Whale Watching Cruises - How To Choose

Gold Coast Whale Watching Cruises and Deals Compared

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Photos of whale watching.

Whale watching tours on the Gold Coast.
2017 Season Details

Gold Coast Whale Watching Season is OPEN

Whale Watching season is now OPEN For Bookings on Gold Coast.

Whale watching tours have started up again for the 2017 Whale Watching Season. The season is open until end of October 2017.

Ready To Get Started? Travel Planning Guide & Sheets

Whale Watching Cruises On Gold Coast

If you are looking for a quick reference and just want to do whale watching, then at the bottom of this page you will find a selection of Gold Coast whale watch cruise operators in a table where you can compare them side by side.

If you aren't sure how to choose, or you are interested in some of the combination deals, stay with me! I'll guide you through the answers to the following questions, as well as a run down of what each of our selected whale watching options are good for:

  • Who has the biggest whale watching boat on Gold Coast?
  • I'm staying in Broadbeach, which Whale Watch to choose?
  • Will I get sea sick, and if I do what is the best option?
  • Best whale watching boats for seeing the whales up close?
  • Who is the best value?
  • Can I take my kids on board?
  • Which cruises have wheelchair access?

So let's go through our favourite selections one by one.



Whale Watching Resources
For Gold Coast

Pros and Cons of Sea World Whale Watch

Sea World Whale Cruise Terminal

Where The Magic Starts!
The Cruise Terminal.

Sea World's Whale cruises are the most popular of the whale watching cruises on Gold Coast.

Taking out upto 125 passengers daily in the morning & afternoon (June through to early November). May & November cruises generally are cheaper but don't have the whale sighting guarantee.

This is a popular choice, most people have heard of Sea World and feel comfortable that this cruise will be good quality, reliable and have credible whale and marine commentary.

And this is exactly what you get.

In addition, their boat is a large cataman style for stability that has been custom built for whale watching.

There's lots of technology on board to help you get a very full experience, along with their marine biologist staff.

There's plenty of shelter inside if the weather is not so good or cold, and several viewing platforms.

Sea World Combo TIP

To get most value from a Sea World Whale Watch & Sea World Entry Combo take the Whale Watch Cruise on one day, and plan a full day at Sea World on either the day before your whale watch, or within two days after your whale watch. If you do both Sea World & the whale watch on the same day you only get half a day (maybe 4 hours) at Sea World, which isn't enough time in my opinion.

Their Terms & Conditions state you have to do Sea World Entry on the day before, the day of your Whale Watch or up to 2 days after. Best to get a FULL day at Sea World so I recommend either the day before or one of the two days after.

If you choose to drive yourself, there is free parking in the Sea World car park. For the morning cruise, you will usually have no problems with finding a spot. For the afternoon cruise, the car park is usually pretty full with all the Sea World theme park guests.

Children under 3 years are not permitted on Sea World Whale Watching. They also have the ability to take wheelchair passengers, but you'll need to contact them directly regarding this option as they only have room for 2 wheelchairs per cruise.

One of the other reasons this is the most popular cruise, is that there is also the option to make big savings when combining with Sea World entry. You will see these savings below.

Options for Sea World Whale Watching & Combination Deals including Sea World Entry

As with all whale watching I recommend scheduling your cruise early in your stay, just in case it has to be rescheduled due to poor weather. I also suggest you do the whale watch first and then plan a full day at Sea World the next day to get full value out of your combination ticket.

  • Sea World and Sea World Whale Watch Special Deal

    Sea World + Whales
    POPULAR OPTION

    This deal is ALWAYS POPULAR because it offers fantastic value if you want to visit Sea World theme park and go on a whale watching cruise.

    There are some special terms regarding the Sea World visit, so make sure to click more info and read on...

    Sea World Whale Watch
    & Sea World Entry Combo
    Great Value for Visitors

    Adult
    $178.00 $110.00
    Child (3-13)
    $141.00   $90.00
    Family (2A 2C)
    $561.00 $350.00


     

    Sea World Whale Watch & Sea World Entry Combo

    Sea World Whale Watch Season Options

    Sea World Whale Watching Cruise
    PLUS Entry to Sea World Gold Coast theme park*

    This popular deal is particularly good if you only want to visit Sea World (and not Movie World).

