Getting to feed the wild dolphins at Tin Can Bay should be on everyone’s Queensland bucket list! It’s an incredible experience, and if you’ve ever wanted to feed not only dolphins but wild dolphins – this is your chance!
This article will explain all you need to know about feeding the wild Australian humpback dolphins in Tin Can Bay in Queensland, Australia including cost, feeding times & days and more!
Where Is Tin Can Bay?
Tin Can Bay is a small coastal town in Queensland, situated 218 km (135 miles) north of Brisbane – Queensland’s capital.
Whilst it is known for its boating activities and fishing, it is most famous for its resident pod of wild dolphins that come to say hi each morning, which is what draws the crowds in!
These wild dolphins can be hand-fed at the Tin Can Bay Marina and it is definitely something you should experience at least once when you are in Australia!
Where Can I See Dolphins In Tin Can Bay?
Head to the Barnacles Dolphin Centre next to the Snapper Creek Boat Harbour in Tin Can Bay to see the dolphins. You can find the Google maps location here.
There is plenty free parking in the car park behind the swimming pool. Look for the ‘Special Car Parking Area For Dolphin Feeding’ sign to ensure you are parked where you won’t get fined.
A pod of 9 resident wild dolphins come to the marina, from which you go down to the waters edge and hand-feed the dolphins.
The dolphins here are wild Australian humpback dolphins, so they do look a little bit different to the typical dolphins you may be used to seeing.
These dolphins are grey, around 2.6 metres long, have an elongated dorsal fin, and as you may guess – a slight humped back appearance, which is just the accumulation of fatty tissue that appears on their backs with age.
Also remember that these are wild dolphins, so there isn’t a guarantee they will be there on every day (or that they arrive on time!) – although that is extremely rare and most of them usually appear daily.
If the dolphins are late, you can get a coffee at the Barnacles Cafe on site and wait until the dolphins arrive! They are usually pretty on time though.
Is It Safe To Feed Wild Dolphins?
The dolphin feeding experience is closely monitored by the volunteers and local authorities to ensure the safety and well-being of the dolphins and visitors.
Always follow the guidelines provided by the volunteers at the dolphin feeding experience, who are there to provide an enjoyable experience for both dolphins and people.
It is important that the dolphins are not stressed or disturbed. The Australian humpback dolphins are a near threatened, population decreasing species and so great care needs to be taken to ensure their numbers don’t decline.
How Much Does It Cost To Feed The Dolphins At Tin Can Bay?
It costs just $10 per person to feed the wild dolphins at Tin Can Bay which is an extremely good price!
All the people who work at the Barnacles Dolphin Centre are very dedicated volunteers, so all the money is used to purchase the fish to feed the dolphins and the antibacterial wash to ensure dolphin health isn’t compromised by human contact.
Tin Can Bay Dolphin Feeding Times
Dolphin feeding takes place daily at 8am. It is advised to arrive at 7am, when the Dolphin Centre opens. There is only one feed a day, so if you arrive late you will miss it.
As soon as the dolphins are fed they will generally swim away pretty much straight away, so make sure you are on time to be able to enjoy this experience!
What Is It Like To Feed Wild Dolphins?
The wild dolphin feeding experience at Tin Can Bay is a really unique opportunity to interact with wild dolphins in their natural habitat.
To begin with, the spectators will stand on the pontoon and the volunteers will be standing knee-deep in the water as the dolphins will start to swim in.
The volunteers are very knowledgeable about the dolphins and will explain some information about the Tin Can Bay dolphins, as well as answer any questions the crowd may have.
They will then introduce each one of the dolphins and the dolphin’s individual stories.
Then a small group of people from the crowd will be asked to go down to the water and feed the dolphins.
The volunteers will show you how to feed the dolphins correctly, and you’ll feed one small piece of fish to the dolphin, with the volunteer next to you.
Only a small group of people will be allowed in the water at any one time as the dolphins are very shy. Then the next group of people will get their go, so everybody rotates and gets a chance to feed the dolphins.
Sometimes you may get a second go at feeding the dolphins if there is any fish left.
Important Things To Note When Feeding The Dolphins At Tin Can Bay:
– Only fish from the Dolphin Centre can be fed to the dolphins. Contaminated fish or poor quality fish can cause health problems for the dolphins.
