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It’s a focus for our family to experience nature, in all its wonder and beauty. There’s a quality bonding that comes with going on adventures together, which I believe is integral when creating a strong family and shaping a childhood full of beautiful memories.
We went on one such adventure last weekend to Hervey Bay on the Fraser Coast in Queensland. The last time we visited Hervey Bay was a year ago. One of our daughters is serious about basketball and we found a good second hand free-standing practice hoop for sale at Hervey Bay, and decided to make a weekend of it. (The things you do for your kids!) We all fell in love with the place that weekend, and to follow it up with a whale watching experience was fantastic.
Crossing the Road with 4 kids: Like a boss
Why Hervey Bay is so Special
Not only is Hervey Bay a relaxed family-friendly spot, it is unique in the world both for whale migration and the spectacle of whale watching. The whale watching experience available in Hervey bay is due to a combination of factors that come together. Humpback whales migrate annually up the east coast of Australia, from cold Antarctic waters to the tropics to breed and give birth. On the trip south, the perfect water temperature, along with the shelter of Fraser Island (the world’s largest sand island), create an ideal environment for mothers to feed their new calves, and for other whales to rest and play on the 10,000km trip back to the Antarctic feeding grounds. Whales can stay in the bay for up to 10 days and this sort of stop-over does not happen anywhere else on earth, giving a perfect chance for us to see these beautiful animal in their environment. And this magical place is just over 3 hours from Brisbane!
Fraser Coast Discovery Sphere
Knowing more about humpback whales enhances the experience and I strongly recommend a trip to the Fraser Coast Discovery Sphere before going on a whale watching tour. You can see in the video further below, how much the kids learned from coupling the two experiences together.
Life-size humpback whale sculpture at Fraser Coast Discovery Sphere
We ate at many different places on the Fraser Coast (you can find pictures of the yummy meals on my Instagram feed), and there was one spot that stood out for its friendly staff and relaxed atmosphere: Bistro Aubergine. This cafe directly overlooks the Great Sandy Strait (just metres away where our whale watching tour departed) and the staff were beyond lovely. Great spot for family eating; there was drawing and toys available for the kids too. The photographs below were taken at the bistro and you an see how happy, relaxed and excited we were.
I packed a few themed toys for the kids for this trip (read about it here) and Mr 6 carried around the replica humpback whale everywhere this day. Loved seeing him so excited and engaged.
Never underestimate the snippets of value you can weave into waiting moments.
What I’m wearing
Spotted jeans: Liz Jordan
Green Jacket: Purchased at Southbank Markets in Brisbane
Great Sandy Strait Marina
Whale Watching Tour
The Tasman Venture vessel took us on our adventure. Something I learned about humpback whales is their flukes are like our fingerprints: they are all unique and are used to identify and study returning whales each season. Vicki from Tasman Venture can identify by name over 40 of the whales that frequent Hervey Bay.
The boat ride in itself was exciting
What to bring
- Binoculars (although not essential given the frequency of up close encounters in Hervey Bay will help you spot breaching whales in the distance)
- A jacket or jumper (even though the day was lovely and fine, the wind factor on the boat can make it a bit chilly on deck)
Just look at the colour of the water surrounding Fraser Island!
And it was topped off by THIS!
Whale watching season in Hervey Bay runs from mid July to the end of October each year. Whale sightings are plentiful during the season, and when I chatted with a local about it, they said “if you don’t see a whale on a tour, there would be something wrong!” In fact, operators of whale watching vessels and scientists have noticed the number of whales coming into Hervey Bay has increased over the past 20 years. The simple answer for this is that Humpback whale numbers are improving after the cessation of commercial whaling: about 2,000 whales came into Hervey Bay in 1992, and almost 7,000 are expected in 2014 out of a migration of greater than 20,000; it is truly heartening to hear these statistics. Whale watching itself is closely controlled and there are strict rules in place to allow the whales their own space.
Interestingly, 30 years ago Humpback mothers were very protective of their young around whale watching vessels, and yet nowadays they seem to like to show off the new calves and push them closer to the boats. This learnt behaviour demonstrates the trust involved from the whales and the extensive experience and care of the operators, it would appear this behaviour indicates whales enjoy ‘human spotting’ too!
I enjoyed putting this video of the children’s responses together and seeing their smiles. It’s interesting the way they interpret and reproduce information in their own way. Below is the long 5 min version (which I love), but if you’re interested in a snap shot, you can watch the short version here.
What stands out most to me about Hervey Bay is respect. There’s an undercurrent of respect for the unique beauty of the region and to see this honoured and embraced is encouraging and inspiring. I would go as far to say from my travel experiences, Hervey Bay would be on my top 5 must-visit places for families. It has the beaches, the fun, the food, the interesting surrounding spots (like Maryborough) and the unique whale watching experience the family will never forget! Best.