When and what time is the whale watching?


Many operators start their Humpback Whale Watching season late May or early June. However we find the number of whales, here on the Sunshine Coast at least, are very low in comparison to the later months. As such we start our tours from the 1st of July, and finish towards the end of October.

We are all very excited to see the whales, and of course we want to get out in search of them, but that – searching and not watching – is exactly what tends to happen if you go too early.  It becomes a “whale searching” trip rather than a “whale watching” trip.

During the months of mid May, June & even early July, the whales are migrating north ( generally towards the Whitsundays) to mate and give birth.  This is a good time to see the whales but we do have to travel out wider to see them at this time of the season. They are basically in a fair bit of a hurry to get up there, and interactions are far less impressive than later in the season.

August is a month where some whales are still heading north and other have started heading back south so it is a particularly good time of year to venture out.  Some of our best sightings have been in August.

September and October see the full extent of the southern migration,  we tend to see many more mothers and the calves relax, rest and very often play, which is an absolute delight for all! If we had to choose a single month to name as the best month to go Whale Watching it would be September as heads and shoulders above all other months!

Passengers on the bow of Crusader 1 amazed at the Humpback Whales proximity to them
Passengers on the bow of Crusader 1 amazed at the Humpback Whales proximity to them

No two whale watching tours are the same. Those amazing, special and unforgettable experiences can occur at any time during the whole whale watching season. We as operators can only do our very best to take our guests out to the areas the whales are in, and then use our best judgement (and experience) to try and find the most interactive pods we can.

That said, a whale watching cruise is about venturing out into nature, so the final outcome is 100% on the whales terms.

The best time to head out is when you yourself are relaxed, have time to unwind, enjoy the trip and even learn about these truely amazing mammals.


Time of Day:

People always want to know if whale watching is better in the morning or the afternoon. To be completely honest there is really no ‘better time’ in that regard. Sometimes the mornings are amazing, sometimes the afternoons are. Sometimes both are.

We would recommend you choose your cruise depending on your family situation. Do you like to sleep in? How far have you got to travel? Are the kids up early and ready to get going in the morning? Would you prefer to return close to sunset and a cold drink in hand?

As a general rule, the ocean is calmer in the mornings, but even that is not 100% a certainty.

There appears to be no rhyme or reason to the whales antics and activity at any particular time, they basically do what they want when they want.

So anytime is the best time to watch whales!

If you are looking for the best scenic light for photography, choose a morning cruise as the light doesn’t seem to be as impacted on the position on the vessel as it does in the afternoon.


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Jerry van Driel-Vis