Guaranteed rail-side view with our Whale Watching Trips on the Sunshine Coast!

Pre-Book your spot now!

The Sunshine Coast is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the best places to go for whale watching on the East Coast of Australia. And for good reason. A large, natural bay is formed by the coastline itself together with Morton Island and Fraser Island. It creates an ideal place for mother to care for and teach their calves in water that is generally much deeper that the shallower waters further North. Add in the fact that Mooloolaba has long been recognised as one of, if not the safest Bar crossings, and you have a perfect combination for awesome, fun and safe time out on the water watching the humpback whales play! And at just over an hour from Brisbane CBD, more and more people are considering Whale Watching from Mooloolaba! All these factors together with great tours on offer see the Sunshine Coast now offering some of the best Whale Watching opportunities in Australia! So perfect a setting and location is the Sunshine Coast for whale watching overall, Mooloolaba is now one of the few places in Australia, even the world, which offers swimming with the whales ( also referred to as snorkelling with the whales).

Of course traditionally Whale Watching, being a short season, has commonly been a busy time with packed vessels. It’s not uncommon for whale watching boats to have well over 100 people aboard! This is great for some people, but, as with everything times are changing. More and more we find that people are wanting a more intimate, personalised, even private experience. Crowded boats, trying to see the whales over the top of other people, or if you are lucky enough to finally get to the rail, have the whales on the opposite side of the boat instead! (Murphy and his law in action!). Wouldn’t it be great if you ALWAYS have a railside view, regardless of which side the whales are showing themselves on? How about some light refreshments included in the trip as well. And a crew that is both extremely knowledgeable about the whale and takes the time to talk to you on a personal level.

Well, if this sounds like you then you have found your ideal Whale Watching trip and operator!!!

Our Vessel:

  • Crusader 1 is a very large, Super safe, ex-commercial vessel, completely refit for quality charter operations with passenger comfort foremost in mind.
  • Whale watching is conducted with a maximum of 23 passengers to ensure everyone always gets the perfect unobstructed view!
  • The vessel is completely setup up for whale watching operations with double the amount of seating needed for the passengers.
    • Set up for whale watching means zero non whale watching obstructions to get in your way!
    • Most of the seating is railside to get you close to the whales at every moment.
    • The bow is accessible and available for those special moments when the whales (and dolphins) swim around the vessel.
    • 2 toilets aboard means there is no waiting at all!
    • A large 3m centre table with seating allows you to enjoy the included refreshments in comfort.
    • And in 202 our new bar will allow you to buy drinks at very affordable prices.
  • At 55 foot, every passenger can get a comfortable, uncrowded railside view, even along a single side! Never be blocked out again!
Two large Humpback Whales playing alongside Crusader 1
Whale Watching on Crusader 1 in 2016

What to expect:

Sure, it’s always amazing when you get to see the whales. But if you want to be assured of more than just catching a glimpse over the top of 2 or more people in front of you then we are your solution! It’s often near impossible to get that rail-side position on many whale watching operations. And If you are on the wrong side of the boat when the whales show themselves you are often fighting over 100 other people to get to that side. If you can of course. It’s fully understandable that most boats are so heavily loaded with people. Most of these businesses make their living from that short 4 month period of time.

Sunshine Coast Afloat operates a very wide range of activities thus allowing us to keep passenger numbers to the bare minimum! Our entire focus and goal is to give our guests a truly intimate encounter with these gentle giants of the ocean. You will always able to take pictures or video without the heads of other people in the way.  Even follow the whales around the boat as they swim around under under us! If that sounds like the experience you are after then this is the Sunshine Coast whale watching tour  you are looking for! The luxury of no crowds. The ability to see the whales properly the way you imagined it should be!

A whale showing off and waving to Crusader 1 on a beautiful day on the Sunshine Coast

It’s all about getting out on the water and seeing – It is called Whale Watching, not whale glimpsing! – regardless if the whales want to come really up close or decide to stay a bit further away, the astonishing marine wildlife that makes this planet truly wondrous! Some of our most amazing moments, when time seemed like it stood still, were when something amazing was happening a couple of hundred meters from the boat. A mother calling her calf with massive tail slaps on the water. The calf totally oblivious, playing and learning to breach ahead of our vessel in Mooloolaba Bay. Truly a moment that was so spectacular, so emotional or so unexpected, that everyone aboard felt extremely privileged to be in the area! Every year whale watching creates new magic moments. Moments we would love to share with you!

