Whale Migration & Distribution

Humpback whales are found in all oceans of the world and migrate annually to the beautiful warm waters of Queensland’s coastline. From Brisbane to the Gold Coast, they are usually found in waters less than 180 meters deep perfect for whale watching!

After a summer feeding in the Antarctic waters, Easter Australian humpback whales use the waters along the Gold Coast and Brisbane coastline for breeding and calving from June to November.


Nearly 75 per cent of the humpbacks that migrate to Queensland’s coastline can be spotted by Whales in Paradise doing spectacular acrobatic displays in the crystal clear waters approximately 4 nautical miles off the Gold Coast Seaway.

It is not clear why humpback whales migrate to the Gold Coast waters during the breeding and calving season. However, Whales in Paradise research has found that it is to protect newborn calves from predation by orca (killer) whales and large ocean sharks, which are not found in large numbers near the Queensland’s coastline.

These majestic humpbacks that migrate to the Gold Coast do not all arrive and depart at the same time. Whales in Paradise, Brisbane whale watching experts say the first to arrive to Queensland’s coastline are females with their yearlings, followed by the playful juveniles, and then the sexually active adult whales. Females in late pregnancy are always the last whales to arrive.

At the end of the winter migration, humpbacks begin moving back to the feeding grounds taking the beautiful scenic route swimming through the pristine waters of Brisbane’s Moreton Bay and sheltered protected waters of the Gold Coast. Gold Coast Whale Watchers will wave goodbye to the newly pregnant whales first with the juveniles and adult males and females tail slapping behind them. Mothers with newborn claves are among the last to leave the warm waters of the Gold Coast, as they need to make sure their claves have developed sufficiently to undertake their first long journey.

As spotted by Whales in Paradise (Gold Coast Whale Watching Pty Ltd), when migrating back to Antarctic waters the young whales will follow experienced females to learn how to migrate between the feeding and breeding areas while the immature whales will travel together in small groups of two or three.

Male humpbacks will venture throughout the Antarctic waters, while the females love the beautiful waters between Brisbane and the Gold Coast so return to Queensland’s coastline each year.

Individual whales tease Gold Coast and Brisbane whale watchers on board the Gold Coast Whale Watching vessel Mahi Mahi with their playful transient nature. They keep the Gold Coast whale watchers on edge as they spend only a few days frolicking and putting on spectacular acrobatic shows at any given location.

Eastern Australian humpbacks never intermingle with whales across the equator as the breeding and feeding seasons are six months apart.

Migration is the perfect season for whale watching as the humpback whales swim a cruisy four to eight kilometers per hour along the coastline of Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Whales in Paradise (Gold Coast Whale Watching Pty Ltd) research says they take from 30 to 60 days to travel between feeding and breeding areas.