5 animals to see on your Gold Coast whale watching cruise (that aren't humpbacks!)


There is no experience more incredible on the Gold Coast than whale-watching. But did you know that you will see more than just humpbacks on your whale-watching tour? The Gold Coast bay is home to a range of wildlife, from dolphins to whale sharks; what will you see?


Dolphins are one of the most beloved marine mammals on the planet. From their curious personality to incredible porpoising behavior (jumping in and out of the water), everyone gets excited when a pod of dolphins visits a whale watching tour. Dolphins are one of the most intelligent animals on Earth and are compared to being as bright as chimps and gorillas. They are swift predators hunting small fish, squid, and other small sea creatures. 

There are 38 oceanic species of dolphin, and there are three different dolphin species that frequent the Gold Coast waterways.

1. Common Dolphin

Common dolphins are found in large pods and are very family orientated. They have a sleek build with distinctive hourglass coloring with a yellow patch extending from their eye to their dorsal fin. Common dolphins rest in groups in shallow waters, keeping one eye open to look out for lurking predators. During the day, they are a very acrobatic dolphin species, and you will often see them leaping, head lunging, tail slapping, and approaching vessels to bow ride in the wake.

Australian common dolphin.

2. Australian humpback dolphins

Classified as a vulnerable species, it’s something special to spot an Australian humpback dolphin on your whale-watching trip. This species of dolphin travels in small pods of up to five individuals. Unlike other humpback dolphins, the Australian species doesn’t have a distinct hump but can be distinguished by their thick and curved back. They have a long beak that protrudes out of the water. They are a shy species of dolphins and would rather keep to themselves than interact with humans. They do, however, enjoy playing with other sea life such as jellyfish, seaweed, and shells.

3. Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin

Frequent visitors in the Gold Coast bay and the city’s canal system, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins are the most commonly seen dolphins on the Gold Coast. This species of dolphin is distinguishable by its dark grey back and pale belly, and chunky appearance. Bottlenose dolphins are very family orientated and live in pods of 10-15 individuals. They are a close-knit group, raising young calves, hunting, and playing together.

Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphin.

Minke Whales

Mike whales are often spotted early in the whale season in May through to early July. The smallest and most abundant of baleen whales, they are a rare sight to see on your whale-watching tour. Noticeable by their small size and unique coloring, they are a shy species and not as inclined to humans as their humpback cousins. Minke whales are believed to follow similar migration patterns as humpback whales; however, scientists are still unsure where they go once they leave Queensland waters. 

Minke whales are the most widely hunted whales in the ocean and continue to be the target of commercial whaling. Here in Australia, minke whales can swim safely in protected waters.

Whale Shark

The rarest marine creature you will see on your whale watching tour is the whale shark. The largest fish on Earth at an average length of 10 metres, witnessing this gentle giant must be seen to be believed. They are brownish blue in colour and covered in white spots. Their mouths can stretch open to 4 metres wide. Whale sharks are slow swimmers travelling up to 3mph.

Whale sharks are an endangered species, with only 10% reaching adult maturity. They are protected in Australian waters, encouraging safe breeding.

Minke whales are the most widely hunted whales in the ocean and continue to be the target of commercial whaling. Here in Australia, minke whales can swim safely in protected waters.

Whale Shark courtesy Getty Images.

Now that you have the knowledge of what to look for on your next whale-watching tour, secure your 2021 season seats today.


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