    If you want to visit both these theme parks, there may be better options for you by getting a combination theme park pass, and then looking at either just the Sea World Whale Watching or else choosing one of the other great value Whale Watching options.

    Sea World Whale Watch is a popular option, because it is easily recognisable, it has a large boat and is backed by the professionalism of Sea World.

    * This deal requires you to be quite organised with your holiday itinerary because of the terms surrounding the Sea World Entry. You have to pick up your Sea World Entry ticket at the cruise terminal AND may only use it on the day before your cruise, the day of your cruise or up to 2 days immediately following your cruise.

    Sea World Whale Watch Cruises are now available in the morning from 10am to 12.30pm or afternoon from 2pm to 4pm.

    In order to get the most value out of this amazing combination deal, I recommend you book your Sea World Whale Watch cruise early in your holiday and plan to go to Sea World theme park either the day before your cruise or on one of the two days the following your cruise. This allows you to have a full day at Sea World.

    However, if you have a short holiday and not much time, you can do the morning cruise and then have the afternoon from 12.30pm through to 5pm at Sea World. Or go to the theme park in the morning and then go on the cruise at 2pm.

    You will need to arrange transfers to get to the Sea World Cruise Terminal - which is in the car park of Sea World. You can use the standard Sea World theme park transfer for the morning cruise.

    This season there are two cruises daily. The morning cruise departs around 10am returning around 12.30pm. The afternoon cruise departs around 2pm returning around 4.30pm. All cruises are dependent upon weather conditions, which is why I always recommend you plan your itinerary for your holiday beforehand and book in your cruise early in the vacation, in case it has to be rescheduled. It would be terrible to miss out on seeing the whales.

    Sea World offers the following guarantee: 'Guaranteed sightings or full refund will be provided except during the months of May and November'

    Sea World + Whale Watching Cruise
    Adult $110
    Was
    $178 SAVE $68 per adult

    Child (3-13 years) $90
    Was
    $141 SAVE $51 per child

    Family (2 Adults + 2 Children) $350
    Was
    $561 SAVE $211 per family

    Sea World Whale Watch PLUS Sea World Entry

    More Sea World Options

    Sea World Whale Watching Cruise
    Adult $99
    Child (3-13 years) $79
    Family (2 Adults + 2 Children) $300


    Sea World Whale Watch

    Outstanding Value - no credit card or booking fees. Print your own vouchers. Mobile Vouchers Accepted.

Pros and Cons of Whale Watching From Surfers Paradise

Surfers Paradise Wharf

Wharf at Surfers Paradise behind Vibe Hotel

This season there's a choice of 4 cruises per day running with their two catamarans. They are the only full size boat whale watch cruises departing from the heart of Surfers Paradise.

The cruises depart:

  8.30am (boarding 8.10am)
  10.30am (boarding 10.10am)
  12.30pm (boarding 12.10am)
      2.30pm (boarding 2.10pm)

This offers even more options for visitors, especially the morning options which allows you to do another activity afterward.

If you are staying in the centre of Surfers it's best to walk to the jetty which is located behind Vibe Hotel near Appel Park.

On the downside, there isn't any free parking here. If you need to drive and park there is parking under Circle on Cavill or Chevron Renaissance, which are both within about 100m of the wharf.

Hotel transfers can be arranged at additional cost.

There are several things I like about this cruise, over and above them being the only large boat cruises to depart from Surfers and five tours daily. You also get a bonus canal cruise to check out some of the rather nice houses (and I believe a few celebrity gossip moments too) along the canals as you head out to the Broadwater and then out to see the whales.

Follow the sign for whale watching in Surfers Paradise.

Follow the sign to Whale Watching

This extra cruise time also gives you plenty of time for the seasickness tablets to kick in before you head out into the open water. And if you forget yours, they can sell you some on board.

