Whale Watching in Australia: What’s it Really Like?

ANZ Nov13Time for another reprint of one of my Australia and New Zealand magazine articles, this one appeared in the November issue of last year. I usually like to put these articles online about a month after they’ve appeared in print, so I’m running behind.

We can catch up over the next few weeks, but for now let’s get stuck in to the article which they called…

A whale of a time

According to some stats I’ve looked at, worldwide something like 13 million people a year go whale watching and the industry is worth over $2 billion. Big business indeed, but what’s the point? Maybe it’s me, maybe I’m unlucky, maybe I’m just not very good at it, either way I’ve been whale watching twice and seen very little when it comes to Cetacean sea dwelling mammals.

My first whale watching experience took me to Stradbroke Island, known as one of Australia’s best land-based locations for spotting whales.

StradbrokeTo almost guarantee a successful watch, I went early in July, the height of the whale watching season. And there I stood, facing the sea for an almost solid five hours looking out from the aptly named Point Lookout. It could have been ‘what’s the Point Lookout’ as far as I was concerned, I saw nothing.

When I mean nothing, this is what I saw, for hours and hours and hours…

whale-watching straddieAfter relating this sorry tale to one or two friends, I was told that whale watching was best done from a boat, specifically a whale watching trip. Of course, I believed every word and set about booking a boat on the Gold Coast, yet another very popular whale watching location.

Off to the Goldie

After setting off at 7:30 AM on a one and a half hour journey to the marina, and after handing over a not insubstantial sum of money, I found myself out at sea, on a boat, doing some ‘proper’ whale watching.

Gold Coast viewWithin no time we were stationary, apart from the bobbing up and down, about 9 nautical miles from the coast. Now everybody on the boat was staring out at sea.

The result?

For a couple of hours or more, I heard comments from other whale watchers, who were all bobbing up and down with me, like “What’s that over there?”; “I think I see something… oh, maybe not.” “I can see something, I can see something!”; “There’s something there, look, quick!

With every comment I heard, my head would swivel so that I could see where they were looking and follow where they were pointing, but still nothing.

Eventually the big moment came, a tiny spurt of water shot up from the sea about 100 meters away. Even I saw it! Then a bigger splash about 50 metres further out.

People on the boat were cheering, some were screaming and one or two said things like “ooh!

Three more splashes followed. Now everybody on the boat was staring in exactly the same place, all with cameras in their hands waiting excitedly for more. By now, the action had moved about 200 metres away from the boat, which had everybody checking their camera to find the zoom button.

I found mine just in time and as what was now obviously a whale allowed about one third of its arched back to appear above water, I was ready to snap.

To this day, that photograph remains a treasured reminder of my second whale watching trip…

Whale sighting…and although it could easily be a bald discarded HGV tyre floating in the distance, I know in my heart of hearts, it was a whale in its natural environment. Not convinced? Let’s get a bit closer…

Whale sighting zoomGreat, eh?

Despite what you think though, I’ll be going whale watching again.


A recent visit to Hervey Bay made me re-evaluate this past time, I’ll tell you why next month.


Well, that’s what I said for the magazine, you won’t have to wait that long. The follow-up article has already been written, you can see it here:

    And if you want to watch the video of my whale watching on the Gold Coast, please visit:

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    { 1 comment… add one }
    • Lyza De Proctor September 23, 2015, 4:49 pm |

      One of the best things I did down the East Coast was Whale Watching!

      It’s amazing how close they can get to you!!!!

      So thrilling!

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