Hervey Bay: Have a whale of a time!

Last Friday we packed a bag, jumped in the car {puppy included} and headed 5 hours up the coast to Hervey Bay – home of Australia’s best whale watching. First stop was dropping Bronte at a puppy resort for two nights. There were tears.

Is it weird that right next door to the resort there’s a pet cemetery? Yes?

We’ve never been to Hervey Bay before, but the beauty of living so close the Queensland border is that we now have access to a whole new array of places to road trip to. And the family that road trips together, stays together. Road tripping for the win.

Stay with me while I go on a tangent here. I’ve only just come to have a ‘thing’ for traveling. I always enjoyed visiting new places, but I never really had a hunger for it. I think it all happened when I went to Disney World last year. I had no expectations, knew not a lot about Disney World and when I got there I was a converted. I would still try and sell that place to Minnie Mouse, I love it so much.

I was excited about seeing the whales at Hervey Bay, but I didn’t really know how I’d feel. At our place in Bondi {Sydney} we’d often see whales swimming past, way out at sea, from our small balcony. Hubby would call me out to see one, and I’d sometimes see water moving but I never really saw a whale. Don’t tell him that though.

On Saturday morning we opted for the dawn patrol cruise and headed out at 7am. Our boat of choice was That’s Awesome which is the first boat to head out each morning {so you get all the whales to yourself} and it’s also the fastest whale watching boat in Australia.

As we cruised out to sea everyone was eager to spot whales. People would be craning their necks, as the boat sped out. We spotted dolphins first and kept whizzing by. Someone spotted the first whale. It was way out, but we could see it spurting water out and we all got excited. At this stage no one really knew what’s to come, and spotting a whale is exciting enough. And then we got closer.

Little did we know that the whales would be giving us a show. They’re such graceful creatures, filled with such personality.

They came in twos, and threes and sometimes fours. It felt so peaceful to be privvy to such beauty. The weather was foggy, but it started to clear as the sun came up.

{She was in awe}

As the driver {skipper?} shut down the motors, the host Gabby stood at the side of the boat and started waving to the whales. I kinda smirked. Waving to the whales? Really. Really! They like it. They also like when you whistle or clap. So we clapped, waved and whistled and the whale made it’s way over.

We saw a bundle of whales that morning. Some were cheekier than others. One in particular would lie on his side just watching us. Others would swim under the boat and around us, playing with us. I loved that we were just floating, allowing them to come to us, rather than pushing ourselves onto them. I wanted it to be respectful and natural, and it was.

{Oh happy day!}

The most playful of the whales would come by and stick his head up, and give a little wave. They’re such massive creatures. This photo just doesn’t do the moment justice. There was 14 of us on the boat that morning, and one was a local lady who worked in the tourist centre at Hervey Bay {advising people of where they should visit and so forth}. She hadn’t been whale watching for 20 years, and her kids had never been. She constantly gasped, “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!” I love that she’d probably been advising people to come and see the whales for years, and not really remembered how amazing they were. And then she saw it for herself. Life is good.

As our time at sea was almost up, one whale wanted his other whale-friend’s attention. So he continually slapped the water, over and over again. Eventually another pod of whales joined him and they had a play together. Isn’t that cool? Just like us texting a friend and asking them to come over for tea and cookies. Kinda.

The ocean and whale-playground was no longer our own as another boat started to head out, so it was time for us to head in.

Here’s a guide of things to do, stay, eat and see in Hervey Bay:

DO:

Whale watching: There are plenty of whale-watching cruises to pick from. When I went to Tropical Queensland in June I went on a reef sprinter boat that got us to the reef in a speedy fashion so we could get in, snorkel and get back home. That’s Awesome is the same. It’s super fast so that you’re out to the whales in under half an hour and into the action. It’s also a small boat so you make friends with everyone on board and you can move around easily to see the whales. Plus whales like red best. Note: You will find yourself saying ‘That’s Awesome!’ a lot for some reason. Oh, and pack a jacket for the ride out. It’s chilly because the boat goes so fast.

I asked the lady who gave us our ticket, before I got on the boat, if there was a chance we’d see no whales at all. “Only if you close your eyes the whole time!” she replied. Silly me. Find out more about That’s Awesome here.

Aquavue Water Sports: After the whale watching cruise was over we headed out to the beach for some kayaking. They have a whole heap of activities to choose from: jet-skis, stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, 4-person bikes and more. I was expecting the water to be too cold for comfort, but it was perfect. We life-vested it up and went for a paddle. It was great fun. Find out more about Aquavue on their website.

STAY:

We stayed at the Mantra, which is right in the action. It’s located right on the marina at Hervey Bay so not only do you get views of the boats from your balcony, but you’re just metres away from whichever cruise you pick, and eateries too. Our room was a two-bedroom self-contained apartment with lounge-room, kitchen, laundry, dining room and a balcony with table and chairs too. So if you wanted to stay for a week and stock the fridge and pantry with food {and wine}, you could definitely do that. It had a heated pool on the edge of the marina too. I actually went for a swim. In winter. I don’t know what came over me. But it was beautiful.

