Brisbane Whale Watching
There are few experiences in life that come close to feasting on king prawns on board a boat while giant whales frolic just outside the window in the sparkling blue waters of Brisbane's Moreton Bay. Except for getting splashed by a whale tail or catching the eye of the perpetrator while watching the same spectacle from the open deck.
Luckily for residents of and visitors to Brisbane, this experience of whale watching from the comfort of a spacious state of the art catamaran with all the trimmings is only a half hour's drive from the CBD. And in more happy news, Moreton Bay, with its shallow protected subtropical waters, has been touted as one of the best vantage points to view the annual migrating humpback whale procession on the entire east coast of Australia. The whales come here each year from Antarctica to give birth to their young in the warmer Queensland coastal waters before returning south when the calves have developed enough blubber to cope with cooler climes.
The day begins at the Redcliffe Jetty with a warm welcome on board the high speed catamaran Eye Spy (which has been purpose built for whale watching) by the glamorous Captain Kerry Lopez and her crew. Whale watchers can take a seat in the roomy lower air con cabin come dining room/bar, the smaller cabin upstairs or one of six outdoor viewing decks. After a safety feature video the boat chugs off into the bay and morning tea of instant coffee or tea and cake is served while the jetty and faded historic seafront buildings of Redcliffe become a speck on the horizon.
Throughout the voyage to the whale playground Kerry, who has been running this operation since 1996, keeps up an interesting commentary about the history of whaling in the area. Ironically in the 1950s and 60s it was these very waters that were the most dangerous for the migrating humpbacks as the Tangalooma Whaling Station on nearby Moreton Island was responsible for almost wiping out the humpback population. When it closed in 1962 after killing an estimated 6277 humpbacks and one blue whale there were only about 500 humpbacks left and they were on the endangered species list, which, thankfully today, they have been removed from.
One of the best kept secrets of this area of Moreton Bay are its reefs that, for divers and snorkelers have a greater variety of marine life than the Great Barrier Reef. It's also a fascinating graveyard for ship wrecks, some of which form part of artificial reefs such as Curtain Reef (which is also where some of Brisbane's trams, whaling boats and some 60 car wrecks have their final resting place).
After about an hour the catamaran reaches the choppy seas around the point of Cape Moreton and it is here that the first sightings of whales occur. The next couple of hours pass in a reverie of scurrying from deck to deck, window to window as Kerry calls the whale action using the clock method: a full breach at 3 o'clock, a part breach at 6 o'clock. It's not just whales that are the star of this trip though, with the potential to spot the year round residents of the bay - hammerhead sharks, dolphins and turtles.
In the middle of it all the boat stops for lunch which is served buffet style from the lower cabin. The day we visited it was king prawns, a variety of salads such as coleslaw, green and potato, chicken and bread rolls. The bar is open from departure and throughout the trip for beer and wine.
After lunch there is a last hurrah exchanging waves with the whales and the boat starts the journey back. On the way back fresh fruit platters are handed out, followed by biscuits, more tea and coffee.
Need to know: Those who suffer sea sickness are best advised to self-medicate as necessary before the trip, including the night before, as the boat does end up in open waters which are unpredictable in terms of swell and choppiness. Seasickness tablets are available for purchase on board, with doses of one per adult and a half for children aged 8-12. The staff are incredibly accommodating, especially with children and anyone who struggles to find their sea legs, going out of their way to make sure that everyone gets the most out of what is, from any perspective, an amazing experience.
Tickets are available online or at the ticket office opposite Redcliffe Jetty and cost includes lunch, morning and afternoon tea, with bar drinks extra. Shuttle buses can be booked for an extra cost, departing from some hotels in the Brisbane CBD, the Sunshine & Gold Coasts.
Disclaimer: Must Do Brisbane was a guest of Brisbane Whale Watching on this occasion although paid for their young seasickness prone calf to accompany.
Shuttle bus from CBD,
Sunshine & Gold Coasts
Daily Jun-Nov Dep 10am
A $135 C $95 Conc $125
Fam (2A + 2C) $365