The other really good thing about this boat, is that although the boats are smaller than the Sea World and Tall Ships boats, they have the advantage of having water level viewing decks. The smaller of the two only takes a maximum of 65 people whilst Kaiala (commissioned in 2015) takes up to 120 passengers. The boats have been modified to maximise whale watching experience with a custom water level viewing deck and a walk around deck.

If you feel that a smaller boat may not be as stable as a larger boat, you will find that these boats have a lower centre of gravity and so don't sway as much as the bigger boats.

The family package is a nice saving, making this quite affordable for all the family to enjoy. This cruise is not recommended for Children under 3 years of age.

If you are staying in Broadbeach, Mermaid Beach or Carrara, this is probably your closest whale watching cruise option.

Don't forget to plan your itinerary around doing you whale watching cruise early in your holiday in case it has to be rescheduled due to poor weather conditions.

# Prices can change without notice, prices on tour desk are correct, click through links for all up to date details.

  • Whale Watching From Surfers Paradise Great Season Opening Deal

    Surfers Paradise Whale Watching
    EASY ACCESS - GREAT VALUE

    These cruises go from the heart of Surfers Paradise, so you don't need transfers! Departs times per day - morning, midday and afternoon.

    BE QUICK. Click for more info or BOOK NOW...

    Surfers Paradise Whale Watching
    3½ hours inc. Canal Cruise
    Great Value & Options for Visitors

    Adult
    $99.00
    Child (0-14)
    $69.00
    Family (2A 2C)
    $267.00


     

    Surfers Paradise Whale Watch

    Whales in Paradise Cruising

    Surfers Paradise Whale Watching Cruises
    5 Cruises Per Day For Great Flexibility

    This is the only whale watching cruise that leaves from the centre of Surfers Paradise.

    If you are staying in Surfers, Broadbeach, Main Beach or even Southport, you can either walk (Surfers Paradise only) or take the new G:Link or a bus to this cruise. No need to use an attraction transfer for this one!

    If you need to drive, you can easily park across the road, under Circle on Cavill or Chevron Renaissance. Parking charges will apply.

    There are a couple of great advantages for this whale watch including the convenience of the departure location, a bonus canal cruise to see the houses of the rich and famous from the Gold Coast before you head out to see the whales and the flexibility to choose one of 5 daily cruises to see the whales.

    Cruises are just over 3 hours and depart at 7.30am, 9am, 11am, 1pm and 2.30pm daily. You need to be checked in at least 20 minutes before departure.

    This whale watching company offers the following guarantee: 'Guaranteed whale sightings or free return cruise.'

    All cruises are dependent upon weather conditions, which is why I always recommend you plan your itinerary for your holiday beforehand.

    Book your cruise before you arrive in Gold Coast and make sure it is early in the vacation.


    This is in case it has to be rescheduled due to weather conditions - it would be terrible to miss out on seeing the whales.

    BE QUICK. Click for more info or BOOK NOW

    Whale Watching from Surfers Paradise
    Adult $99
    Child (0-14 years) $69
    Family (2 Adults + 2 Children) $267

    BOOK NOW 

    Outstanding Value - no credit card or booking fees. Print your own or use mobile vouchers.

Pros and Cons of Whale Watching with Gold Coast Island Adventures (Tall Ship)

Tall Ship Whale Watch Options

This cruise claims to have the BIGGEST boat, and it certainly looks that way.

The cruise departs from the Mariner’s Cove, which is next to Marina Mirage in Main Beach. It’s on the road that goes up to Sea World and is about 5 to 10 minutes drive from Surfers Paradise and about 10 to 15 minutes from Broadbeach.

There is free parking at Mariner's Cove.

You can organise transfers with them on the day at an extra charge. However, if you are staying not too far away and there are a couple of you, then a taxi might be a cheaper option.

If your tour does not see a whale you will receive NOT receive refund. You will be offered a voucher to go out again, or be upgraded to the Full afternoon Island tour on that day.

Cruises can be cancelled due to bad weather. In this case you will be given the option to transfer to their calmwater sailing cruise to their island location at McLarens Landing on South Stradbroke Island.

