodation and tour packages available for the 2013 Whale Watching Season. If you haven’t visited Fraser Island previously, you should definitely consider adding a full day trip to your plans for another totally different natural experience.

Check out the following great packages for this season …

2 Nights Accommodation plus Whale Watching (for 2 adults) –  $440

2 Nights Accommodation plus Whale Watching plus Full Day Fraser Island Tour (for 2 adults) – $700

Add a 3rd nights accommodation for only $70!!

Check out our Hervey Bay Whale Watching and Accommodation Packages on our website for full details and pricing.

Hervey Bay is without doubt the Whale Watching Capital of the World, and being able to experience these magnificent creatures so close and in such a personal manner is definitely a bucket-list experience you will NEVER forget!

by Rob Lennon       Emeraldene Inn & Eco-Lodge, Hervey Bay


That’s Awesome!

Hervey Bay Whale Watching Boat - That's Awesome

August 5th – That’s Awesome Whale Watching

Great whales and weather today on the Bay!

If you are a bit short on time with your stay in Hervey Bay and you still want to catch the whales – That’s Awesome is the answer! That’s Awesome runs 3 times a day – allowing you to squeeze in a whale watch on your day of arrival or day of departure!

7am – 10am or 2:30pm – 5:30pm trips cost $110 / adult, $70 / child or $330 for a family.

by Rob Lennon         Emeraldene Inn & Eco-Lodge, Hervey Bay

August – full month of whales and activities!

Action on board WhaleSong – July 30

This year the Hervey Bay Whale Festival runs the full month of August, with great activities for visitors and families every weekend during the month. Every Friday there will be free family-friendly outdoor movies in Scarness Park, with whale themed films on the agenda for August! (6:15pm every Friday)

This Saturday (4th August) the blessing of the fleet with lots of bands and entertainment will run from 3:30pm – 7:30pm at the marina and is an annual favourite and highlighted with a parade of the Hervey Bay Whale Watching fleet.

Saturday 18th (4pm – 9pm) features the popular illuminated street parade, with lots of colourful floats and music.

Don’t miss the Whale Aid Concert on Saturday 25th, 4pm – 9pm with some awesome bands booked for this year’s event! Sunday 26th is a great family opportunity from 9am – 1pm in the Botanic Gardens for the Teddy Bear’s Picnic – lots of activities for the kids – bring a picnic blanket and your teddy bears :-)

Finally to wrap up the month, throw away your zimmer frame and head on down to the pier between 6:30pm and 9:30pm for some old fashioned swing music and dancing!

So when planning your Hervey Bay Whale Watching adventure, don’t forget there are a lot of other things going on during Whale Festival August!

Whale Festival Programme – 2012

by Rob Lennon       Emeraldene Inn & Eco-Lodge, Hervey Bay

Which Hervey Bay Whale Watching Experience is right for you?

Well whale watch season has kicked off with a bang, with whales spotted close up and breaching right down at Moon Point today (that’s just a few miles from the marina!). We are expecting about 14,000 whales to pass through the Bay this year with their new-born calves – so it is going to be an AWESOME season! You can’t see whales this close, in calm and protected waters, anywhere else in the world other than Tonga (and when are you going to get the opportunity to go there !!! lol)

So let me give you some tips for planning your Hervey Bay Whale Watching experience.

Half Day, ¾ Day, or Full Day Trips ??

Early and late in the season (before the 2nd week of August and after the 2nd week of October) there are fewer whales in the Bay, and it is possible that they may be further up the Bay (possibly up to 40 miles away at the top of Fraser Island), so it may take longer to find the whales. I prefer the ¾ day trips at these times, as it gives you more time with the whales when they are found.

That said, WhaleSong usually runs ¾ day trips until July 28th and after about October 23rd, whilst they run morning and afternoon half day trips in between (when it is like “whale soup” in the Bay there are so many whales !).

