Watch and welcome whales at festival

STARS: The star of the Welcome the Whales festival on July 29 and 30 is the whale, seen here off North Stradbroke Island.

STARS: The star of the Welcome the Whales festival on July 29 and 30 is the whale, seen here off North Stradbroke Island.

STARS: The star of the Welcome the Whales festival on July 29 and 30 is the whale, seen here off North Stradbroke Island.

STARS: The star of the Welcome the Whales festival on July 29 and 30 is the whale, seen here off North Stradbroke Island.

Whales ‘blow’ tourism numbers skywards as North Stradbroke Island prepares for its biggest-ever Welcome the Whales festival  on July 29 and 30.

North Stradbroke Island promises its best-ever winter season on the back of an early surge in the migration of humpback whales up the Queensland coast. The migration has gained world attention for the return of white humpback whale, Migaloo, this season.

The importance of whales to Indigenous Australians is recognised in the annual Quandamooka Festival, with this year’s Yura Yalingbila (Welcome the Whales) comprising a weekend of traditional ceremonies, music, dance, interpretive tours – and the first ever Quandamooka Festival gala dinner.

The Yura Yalingbila weekend will be held on July 29 and 30, starting with the official welcoming ceremony and festival from 11am to 3pm on  July 29  at Headland Park at Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island.

The Festival is free to enter and will include traditional dance, arts, weaving, workshops, kids activities, food stalls, sand art and live music by Neil Murray (co-composer of My Island Home) and local female duo Blacksalt. 

 A pop-up dining venue will be established for all-day dining on  July 29 in a breathtaking cliff-top position at Point Lookout where fine dining will be complemented by views of humpbacks breaching and passing by the headland.

Breakfast and lunch will be served, with the award-winning team from Whales Way Restaurant providing the on-site catering.

The bookings-only dinner will begin at 5pm to watch the whales as the sun sets, with  wine and canapés served on arrival and on sunset there will be a performance of traditional dances of the land, sea and ancient Quandamooka Aboriginal culture on the cliff top stage. Live music will entertain as diners enjoy a three-course Australian traditional bush food inspired meal accompanied by quality wines. Cost is $120.

Whale Watch Cultural Tours offer whale watch tours with experienced Quandamooka tour guide Matt Burns (Quandamooka Man)also offering an Indigenous interpretation of the whale migration, as well as insights into the local area, its history, and the bush tucker and medicine plants that grow naturally.  

The whale focus continues with the Marine Mammal Forum: Sharing Scientific and Traditional Knowledge on  July 31 organised by  the Moreton Bay Research Station, Dunwich. The free open forum from 9am  to 3pm will consist of  talks from both researchers and traditional owners over three sessions covering whales, dolphins and dugongs.

The Stradbroke Chamber Music Festival is also being held the same weekend, and a concert will be held at the Dunwich Public Hall featuring a series of musical Minjerribah Miniatures that celebrate the natural world of North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah), linked by Chenoa Deemal’s narrations of stories from Oodgeroo’s Stradbroke Dreamtime in a 10th anniversary tribute to Quandamooka cultural heritage.

Quandamooka Festival curator Avril Quaill said the weekend would celebrate everything that made the Quandamooka Coast region such a remarkable destination:

"Yura Yalingbilla is a key event of the festival. We come together with the broader community to share culture and celebrate the majestic creatures that inhabit Quandamooka waters," she said.

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