Whale watching Surfers Paradise tours – Whales In Paradise review
An amazing Surfers Paradise family activity, Whales in Paradise whale-watching tours are 3 hours of non-stop fun and amazement for both adults and children…
Although we’ve visited the Gold Coast numerous times over the years, we had never been on a whale sight-seeing cruise. We had whale-spotted from the balconies of our different Surfers Paradise hotels, and even though they were so far away, just a glimpse of a whale was cause for excitement – I began to wonder what it would be like if we could actually see one close-up. So when we had the chance to be guests with Whales in Paradise, we jumped at the chance!
Whales in Paradise offer 5 whale tours daily, so fitting the best-timed tour in with your busy holiday schedule is easy. They also have the an advantage over other tour companies, in that they actually leave from Surfers Paradise – so you can just walk on down to the end of Cavill Avenue, where many of the large hotels are located, and you’re at the boat. It took us only five minutes to walk from Soul, near the famous Surfers Paradise beach sign, to the Whales in Paradise boat departure point.
The Whales in Paradise tours feature beautiful, large, modern vessels. When we arrived, all we had to do was check-in at the office and hop on board. This boat was really big, but it didn’t seem crowded at all – numbers are purposely kept small. This is great, because less people on board a large boat means lots of room to move about, and you aren’t jostling for viewing points when there are exciting things to look at – such as whales, dolphins, or even turtles.
After having a quick look around, we settled ourselves down inside the large main cabin. There was plenty of comfy padded seating and lounges next to enormous viewing windows. These had clear covers which could be zipped up in inclement weather. Two marine toilets were located off the main cabin, too. In the centre of the cabin was a staffed tea, coffee and snack station, and passengers were invited to grab a cup of complimentary tea or coffee before departure. This was exactly what I needed after a busy morning with the kids, and got a cuppa for myself and some free bickies for the kids. Everyone was happy!
A crew member circulated with the offer of $2 sea sickness prevention pills. Never motion sick in my life, I decided to get some just to be sure – I didn’t want this cruise to be memorable for the wrong reasons! The kids, as expected, declined any pills – they were veterans of many boat trips and cruises by now, and not as overly-cautious as their mother! I was impressed that this whale tour company were diligent in ensuring their passengers had a great trip – from start to finish.
In the main cabin there was plenty of comfy padded seating and lounges next to enormous viewing windows. These had clear covers which could be zipped up in inclement weather. Two marine toilets were located off the main cabin, too.
The passengers were scattered all about the boat. They were a mixture of international and Australian tourists and holiday-makers – several of them families with children.
There were three large viewing areas on board – and as it happened, we ended up using all three of them during the cruise to try them out – each was as equally good as the others, and gave easy access to both sides of the boat.
Upstairs, some passengers chose to sit on the top deck for 360°views, and the sea breeze in their hair. Others sat along the comfy padded seat on the front section of the ship – otherwise known as the bow. In the main cabin, families chatted as the kids sprawled about on the lounges. Little children weren’t allowed on the bow during whale watching , as a safety measure – they could access all other areas.
Safety was clearly a high priority on board, with staff located all around the boat to ensure passengers comfort and safety. As we set-off, the captain gave a safety talk, with crew members helping to demonstrate life jackets – much as they do in aircraft. It was comforting to know that they were scrupulous about operating safely.
One of the extra bonuses with cruising with Whales in Paradise is that on your way to the Australian Whale Sanctuary, where the whales are found, you also get a Nerang River waterways tour.
We cruised past the sky-scrapers of Surfers Paradise towering over genteel canals lined with the residences of the ultra-rich – massive private yachts parked in front of them. Our entertaining captain chatted away with a commentary about which rich celebrity owned which amazing home – and who had divorced and sold-up – it was all fascinating stuff!
Eventually we made our way out to the open sea. The bow was closed for safety and everyone found a seat as the pace picked up, and we were speeding along on the open ocean. The children squealed with delight as the wind whipped their hair and the sea-spray sprinkled their outstretched faces – they were loving this nautical adventure!
Play our Youtube clip below to see a short video of the boat speeding out to sea below!