Children are aged 4 to 14 years. Children Under 4 years are free. You may not bring your own food on board this cruise.

There's an option to create Full Day Itinerary including an Afternoon Adventure on South Stradbroke Island with Lunch. You have the whale watching cruise in the morning and on your return to Mariner's Cove you will be transferred over to McLaren’s Landing on South Stradbroke Island to enjoy lunch and activities on the island. There are some water sports and great wildlife as well as a pool table and beach volleyball.

This is not a luxury island retreat, and the water sports are quite primitive. I have read mixed reviews about this portion of the day. I went a few years ago and it was great, but I am not sure if the facilities have gone backwards, or there has been a change in the staff.

The whale watching cruises now generally recommend that infants under 3 years are not recommended to go whale watching, but most boats will allow you to take them on board. And I would suggest this cruise if you aren't so sure about going out on the water and want comfort in the size of the boat. Sea World Whale watch boat isn't much smaller, but has probably better comfort options.

These are just our main selections from the whale watching options available. Check out these and other options here.

  • 2016 Season Opening Deal for whale watching from Main Beach

    Main Beach Whale Watching
    Big Boat

    This is one of the biggest boats that go out whale watching on the Gold Coast.

    SHORT TIME ONLY ADULTS PRICES $69 BE QUICK - BOOK FOR ANY CRUISE IN 2016. Click for more info and read on...

    Main Beach Whale Watching

    Great Deal for Visitors

    Adult
    $99.00 $69.00
    Child (4-14)
    $69.00
    Family (2A+2C)
    $267.00

     

    Whale Watch at Main Beach

    Main Beach Whale Watch Options

    Whale Watching Cruise From Main Beach

    As with all whale watching deals I highly recommend booking in early to ensure you get the cruise dates you want.

    The operators of this cruise are professional, they've been around for as long as I have been in the Gold Coast! It's a big boat, which gives you quite a bit of comfort, especially if you are not so familiar with going on boats.

    This cruise leaves from Mariners Cove Marina, which is next door to Marina Mirage in Main Beach. If you require transfers, they can be organised directly with the tour operator after booking. Otherwise, you can catch a taxi from Surfers Paradise or use a public bus.

    Morning Cruises depart daily during the season around 9am returning by approximately 11.30am. Check-in by 8.30am.

    All cruises are dependent upon weather conditions, if they have to cancel they offer a full refund or the option to reschedule.

    I always recommend you plan your itinerary for your holiday beforehand. Book your cruise before you arrive in Gold Coast and make sure it is early in the vacation. That way you can reschedule rather than miss out on seeing the whales.

    They offer the following guarantee: 'If no whales are sighted, a free open dated Whale Watch voucher will be issued on return of cruise and/or upgraded to a full afternoon island tour that day, FREE of charge, as no refunds will be given.'

    Main Beach Whale Watching Cruise
    Adult $69 For limited time only was $99

    Child (4-14 years) $69

    Family (2A + 2Ch) $267

    BOOK NOW  

    Outstanding Value - no credit card or booking fees. Print your own or use mobile vouchers.

Pros and Cons of Whale Watching From Coolangatta

Cooly Whale watch promo

Feel really close to the whales

This whale watch cruise departs from just south of Coolangatta at South Tweed Heads. If you are staying in the southern part of the Gold Coast this may be your closest option.

They offer pick ups at additional cost, you pay more the further you are from Coolangatta. If you have a car with you or hire a car, you can easily drive yourself and there is parking near by to the boat jetty in South Tweed Heads.

Their boat, Whale Watcher, is a medium sized catamaran and they only take up to 46 passengers - probably the smallest number of passengers so you are likely to get more personalised service.

Once the boat has navigated out of Tweed River heads and into the open ocean they are able to start whale watching straight away. This probably makes them one of the fastest options to get out to see the whales.

This is a great choice for those staying in and around Coolangatta, Tweed Heads, Kirra, Tugun, Currumbin, Robina, Burleigh and other southern areas of the Gold Coast.

This cruise is not recommended for Children under 3 years of age, however, if you wish to bring an infant you will need to let them know - use the 'Booking Notes' section when booking online.

