While Hervey Bay is well-known as a whale-spotting destination, closer to home the Gold Coast is another top spot to glimpse the annual Humpback whale migration.
The whale-watching season is well underway and peaks between July and November, as the giant mammals make the 5000km journey from Antarctica to warmer waters off the Great Barrier Reef to give birth and mate before travelling back down the coast. They can be seen across the coast
Although Brisbane born and raised I’ve never seen a whale in the wild before, so I was excited to set off on a morning whale-watching tour with Tallship Island Adventures, boarding the luxurious 32 metre high speed catamaran that would take us from the calm waters of the marina on Seaworld Drive out to the “whale sanctuary”.
It’s a bit of a bumpy ride once we emerge from the Gold Coast Seaway and hit the rougher open ocean but half the fun is braving the motions of the boat while straining to see the wildlife as we whiz down the coast towards Burleigh. I was glad I’d taken motion-sickness tablets before leaving (a good tip to follow whether you get seasick or not). Better safe than sorry.
There’s soon a competition on board to see who can spot the first whale. When we do finally spot them, they move with surprising grace through the water. Another three Humpbacks make an appearance, their renowned bumpy-backs bobbing rhythmically out of the waves. One even raises its tail into the air, waving at us.
Back on shore there are more thrills in store for adrenalin junkies on the SkyPoint Climb on top of the Gold Coast’s tallest building, the iconic Q1. You won’t get a better view of the Coast, even behind glass on the observation deck. The climb officially opened in January this year and takes small groups of around 10 people to the top of the tower four times a day. Q1 is a staggering 322.5 metres tall and 97 metres of this is the metal spire at the top of the building. The SkyPoint Climb takes the group to a viewing platform 270 metres above the ground outside the tower and part way up the spire.
I take the climb at twilight and once my group is strapped snuggly into our harnesses, we travel up 77 floors before heading out a glass air-locked room to start the climb. The climb itself is only about 30 metres of steps but underfoot it’s a clear vertical drop. At a point close to the top we are invited to let go of the rails, put our full weight into our harness and lean right over the side. I’m not normally scared of heights but even I had visions of falling splat on the footpath far below which made me hesitate…just for a moment…before I leaned out, heart pounding, buffeted by the wind while I had my picture taken.
It’s a clear night and we can see all the way to Stradbroke Island and past the New South Wales border. Some climbers have even spotted whales from up here. As the sun sets over the mountains of the Gold Coast hinterland, the city really starts to glitter and the skyscrapers come to life in bright lights.
New Zealand may have once cornered the tourist market for jet boating but now it’s another adventure that takes off from Mariner’s Cove on Seaworld Drive with Paradise Jet Boating. The hour-long trip twists, slides and spins its way around Broadwater, up to Sovereign Island and back down past South Stradbroke Island. It’s seriously fun as we dart quickly through the waves and we skirt centimetres away from the shore and cut so close to buoys and signs that we surely will crash into them, but the powerful engine shoots us around without any problem. You get absolutely soaking wet, even with spray jackets provided, so it’s best not to take your best sunglasses or wear mascara (which I found out the
It’s enough to work up an appetite and the best place to satisfy that is QT Bazaar inside the funky new QT hotel – hands down the best buffet on the Coast. The only problem here is that you may overeat! Every night there are more than 100 dishes across 13 themed sections from roasts and salads to seafood and Asian flavours. The food lives up to the brilliance of the restaurant’s vibe and the service is uncanny – staff seem to know what you want even before you ask for it.
After all the buzz, it was a relief to return to my home for the night – a luxury one bedroom suite (bigger than my apartment in Brisbane) at Peppers Broadbeach, one of the newest five-star high-rise resort hotels on the Gold Coast. I only stopped briefly at the minibar (why not treat myself?) before jumping straight in the extra-large bath to soak. Ahhh, sometimes the simplest pleasures are just as thrilling!