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Best Whale Watching - Brisbane and Gold Coast 2018

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by Geraldine Massey (subscribe)
I'm an experienced corporate communicator and editor with an eye for interesting events and an attachment to my trusty Oxford dictionary.
Published July 12th 2018
Get up close and personal with these wonders of the deep
It's whale watching season here in South East Queensland, and with our position slap bang in the middle of the 'humpback super highway' there are plenty of operators offering you the opportunity for an up close and personal whale experience. With humpback whale populations reportedly increasing at about 10% each year, from June through to November 2018 south-east Queensland can expect to see close to 30,000 of these giant cetaceans cruising by.

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Image from Coolangatta Whale Watching website.

If you want to see spectacular breaches, tails slaps, blows, tail lifts, and spy hopping, or just get close to one of these wonders of the deep then get aboard one of the following whale watching experiences. Just click on the blue headings to go the tour operators' websites.

Getaway Sailing - Whales and Sails

I had the pleasure of whale watching with skipper Darryl Franklin aboard his 11 metre, French-built, luxury sailing sloop, Eau De Vie (water of life) a few years ago and can't recommend this experience highly enough. Read my full review here. Eau de Vie is the the only sailing vessel that provides whale watching tours on the Gold Coast, and it is a magical experience where you can enjoy the whales and the waterways with just a small group (up to seven people) of friends. Darryl has a highly impressive 100% success rate of finding whales since 2010.

Season: June to November

Cost: $125 per person - maximum seven people. Minimum charge $500

Departure: Set sail from Runaway Bay Marina, Gate D, 247 Bayview Street, Runaway Bay. You can choose your time but 8am departures are recommended.

Length of tour: 6 to 7 hours

Vessel: Teak sailing sloop, Eau De Vie

Food and drinks: BYO

Bookings: Use the form on the website here or phone Darryl on 0438 453 769

Guarantee: No

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Image from Getaway Sailing website.

Tangalooma Whale Watching

With Tangalooma Whale Watching Cruises you cruise from Pinkenba on a catamaran across Moreton Bay to Tangalooma with a pre-packed lunch and expert commentary. You can also access some Tangalooma Resort facilities if time permits.

Season 1 June to 14 October 2018

Cost:
Classic Day Cruise with Whale Watching
$129 Adult, $89 Child , $395 Family (2 adults and 2 children)
Dolphin Viewing Cruise with Whale Watching
$149 Adult, $109 Child, $475 Family (2 adults and 2 children)
Dolphin Feeding Cruise with Whale Watching
$199 Adult, $149 Child

Departure: From Holt Street Wharf, Pinkenba. Departures at 7am or 10 am with return cruise leaving Tangalooma at 4pm. Some cruises return at 7pm. Check website for details.

Length of tour: 3 hour Whale Watching cruise (12pm-3pm)

Vessel: High speed catamaran

Food and drinks: Lunch provided

Bookings: Online here

Guarantee: If no sightings occur on your tour you will be credited with a second tour at a future date

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Image from Tangalooma Facebook page.

Brisbane Whale Watching

This tour includes a buffet lunch and expert commentary. There is a licensed bar and snack and souvenir shop aboard the catamaran 'Eye Spy'. 'Eye Spy' is guided directly to the whales by a small Cessna 172 aircraft, 'Sky Spy.'

Season: 7 days a week from June to November

Cost: Prices start at $135 for departure from Redcliffe. Prices for pickups from Brisbane or Sunshine Coast start from $165. See website for details.

Departure: Departs Redcliffe Jetty with boarding commencing at 9am and returning at 2.30pm

Length of tour: Approx. 5.5 hrs

Vessel: High speed catamaran purpose-built for whale watching

Food and drinks: Lunch included, snacks available to purchase

Bookings: Online here

Guarantee: Offers a complimentary cruise on the next available departure if you don't sight any whales

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Image from Brisbane Whale Watching Facebook page.