Half Day trips run in the morning and afternoon ( ~8am-12pm  &  1pm-5pm ), and during the peak of the season you will get to see LOTS of whales and LOTS of breaching and close-to-boat action in 4 hours. If you want an awesome whale experience and either are not a big fan of being on the water all day, or want to fit some more exploring into your day, then a half day trip may be the perfect answer. Families with young children may find attention spans waning after half a day and 4 hrs might tick the boxes and keep everyone happy J

¾ Day trips on Freedom are perfect for the whale connoisseur! The bonus is you get a sleep-in, a day on the water in the middle of the day, and plenty of whale action (when the light is the best for photographs as well!). The ¾ day trips run for 6 hrs from 9:30am – 3:30pm and are roughly the same price as the half and full day trips. A great day on the water!

Full Day trips are available on Blue Dolphin, a sailing catamaran with low passenger numbers. With only 24 passengers max, Blue Dolphin is a smaller boat where you can get eyeball to eyeball with a whale from its waterline platform. An early start, the full day trip is 8 hrs (7:30am – 3:30pm), and if you love being on the water and close to whales and dolphins this is a truly great day out! Whilst Blue Dolphin is a sailing catamaran, this is a new and modern boat (last year), and can scoot along at close to 12kn if necessary, so it can get out to the whales just as quick as the big boats during the peak of the season.

If you don’t have a lot of time and want to squeeze in an awesome whale experience on the day of arrival in Hervey Bay, or the morning of your departure, it is worth thinking about “That’s Awesome”, which is a fast RIB that heads out for 3 hrs, 3 times a day .. 7am-10am, 10:30am-1:30pm, 2:30pm-5:30pm.

Morning or Afternoon ??

My advice is always morning! Lots of advantages for the morning trips ….

1/ The water is generally calmer in the mornings – depending on the weather, the breeze can often build during the day and it can sometimes get choppy in the afternoons. Given most people are booking well ahead, it is safer to book the morning trips.

2/ The morning trips usually have less people (and less children lol)! Everyone likes a sleep-in on holidays, and who can get the kids ready for a 7am pick-up?!

3/ You get back with plenty of time to explore (or have a nice long lunch) and pack some more great experiences into your day!

Which Boat ??

Half Day – WhaleSong is a brand new boat with low passenger numbers (50), and owners  Jason and Virginia are one of the most experienced operators in the Bay. WhaleSong is the only half day boat where you get a full meal (buffet breakfast or lunch) included in your trip. WhaleSong is also wheelchair accessible, which means that if you are a little uncertain on your feet, there are plenty of handholds etc as well.

Spirit of Hervey Bay is the biggest boat in the fleet, with 5 large viewing decks, a maximum 130 passengers, and a waterline viewing platform. If you are not good on the water or get sea-sick, Spirit might be the perfect choice. Spirit also has the added attraction of underwater viewing windows, which are a big hit with the kids. (Complimentary DVD, morning or afternoon tea).

¾ Day – Freedom 3 (45 passengers) won the Best Whale Watch boat last year, and the trip includes morning tea, buffet lunch and afternoon tea. Keith’s profiteroles are certainly one of my favourite whale season snacks! Great boat and great crew.

Full Day – Blue Dolphin is a sailing cat (24 passengers) where you get a truly intimate experience with the whales. Morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea are included, and Pete is a very experienced with a fantastic knowledge of marine mammals (retired dolphin trainer from Sea World). This trip is probably not the best choice for very young children (under 6), but is a great choice if you don’t like children under 6 lol! Don’t forget your sunscreen and hat .. beer and wine available for the true yachties!

When ??

Well the 2nd Week of August through to the end of September is the absolute best – males, females and calves and lots of numbers and action. But don’t be deterred if you can’t make it then, the experience is awesome through to the end of October!

Hope this helps your planning .. we have some great packages with all these boats, so check out our Whale Watching Packages page, and don’t forget to “like” our facebook page so you get all the latest updates about the whales and other stuff that is happening in Hervey Bay during the season.

by Rob Lennon       Emeraldene Inn & Eco-Lodge, Hervey Bay