Soon we felt the boat slow down – the captain announced that he had spotted some whales! Everyone became excited as they craned their necks – where? Where?! There they are! People couldn’t help crying out in excitement – “I can see WHALES – there they are!”. We just couldn’t believe our eyes.
The first pod (that means group, in case you don’t know – we’ve received a whole whale-education now!) of Humpback Whales we saw were flapping their pectoral fins up and down. The thrilled children decided that the whales were waving to them, and waved back – it was such a beautiful, innocent moment.
After this first sighting, it was whales, whales everywhere! Near the boat, around the boat – even off in the distance, breaching and tail-slapping. The whales curved shiny black backs flashed in and out of the water. To be there, so close to them was an indescribable thrill.
With each whale flip, splash and roll, everyone on board alternately chorused ooh! and ahh! With each new pod sighting came squeals and shouts. We were the perfect captive audience for these rather curious Humpback Whales. The captain encouraged us to call out to them, as he said they could hear us – there was little chance of anyone keeping quiet!
The very experienced captain could often predict exactly where the whales would surface. Sometimes the boat would move to a new position to track a pod – within a respectable distance of course – or seek a new pod out.
We were taught many whale facts along the way, and learned how to spot a whale’s “footprint” – a smooth, oily looking circle of water. All the crew were only too happy to answer questions anyone had.
The really great thing about the Whales in Paradise cruisers is that because they are purpose built for whale watching, the whale-viewing options are endless. You can cross from one side of the boat to the other at will, and even be down with the whales at water-level in the main cabin. This is another unique feature.
Often the tables would turn, and the whales would seek US out, swimming beneath the boat and emerging right beneath us with a flash of aqua, to cries of disbelief – they were so close, it felt like we could reach out and touch them! There was no doubt that everyone was having a wonderful time – people kept exclaiming things like, “I can’t believe I’m seeing this!” and “This is just incredible!”, with all around agreeing whole-heartedly.
Play the YouTube below to see a short video of some of the whale-action!
I loved how we could really relax as the boat meandered around the whale pods – we had so much time to enjoy watching them swim and play, slapping their tails and jumping about, I didn’t feel that we were rushed at all. The whole cruise went for over three hours, which is the longest Gold Coast whale cruise there is. This is extra time you get to spend whale-spotting!
When the captain did finally announce that it was time to turn for home, we all groaned – nobody wanted to leave these gentle, majestic giants of the deep. But home we headed, everyone settling back to chat about the wonders they had seen as the boat powered along.
We had one quick surprise stop on the way back, to view a whale cow and her calf swimming along! The boat set off again and we entered back into the Broadwater. Now we had slowed to a smoother cruising speed it was time for another coffee or tea before arriving back in Surfers Paradise.
As we cruised along the return waterways, I pondered the fact that Whales in Paradise offer a free return cruise guarantee if no whales are sighted – it surely must be a rarity not to spot a whale with them – on our tour, I think we must have seen around thirty whales near the boat, and many more at a distance.
A professional photo had been taken of our family when we first boarded the boat, and now was the time to view and purchase them if we wished, which we did. It would remind us of our wonderful day whale-watching with Whales in Paradise.
If you do get the chance to book a Whales in Paradise tour for yourself, don’t hesitate – it’s a spectacular family adventure to remember and share memories of for a lifetime.
Let’s Go Info!
Whales in Paradise
Child $69 (3-14yrs inclusive)
Family of 4 $267 (2 adults,2 children)
Sightseeing Cruises Terminal (Tiki Village), which is the river end of Cavill Ave, Surfers Paradise.
How to get there
By tram: Tram stop Cavill Avenue and walk 100 metres
By car: Parking is available at Bruce Bishop Car Park – Beach Rd.
Daily tour times
Tours depart at 7:30am (returns at 10:45am), 9:00am (returns at 12:15pm), 11:00am (returns at 2:15pm), 1:00pm (returns at 4:15pm), 2:30pm (returns at 5:45pm)
Be sure to arrive 20 minutes early for check-in.
All prices are accurate for August 2016
We reviewed this tour as guests of Whales in Paradise
Have you ever been, or do you plan to take the family on a whale watching tour? Comment below!