Whales in Paradise

Whales in Paradise was the Gold Coast's first whale watching tour operator. They operate two purpose built catamarans, Mahi Mahi and Kaiala. These tours leave from Surfers Paradise but also offer pick-ups in Brisbane or a personalised pick-up service from your hotel for an additional charge. Brisbane pick-ups are for the 10.30am departure.

Season: 1 June to 31 October 2018

Cost:
EX Gold Coast: Adults - $99; Children (3-14yrs) - $69; Family Pass (2 Adults, 2 Children) - $267; Concession Card holder - $89
EX Brisbane: Adults - $139; Children (0-14yrs) - $109; Family Pass (2 Adults 2 Children) - $427; Concession Card Holder - $129

Departure:
Check-in: Cnr of Ferny Avenue and Cavill Avenue, Surfers Paradise.
Departure: Sightseeing Cruises Terminal, 58 Cavill Avenue (river end), Surfers Paradise.
Departure Times: - 7am, 8.30am, 10.30am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm

Length of tour: 3 hrs 15 mins

Vessel: High speed catamarans. Maximum 65 passengers per cruise.

Food and drinks: No

Bookings: Online here

Guarantee: Guaranteed whale sightings or get a full refund for cruises between 1 June and 31 October 2018.

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Image from Whales in Paradise Facebook page.


Spirit of Gold Coast Whale Watching


Cruise on board the Spirit of Gold Coast, a 24 metre purpose-built catamaran with 360 degree viewing and fully licensed bar.

Season: June to 28 October 2018

Cost: Adults - $99; Children - $59; Seniors and students - $79; Family (2 adults and 2 children) - $236.

Departure: From Mariners Cove Marina, 60-70 Seaworld Drive on Main Beach. 9am boarding for 9.30 am departure.
Afternoon cruises at 1:30pm departure (1pm boarding) available depending on sea conditions.

Length of tour: 2.5 hrs

Vessel: Spirit of Gold Coast catamaran

Food and drinks: Complimentary morning tea

Bookings: Online here.

Guarantee: Get a free return trip if you don't see whales on your cruise.

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Image from Spirit of Gold Coast website.

Coolangatta Whale Watch

This is the only tour you can do from Coolangatta/Tweed Heads. You will be aboard the Coolangatta Whale Watch with open deck space and undercover rear deck seating. Informative commentary is included.

Season: 13 June to 31 October 2018

Cost: Adult From $85; Child (3-13) from $65; Family (2 Adults, 2 Children) from $260; Student from $65; Seniors from $75.

Departure: Ivory Marina, 156 Wharf Street, Tweed Heads. Tours depart Tuesdays to Sundays at 8.30am.

Length of tour: 3 hrs.

Vessel: Maximum 45 passengers
.
Food and drinks: No

Bookings: Online here

Guarantee: 100% guaranteed whale sighting on every cruise, or receive another ticket for another day

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Image from Coolangatta Whale Watching Facebook page

Sea World

Sea World's whale watching cruises are operated by Whale Watch Australia. You will be aboard a 3 level catamaran with four viewing decks, Spirit of Migloo. No children under 3 yrs.

Season: May to November

Cost:
Whale Watch Tour: Adult - $99; Child (3-13) - $79; Seniors - $89; Family (2adults, 2 children) - $300
VIP Captain's Lounge (includes VIP seating, snacks & drinks): Adult, children and seniors - $180

Departure: From Cruise Terminal, Sea World. Departures at 10am and 2pm

Length of tour: 2.5 hrs

Vessel: Spirit of Migaloo

Food and drinks: Available for purchase

Bookings: Online here

Guarantee: A full refund will be provided if your whale watch tour fails to sight a whale, except during the months of May and November.

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Image from Sea World Whale Watching website.
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Why? To see these magnificent creatures up close and personal
When: Season runs from May to November 2018
Where: Departure points in Brisbane and Gold Coast
Cost: Varies. See article and websites for details.
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