Whale sighting - Brier Island

Brier Island, Nova Scotia: A Whale Watching Excursion

There are a lot of things you will want to do when you visit Nova Scotia and most of them include the ocean, in one way or another. An abundance of coastal hikes, the most delicious seafood, boardwalks, boat rides, and the list goes on. In early August 2020, I went whale watching off Brier Island for the first time. It was such an incredible experience that I couldn’t resist going again in 2021. There is something so magical about being in the waters for 4-5 hours, searching for a spout of water to catch a glimpse of the amazing humpback whales who frequent the Bay of Fundy in the late summer months before heading south.

Brier Island Community
Brier Island lighthouse

It’s a long drive from the city - to get to Brier Island - so making it a weekend excursion is more ideal than a day-trip, though that is always an option. Just past Digby is where you find the Digby Neck and there are two cable ferries to cross over to arrive at the final island. The island itself is very small. We followed the road to what appears to be the only local community –a small gas station outside a grocery shop, a local greasy restaurant where I found out the year before how tasty the fish and chips are, and a few tourism shops. We made sure to arrive early so that we could check in and then wander a bit. After being in the car for more than an hour, it’s always nice to stretch one's legs.

Brier Island Whale Tour

We start to board about 15 minutes before the scheduled departure; however, the line begins to form about 30 minutes prior. Once on the boat, the usual safety speeches commence. A lobster boat converted to a tour boat in the off season, there is room for many people to come along for one of Brier Island Whale and Sea Cruises’ three daily tours. Looking around at all these new faces –well, masked faces– these are the people that will transform from strangers to teammates on the hunt for a sighting of wildlife in the depths of the water. The first sighting, of course, was a kid that yelled ‘SEALS!’ Don’t get me wrong, they are always fun to see, but when you live by the ocean, and paddle at the mouth of the Harbour, or hike coastal hikes, you see seals a lot! After about an hour, the Captain spotted a spurt of water in the distance. There was a pod of Humpbacks just waiting for a visit from our small boat. Not far behind were everyone’s favourites: the dolphins! The highlight of this particular tour was a moment my sister and I both caught, while everyone else was cluttered to one side fixated on a spot where a whale surfaced. Perfectly timed, my camera was to my eye as I was scanning the back for the busy bustle of the dolphins, when one of them lept out of the water, not sure how high it went but we both saw it, my fingers holding down on the shutter and then, with a blink of an eye, it was over. This wonderful creature made the trip complete.

Brier Island Boat Tour
Looking toward the lighthouse
Brier Island Whale fin

After about three hours, it was time to head back to land. Drunk on the salty air, the sunshine and the many sightings of whales, dolphins, puffins and what we believe may have been a couple of shark fins, it was time to end on a high note. As the late afternoon sun lowers, it reflects off the water revealing the perfect scenery for the ‘end credits’ of our excursion.

Diving Dolphin
Brier Island - dolphin sighting

Interested in taking a tour? Check out Brier Island Whale and Sea Bird Cruises for seasonal dates.

By Aleyah Solomon