These are just our main selections from the whale watching options available. Check out these and all the whale watching cruises here.

  • Coolangatta Whale Watching
    LOW PRICES FOR ALL THE FAMILY

    This year the prices have changed. A low price for adults and children.

    Departing from just South of Coolangatta, a great choice for those with a car or staying nearby. Click for more info and read on...

    Coolangatta Whale Watching
    LOW PRICES for ALL the family.
    Great Deal for Locals & Visitors

    Adult
    JUST $70
    Child (3-14)
    JUST   $50
    Family (2A 2C)
    JUST $220


     

    Whale Watch From Coolangatta

    Cooly Whale watch promo

    Whale Watching Cruise From Coolangatta

    This year there have been some changes with pricing making it nice and simple. Adults (including pensioners) are now one low price and children too.

    This whale watch is a bit different from those from Main Beach and Surfers Paradise. It goes from just south of Coolangatta at Tweed Heads. It's a short trip out from the mouth of the Tweed River and you are able to start whale watching right away, if the whales are willing!

    They are pretty good at finding the whales, and have the option to head north towards the main part of Gold Coast, or further south down the NSW coast. There are a range of marine animals that you are likely to see too.

    This whale watch is probably a bit more intimate than the others, so is good for families and groups. Since they are the only cruise departing from Coolangatta, it's a good choice for those staying in the southern end of the Gold Coast, or visitors who hire a car and can easily make their way to the jetty.

    Morning Cruises depart daily during the season around 8.30am returning by approximately noon.

    All cruises are dependent upon weather conditions, if they have to cancel they offer a full refund or the option to reschedule.

    I always recommend you plan your itinerary for your holiday beforehand. Book your cruise before you arrive in Gold Coast and make sure it is early in the vacation. That way you can reschedule rather than miss out on seeing the whales.

    They offer the following guarantee: 'See whales or receive a FREE return ticket.'

    Coolangatta Whale Watching Cruise
    Adult $70

    Child (3-14 years) $50
    Family (2 Adults + 2 Children) $220


    BOOK NOW  

    Outstanding Value - no credit card or booking fees. Print your own or use mobile vouchers.

Gold Coast Whale Watching Cruises At A Glance

Name
Departure Location
Whale Watching Cruise Details
Approx Prices 2017 Season#
Boat Size
Tweed Heads

8.30am to 12pm

Adult
Children (3 -14 yrs)
Under 3s Not Recommended
Family (2A + 2C)
$70
$50


$220

15m Catamaran
46 Passengers
3 Viewing Decks

Click To Book

Sea World Main Beach

10am to 12.30pm

2pm to 4.30pm

Adult
Student/Pensioner
Children (3 -13 yrs)
Under 3s Not Recommended
Family (2A + 2Ch)

$99
$89
$79
N/A
$300

24m Catamaran
125 Passengers
3 Viewing Decks

Special Combo incl Sea World Entry also available.

Click To Book

Mariners Cove at Marina Mirage, Main Beach

9am to 11.30am

Adult
Children (4 to 14yrs)
Family (2A + 2Ch)

$99*
$69*
N/A

32m Catamaran
5 Viewing Decks

*TO BE CONFIRMED


Click To Book

Surfers Paradise
8.30am to 11.45am
10.30am to 1.45pm
12.30pm to 3.45pm
2.30pm to 5.45pm
Adult
Children ( 4 to 14 yrs)
Family (2A + 2Ch)

Under 3s Not Recommended
$99
$69
$267


15m Catamaran
65 Passengers
3 Viewing Decks


Click To Book

# Prices and times are approximate and are subject to change. I try to keep it up to date but things change!
Please note: boarding is generally 30 minutes prior to departure times.

All of these Gold Coast whale watching tour operators offer some form of guarantee should they not see a whale during the tour. These are pretty much the same, but most have a very high whale spotting record.

And finally, if you are staying in other parts of Queensland or northern NSW there are other options for whale watching including:


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Why not start with all that the Gold Coast has to offer.

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You can do it yourself using the resources on this website by starting here.

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