Feeding the dolphins in Tin Can Bay has been a favourite activity on our trip so far. There is something magical about dolphins, and the pod that pop in to Snapper Creek in Tin Can Bay for breakfast each day are captivating and full of character.
Tin Can Bay Dolphin Feeding
The Australian Humpback Dolphin is native to the area – and there is a pod of 9 that visit the Barnacle Dolphin Centre. We arrived at 7am – the dolphins normally arrive around this time and the feeding takes place at 8am – so it gave us plenty of time to have a coffee and admire the view before getting ready. When you buy a ticket there is also a fab food deal of the day so don’t worry if you don’t have time to get breakfast first.
Meet the Dolphins
All the volunteer staff at the centre are warm, welcoming and knowledgeable about the resident celebrities.
Mystique is the local alpha male dolphin and head of the pod, and his crew consist of Patch, Ella, Squirt, Harmony, Aussie, Valentine, Chompy and White Fin.
Mystique is easily recognisable by his markings and scars – one of which was left by an encounter with a bull shark in 2007.
The dolphins are wild so sightings cannot be guaranteed – but they are smart creatures and know where to get fresh fish so 99% of the time they will arrive! On the day we visited it was just Mystique the boss who came to visit. He has been coming to the Tin Can Bay dolphin feeding cafe since he was born and now has a family of his own that often join him.
Norma was the volunteer who warmly welcomed us into the cold water on the morning we visited. We listened to some info on the pod – the Australian Humpback is an estuarine dolphin, their favourite foods are crustaceans, fish and squid, and they can live to 40 years old. It is illegal to feed wild dolphins – the penalty is $8000 so make sure you only do it at the centre – which has special permits and is closely monitored by the QLD government.
After being given info on the dolphins, the centre and the experience we lined up to get our fish – a small bucket that we got to take down to the water for our waiting dolphin.
I was easily more excited than the boys at the idea of getting in the water – they were a little hesitant at first (I think the dorsal fin poking out of the water can be a bit scary too!) and Arthur wasn’t happy at all about getting his feet wet – it was a bit on the cool side! But once Mystique came up close all fears were forgotten.
We were told to lay our hand flat and hold the fish out – at which point Mystique gently took it from us and we were delighted! The only thing left to be worried about was the giant pelicans circling the area looking for scraps!
The whole experience was lovely – it was easygoing, relaxed and not rushed. We got plenty of time to enjoy the surroundings and it was great to see the dolphins in their natural environment. We learned so much and the volunteers could not have been more helpful and informative.
If you visit be sure to arrive as early as you can, there is loads of parking – even for a bus, large vehicle or if you are towing a caravan. School holidays can get busy. Make sure you wear suitable clothes and shoes – the experience means you get knee deep in water so you will get a bit wet. Expect to be there for a couple of hours – the feeding experience normally finishes at about 9.30am but the cafe is open until 3pm.
Entry to the Barnacles Dolphin Centre is $5, if you want to feed the dolphins it is an extra $5. Children under 3 are free.
While you are in the area don’t miss a visit to the Wes Mitchell Park in Tin Can Bay – it’s a lovely park right on the waterfront with access to the beach and crystal clear waters of the bay. It is also surrounded by a great cycle path and there is a skate park just up the path. The water here is perfect for little ones as it’s shallow and sheltered. The area is also dog friendly so Bobby had a great time!
Another place not to miss is Rainbow Beach – the Carlo Sandblow is a massive sand dune in the Great Sandy National Park (no dogs – sorry Bobs!). The views from the dunes across the multi coloured cliffs and sand all the way out to Inskip Point and Fraser Island are jaw droppingly beautiful. Don’t forget your boogie board – we spent hours sliding down the dunes at high speed (although some sort of ski lift needs to be installed to get back up to the top again!)
We treated ourselves to a night at the Sleepy Lagoon Motel in Tin Can Bay and it was absolutely lovely!
See our video below for a glimpse of Tin Can Bay, if you’re on the Sunshine Coast why not check out the Medieval Castle, taste delicious milk fresh from the source or visit the incredible Ginger Factory fun park!
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