Whale watching direct from Brisbane with Tangalooma Island Resort

Whale breaching off Moreton Island coast

Tangalooma Island Resort offers Brisbane’s closest whale watching cruise onboard Australia’s largest vessel dedicated to whale watching. After just a short 75-minute catamaran ride over to Moreton Island, you’re all set for the adventure of a lifetime.

Moreton Island is the perfect backdrop for watching these magnificent creatures up close as they migrate each year from the Antarctic to the sub-tropical waters of Australia and beyond to mate, give birth and then return with their calves.

The best part is you can easily turn your whale watching experience into an overnight stay, allowing your family to experience island life as well as the many other activities and experiences that Tangalooma has to offer.

Getting to Tangalooma Island Resort on Moreton Island

The easiest option to cruise from Brisbane to Tangalooma is a ferry passenger service that operates daily from Holt Street Wharf in Pinkenba, arriving directly at the Resort jetty. Travelling time is just 75 minutes each way, with direct services operating daily between Brisbane and Tangalooma.

*Please note Tangalooma’s passenger ferry and day cruise transfer times have now changed. 

Whale watching: what’s included?

The Tangalooma Whale Watching Cruise runs 4 days a week from 12pm to 3pm, during whale watching season (June to mid-October annually), with additional services operating during school holidays. Bookings for the cruise can easily be made online, and if only travelling over for the day, your package will also include a return trip to the island from Brisbane as well as free time to enjoy the resort facilities. Your cruise ticket also includes:

  • 3 hour whale watching cruise with expert commentary by one of Tangalooma’s experienced Eco Rangers
  • A light lunch pack per passenger, with refreshments and other snacks available for purchase on-board
  • Day-long access to all the facilities at Tangalooma Island Resort (including swimming pools, restaurants and bars)
  • Unreserved access to any free presentation at the resort by one of Tangalooma’s Eco Rangers (including ‘Discover the World of Dolphins’, Sea Bird and Pelican Feeding or Kookaburra Feeding) depending on which boats you take.

Two whales breaching off Tangalooma

How much is whale watching with Tangalooma Island Resort?

The cost of a Whale Watching Cruise with Tangalooma, travelling from Brisbane is:

  • $139 per adult
  • $99 child (3-14 years)
  • $395 family (2 adults and 2 children)
  • Early bird special (book 14 days or more in advance and save) – $95 per adult and $75 per child

If you are already staying at Tangalooma Island Resort, you can still book onto the Whale Watching Cruise, which departs at 12pm midday, for:

  • $75 adult
  • $55 child (3-14 years)

Remember to book directly with the Resort to access the best prices, last-minute availability and offers for your perfect Tangalooma whale watching day cruise from Brisbane. Please note: these prices are based on the 2021 whale watching season and are subject to change at any time.

Tangalooma Example Day Trip Itinerary

If you’re up for it, you really can plan to spend the whole day adventuring at Tangalooma. On our recent visit, this is how our day went:

  • 7am* – Ferry transfer to Tangalooma Island Resort from Holt Street Wharf, arriving on the island at approximately 8:15am.
  • 8:45am – 1 ½hr Desert Safari Tour out to the Tangalooma Desert, including sand tobogganing. 
  • Free time to explore the resort facilities and beach, including morning tea at The Coffee Lounge. 
  • 12pm – The 3hr Tangalooma Whale Watching Cruise departs from Tangalooma jetty, returning at approximately 3pm.
  • Free time to explore the resort facilities and beach some more, including a drink from B&B’s Resort Bar for the grown-ups.
  • 4:45pm – Kookaburra feeding on the beachfront, hosted by one of Tangalooma’s Eco Rangers.
  • Early dinner at one of the resort’s restaurants.
  • 6pm – Wild dolphin feeding adjacent to the Tangalooma Island Resort Jetty (dolphin feeding is included in several of the day cruise options and must be pre-booked). Read our full Wild Dolphin Feeding review here.
  • 7pm – Tangalooma ferry departs for Brisbane, arriving at Pinkenba at approximately 8:15pm.

