When you start to think about travelling to Canada’s East Coast, you most always think first about where you’ll find the pounds of fresh lobster you’re going to consume, but following that, you’ll likely wonder… “Where should I go whale-watching?!”
There are many different locations to seek out whales throughout the different east coast provinces, so it requires a little research to find out where the best places are. That being said, I like to think that the best place to whale-watch on Canada’s East Coast is off the coast of Brier Island in Nova Scotia.
Brier Island is a tiny island located at the tip of Nova Scotia’s Digby Neck peninsula – right in the mouth of the Bay of Fundy. Half the fun of visiting Brier Island is getting there. It takes two quick ferry rides, and one single highway, to actually get onto the island, but when you do, you’ll find East Coast quaintness at it’s finest. The island is stunningly beautiful, and known for it’s incredible whale-watching expeditions in the Bay of Fundy.
Whale-Watching off Brier Island
There are a few different whale-watching companies to choose between on Brier Island, but I recommend Brier Island Whale Watching & Seabird Cruises. Not only is this company great because they bring you to the whales, they’re also wonderful because they are committed to the research and protection of the animals, mammals and seabirds living in and around the Bay of Fundy. A portion of every ticket sold goes towards their research efforts, and during your expedition, your guides will tell you all about their different efforts in the Bay of Fundy. You’ll come back really feeling like you learned something, in addition to having seen the animals up close for yourself.
Brier Island Whale-Watching Tips
Make a reservation: Always call or go online and book an expedition time in advance – you wouldn’t want to drive (and ferry!) all the way out to the island only to realize that all the expeditions for the day are sold out!
Dress for all kinds of weather: Always bring a windbreaker (or a similar-type jacket), a sweater (expert layering is key here), and sunglasses. Check the forecast before you depart. If it’s looking like rain, even the slightest chance, pack a rain jacket, and all the additional rain essentials. It’s better to be over prepared on the boat, and look (and feel) like you know what you’re doing, rather that being “unprepared guy.”
Bring your own water and snacks: You’re allowed to do this, so why wouldn’t you?! Plus, there aren’t many options to purchase food items on the island, so coming to the island with your own sustenance is highly recommended.
During our expedition, we saw four different groups of Humpback whales. Some lingered momentarily before swimming off, and some stayed around for a while, allowing us to fill our camera memory cards! These mammals are majestic, and awe-inspiring to see in person. We were out for four hours on the water, but honestly, I could have stayed out all day! Whether you decide to cruise on a larger vessel (as we did) or brave the orange suits on a Zodiac, your experience seeing these animals will be unforgettable – I can guarantee you that!
Getting to Brier Island
Getting to Brier Island isn’t always fast, but it’s worth the drive if you have the time to make it. If you’re staying in the area, it’s easier to make an early expedition time. If you’re staying further away, perhaps in Halifax, it’s better to book an afternoon expedition time to give yourself time to get there. We travelled from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia to Brier Island for our whale-watching experience, which took about two and a half hours. Just research your travel time in advance so you know how much time you need to give yourself in order to arrive when you need to. Trust me though, it’s worth the drive out to Brier Island. The experience will be pure east coast, and quite likely, one of the top highlights of your vacation.
*all photos and opinions are my own.