During the annual migration, it’s whales galore in Hervey Bay! Baby whales show off, whales mug our boat, blue oceans and perfect weather! A room with a view, mouth-watering food and tropical cocktails on the harbour makes a fantastic weekend of whale watching in Hervey Bay.

Whale sightings in Hervey Bay are almost guaranteed.

Whales in Hervey Bay

Humpback whales migrate from Antarctica to the tropical waters of Australia every winter to mate and give birth. On their return journey many of the whales spend a few days in the calm and sheltered waters of Hervey Bay. This makes Hervey Bay one of the best places in the world to witness the longest animal migration in history. Whales are now so comfortable, used to and interact with the local whale watching boats that many of the whale watching operators offer a guarantee of seeing the whales or a full refund.

I spy… Whales are now used to the boats.

Our Whale Watching Boat

We booked our whale watching tour with Freedom Whale Watch. Freedom III is a comfortable 58-foot catamaran. For someone who gets seriously seasick, stability is important and I am pleased to say I never got seasick! From the Sandy Straits Marina, we depart at 9.30 am. After an introduction to the crew and a safety brief, the boat steams out through the waters of the Great Sandy Marine Park towards the whale sanctuary of Platypus Bay. While travelling, Keith the skipper gives a commentary on the whales, their conservation and the local area, including Fraser Island. The weather is perfect and Keith tells us it’s only going to get better throughout the day.

We see our first whale breaching.

The boat is comfortable with whale viewing on all three levels and there is nowhere on the boat that is off-limits including the wheelhouse. The wonderful crew: Louis, Billy and Ivan are helpful and go out of their way to make sure everyone is comfortable. Morning tea of homemade profiteroles and freshly baked scones with cream and jam are served. The crew walk around the boat with plates of delicious food making sure everyone is full and satisfied! They also walk around with sunscreen making sure no one is too sunburnt.

Scrumptious morning tea

The Whales

Not long in Platypus Bay we see our first whales! In the distance, we see the blows which are like a thick mist and how the whales exhale air. Once we get closer the engine on the boat is shut down. There are strict rules for boat operators and they are mindful of approaching the whales in a gentle way.

The boat approaches the whales very carefully.

We see our first acrobatic display of a whale breaching, the most spectacular of all whale behaviours. After the breaching, the crew put a special microphone under the water and we hear the beautiful haunting sounds of whale singing.

mum-and-baby-whale come close to our boat while whale watching in hervey bay
Mum and baby come up to our boat! Even so young, the baby has scars from males trying to push her out of the way to mate with mum.

We move on and stop again when the crew spot more whales. A mother and her baby approach the boat. Keith tells us the babies in the bay are from one to four weeks old. It’s not that common for a mother to approach a boat with her baby. Often a mother and her calf have an escort, usually a male who will put himself between the boat and the mother and baby.

The baby could be from one to four weeks old.

Mum and baby touch each other with their flippers affectionately and swim right up to the boat and have a good look. Sometimes they will do this so mum can show the baby that the boat is bad and to stay away from the propellers. While in the warm sheltered waters, mum teaches the baby survival skills before heading back to the cold waters of Antarctica.

Mum gets into position to feed her baby.

They swim in and out from under the boat, right beside it and then swim away. They swim a little way out and mum stops and feeds the baby! Hanging upside down, with her tail erect she spends about 15 minutes feeding her baby milk. While mum is in this position, the mammary glands are in the perfect orientation for her to squirt milk in the baby’s mouth.

Baby whale breaching

After mum and baby move on we think it can’t get much better than this. Keith starts the boat to move on but soon changes his mind. All of a sudden the baby starts breaching! It seems like he is full of energy after his milk and really showing off. This is one cute adorable show!

Look at me mum!

A tropical buffet lunch is served while watching the whales. There are plenty of yummy salads for vegetarians and filtered water, tea, coffee, soft drinks, beer and wine are also available.

whale watching in hervey bay
Whales ‘mug’ our boat

After lunch, a pod of whales mug our boat. A ‘mugging is when a pod of whales swim around the boat and it’s a situation of them watching us. They chase and play with each other. They swim on their backs and swim under the boat and spy hop which is raising their head so they can get a better view on what’s happening above the water.


One repeatedly lifts his tail out of the water and slaps it on the surface and the other one pectoral slaps. It’s not yet known the reason they do this. Whoosh! Whoosh! The loud slapping sounds can be heard a long way underwater so it can be a way of communicating with other whales, some sort of warning or they do it just for fun!

Tail slapping! Fraser Island is in the background.

During the afternoon we see more whales. At least ten different pods from baby calves to full-grown adults. A day of breaching, tail slapping, pectoral slapping, belly showing, mugging and spy hopping is all a part of a day’s whale watching in Hervey Bay!

Pectoral fins slapping and tail slapping

After a full day of whale watching, Freedom arrives back at the marina at about 4 pm. The whales, the crew with their great sense of humour, the comfortable boat, which has plenty of room even when fully booked, made this a perfect day.

Golden crumbed Camembert served with orange & cranberry couli at Cafe Balaena

Our Accommodation

We stayed at the Mantra right on the Marina. This is the perfect location as the harbour is just outside our door! This makes for a perfect getaway for a couple of days with no need to go anywhere else. We love the atmosphere of the cafes on the marina with a view of all the boats parked in the harbour. Our favourite is Café Balaena. We have most of our meals here as it serves the most delectable meals with a good choice of vegetarian meals.

apple-pancakes for breakfast in hervey bay
Home-made pancakes with maple syrup and apple and cinnamon for breakfast. Yummy!

Our one-bedroom self-contained apartment with views of the harbour was on special for $95 a night with a minimum of three nights stay.