We’ve stayed at the Mantra before {not in Hervey Bay, but in Kingscliff} and if you check out their site and look for Pat’s Mates Rates they sometimes have really good deals. We picked up a good deal in March this year, so hopefully you can do the same. Visit the Mantra website here.

EAT:

Cafe Balaena: On our first night into Hervey Bay we were meant to go on a sunset cruise, but the boat was broken so we needed to find a place to eat dinner. We could see this cafe from our balcony, and after driving 5 hours it seemed like an easy option. Thankfully it turned out to be a delicious option too. Hubby opted for the marinara spaghetti and I had the steak with calamari, Lacey had the kids fish and chips. We also ate breakfast there on Saturday and Sunday. I would happily recommend it to anyone. It’s right on the marina, so you have views as you eat – and you can jump on your boat after eating. Plus it’s always filled with people, all day – which always gives me confidence when picking a place to eat. See the menu here.

Aquavue Cafe: Located at the same place as the water sports is a cafe, so you can eat and drink before or after your adventures. We had lunch and then hit the beach. They boast the best coffee in Hervey Bay {I don’t drink it, so someone else will have to test it for me one day} and has won awards for best eatery a few years in a row. The location was my favourite part, right on the beach. See the menu here.

Coast: Hubby updated his Facebook status when we got back to our room after dinner: “I have never posted about food on here but this was just so freaking good. Pork Collar at Coast in Hervey Bay. If you ever go to Coast get the Pork Collar.” I told him that ‘Pork Collar’ doesn’t need capitals, but he argued that it was a REALLY important meal and it deserved them. No argument there.

I’ve eaten at some pretty fancy fine-dining places in Sydney {as a nanny my boss would give me generous vouchers to eat at them for birthdays and Christmas}, and this is totally up there among them. It looks brand new, but I didn’t have time to ask just how old it was, I was too busy eating oysters, dumplings, scallops and that beloved Pork Collar. As we ate the couple next to us took photos of their food. Both of them. On separate cameras. It’s that good, that you want to write home to mum about it. The Pork Collar has been listed at the top 10 winter meals in Australia by the Good Food guide. All meals are made for sharing, placed in the centre of the table. Which is a win, so you get to try a bit of everything. They also have kids meals available. Find out more about Coast here.

Ice-creamery: I don’t know the exact address of this one, but if you drive along The Esplanade you are sure to find it. It’s just up from the Aquavue Cafe. The caramel ice cream is to die for. It’s 7am and I could go some right now. Don’t tell anyone.

SEE:

I’m sure there are dozens of things that we didn’t see that we should have – but as you explore around Hervey Bay check out the shark museum. We didn’t go in, but even just driving by is pretty cool. We also spotted the pier which is almost 1km long. We didn’t walk the whole length {we had to head home} so if anyone knows what’s at the end, we’d love to be privvy to the details! And on the outskirts of the marina you can pay $1 to drive out on the rockwall and check out the view.

If you’re staying more than a day I would have loved to explore Fraser Island. That’s still on my to-do list.

This was a brilliant trip, with the highlight being the caramel ice cream. I’m kidding, it was the Pork Collar. No, in all seriousness it was the whales. Watching them swim around us, so gracefully, at such a huge size and making noises in the water was a once in a lifetime experience. Do it.

My family and I were invited to Hervey Bay as guests of Tourism Queensland. Thank you to the Mantra, Coast, Aquavue and That’s Awesome for their hospitality and having us.

Comments

  1. Sarah says

    Great photos. It reminds me of my whale watching experience in Kaikoura, NZ. I thought seeing that first whale was amazing but to then be surrounded by them was just breath taking. They truly are he most graceful of creatures, especially given their size.

  2. Audrey Cuthill says

    I think I might have been on a whale-watching tour the same time you were! Mine was up in Alaska, however, and our whales weren’t as playful as yours seemed. It really is a breathtaking moment when you see them!

  3. Amy Rea says

    The aquarium at Hervey Bay is pretty cool too. It is only small so big city folk might be disappointed, but you can feed the turtles and the kids just love it!

  4. dana says

    When I see whales in the wild it literally moves me to tears…they are so agile and graceful and lovely!
    Also, your daughter is a doll!

  5. rowe timson says

    oh it looks so fun! danny is desperate to go to fraiser island too so we should do that together… soon… before bali!

  6. Mandy Mason says

    I went on one of the whale watching cruises in Hervey Bay 2 years ago. It was, hands down one of the best experiences of my life. We saw at least 30 different whales and they came right up to the boat, brilliant experience!

