Whale watching on the Gold Coast

Earlier this month I spent the morning out on the water in the Gold Coast, searching for whales with Whales in Paradise. Yeah, you can usually spot them off in the distance if you hang around the beach long enough, but getting up close with the real action is what you want.

I’ve been whale watching once before in New Zealand with my family. That time we were on a huge boat and they used sonar or something to find whales, sped off to them, waited a few minutes, and then moved on. This time was very different.

Whale watching tour on the Gold Coast

It took me way longer than I needed to find the place. It’s located exactly where they say it is, but I was across the street and the big sign says a different name (I guess they have a parent company or something) so I walked right past it. Walking back on the right side I saw the little sign in the corner there and all was well.

Every group they take out is only small, but ours only had about 45 people and it was perfect. We had room to move around the boat and find the best place to watch the whales without being stuck with where we picked as we hopped on board.

Whale watching boat
Whale watching tour boat

It took a bit of time to wind our way through the canals and to the coast, but before long we were out on open water.  All we had to rely on was our own eyes to spot the whales. It’s a group effort and it didn’t take long for someone to find a pair for us to head towards.

The law says that you can’t get closer than 100m to the whales, but they don’t know that – a couple of times they swam up close or would pop up on the other side after swimming under us, which always freaks me out a bit. We followed along beside them for awhile before they moved on and left us to find some more.

Many times we’d know they were there and could just see them under the water, blowing water up and just hanging around. Then sometimes they’d be swimming faster and we’d follow alongside as they’d stick their back’s up as they swam.

Gold Coast whale watching

Whale watching on the Gold Coast

But the holy grail we were looking for was when they’d breach, which is when they jump right up and stick their heads out of the water.  I asked one of the crew and he said they see it 40-50% of the times they go out, which sounds like pretty decent odds to me.

We saw three different whales do it over the course of the trip. One was pretty far away, but it was early in the trip so it got everyone pumped to get closer and find more whales. The second was the one in the photo below, which was cool. But the third one was the best – it was the closest to the boat and the biggest jump we saw. I just missed getting a photo of it, but it was amazing.

Humpback whale breaching on the Gold Coast

The other exciting part was when they’d do the tail flip before diving down deep. It’s the classic shot on probably every piece of whale watching advertising I’ve ever seen. The whale will just be sitting there with the top of its back showing and then he’ll make a little move and you know the tail flip is coming. It’s crazy how graceful it is for such a huge creature.

Humpback whale's tail off the Gold Coast

By the end of the trip we’d spotted 5 or 6 different whales, as well as a small group of dolphins that swam by so fast if I hadn’t been looking at that exact spot I’d never have seen them. I’d say that’s a pretty good tally for one trip! Apparently they see sea turtles quite often too, which would have been awesome, but there were none around that day. Next time!


Whales in Paradise is located in Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast and runs three tours a day. If you’re in Brisbane you can get picked up from your hotel for the midday tour, which is handy. Find more info here.

My whale watching experience was compliments of Whales in Paradise, however all opinions are my own.

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