My whale watching experience in Gold Coast, Australia

February 24, 2017

by Fiona Mai

Whale watching was one of the most memorable experiences I had during my 5-month stay in Australia in spring 2014. As an exchange student at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, I certainly could not wait until the summer to book a whale watching cruise! So when a Travelzoo deal to do whale watching with Spirit of Gold Coast came to my attention in early March, I hurriedly booked a slot and later convinced 3 of my friends to join as well. Here’s a recap of the amazing experiences I had when travelling from Brisbane to Gold Coast for whale watching!

Arriving in Gold Coast

We boarded the train from Brisbane to Gold Coast one day before the whale watching cruise, as the trip started quite early the next morning. Since Spirit of Gold Coast’s whale watching cruise departed from Mariners Cove Marina, we decided to book a 4-bed dorm room at Surfers Paradise YHA hostel which was conveniently situated nearby. Our YHA room was very comfortable with a nice view over the harbour. Its location was superb, as it allowed us to not only access the cruise easily the next day but also catch a quick bus to Surfers Paradise conveniently.

Hanging around Surfers Paradise

In the afternoon, we took a 30-minute bus to the centre of Surfers Paradise. The area was obviously a tourist hub with lots of shops, restaurants, landmarks and recreation centres. Everything was so expensive to our student budget, but the cheerful atmosphere somehow encouraged us to just spend a bit more on an iced cold drink or a yummy ice-cream cone. From afar we could already saw the famous Surfers Paradise beach. The beach was beautiful with white sand, clear water and was surrounded with scenic urban landscape. We saw several posters advertising the beachfront markets, which seemed to be one of the main attractions in Surfers Paradise. However, as the market is opened only on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evenings, we did not have a chance to see how great it was. If I can come back to Surfers Paradise someday, I will definitely keep in mind the opening time of these beachfront markets so as not to miss them again.

Another touristy thing to do in Surfers Paradise is climbing the SkyPoint Observation Deck. I was initially reluctant to visit this landmark due to the exorbitant entrance fee. However, after getting to the top floor and seeing how beautiful the view from there was, I never regretted having paid that much to be there. SkyPoint Observation Deck gave us a 360-degree view of Surfers Paradise and its gorgeous beaches right when the sun set. I probably cannot describe fully in words how great the experience was, but I assure you once you have been here, you will also find this view of Surfers Paradise at sunset mesmerising!


Amazing sunset view of Surfers Paradise from SkyPoint Observation Deck

View of Surfers Paradise beach from SkyPoint Observation Deck

View of Surfers Paradise beach from SkyPoint Observation Deck

Later in the evening, we came back to the hostel and then went out for dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf Tavern – a seafood restaurant nearby. Situated right beside the Mariners Cove Marina with a great night view, the restaurant was crowded with tourists but served food faster than we had expected. We all ordered the famous fish and chips there, which were surprisingly not expensive at all. The portion was so big that we came back to our rooms feeling like we’d swallowed a whole whale. Yes, we kept thinking about the whales the entire night.

Boarding the whale-watching cruise

And so our long-awaited whale-watching cruise finally arrived the next day. Although I was a tad worried that we might not be able to see any whale, the friendly cruise’s manager on that day assured us of the high probability of seeing whales due to good weather and sea condition. The whale-watching boat was huge with two floors full of tourists. Therefore, if you also plan to do a whale-watching cruise with Spirit of Gold Coast, my advice is to move outside onto the deck after around 40 minutes since the boat starts sailing. If you are not fast enough, people will take up all places outdoor and you won’t be able to have a good view of the whales.

It was a sunny day and the ocean looked totally gorgeous. For the first hour of the cruise, we kept watching closely at the sea to try to spot sights of the whales. There was nothing else to do on board except from drinking tea and eating cookies, which were also included in the cruise’s price. The cruise’s manager was very eager to tell us more information through the speakers on board about different types of whales and their characteristics. People going on whale watching cruises seemed to be most eager to spot the Migaloo – the white humpback whale. However, this type of whale is quite rarely seen. I heard that Spirit of Gold Coast cruises had spotted the Migaloo a couple of times in the past, so I kept my fingers crossed. Along the way, we sometimes also caught sight of turtles and various types of birds as well.

View of Gold Coast sea from our whale watching boat

View of Gold Coast sea from our whale watching boat

Suddenly, somebody saw something moving underwater and screamed out loud. All the tourists who were sitting inside flocked to the deck. I could not believe my eyes to see not only one but two whales swimming together side by side. Luckily I got for myself a great spot on the deck to take photos of these amazing whales. Ten minutes later, another school of whales appeared. Although they did not fully arise from the water, it was enough for me to see them moving alongside our boat. Everyone was excitingly laughing and taking photos in awe. Such a wonderful experience that I will never forget!

Whale watching with Spirit of Gold Coast

Whale watching with Spirit of Gold Coast

Whale watching at a close distance

Whale watching at a close distance

Saying goodbye!

Now that I’ve left Australia for 3 years already, thinking about the whale watching experience still makes me excited! If you have the chance to visit Gold Coast, I highly recommend booking a whale watching cruise, especially with the Spirit of Gold Coast company. The whale watching season lasts from June until November, so make sure you arrange your time well beforehand. I’m sure once you’ve stood on board and spotted the first whale arising beside your boat, the excitement and wonder you feel will be forever etched in your memory.

Fiona Mai

By Fiona Mai

Freelance writer with a customised approach to writing


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