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REVIEW: Spirit of Gold Coast Whale Watching – A Whale of a Time!

Spirit of Gold Coast whale watching tours offer families a first-class whale watching experience at an affordable price. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is not to be missed and is the feather in the cap of an excellent Gold Coast holiday with kids.

How do the Spirit of Gold Coast tours run?

spirit of gold coast boat

Whale watching tours happen twice daily and leave from the Mariner’s Marina (near Seaworld). There is plenty of parking in the carpark and you’ll get to walk past a lot of interesting sights (and smells!) that will allow kids to get a taste of the action of a working marina. There are huge cruise liners for the ship spotters among your crowd as well as fishing boats bringing in the finest fresh catches.

Tours depart twice daily (always at 9:30am and during busier times at 1:30pm). You’ll need to arrive about a half hour before your departure time to ensure that safety demonstrations can be carried out with plenty of time to spare.

spirit of gold coast boat and sky

Once you make your way through the line of excited whale watchers (and get your boarding photo taken), you’ll board the boat. There is seating upstairs, out the front of the boat and in the cabin. Don’t fret if you don’t get the best spot immediately. The whale watchers will move around during the duration of the tour so you’re very unlikely to be stuck in the same spot.

The Spirit of Gold Coast crew will go through a safety demonstration with you which will include talking about the importance of taking sea sickness medication prior to departing. You can buy your own in the lead-up to departure or they have them on sale for $1 per tablet. This cannot be stressed enough – it is very likely that if you don’t take the medication you will become ill on board.

You may even find that you are quite queasy if you do take it. Don’t risk missing out on the whales just because you thought you were ‘too tough’ to take the medication!

Important points to note:

  • Take sea sickness medication prior to departure
  • When the boat is travelling at high speeds or through rocky waters, children under the age of five are not permitted to be out the front of the boat
  • If you are feeling sick throughout the tour, you are advised to go out the back to help calm your stomach as staying in the cabin can make you feel worse
  • Sick bags will be provided by crew if you are feeling ill – please keep them updated about how you feel

What’s it like on the boat?

spirit of gold coast on board

Upon entry to the boat, there is complimentary tea and coffee available. There are also snacks available for purchase and the boat is licensed. We would advise caution here, though – alcohol in the system and seasickness could make for an unpleasant journey!

The cabin is equipped with plenty of seating and tables. There are four toilets on board and great views regardless of where you are. As the whales don’t operate on anyone’s schedule but their own, no one knows where they’ll pop up! Racing out the front doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the best view.

Keep in mind that this is a long trip and you will be gone for about three hours. If you are taking young children, keep in mind the sea-legs required and the lack of anything much to do apart from keeping your eyes peeled. This is a great experience but it may be best for families with older children who are more capable of understanding the nature of the journey.

Will you see whales on a Spirit of Gold Coast tour?

spirit of gold coast at sea

In all likelihood, the answer to that question is YES but there can be no guarantee. These are wild animals! Spirit of Gold Coast make the promise that if there are absolutely no whales on your journey that you can ride again for free but, given the number of whales we saw, that’s probably not a promise they have to keep too often!

On our journey, we saw twelve whales and at one point the boat was surrounded by about six. (They move quickly so photos don’t always capture what was actually going on! Blame the whales, not the photographer!) Some of the whales were quite shy and the crew are very cautious to let the whales dictate their interactions with the boat. There is a lot of cautious waiting to see what the whales want to do which is a great philosophy. You are very much at the mercy of how the whales feel so make sure that’s kept in mind during your tour.

spirit of gold coast gif

The verdict for Families as well as the costs involved

spirit of gold coast calm waters

This was a fantastic tour that we would do again. That being said, it was difficult for young children and there were quite a few tourists who clearly hadn’t taken their seasickness medication! The morning tour seemed the better bet as it was (somewhat) out of the heat of the day and it meant that we docked in time for lunch.

Costs of Spirit of Gold Coast whale watching tours:

Adults: – $99 per person
Children(4-14 years old): – $59 per person
Family Package (2x adults and 2x children): – $236 per package
Seniors/Students (65+ or student ID required): – $79 per person

If you want to see the tour in action, check out the hashtag #lovespiritwhales on Instagram!

Does your child love the ocean and want to be Spirit of a Whale Warrior? Check out our article here!



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Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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