Tin Can Bay is a small town on the east coast of Australia. It is one of only two places in Queensland where you can hand-feed Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins. Under the supervision of the Barnacles Dolphin Centre, you can stand in the water and get up close to these beautiful creatures. Read on to find out how to enjoy the area to the fullest and find out more about the dolphins of Tin Can Bay.
How and when to visit Tin Can Bay?
This small coastal town is located just above the Sunshine Coast, 216km north of Brisbane. You can get there by car via the A1, renting a car from Brisbane, or taking the bus from Brisbane.
If you are visiting Tin Can Bay specifically for the dolphins, they are there all year round but only come out once a day between 7am and 8am.
Tin Can Bay’s sheltered coastline makes it perfect for any activity in or around the water, including sailing, kayaking and fishing. As the closest southern gateway to K’gari Fraser Island, it has over 140 species of birds that choose to call this place home, making it an ideal place for some bird watching.
You can visit the town and area throughout the year, although summer is the best time to enjoy the water activities and beaches.
Dolphins in Tin Can Bay
Why are there dolphins in the bay?
For over 65 years, dolphins have been coming to Tin Can Bay regularly to be fed. The first one actually washed up here in the 1950s. He was injured and the locals felt sorry for him so they started to feed him and he would come back from time to time. The message must have got through because there are now 9 dolphins that come regularly.
These dolphins are not the same breed as the ones you will see at Monkey Mia. They are Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins. As you can see on the pictures, they are grey and spotted.
To see and feed dolphins in Tin Can Bay, you can go to Norman Point.
Barnacles Dolphin Centre
In order to approach and feed the dolphins at Barnacles Dolphin Center, several volunteers are employed to properly supervise.
The dolphins usually arrive around 7:00-7:30 and you can feed them from 8:00. Unsupervised feeding of the dolphins is not permitted.
You cannot feed the dolphins independently. To approach the dolphins, you will have to pay 5$ and to feed them 10$.
Feeding dolphins; a unique but controversial experience
It is possible to feed dolphins in Australia at Monkey Mia (West Coast) and at Tin Can Bay. This practice, although heavily regulated, remains controversial.
It is important to specify that in all cases, it is forbidden to touch the dolphins. It is also necessary to respect the prohibited swimming areas. The whole experience is controlled because the aim is to respect the natural instincts of the dolphins and not to prevent their development. For example, you will not be able to enter the sea without the green light from the guides, the number of fish given at a specific time is planned and only the females are fed. The dolphins are usually given one fifth of their daily food requirement, which ensures that they continue to hunt in the wild as well. The rangers are keen to preserve their instincts; it is vital that the dolphins can teach their offspring to fish in the wild for the survival of the species.
This activity is quite controversial. Is it too much of a tourist attraction, or is it a wonderful opportunity to be two steps (or two fins) away from these incredible mammals? Make up your own mind and see for yourself.
Feedback on the experience
Jennifer tells us about her experience with dolphins at Tin Can Bay. They travelled around Australia in a van with a WHV and wanted to get closer to the dolphins on the east coast.
“I chose to feed the dolphins and my partner just watched them. We were both able to get in the water and I was able to give him two fish that the Barnacles center had provided me. It was very quick, the dolphin quickly gobbled up the two. The lady who was with us told us to put our hand in the water because sometimes dolphins come and put their nose against your hand as if to say hello. That day there were only two dolphins, sometimes there can be more. We were not allowed to touch them, which is normal as they are wild dolphins.
It was quite a unique experience. Of course it is important that it is well supervised to avoid derives and to protect the species. I personally have very good memories of it.