A little about the whales:

A mother humpback slapping her tail to call her calf just off Mooloolaba

Humpback whales are not only beautiful but also playful and curious creatures. You will be in awe of the spectacular breaching, close encounters, magical songs and tail slapping. Seeing whales in the wild is always an amazing, awe-inspiring experience. We are all hoping for one of those “Super amazing” trips where the whales “Mug” the boat and often make it difficult for the boat to even leave the area. Our customers are, understandably, always waiting in anticipation for that something extra special. That moment or display that will instantly last in

their memories forever. You know, a so-called ‘bucket-list’ experience. And, more often than you would think, that’s exactly what happens. But, those amazing moments are so special for a reason. They don’t happen ALL the time. But whale watching is not just about the close-up special or magic moments.

Two whales playing together alongside Crusader 1 just off Mooloolaba

Each year more and more whales take part in the annual Whale migration up the East Coast of Australia. (to be fair they do travel up the West Coast also!). The numbers are now reaching levels where amazing whale encounters are becoming far more common place when compared with only a few years ago. Local whale watching companies such a Whale One have long had this market almost exclusively to themselves, and have done an amazing job in promoting the Sunshine Coast, and Mooloolaba in particular as a whale watching destination hot spot.

With the growing number of visitors to the Sunshine Coast, the number of operators is now also beginning to increase. New vessels and offerings are becoming more prevalent, and this can be linked directly to the increased number of whales and whale encounters. Sunshine Coast Afloat has taken a more niche approach to this large and growing market, with very personal select tours that offer the perfect blend of privacy, safety and professional knowledge. In fact, until recently Sunshine Coast Afloat had the only “High Speed” or “Extreme” Whale watching tour on offer!


COVID Whale Watching – for detailed information on how we’ve adjusted our tour to be COVID Safe and for updated terms click here.

Please note- This tour operates from late June to Mid October only! This tour runs for 3 hours!

We include light refreshments and, if needed, use of binoculars as part of the tour.

Please note that other impacts such as phone and agent bookings, weather and other unforeseen things could impact on the availability at the same time as you are requesting the charter online. Our Terms and conditions are available on this webpage ( Click here to view them now ) and will also be emailed to you as part of the booking confirmation.

The “BRIDGE SEAFOOD ” Pontoon (located at the rear of the restaurant),
209 Brisbane Road Mooloolaba Qld.

For a GPS use “Bridge Seafoods” or “209 Brisbane Road Mooloolaba Qld”.    In iPhone Maps “Bridge Seafoods” is far more accurate.

Please DO NOT park your car here on the service Road, but rather in the FREE public car-park next to the BP service station across the road. 

The location is the corner of Incana Court and Brisbane Road. This parking is free and unlimited in time, and only a 2 minute stroll (100m) from the departure point.

Once parked please wait near the top of the ramp until instructed by the skipper that it is safe to come down the ramp and board the vessel.


The “Coast Guard & Boat Ramp” Pontoon (located between the 2 boat ramps),
51 Parkyn Parade Mooloolaba Qld.

(Click on the RED 
icon on the above map for more information)

We depart from the “Coast Guard & Boat Ramp” Pontoon. (Pontoon is located between the 2 boat ramps).

For a GPS use 51 Parkyn Parade Mooloolaba Qld. These are the units across the road from the ramp.

Please DO NOT park your car in the Boat trailer areas here but rather find a park along Parkyn Parade where parking is free and unlimited in time. Cars parked incorrectly in the Boat ramp car park are likely to be towed.

Once parked please wait at the top of the ramp to the pontoon until instructed by the crew that it is safe to come down the ramp and board the vessel.

Departure location for Sunshine Coast Afloat (includes Fish n Crab Charters and Coastline Cruises).


 Please arrive 20 to 30 minutes PRIOR to your noted departure time. We would hate for the tour to depart on time should you be late and we have not heard from you! Depending on the departure time you may need to ensure you have enough time to find a car park.
Please do not wait on the pontoon itself as the crew will be mooring the vessel on its arrival and we safety is paramount for all.


Once securely and safely moored, the crew will ask you to board the vessel. Make your way up towards the cabin, placing any bags in the locker seat that will be open and waiting.


We are heading out to sea so each and every person aboard must sign in on the ship register, and marked off by the crew. To this end see the skipper (at the cabin window) and he will indicate the passenger log for you to complete. Have a balance to pay for the day? This is where and when you do that part too.


Most tours have Coffee and tea provided aboard. Once the paperwork has been done for you, make yourself a coffee or tea (all waiting for you on the large table) and have a look about the boat to get comfortable. The Coffee and tea will be put away by the crew as we exit the river so make sure you have yours well before that!

