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The wonder of whales up close

Whale watching is an unforgettable experience you can have right here on the Sunshine Coast.


The wonder of whales up close

Whale watching is an unforgettable experience you can have right here on the Sunshine Coast.

As an avid traveller, I have had the opportunity to visit some of the world’s most beautiful locations. Snorkelling the aqua-blue waters of Fiji’s Coral Coast, boating in France’s breathtaking Lake Annecy, swimming in the crystal-clear water of Thailand’s islands.

Yet, I can confidently say the Sunshine Coast is up there with the best.

Clean beaches, a green environment, a healthy ocean and amazing experiences – what more could we ask for?

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to take in the beauty from a different perspective – 12 miles offshore to be exact. Needless to say, the experience made me fall in love with our region even more.

It was a sunny Wednesday morning when my mum, my five-year-old son and I drove into the recently refurbished The Wharf Mooloolaba. Armed with our cameras, and full of excited anticipation, we joined the line outside the Sunreef building.

Standing before us was the majestic and newly renovated glossy-black catamaran, aptly named Whale One. The boat was to be our base for the next few hours as we joined other hopeful whale watchers  – and an entertaining and knowledgeable crew – in search of the annual humpback migration.

The whales are on their northern migration following their summer of feeding in Antarctic waters. They travel up to 5000 kilometres with many stopping in the Hervey Bay district to mate and give birth, before moving south back through our waters from September to November.

Thankfully, these charismatic creatures are now protected following needless culling of close to 85,000 humpbacks between the late 1940s and 1962. The International Whaling Commission banned humpback whaling the following year, but it’s estimated that the east-coast population had dwindled to as little as 100. Thankfully, environmental sanctions have resulted in the population recovering substantially. The 2019 migration will be one of the biggest yet.

It is believed that around 20,000 whales now travel our waters. On our day at sea we were lucky enough to see not one, but three, curious calves. Cautious at first, the large babies slowly worked their way towards their human spectators, perhaps encouraged by the squeals of delight. Even the seasoned crew were celebrating the beauty before us.

Whale watching boats must adhere to specific rules and regulations, so you can rest assured that your viewing experience won’t hinder these loveable creatures. As the catamaran stood still for 45 minutes, we watched the playful whales in their element.

Breaching and swimming under the catamaran, any hesitation that the calves originally felt quickly dissipated. Baby humpbacks weigh in at about 20,000 kilograms and measure up to four metres in length. They are a sight to behold. It was an experience we will remember for a lifetime.


You can choose from two main tours – whale watching with Whale One, or the whale swimming cruise aboard the Wild One boat. Prices for Whale One start at $55 for a child. Adults pay $75. The swim tour costs $165 per person. Bookings are essential. Visit

What you need to take
The cruise boat is covered and provides plenty of shaded seating. However, it’s still a good idea to wear sunscreen. Food and drinks are available for purchase on board. And, don’t forget to take your camera.

Even on the calmest days at sea, the motion can cause sickness. Speak to your local pharmacist ahead of time about the best medical prevention for your family.


Candice's passion for journalism led her to the Sunshine Coast 12 years ago where she has worked across multiple media and communication platforms. An avid traveller (she lists Paris, Venice and Vietnam as her faves), this mum of one loves meeting with people from all walks of life and finds inspiration within their stories. Candice joined the team in 2014 and is MWP's editor.

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