Only 4 to 6 hours (depending on mode of transport) from Brisbane, Queensland’s capital, lies Hervey Bay, famous for its whale watching. The city is served by the Tilt Train, with connections from Maryborough West or nearby Howard, and also the Hervey Bay Airport, with direct flights from Brisbane and Sydney.
However, we chose Greyhound Buses as the most budget- and environmentally friendly way to travel from Brisbane to Hervey Bay. Daily connections go from Brisbane and will leave you directly at Hervey Bay’s transport center. Most accommodation providers offer courtesy pick up.
Morning: Hervey Bay Whale Watch
Jump aboard Hervey Bay Whale Watch’s QuickCat II for a whaling adventure with Brian Perry, the man who pioneered whale watching in Hervey Bay 25 years ago. Courtesy pick up from your accommodation (we stayed two nights at the Friendly Hostel and loved it) is early, around 7 am, but you will have light breakfast on board QuickCat II just as you cruise out of the harbour.
QuickCat II is a vessel built for a gentle experience for both the watchers and the whales, and the company has been ecotourism-certified for many years.
Cruising along Fraser Island coast, Brian soon spots the first whales, youngsters by the look of it. Curious creatures, those Humpback whales swim right next to us and underneath the boat, giving us plenty of time for taking pictures and to marvel at their massive size.
Whales are amazing and peaceful creatures. Did you know that they have a thick layer of blubber below their skin which acts as insulation in cold waters? Whales must keep their body temperature between 36 and 37 degrees Celsius. They are also voluntary breathers (yes, voluntary!) which means they can breathe whenever they wish and hold their breath for extended periods. They spend most of their times below the surface, usually only surfacing to breathe. The ‘blow’ is produced when they breathe out, making a whooshing sound as the warm air of their breath meets with the cold air outside and condenses.
The whales you will see in Hervey Bay are Humpback whales, 7,000 of which migrate along Australia’s East Coast every year, on their 12,000 kilometers long journey. There is a strict swimming order, with “adolescent” whales first, followed by females with their calves, and older whales at the rear. No one really knows how whales know where to go to but they obviously have a direction finding technique that enables them to return to the same place year after year.
A little Whale Watch History – How it All Started
Brian, Jill and their three-month-old daughter Sarah had no idea that whales would become their livelihood when they came to the little fishing village of Hervey Bay in 1986. Looking for a business opportunity and a more relaxed lifestyle to their previous occupation in construction, the young family bought a charter-fishing vessel.
Then, on 25th August 1987, Brian decided to head for calmer waters in Hervey Bay around Wathumba creek in the lea of Fraser Island. As the vessel Tasman pulled up a mile or so off the creek what was thought to be a large log was noticed drifting a few hundred metres away. Another log was noticed in another direction but this one seemed to be moving.
Taking the Tasman in for a closer look it was soon realised that they were watching whales not logs and the same length as the 12 metre Tasman Venture. While not sure what type of whales they were watching, Brian could sense that the whales were very approachable and even seemed interested in the boat. The other thing he noticed was that all of his 12 passengers and the other crewmembers all seemed awestruck at what they were experiencing. Even after spending an hour with the whales and then steaming away the feeling on the boat was something that Brian had never felt before.
All the way home Brian had this feeling that people may be interested in seeing these whales. Arriving home he told his wife, Jill about the experience and the idea about a “whale watching trip”. “Don’t be silly” was the prompt reply “who would want to see whales”? Sticking to his guns Brian asked to have a whale watching ad put in the Hervey Bay local paper. Whale Watching in Hervey Bay was born!
Afternoon: Explore Hervey Bay with Electric Bikes from The Friendly Hostel
The whale watch tour runs until noon. Once we are dropped off at The Friendly Hostel, we quickly get our electric bikes ($20 for 5 hours) and take them for a trial run down the road to Maddigan’ Fish n Chips shop for lunch. Next door is a fabulous gelateria, where we go for icecream-desert and a combination of coffee, coconut and hazelnut flavours. Delicious.
Then it’s just cruising along the 14 kilometer coastline of Hervey Bay, all the way to the Pier (where a giant Pelican dozes in the sun), and further onwards to the Marina. Like most times of the year, it’s bright blue skies and sunny in Hervey Bay.
Thanks to the electric power, we manage to pedal all the way to the other end of the bay and back to Friendly Hostel by nightfall. After such a busy day, the Oriental Palace’s Chinese restaurant was a yummy dinner, the perfect way to finish a full day in Hervey Bay.
Where to stay: Hervey Bay offers accommodation for all purposes and wallets (view all on Booking.com). We chose the Friendly Hostel for its location near the Scarness shops and restaurants, its good reviews and electric bikes of course. Check availability and rates.
How to get there by bus: Greyhound bus leaves Brisbane at Roma Street Station and drops you at the Hervey Bay Transport Centre, which is a bit out of town, but most hostels offer courtesy pick-ups (let the accommodation know you’ll need a ride beforehand).
Going North? Visit your next Green City Destination CAIRNS (coming soon)
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