Safety First

As required by maritime legislation, the crew will have to do a safety briefing before we hit the open ocean. Much like on a plane any time you fly, we do need your attention for the couple of minutes it takes. We all hope and expect the information we are providing never to be needed, but its always best to be forewarned and prepared.

Pushing off

One of the few times we need you to be seated, out of the way of lines and other items. Just until the crew have cleared them away and the skipper is heading forward.

Crossing the Bar

Recognised in maritime as one of the potentially more dangerous things that happens aboard a vessel, this is the 2nd time the crew will ask everyone to be seated. Once through (It only takes a minute or 2) the ocean conditions will take effect.

Searching for whales

We only really run our tours in the most active period of the whale season. Afterall we all want to be watching whales, not searching for them the entire time. Of course they are underwater for most of the time, and the Coral Sea is a large area. We ask all passengers to join in to keep an eye out for the distinctive “Blow” that is usually the first sign of whales.

First sighting!

The first of what will often be 2 or 3 different pods on the tour. The crew will provide information on the whale behavious and other relevant facts during the tour. We cannot get closer than 100m to the left or right of the pod, or 300m to the rear of front of them. Once we are in position the hope is that the animals natural curiosity will bring them to us!


All good things must come to an end. We try to keep the return trip as short as possible to give us as much time with the whales as possible. On average the return trip takes about 30 minutes all up. Make yourself comfortable on the lounges ort seats, or ask the skipper if you can sit on the bow of the vessel. In the right conditions you will often see dolphins swimming along with Crusader 1 in the bow wake.

Back home

Of course as we re-enter the bar, and during the mooring of the vessel, the crew will ask all passengers to be seated again for safety. Once moored securely back on the pontoon the crew will assist you to disembark the vessel.
Whale Watching  - Sunshine Coast Afloat
Whale Watching  - Sunshine Coast Afloat
Two large Humpback Whales playing alongside Crusader 1
Fishing Charter - Sunshine Coast Afloat
Whale watching image taken from aboard Crusader One of Sunshine Coast Afloat - AMAZING SHOT WITH 2 WHALES, ONE BREACHING!
Whale watching image taken from aboard Crusader One of Sunshine Coast Afloat - A WHALE BREACHING CLOSE TO THE SHORE OF ALEXANDRA HEADLANDS.
Whale watching image taken from aboard Crusader One of Sunshine Coast Afloat - 2 WHALE TAILS IN PERFECT SYNC.
Whale watching image taken from aboard Crusader One of Sunshine Coast Afloat - A WHALE BREACHING CLOSE TO THE BOAT.
Whale watching image taken from aboard Crusader One of Sunshine Coast Afloat - LOVELY SPYHOP BY THIS WHALE.
Whale watching image taken from aboard Crusader One of Sunshine Coast Afloat - A WHALE BREACHING JUST OFF MAROOCHYDORE.

Tour Reviews

5.00 based on 16 reviews
October 18, 2016

“Whale Watching Privilege”
Reviewed on trip advisor on the 26th August
An amazing experience. The charter boat is 55 ft which sounds quite big but, when you are 15 nautical miles out to sea, past the huge tankers and cargo ships, it seemed pretty small.
We had checked the marine forecast and the sea conditions seemed a bit marginal but the trip was on so off we went at 8am.
We travelled a good hour without seeing any thing and a few people got a bit seasick. The boat was rocking and rolling by this time. Disappointment was about to creep in when the skipper said “whales 200 metres ahead”. All seasickness was instantly forgotten as everyone oohed and aahed at a display put on for us by a mother and her calf. These humpback whales are enormous. 40 tonne whale, 23 tonne boat. Get the picture!
For at least a half hour these whales put on a display we will never forget. Tail flukes crashing, spouts showering everyone on board ,heads out of the water in unison and even swimming under the boat.
The mother and calf didn’t leave us! We had to return to port as we were already at least an hour over time.
The skipper said he had not encountered such an interactive pair of whales in a long time. As we headed back to shore, I looked back and I’m sure those 2 big spouts from their blow holes was a farewell.
And then the tears started!

October 18, 2016

“Absolutely amazing whale watching experience”
Reviewed on trip advisor on the 18 August via mobile
We went whale watching mid August for the hubby’s birthday and had such an amazing time. The guys on board really knew their stuff and were able to find the whales quickly and bring them super close to the boat. We had about 5 whales around the boat doing all sorts of tricks for most of the duration out at sea. The whales really put on a performance and there were happy smiles all around. Very relaxed environment, beautiful boat and the perfect size to feel safe but still get very close. Sunshine Coast Afloat only take a maximum of 22 people which allows for a more personal experience and plenty of room to view the whales from either side of the boat. The guys on board had coffee waiting which was a bonus and put such a lovely spread of food out for lunch. I really can not thank them enough for making our day as special as it was. We had two small children with us aged 10 and 11 and they had such a great time. My husband has been whale watching 3 times before with a different company and said they did not even come close to being as good as this one. True value for money. Highly recommended. Could honestly go on for days on how awesome they are.

