Hervey Bay is like the whale watching mecca of Australia. The humpback whales really enjoy the protected waters around Hervey Bay, so they often use it as a place to rest on their migration back down to Antarctica. Because of this, Hervey Bay is full of tour opportunities on-board a boat to do some spotting, and I was lucky enough to get the experience on the Spirit of Hervey Bay.
The Spirit of Hervey Bay is a big yellow boat (you can’t miss it!) that is new and quick. The goal here is to be able to spend more time with the whales, and less time traveling. There are morning and afternoon tours, and I definitely went with the afternoon tour.
We boarded the boat at the Urangan Boat Harbour around 1:15 am. While inside, we were free to grab a seat, walk around, buy drinks and enjoy the scenery. Once the boat kicked into gear, we were bombarded with the speed of the wind, so do make sure to hold on to your hats, literally. The view was absolutely beautiful out front, but I’m afraid that the breeze was just too chilly to stay outside when the boat was on the move. I was tricked by the warmth of the afternoon sun to take the wind-chill into consideration, so don’t make my mistake; dress warmly.
Inside, we picked a seat near the windows and snatched up some free coffee and cake to warm the bones until we reached the waters near the lovely Fraser Island.
On-board were a few guides, all eager to spot some whales and educate everybody about them in the process. Even though the whales were a bit on the quiet side for most of the trip, I knew these guys were working hard to give us all the best experience possible.
In the distance, we could see pod after pod of whales making commotion in the waters, so the plan of action is to creep up slowly to see if they are willing to interact. There were groups of mothers and babies as well as boys flirting with girls (and vice versa) swimming around in the water.
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The five decks on the Spirit of Hervey Bay give you the ability to choose the best vantage point, whether that be as up-close as possible out front, or in full-view on the very top. I eventually made it to the top deck as there were fewer people to worry about trampling over when trying to get the best shot.
Most of the time was spent with calm whales floating about, doing some arm flapping and showing their tails. The sound of the fin-flapping is supposed to attract other whales in the area, just letting them know they are there, or calling them to come to hang out. Whales are quite social creatures, which is why you generally find them in pods and not alone.
The most difficult part of whale watching is the waiting. You might see a pod of whales, get close, but then lose them for some time. It doesn’t help that whales can actually hold their breath for up to 45 minutes, but that’s nature, and you can’t control it. The Spirit of Hervey Bay knows this, which is why they offer a money-back guarantee if you don’t actually see any whales on your excursion.
That said, I would find it near impossible to not see some during the busy late winter months in Australia. You can most often see whales while just standing on the shore.
Our wait paid off. Finally, the whales started to show some life, and we even saw some breaching (when whales stick their heads out of the water) with big splashes. The whole boat was excited to see this movement, and further interaction with this spunky whale ensued until sadly we had to commence the journey back to Hervey Bay. Our driver and guide was apologizing for needing to leave since he, too, was hoping to see more.
Again, the ride took about an hour, during which time most people escaped the cool winds by heading indoors and grabbing a coffee from the bar. We were all lucky enough to enjoy the most colorful sunset ever along the way (this photo doesn’t do it justice).
If you would like to go whale watching in Hervey Bay, there are plenty of tours to choose from. However, if you like what you see here, then think about a ride on the Spirit of Hervey Bay either at 8:30 am or 1:30 pm. You even get a complimentary whale watching DVD and transfer to your accommodation if necessary.
The Spirit of Hervey Bay
Whale Bay Marina (The one with the giant whale out front.)
Urangan, Hervey Bay QLD
Phone: 1800 642 544
>> This was a stop on the Cairns to Sydney road trip.