While this is a really full itinerary for a day, it showcases the best Tangalooma has to offer and is guaranteed to have you booking a longer return stay as soon as you can! We all arrived home tired but thrilled after a day spent soaking up Tangalooma’s magic.

The Tangalooma Whale Watching Cruise review

Tangalooma’s Whale Watching Cruise is a relaxing experience on a high-speed catamaran, where you can sit back and enjoy whales up close. During the 3-hour cruise passengers are free to wander throughout the boat, which has 3 levels to explore. You can choose to enjoy the whale sightings from inside the boat, or the many outside viewing options.

Shortly after departing the Tangalooma jetty, and after a brief safety presentation, all guests on board the cruise are invited to collect their packed lunch from the kiosk. Although described as ‘light’, these fresh and healthy meals were sizable and included half a ham or chicken and salad sandwich and half a ham or chicken and salad wrap, an apple, a full-sized muffin, cheese and crackers, and unlimited tea and coffee. Vegetarian and gluten-free options were also available, however, keep in mind special meals do need to be ordered upon booking your tickets for the cruise.

The cruise travelled north for around 30 minutes before clearing the northern-most point of Moreton Island into more open sea. It was here that we spotted our first whales in what was to be a non-stop WOW experience! The first two whales were staying close by each other, we suspect because one was a baby that appeared only a day or so old. The baby was a sight to behold, being very light in colour and frequently breaking the surface for us to spot a glimpse of white.

Tangalooma whale watching cruise

In the distance we spotted another two whales, though they weren’t too excited to see us and soon swam off. It was the fifth whale we saw that provided the next hour and a half of breathtaking whale watching. In an experience we are told is very rare, this whale breached no less than 30 times! Breaking the surface, breaching and flopping into the water with a loud slap, our show-off whale put on quite the performance in what was a thrilling spectacle for first-time whale watchers like ourselves. Miss 8 and Miss 12 captured some amazing photos and videos on their little waterproof cameras, which we’re so glad they brought with them. We all just could not wipe the grins from our faces as we repeatedly capture sensational views of this whale crashing into the water right near us.

This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and, while we cannot guarantee you’ll see a whale that likes to show off quite as much as this guy did, the Tangalooma Whale Watching Cruise offers a money back whale sighting guarantee. The staff and skipper will do everything they can to ensure the most incredible encounter possible for everyone on board, so that nobody will be left disappointed after an action-packed afternoon on the ocean. The Tangalooma Eco Ranger on board will not only point out the whales visible from the cruise, but will also fill the afternoon with information about whales that you may not already know; making it both educational and enjoyable for all ages.

You can get a taste of our Tangalooma whale watching adventure in this video – 

 Australia’s most experienced whale watching operator

Did you know Tangalooma Island Resort has been operating its whale watching cruises from Brisbane since 1987 making it the most experienced whale watching operator in the country? Some of the crew from that original season still work on the cruises today.

Tangalooma Whale Watching for a Good Cause

Each year, Tangalooma Island Resort partners with the Kids’ Cancer Project and throughout the whale watching season Tangalooma donates $5 for each whale spotted on board the Whale Watch Cruise.

2019 was a bumper whale watching season that saw Tangalooma Island Resort donate nearly $6,000 to kids’ cancer research – an amount that seems to increase every year as more and more whales are spotted (much to the delight of Tangalooma staff, its whale watching passengers and The Kids’ Cancer Project!).

Whale breaching off Moreton Island coast

Brisbane Kids thanks Tangalooma Island Resort for sponsoring our writer and her family on their day trip to the lovely Tangalooma Island Resort and Moreton Island. Costs were covered. All the opinions stated in this review are true, honest and genuine with the sole aim of providing enough information for families to make an informed decision about future holidays to this wonderful local leisure destination.

To find out more about the Tangalooma whale watching day cruise from Brisbane click here. This website also has information about Tangalooma Island Resort itself, including accommodation options and other tours on offer. If you’d like to learn more about our experiences at Tangalooma, please click here to find more of the best things to do in Brisbane’s Tangalooma Island Resort.

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