The History of the Whale Watching industry in Hervey Bay commences in 1993 when one of the local fishing charter boat operators, Brian Perry, noticed that increasing numbers of Humpback whales were coming into the Platypus Bay area on the inshore side of Fraser Island and that they were often inquisitive about his fishing operations and would swim up close to the boat to investigate. His fishing customers were quite excited when this happened so he decided to offer some stand alone whale watching cruises to see if there was enough interest to run economically viable tours. He was run off his feet as the word got around and the next year several other operators started running trips as well. Brian sold the Tasman Venture and the fishing charter business to Lloyd Burgess and Lloyd replaced the old boat with a new Cougar cat of the same name. Brian then brought in two boats, the fast catamaran, “Whale One” and the Game fishing boat “Moby Dundee”.
Glen Dorn moved to Hervey Bay from the Gold Coast and brought with him the beautiful “Peel Islander” a 55 foot fast catamaran. Mimi McPherson turned up with a beautiful 65 foot sailing catamaran “Aussie Spirit” and Geoff Wight, a local real estate agent chartered an old north sea life boat with heaps of character named the “Lady Gairdner” soon to become known locally as “The Refugee Boat”. Customers came from everywhere and all the boats were chock a block with excited customers.
Over the next few years and with the introduction of the Hervey Bay Marine Park and a permit system for operators, many of the original operators upgraded their boats and new operators moved in. Sid Melksham of Fraser Island fame brought the “Islander” which carried around 260 passengers, Mimi McPherson upgraded to the “Discovery One”, Geoff Wight brought in the beautiful 60 foot sailing catamaran “Tafua” and Glen Dorn Built the new purpose built catamaran “Spirit of Hervey Bay” and introduced underwater windows to the fleet.
Today, many of the original operators are still in the business. Brian and Jill Perry now run two boats, Awesome and Quick Cat, Glen Dorn now has another brand new “Spirit of Hervey Bay” and Lloyd Burgess has another new “Tasman Venture”. Hervey Bay has developed from a small seaside village to a bustling resort town with lots of great new accommodation and direct flights now bring the customers in direct from Sydney and the old Hervey Bay boat harbour where the original operators used to run aground at low tide is now a modern all weather facility with an up to the minute commercial marina for loading passengers.
There are now a number of places on the east coast of Australia where you can go whale watching, but none of them have the quality of boats, calm water destination and the history that Hervey Bay whale watching has.