The Gold Coast has it all – incredible beaches, thrilling adventure parks and a buzzing food and drink scene. But did you know it’s also Australia’s top spot for whale watching? Whilst you can often spot these gentle giants from the shore, there's no better way to see them than by heading out on the water for a close-up look this season.

When is the best time to go whale watching on the Gold Coast?

Whale watching, Gold Coast, Qld

The Gold Coast plays host to around 35,000 humpback whales each year between late May and October, making it Australia’s longest continuous whale-watching season. The majestic creatures head north from Antarctica to mate and give birth during this time, before returning in November.

One of the more unique things about the Gold Coast is that there’s no break in the seasons. However, to maximise your chances of seeing them, plan your visit for August and September. This is when their frolicsome nature is on full display. You’re likely to see spectacular whale play including breaches and tail slapping, as well as the odd mother tending to her newborn calf.

Where is the best place to see whales on the Gold Coast?

Whale watching, Gold Coast, Qld

Humpback whales love the Gold Coast as much as humans do. Compared to other parts of Australia, they spend longer in the region and come much closer to shore as the water is warmer for their newborn calves.

Hop on a whale-watching tour to be guided by an expert. Most sailings take a few hours to half a day, leaving plenty of time for dining, shopping and, of course, visiting the epic Gold Coast theme parks like Warner Bros. Movie World.

What’s the best cruise to see whales on the Gold Coast?

Whale watching, Gold Coast, Qld

Gold Coast whale cruise tour operators have every base covered, from the budget conscious to the full VIP experience. Will it be an intimate small group private tour on a sailing boat or the splash-out splendour of a luxury superyacht? Or perhaps the expert guidance of a marine biologist on board a 24-metre super catamaran floats your boat? Some vessels are even equipped with underwater audio devices so you can listen to the whales’ ethereal song. Whichever way you jump, there are multiple departure locations across the Gold Coast, including Surfers Paradise and Southport.

What does a responsible operator look like?

Whale watching, Gold Coast, Qld

Gold Coast whale tour operators see themselves as custodians of this incredible marine environment and many choose to help protect it through ecotourism initiatives. When choosing a whale-watching cruise, look for those that work to drive conservation efforts in tandem with local universities, such as Griffith University’s Whales & Climate Research Program. Other tour operators support regular beach clean-ups and whale rescues whereas others participate in school education initiatives such as Young Whale Warriors.

What other creatures might you see on a whale-watching tour?

Dolphins, Gold Coast, Qld

Many whale pods can be found playing in Gold Coast waters around 30 minutes by boat from shore. But each tour boat comes with plenty of reminders that the humpbacks are just one part of this rich marine environment. While cruising the seas, look out for their underwater friends including dolphins, green sea turtles and hammerhead sharks.  

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