Humpback whales are some of the planet’s most amazing and beautiful creatures. These gentle giants are majestic and graceful in the water. Yet, they can also be amazingly inquisitive and playful — spy-hopping to see who’s around, acrobatically breaching and spinning around, and creating huge splashes with their lob tailing and fin slapping! In this article we explore when and where to go whale watching from Brisbane each year.
Whale Watching from Brisbane
In the summer months, southern humpback whales spend their time feeding on krill in the Antarctic, but as the water temperature falls, they begin their annual trip north to the sub-tropical waters of Australia and beyond to mate and give birth. Each year, over 12,000 humpback whales migrate an average of 2,500 kilometres to the eastern coast of Australia, where they have become eagerly-awaited visitors and an iconic tourist attraction.
Most famous of all the humpbacks making this journey is Migaloo, the all-white whale that has become something of a celebrity, with locals excitedly awaiting news of his arrival and desperate to catch a glimpse of this rare and beautiful animal.
Humpback whale season
The whale season around Brisbane generally runs from mid-June to October, with most whales heading north between June and August, before returning south for feeding from September to October or November. Throughout this time, there are many opportunities for Brisbane Kids and adults to watch the whales and even get up close and personal with them!
Whale-watching tours departing from Brisbane
Several tour companies offer whale-watching cruises departing from Brisbane, including the following options.
Sea World Cruises
Departing up to 6 times daily from main beach, Sea World cruises have a 100% whale sighting guarantee. With an underwater hydrophone (to hear the whales) and marine naturalist guides onboard, you are assured a whaley good time!
Brisbane Whale Watching
Brisbane Whale Watching offers cruises from the northeastern suburb of Redcliffe, around 30 minutes drive from the CBD. They also offer transfers from many hotels in Brisbane and locations close to the Central and Kangaroo Point areas for an additional cost. For more information, you can check out brisbanewhalewatching.com.au.
Tangalooma Island Resort
Tangalooma runs whale-watching cruises aboard Australia’s largest dedicated whale-watching vessel from Tangalooma Island Resort, which you can connect to through their luxury catamaran transfers from Holt Street Wharf in Pinkenba, Brisbane. They also offer additional transfers from Brisbane city hotels, the airport and the Brisbane Transit Centre for an additional charge. Visit tangalooma.com for more information on prices and availability, or read our review here.
Spirit of Gold Coast
Spirit of Gold Coast Whale Watching Cruises departs from Mariners Cove Marina at Main Beach. This 3 hour cruise provides a whale spotting guarantee, so the chances you’ll see a whale or two are very high. Check out our Spirit of Gold Coast review here to find out more.
Whales in Paradise
Whales in Paradise operates tours from the Gold Coast but offers free pick-ups from several locations in central Brisbane and personalised pick-ups from city hotels at an additional fee. For more information on their tour times and prices, click here.
Many whale-watching companies depart from locations near Brisbane, from the Gold Coast to the Sunshine Coast, offering some amazing cruises.
We also strongly recommend looking out for special offers on cruises on docket deals, Groupon and other discount sites, especially towards the end of the whale season when there are often some amazing bargains to be found.
Swim with humpback whales near Brisbane!
Here at Brisbane Kids, we already know how awesome our region is for its amazing sights and activities. Still, sometimes even we are blown away by the latest exclusive experiences to launch in this area. In an Australian first, Sunreef Mooloolaba is now offering the opportunity to swim with humpback whales!
This rare and special humpback whale encounter takes place on a three-hour outing with a maximum of twenty participants. It includes a full briefing, a spotter plane’s help locate the whales, and all equipment to get you in the water near these magnificent creatures. Depending on their ability and the conditions, it is generally available for kids over 8 who are good swimmers and accompanied by adults. The trip operates from Mooloolaba, about an hour and a quarter north of Brisbane. For more information, please visit sunreef.com.au.
Whale watching from land near Brisbane.
There are also many excellent options for watching whales from land near Brisbane. Just take your binoculars and long-lens cameras and look for the spray from the whale’s blowholes to help you find their location! Generally, any high, headland area along the coast or outlying islands provides a great vantage point from which to see humpback whales during their migration, but here are some of our favourite whale-watching spots.
The North Gorge, Point Lookout, North Stradbroke Island
North Stradbroke Island (Straddie) is arguably the best land-based whale-watching area in Queensland. The views from the lookouts along the North Gorge walk are stunning any time of year, with dolphins, turtles and rays often to be seen, but during whale season, this is certainly one of the best spots for spotting whales. Visit stradbrokeisland.com for other recommended viewing points on the island.
Cape Moreton, Moreton Island
Cape Moreton is a rocky outcrop providing a great platform to spot whales and other marine life at the northeastern tip of Moreton Island. See visitmoretonisland.com for more information.
Other Moreton Bay Islands
While other Moreton Bay Islands may not offer the same height for vantage points as North Stradbroke Island and Moreton Island, whales may still be spotted from the coastline of many, including Bribie Island and South Stradbroke Island.
Northern New South Wales
Cape Byron Lighthouse, Byron Bay
The most famous whale-watching location in Byron Bay is probably the Cape Byron Lighthouse. With its cliff-top location, it provides the perfect lookout for spotting whales in the surrounding waters. Check out visitnsw.com for details of other great whale-watching spots around this area.
Point Danger, Tweed Heads
On the Queensland/New South Wales border, Point Danger is located on a high peak overlooking the ocean. It is renowned as one of the best spots for whale watching along the Legendary Pacific Coast Whale Trail.
Point Perry, Coolum
With a lovely walk up to the Point Perry Lookout along the Coolum Boardwalk, this is definitely one of the best places on the Sunshine Coast to watch the whales. The nearby lookout at Point Arkwright also provides some amazing whale-spotting opportunities.
While whales can often be spotted from beaches along the coast, the notorious Gold Coast high rises provide the perfect man-made viewing points during whale season! A great place to spot whales from the comfort of your holiday accommodation or a top floor restaurant or bar.
There is a reason we use the phrase ‘a whale of a time’, because when you see these amazing animals frolicking in their natural habitat, you soon realise that’s exactly what they’re having. It’s impossible not to experience the same thing too. We hope you and your Brisbane Kids make the most of the awesome opportunity to see these spectacular humpback whales in our local waters during this whale season!
Look at the gallery below to witness just how much fun this family had and the sights they saw on their whale-watching adventure!
Our Explore Brisbane section has many ideas for wonderful things to do with your Brisbane Kids to discover more of the wonderful city and corner of the state in which we live. For excursion inspiration slightly further afield, such as Binna Burra and Lamington National Park, which is still within reach of Brisbane, please check out our guide to Day Trips. For another amazing up-close animal experience, why not See the Turtles at Mon Repos Conservation Park in Bundaberg?