October 1, 2020

Reviewed on Facebook on the 30th September
Had a fabulous afternoon out & couldn’t believe how many whales we saw! Lovely people, informative chatter, & a very comfortable boat with plenty of space to move around. Have been whale watching here previously but our trip with Sunshine Coast Afloat was so much better – the limit on passenger numbers makes the whole experience much more personal. Thank you – we’ll be back!

October 1, 2020

Reviewed on Facebook on the 30th September
Great size group with plenty of space to see the whales.
Very friendly staff.
Highly recommend.

October 1, 2020

Reviewed on Facebook on the 28th September
We had an awesome day out Whale Watching.
Staff were all helpful and friendly. Boat was so comfortable, and we spotted so many whales sitting out the front of the boat, we could’ve been the only people on there. Thanks!

October 1, 2020

Reviewed on Facebook on the 27th September
Fantastic Whale Watching cruise!
Very friendly staff and informative.
Guaranteed to see whales and without all the crowds.
Have been on a few different Whale Watching cruises and this was BY FAR my favourite.

October 1, 2020

Reviewed on Facebook on the 26th September
Amazing day out with Sunshine Coast Afloat today.
THe whales put on a Fabulous show!
Fantastic staff and very welcoming!!
Definitely recommend this with 5 stars!

October 1, 2020

Reviewed on Facebook on the 26th September
Best by far!
Family owned and operated great experience.
Up Close and personal.
Highly recommend these awesome people!

October 1, 2020

Reviewed on tripadvisor on the 6th September
Spectacular day on the water.

We had such a beautiful cruise! Jerry was soo accommodating.
Happy to answer any questions the kids or we had.
Lovely day out.
The skipper was great, getting us a comfortable distance to the whales and respecting the distance between us.
Great day.

October 1, 2020

Reviewed on tripadvisor on the 8th September
Top morning on the Ocean

Great day on the water with a really friendly crew.
Awesome whale sightings and memories made.

October 1, 2020

Reviewed on tripadvisor on the 9th September
Whale watching without the crowds

We had an amazing day.
The guys at Sunshine Coast Afloat were amazing.
We saw some very playful whales.

October 1, 2020

Reviewed on tripadvisor on the 11th September
Great whale watching

Had a great day today, enjoyed seeing many whales and a few dolphins on our morning cruise.
Definitely recommend Sunshine Coast Afloat, their boat is open sided so everyone gets a clear view (no windows or walls to block view, but with a roof to protect from rain) easily spotting whales from wherever you sit, and you can still move around because they only take about 22 maximum passengers.
We would love to go again.

October 1, 2020

Reviewed on tripadvisor on the 14th September
So many whales!

Lovely people, very informative, & a comfortable boat which is very easy to move around in.
Saw lots of pods of whales which was amazing!
Highly recommend Sunshine Coast Afloat as our whale watching experience with them was more comfortable & personal than previous trips we have been on.
Will definitely be supporting this local business in the futures

October 1, 2020

Reviewed on tripadvisor on the 15th September
Whale watching

Had a fantastic day- saw at least 20 humpbacks frolicking off Mooloolaba.
Boat was spacious and not overloaded.
Clear sight to the whales from anywhere.
Jerry the host was very friendly too.

October 1, 2020

Reviewed on tripadvisor on the 15th September
Fabulous day

Such a great experience and what a friendly and fun.
We saw some fantastic whales and the conditions were great.
A big thank you too because we got lost and you patiently helped us find you.
Excellent service.
Would highly recommend this family run business with the personal touches.

October 1, 2020

Reviewed on tripadvisor on the 25th September
Great service, whales an awesome trip out.

We went out on a whale watching cruise with Sunshine Coast Afloat on Friday 4th September.
What an amazing experience! Right from the get go we were greeted with smiles and enthusiasm by Patti and Jerry (Owners).
We boarded, the immaculately kept, Crusader 1 and set off for our morning adventure.
A run through safety procedures by first mate Flinn and a bar crossing skillfully handled by our skipper Sam and we headed out to where the whales were.
What a treat! We were gifted with a rare whale mugging.
The whales almost touching the boat at times as we bobbed around unable to move while they inquisitively checked us out.
There were many “Ahhhh” moments and memories made.
Thank you guys for an unforgettable experience that was definitely value for money.

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