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Hervey Bay: Have a whale of a time!

Fat Mum Slim /

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.

@Fatmumslim