Making Cruise History in Eden on P&O Pacific Explorer

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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.

Disclaimer:

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.

Pacific Explorer docked in Eden
Pacific Explorer docked in Eden

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.

A Japanese inspired Omelette for breakfast at the Waterfront Restaurant
A Japanese inspired Omelette for breakfast at the Waterfront Restaurant

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.

Cat Balou Whale Watching Cruises
Cat Balou Whale Watching 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.

Dolphins joined us on our way out of Twofold Bay.
Dolphins joined us on our way out of Twofold Bay.

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.

Pacific Explorer from the new wharf in Eden
Pacific Explorer from the new wharf in Eden

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.

Boyd Tower at Red Point, in Ben Boyd National Park
Boyd Tower at Red Point, in Ben Boyd National Park

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”.

Our first whale sighting
Our first whale sighting

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.

A closer look at a humpback whale
A closer look at a humpback whale

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.

Green Cape Lighthouse
Green Cape Lighthouse

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) .

A humpback whale tail

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.

A humpback whale rolling on it's back right by our boat
A humpback whale rolling on it’s back right by our boat
Just saying hello
Just saying hello
A humpback whale spout
Just having a whale of a time!
Just having a whale of a time!

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.

A dolphin surfing ahead of our bow as we entered Twofold Bay
A dolphin surfing ahead of our bow as we entered Twofold Bay

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.

Eden Visitor Info Centre at the Wharf
Eden Visitor Info Centre at the Wharf

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.

Vietnamese Chicken Pho for Lunch
Vietnamese Chicken Pho for Lunch
Lunch with a view of Twofold Bay
Lunch with a view of Twofold Bay
Creme Brulee Cheesecake for dessert
Creme Brulee Cheesecake for dessert

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.

Snug Cove and Pacific Tug Boat "Flinders Bay:
Snug Cove and Pacific Tug Boat “Flinders Bay:

While I don’t work with them anymore, it’s still pretty cool to see them here in Eden.

P&O Short Breaks Sale

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.

Pacific Explorer and Cat Balou
Pacific Explorer and Cat Balou

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!

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Who Am I?

Matt works sort-of full time running his digital marketing business, TerraMedia. In his spare time though, he loves to travel with his wife, so they usually end up doing a lot of it.
Home is Australia, and while they don’t spend all their time travelling the world, Matt and his wife like to take the time to really explore and get to know a place, even if that means spending a lot longer there than normal tourists might.

You can read more about Matt and his story HERE.

Where Am I

Last visited: New Caledonia
Currently: Australia
Coming up: Scotland

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