Today was an exciting day for us.
When we booked a short 3-night cruise from Sydney onboard P&O’s Pacific Explorer with a stop for a day in Eden, NSW, we had no idea how special the day was not just for the town of Eden, but also for Pacific Explorer.
Our itinerary said Eden was a tender port, and we planned the day based around the expectation of tender rides to and from the ship.
We soon found out though that the day was going to be a little different to what we first thought.
As we researched what we wanted to do in Eden, it became clear that a wharf extension was being built to allow the port to handle cruise ships, and that extension was due for completion for the 2019/2020 cruise season.
What wasn’t clear was whether or not the wharf would be open for our cruise. Our itinerary still said it was a tender port after all.
On P&O Pacific Explorer we discovered that the ship was going to be docking in Eden, not tendering. Awesome, we’d have more time in Eden since we didn’t need to allow for tenders!
So, this morning, we watched as our ship got closer and closer to the wharf and it became clear that we were indeed docking.
This trip was paid for entirely by us and no part of it was free or subsidised. However, I do use affiliate links in my articles from time to time. What this means is that if you click a link and then make a booking or purchase, I may get a commission for referring you. There is no impact on the price you pay.
We planned to spend the back out at sea with Cat Balou cruises looking for humpback whales, something we’ve never done before anywhere. We were docked at 8 am and our Cat Balou whale watching cruise was scheduled for 9:30 am.
Whale watching with Cat Balou
Excitement barely contained, we had our breakfast at the Waterfront restaurant, yum yum.
Then we made our way down the shiny new wharf, past security and the Eden information booth to the very first jetty in the harbour conveniently signposted as Cat Balou Cruises.
A much smaller vessel, to be sure, but how else can you get within arms distance of a 30-tonne humpback whale? Certainly not from a big cruise ship.
As we headed back out through Twofold Bay to the Pacific Ocean, the Catbalou crew filled us in on the landmarks we were seeing as well as some history of the area, of the wharf, and why today is special for the town.
You see, today not only marks the start of the cruise season in Eden for 2019/2020, but P&O Pacific Explorer, our home for a few days, was the very first cruise ship to dock at the new wharf. A project many years in the making was finally complete, apparently with a significant amount of input from P&O, so the flagship of the P&O fleet was there to mark the occasion.
The new wharf meant that this season has more cruise ships booked for visits to Eden than ever before, and the ability of Snug Cove to handle ships up to 325 metres in length means that while the port can’t dock the biggest ships visiting Australian waters, Ovation of the Seas and Majestic Princess, it can handle pretty much every other ship that might come its way, including the likes of Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas.
For a little known town that holds the unique claim to fame of being the only place in the world where killer whales worked with humans to hunt humpback whales in the past, this is a big deal.
A port that can handle the majority of cruise ships in the Australian market is hard to come by. There really are not a lot of ports in Australia that can provide such convenience in spite of the massive coastline we have available.
Of course, we weren’t here to talk about the wharf, but to find humpback whales!
The Cat Balou crew took us out beyond the headland where we soon spotted signs of whales in the distance. The occasional spout, tail, fins, or what we learned are whale “footprints”.
Navigating closer, these whales were playing hide and seek, so our captain took us further south, almost all the way to Green Cape Lighthouse. Along the way, we spotted a mother and calf in the waters off Ben Boyd National Park.
It was at Green Cape though that the magic happened. A pod of three humpback whales decided the boat was pretty interesting and came over to have a look.
These three humpback whales varied in size, and they breached right by the boat twice (unfortunately I was a bit too slow with the camera to catch them breach) .
Lots of playing in the water and rolling around like aquatic cats later, the majestic humpbacks started to tire of us and continued on their migratory journey. Time was also starting to get on, so our captain turned us around and we made our way back to Twofold Bay and Eden.
Along the way, we were joined by dolphins surfing in our bow waves as we rounded Red Point. They soon disappeared though and left us with the view of Pacific Explorer in Snug Cove.
Back in Eden
Back on land, we had time to peruse the marquee’s that had been set up by the wharf and see what local produce was available before lunch.
Since we were at the ship anyway, we decided to head back on board to the Waterfront Restaurant for a relaxed lunch with views over the wharf.
We had hoped to have time to take the free shuttle bus to the Taste of Eden festival, however, with the festival ending at 3 pm, and our lunch being complete at 2:30 pm, we decided it was too late.
Instead, we spent the afternoon watching the activity in the port and recognising some of the tug boats as belonging to Pacific Tug from Brisbane. That doesn’t mean much to anyone else, but some years ago, when I lived in Brisbane, I worked with Pacific Tug on their website and hosting through my digital marketing business, TerraMedia.
While I don’t work with them anymore, it’s still pretty cool to see them here in Eden.
We’ve been to Eden before, in fact, I’ve been a few times over the years, but we’ve never been out to sea before. It is a very different sight both from the sea on a Cat Balou whale watching cruise and from the upper decks of a cruise ship.
This beautiful town and bay, the southernmost deepwater port in NSW, has some fascinating history, and I hope the new wharf brings about positive economic growth in this beautiful part of the state that often gets forgotten by domestic tourists.
What do you think?
Have you been to Eden before? What’s your favourite part of this little coastal town? Let me know in the comments!