BreakFree Sandy Straits is also on the harbour and has some great views of the harbour and ocean. It’s more expensive than the Mantra, but it does have some good deals at times.

our accommodation in hervey bay
Our room at the Mantra

Whale Watching in Hervey Bay Information

The price of our whale watching trip with Freedom Whale Watch was $130 per person. This includes:

Return transfers from accommodation in Hervey Bay

Information session

Morning and afternoon tea

Tropical buffet lunch

Filtered water, tea and coffee

A vegetarian burger and cold drinks on the marina. Our whale watching boat Freedom is in the background.

Freedom spends all day out in the bay which means more time with the whales. Generally, we would prefer smaller boats, but the smaller boats are less steady in rough weather which means more chance of seasickness and harder to take photos. Smaller boats also need more time to get out to the bay and back. Freedom is so spacious it feels like a small crowd.

A whale plays around our boat

Whale Watching season starts in late July and ends in early November. August and September are the best months for mothers and babies.

If you are prone to sea sickness the best thing to do is take two tablets such as kwells or ginger the night before and again in the morning before going on the boat. This way they are in your system because once you are sick it’s too late to take them.

A good hat and plenty of sunscreen are necessary. Though it’s winter the sun still burns when out in the open ocean all day. With the excitement of the whales, it’s easy to forget! The crew on Freedom offers sunscreen all throughout the day.

Discover Hervey Bay has a range of whale watching tours to suit all individual needs.

This is one cute and adorable show!

Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island offers package deals that include the return ferry, accommodation, tours of Fraser and whale watching cruises from Fraser Island. This is an excellent way of seeing Fraser Island and the whales for a good price.

A visit to Fraser Island is recommended if in Hervey Bay. If you have your own 4WD a few days camping is a great way to explore the island. If you prefer an organised tour for a couple of days adventure, Drop Bear is popular.

Read More of our Australia Blogs

Our Awesome 4 Day Fraser Island Camping Trip
The Complete Guide to Fraser Island
Eungella National Park: Home to Platypus, Birds and Diverse Wildlife

The migration of the whales is fascinating.

Fascinating Facts on Humpback Whales and their Migration

In winter the Antarctic becomes too cold for the warm-blooded whales and food is scarce.

Newborn babies are born with no blubber and therefore would freeze to death if born in the Antarctic.

Babies are about 3-5 metres long and can weigh up to a ton!

Their life expectancy is from 45-50 years, however, some researchers say they can live up to 80 years.

Humpback whales become sexually mature between the ages of five and nine.

Female humpbacks usually reproduce a baby once every 2-3 years.

The gestation period for humpback whales is 11 months.

They can travel up 10000 kilometres and rarely eat during the migration.

The majority of whales in Australian waters migrate north from June to August and return to the Antarctic in October and November.

 whale migration
Their route during the migration. Diagram courtesy of Wild About Whales.

The whales do not depart from the Antarctic en masse but flow in different groups.

In the first group, young males lead the migration with mum and baby pairs in the back.

About 12 days after the first group leave, a second group, generally made up of immature males and females depart.

A third group leave about 20 days later, these include mature males and females that are not pregnant or have no babies.

The last to leave is the heavily pregnant females because they have the longest stay in the feeding grounds of the Antarctic, fattening up to prepare for the migration journey to give birth. They will often cross paths with newly pregnant females who were in the first group, heading back to the Antarctic.

The females are weaning their last year’s babies during the migration. By the time they reach the mating and birthing waters of the Great Barrier Reef, the babies are able to look after themselves, though they stay close to mum until the second trip back to the Antarctic.

The bond between mother and baby is very strong and during the first year, they will stay eyeball to eyeball or pectoral fin distance from each other.

8 Responses to “Whale Watching in Hervey Bay: Amazing Sightings and Whales Galore!”

  1. Marie Twain

    Beautifully captured and told. It’s amazing how the whales have so much trust after how they’ve been treated by us humans. I especially like the photos of mum feeding her baby and the baby breaching, both really special. I agree with you, their migration is fascinating and interesting. Thank you.

    • Thanks Marie. It really is special that they have so much trust and we are so lucky that they do. It was great being a part of the close interactions and we can see why Hervey Bay is one of the best places in the world to see the whales during the migration.

  2. Shelby Johnston

    Beautiful blog and images as usual. Never seen anything like this before. The whales are just sensational. Looks like the perfect romantic weekend getaway right down to the cocktails and the
    cute apartment with the whale print on the wall!

    • Ray & Sue

      It was a perfect day of whale watching Shelby. It is also the perfect place for a romantic weekend or a weekend with the family.The apartments are cute and in a great location.

  3. I’ve taken a virtual tour of whale watching immediately after reading this article with the pics. Everything has been described as clearly that anyone can imagine the fun and the excitement. I’ve also come to know a new thing that one of the best places for whale watching is the Hervey Bay. The accommodation, food, the giant whale breaching; everything seems so exciting. I was really astonished to know that the boat has a special microphone to catch the sound of the whale singing. How exciting! Ray & Sue have shared a wonderful experience with useful info and pics. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Great story telling and photos! I am going to Hervey Bay in a few weeks, and am wondering what camera lenses to bring. Will two bodies with 18-54 and 70-300 be enough?

    • Ray & Sue

      Hi Erika. Thanks for your comments. Your lenses are plenty for the whale watching trip. Most of our images were taken with our 70-200. Keep in mind too that using a tripod on the boat is not practical at times, especially when the ocean gets rough! Have a great trip and we hope you see many whales!

  5. I love that you talked about whales and how they will be swimming in and out of the side and under the boat they will swim away afterward. I would love to see that with my very own eyes, so I will try to book whale-watching boat tours in Bonavista Peninsula this coming summer. My husband and I have never seen one in our lifetime, so this is a great trip to take together for the first time.


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