What to expect on a whale watching cruise

Whale watching is a lot of fun and definitely rated as one of the top ten (10) activities to do on the Gold Coast. Joining a whale watching cruise is easy and the options are diverse. There are large stable vessels and small boutique vessel operators like us, departing from Surfers Paradise, Main Beach or Runaway Bay. To give you a better understanding of what to expect when going whale watching on the Gold Coast, we have compiled answers to the most frequently asked questions.

How does a Gold Coast whale watch cruise work?

Our tours run for approximately 2.5h. We are happy to pick you up from your Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach or Main Beach accommodation and drop you back after the cruise. Once you arrive at the marina, a short boat safety brief is conducted. Upon departure, you can enjoy a calm water cruise along the Gold Coast Broadwater before embarking into the open ocean.

We usually ask our guests to help us spotting whales. We are looking for blows and breaches. Once a whale is sighted, the vessel will slowly approach the whale, keeping a safe distance to determine what direction a whale is travelling. This is when it becomes exciting! What happens from here, can’t be predicted. We may follow a whale for a while without interfering with it. Often whales decide to approach our vessel whilst our engines are in neutral. This is what we call mugging! We are absolutely on the animal’s term. The whales decide how close they will approach.

Our staff is knowledgeable and will tell you some interesting facts about humpback whales and their behaviour. We always have drinking water, hot tea and snacks on the boat for your convenience. We also support research projects and encourage our guests to participate (optional) by completing sighting survey forms. These surveys are helping researchers to better understand whale behaviours, travel patterns, population numbers and more.

Do I get wet whilst whale watching?

There is always a chance of getting splashed a little. We therefore provide courtesy spray jackets and recommend bringing protective cases for your phones and cameras. In most instances, you will not get wet even though our vessel is small.

Small whale watching boat vs. large vessel?

Both vessel types have their advantages and disadvantages. The larger vessel provides a more comfortable cruise, protected from the elements and even people with disabilities as well as small children can enjoy the whales on a larger vessel. Our small boats advantage is the private feel of the tour and the chance for closer and longer encounters. We feel that whales often circle our boat to check us out without us driving towards the whale. As all our Youtube footage proofs, the trade off in comfort is well worth the experience on a smaller vessel.

Do whales ever hit boats?

Whales have an incredible awareness of their surroundings. They may pass under our boat only centimetres away from the vessel hull without touching. As long as whales are not harassed or approached fast and in an interruptive manner, then there is nothing to worry about.

When is whale watching season on the Gold Coast?

The first sightings start in May and end in early November. Our whale watching cruises start in mid-June, so that we can ensure sufficient numbers of whales are seen during our whale watching cruises.

What is whale mugging?

If you are lucky enough to have a humpback whale approaching your vessel, and surrounding it whilst popping out its head, looking you in the eye then you have been ‘mugged’. This only occurs on the whale’s discretion and it seems they love doing it. Any of our whale footage that is close up would have been taken during such a mugging.

Will I see Migaloo the white whale?

Migaloo the white whale passes the Gold Coast every year without fail. The timing obviously can’t be predicted so it is really a matter of luck. Once Migaloo is sighted further south or north, it will allow us to narrow down an approximate window of when Migaloo will pass the Gold Coast.

How close can you get to a whale in a boat?

We are not allowed to approach a whale closer than 100m. Anything closer can occur but on the animal’s term. If a whale decides to change direction and approach our vessel, closer encounters are possible whilst our engines are in neutral or turned off, allowing the whale to pass safely.

Go whale watching

If this blog post made you excited about whale watching, then check out our amazing whale watching adventures in Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast, Australia.