ICONIC Mooloolaba tour company Whale One is diversifying its offerings, with a speed boat to join its fleet soon, and a move into a shopfront at The Wharf under way.
Located at the main entrance to The Wharf complex, the shop has a bus stop at its doorstep, which will make life easy for Whale One visitors keen to avoid parking drama at the busy beachside area, owner John Matterson said.
It’s a big move for Mr Matterson and his 20-plus team members, who have managed to co-ordinate up to three Whale One trips a day and 38,000 visitors every year from a home office and a berth at the marina.
Whale One had owned a berth at the Mooloolaba Marina for several years and had its eye on a shopfront at The Wharf, but previous owners Merlin Entertainments Group had been unable to provide a suitable space, Mr Matterson said.
Whale One has forged a strong presence in the local tourism market, and this year has picked up work as a ferry for cruise ship passengers needing transport when their ship docks in Mooloolaba Bay, Mr Matterson said.
The shop has been vacant since a 2013 fire that damaged several businesses in the already dilapidated retail complex, but is now being refreshed with investment from Whale One and new owner of the complex Evans Long.
For Whale One, the move is part of a $1million expansion which includes the purchase of a speed boat – to be called Wild One.
Mr Mattterson said the 14.6m monohull, 50-passenger vessel would reach speeds of 50 knots in safe conditions.
“It’s a cross between those big offshore racers and a passenger carrying vessel,” Mr Matterson said.
Wild One is being built by Woody Marine in Brisbane.
He said redevelopment at The Wharf complex currently being planned by Evans Long wasn’t a concern.
“I just hope that whatever they do, they still have the same amount of car parks available as they have now,” he said.
He said this would likely be a challenge given the car park’s popularity among beach and Sea Life Mooloolaba visitors.
The 150sqm shop will be used as a photography centre for Whale One tour images, a retail outlet for merchandise and a bookings office.
The bus stop directly at the front of the shop and opposite The Wharf car park was a major bonus, as the company bought two buses last year to transport customers, Mr Matterson said.
Whale One is renovating the site now and will open the new shop and take Wild One’s first passengers on a trip on June 1.