Travelogue : Tin Can Bay

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Tin Can Bay

Tin Can Bay: Home to Rare Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins.


You know you've entered North Queensland when you see your first crocodile warning sign.  Tin Can Bay is about 180 kilometres north of Brisbane but don't worry. You're probably in more danger of being hit by a stray falling coconut than encountering an angry reptile. Besides, there's plenty of friendly local fisher-folk around to spot the crocs before they come anywhere near you.

There are various theories of origin on the town's name, from tinchin or tidhin (the name for the species of mangrove), to tinken (a vine with a large ribbed leaf) to Tuncanbar (a name for Dugongs that visit the area).  There are definitely no tin cans or other refuse floating in the bay.

The town is very tidy, beginning life as a humble fishing and trawling village. It's since grown a considerable tourism industry and has constructed a substantial marina for the mooring of yachts. Settling retirees have further expanded the town. The three main villages in the area are Tin Can Bay, Cooloola Cove and Rainbow Beach.

We weren't able to find any specific disability friendly locations.  We settled for a villa with a wide shower area and made do with our portable shower chair. Check the following websites for information on holiday homes, villas and caravan sites:

At this time of year, Spring, the area is fairly quiet. We've arrived between the school holiday periods. As I write, looking out over the marina, there's the gentle lap-lap of the moorings and it would be very easy to drift off to sleep. A boatie down below has done just that, dozing off on his deck in the midday sun.

That's the kind of place it is. Lot's of fishn', campn' and boatn' does go on here. However, the main drawcard for us to stop off on our northern trip, was the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins which you can hand feed at Tin Can Bay.

The feeding is supervised by Barnacles Dolphin Centre and there are some rules. No touching the dolphins and mobile phones need to be put on silent as the tones can interfere with their sonar. Remember, it's not a swim with dolphins like in the TV show Flipper; the dolphins come to you if they choose to. Two fish are sold for $5 dollars in small buckets (prices subject to change due to market forces).

I lifted, my son Jaden, down to the water fairly easily and placed him on a small chair in the water that was provided by the friendly people at Barnacles. We let him acclimatise his feet to the water temperature and let the lead dolphin, Mystique, come to him. Whilst letting them get acquainted we held a fish in Jaden's hand and offered it toward Mystique. With a blast of fishy dolphin breath through his blowhole, Mystique sounded his approval. Jaden replied in kind with a squeal of delight letting the gathered crowd know it was a pretty cool experience.

There is a nice cafe right alongside the feeding area run by Barnacles that does a great breakfast. The dolphins usually arrive between 7:30am and 8:00pm. However, they can arrive a bit late as they don't wear watches. So grab a coffee and relax. There's also plenty of salty seafarers around to chat to.

Dolphins have been visiting modern Tin Can Bay for 30 years. It began with an ancestor of the current pod docking at the small wharf with injuries. She was nursed back to health by the locals and returned to her pod when ready. Since then, 20 year old Mystique has continued the tradition by visiting the area with his pod.

There will always be a debate regarding humans feeding wild animals. It is interesting to consider that the dolphins did make first contact in Tin Can Bay and it is really up to them if they decide to come into the wharf or not.

Whatever your view on this, I think everyone agrees there is definitely some intelligence going on behind those eyes. Who knows, each morning in dolphinspeak, they may even be asking Shall we go watch the humans today?

So if you do go, always be respectful of their choice not to show but remain hopeful that they probably will.


You Can Read More About The Dolphins of Tin Can Bay At The Following Website:


Barnacles Dolphin Centre



Jaden Feeding Mystique at Tin Can Bay

Crocodile Warning Sign at Tin Can Bay

Sunset Tin Can Bay

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