  7. Talia Sleaford says

    My family spent a year livind at Hervey Bay, sadly we were some of the locals who didnt see the whales :( However I want to recommend to everyone the best fish and chips are from Madigans on the esplanade, the family packs are amazing value and its all locally caught. By the way if you make it to the end of the pier you will find alot of fishermen!

  8. Jessica Flett says

    You are so lucky to have been whale watching. We went in Hawaii a while back and it was the most awesome morning. The photos you captured of the whales are AWESOME. Hervey Bay was the very first place my parents took me on a family holiday (over 30 years ago) Good on Tourism Queensland for showing you a good time. Jx

  9. says

    What a great day.
    We live about 3 hours away from Hervey Bay and have only done the Whale Watching once. We saw heaps of dingos on Fraser and Dolphins in the waters but the best part was when a ‘little’ baby whale came right up to the boat to below exactly where I was standing – and I didn’t have my camera!!! Family had the camera madly photographing the rest of the pod a little distance away – but I can still visualise this tiny whale. We ALSO stayed at Mantra and walked to the boat/yacht? club each night for dinner.
    We do go to Fraser Island at least once a Year and love it – you really have to do it. I’ll come with you and show you around! :-)

  10. says

    we went walking down that pier on our prolonged honeymoon weekend in Hervey Bay… whale season was just over and that was a bit of a shame, so we did not go on a tour but we still had a lovely time (uhm, without children, if you know what i mean..) as for what was at the end of the pier.. yeah don’t really remember, just people fishing I think ! =D
    it’s not all that far from where we are, so maybe we’ll just have to return, I totally envy you the experience ! x

  11. Jenn Owen says

    We went on a whale watch a couple of weeks ago in Gloucester, Massachusetts, USA. It was an incredible experience!

  12. says

    Sounds like you had an AMAZING trip — whale watching is definitely on my bucket list! My auntie and uncle live in MacKay Queensland and we visited them in 1983. I still remember taking a boat out to Whitsunday Island and we even took a plane ride out to the Great Barrier Reef where we snorkled and created lasting memories! Now that I am married and have a daughter, I would love to take them there and rediscover everything along the east coast (we went from MacKay down the coast to Sydney . . . we had an 8 hour layover in Sydney and did the site seeing thing — still remember the men playing chess in Hyde Park). Oh, you have a beautiful country. Canada is amazing too, but different. Can’t wait to get back to Oz! Thanks for sharing your experience :D

  13. says

    I’ve visited Hervey Bay as a child, but I don’t remember much about it. I’d love to go again after reading your post. I do remember going over to Fraser Island and swimming in a lake between some sand dunes that was so warm, it was like hopping in to a bath!

    P.S. I love Lacey’s little sunglasses – so bright and cheery! I want some in adult sizes!

  14. Michelle Bradshaw says

    We lived in Hervey Bay for 6 years and really enjoyed it. Whale watching is one of my favourite things and I will definitely be taking my son back in a couple of years when he’s old enough to enjoy it.
    The end of the pier is just the end of the pier, but walking along it and chatting to people fishing is great fun. And when you look down in the water you can see fish! I come from Victoria originally and that doesn’t happen down there!!!
    Coast and Cafe Balaena are two of our favourite eateries!!! Julia started Coast a year or so ago and it was SO nice to finally have a fine dining option, but one that also felt casual and relaxed. Their lamb is also to die for!!! SO delicious, melt-in-your-mouth… gotta stop or I’ll salivate all over my keyboard :-o
    Fraser Island is definitely worth a visit, and if you can stay for a few days to really relax and soak up the place, you’ll be a lucky person! My favourite place on the Island is Central Station, with its massive trees and beautiful rainforest walks.

  15. Sammi says

    What an amazing trip. The boat name is perfect. My feeling exactly after seeing your photos and reading all about your fabulous time. That’s Amazing. Thank you so much for sharing.

  16. says

    Too bad you didn’t get a little more sunshine but what an amazing experience. Next time though, if you don’t stop, I will just show up on your doorstep. The interwebs are creepy like that. :P

    And Fraser Island, we spend a lot of time camping across the water at Inskip Point. It’s gorgeous. MUST SEE. It’s ahhhhmazing.

  17. Sally says

    What a timely post. We are heading to HB for a week long stay to attend a wedding this weekend. It was supposed to be a big family reunion but as my Gran is sick she wont be coming and neither will my Mum. I am so sad about it and had been dreading going. At least now I can plan some fun things to do with my kids. I had dreamed of them having a glorious week with their grandparents… it is not to be. I hope the whales lift my spirits.

  18. says

    I’m excited! To be honest, I’ve wouldn’t thought of ever going to Hervey Bay but after reading your post, I think I’m going to enjoy it (especially my husband eating out).

    My parents moved up to Hervey Bay only last weekend from the Goldie and I was disappointed they moved more north than south to be closer to us in Sydney. Now when I visit them in Christmas time, I will look forward to our trip.

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