– The dolphins at Tin Can Bay can only be fed a maximum of 3kg fish per dolphin per day. Once the fish in the volunteers’ buckets is gone – that’s it for the day!
– Never enter the water unless a volunteer is accompanying you.
– You can not touch or swim with the dolphins at Tin Can Bay.
– Always have the flash turned off when taking photos so the flash won’t damage the dolphins eyes. Also keep your phone on silent to keep the noise to a minimum for the dolphins.
– You will be getting up to your knees wet, so come prepared – slip off shoes and shorts are ideal to wear.
– No dogs are allowed.
– Wheelchair access is available and they also have a disabled chair for the water which can be used when necessary.
Why Are There Wild Dolphins At Tin Can Bay?
Australian Humpback dolphins aren’t migratory, and prefer to live in waters that are less than 20 metres deep, so estuarine coastal waters and tropical and sub-tropical rivers suit them best.
Therefore, The Great Sandy Strait and Tin Can Inlet are ideal for them.
It was in the 1950’s that the first dolphin came to the shores of Barnacles Cafe, after he beached himself there when he was injured.
The locals began to feed him, and once he was well enough to go back into the wild, he often came back to the shores for a free meal.
Several decades later, in the 1990’s, a female dolphin appeared in the bay with her calf.
This calf still visits Tin Can Bay to this day and you’ll most likely get to see him (the locals called him ‘Mystique’) and he often brings other dolphins with him, which is how the daily feeds came about!
Do I Need To Book The Dolphin Feed At Tin Can Bay Beforehand?
The dolphin feeding at Tin Can Bay is a popular tourist attraction but you don’t book tickets beforehand, you just pay on the day when you arrive.
Barnacles Cafe is right next to where the dolphin feeding happens, so this is the perfect place to pick up a takeaway coffee beforehand, or have breakfast or brunch afterwards and enjoy the views.
The cafe is open from 7am until 3pm daily.
Accommodation In Tin Can Bay
Seeing as the dolphin feeding starts early in the morning you will probably want to stay overnight the night beforehand.
Here are some recommendations for accommodation in Tin Can Bay all located close by to the Dolphin Feeding Centre.
Chillaxin On The Bay – stunning 3 bedroom holiday home with perfect sea views.
Kingfisher Caravan Park – located right on the beach, this is the closest accommodation to the Dolphin Feeding Centre.
Tin Can Bay’s Sleepy Lagoon Motel – self contained cabins a 3 minute drive from the Dolphin Feeding Centre.
Tin Can Bay Marina Villas – featuring an outdoor swimming pool, a garden and a restaurant.
Dolphin Waters – self-catered units with spacious balconies and a pool.
Places To Visit Near Tin Can Bay
Tin Can Bay is situated in a beautiful part of Queensland, and a 30 minute drive will take you to Rainbow Beach – known for its naturally coloured sand dunes and the Carlo Sand Blow!
From Rainbow Beach you can drive over to Inskip and take the ferry to Fraser Island – the world’s largest sand island!
Is Tin Can Bay Worth Visiting?
If you are keen to feed wild dolphins in their natural habitat (and who isn’t right?!) then you can’t skip Tin Can Bay on your Queensland travel itinerary!
It is a very rare experience to be able to feed these beautiful wild creatures, and something you absolutely must do when you are in the area!
Tin Can Bay is worth visiting not only because of the dolphins, but because it has that lovely small town Aussie feel, which is just what you need on a holiday to relax and get away from everything.
More Queensland Travel Itineraries:
Queensland is full of beautiful scenery, from stunning beaches to incredible waterfalls, cute towns, great hiking, ocean pools and more. There’s definitely something for everyone.
If you’re set on doing an East Coast Australia road trip, check out these other Queensland travel guides to help you plan your trip!
Fraser Island: Fraser Island Day Trip From Hervey Bay
Hervey Bay: Swim with humpback whales in Hervey Bay!
Pelican Banks: Unknown Tropical Paradise Island In Australia!
Brisbane: 24 Hours in Brisbane
Gold Coast: Burleigh Hill Walk
Gold Coast: Elephant Rock At Currumbin Beach