Whale watching on Brier Island is the most popular tourist activity. From June to October, the waters surrounding the island draw humpback, minke, pilot, finback, and Atlantic right whales, who return year after year to feed and to raise their young.
One of the best places in the world to see these giant sea mammals, Brier Island also attracts whale researchers and naturalists. Partnering with the whale watching companies helps scientists collect information on the whales, so they can be better understood and properly protected (the whales that is, not the scientists).
Which is Best for You: a Cruise Boat or Zodiac
Deciding which company you want to tour with depends on your comfort level: choose a boat with a heated enclosure and onboard washroom, or a maneuverable – but exposed – Zodiac.
Boat tours are longer than Zodiac tours and give you a chance to stand up and walk around; a boat tour is best for comfort. A Zodiac moves faster and you get closer to the whales; a Zodiac tour is best for adventure.
Tours are typically between 2 and 5 hours long. Whale watching companies on Brier Island organize several tours per day, choose the time that works best for you (see contact information for the tour companies below).
How to Have a Great Whale Watching Tour
- Make a reservation. Whale watching on Brier Island is popular, reserve in advance especially during the summer months. Reserve by phone or online with any of the three companies listed below.
- Arrive early. Be sure you arrive at Brier Island in plenty of time if you’re booked on a morning tour. Pay careful attention to the ferry schedule, or spend the night on the island to avoid missing your departure.
- Be understanding of Mother Nature. Whale watching on Brier Island is weather-dependent, and tours do not depart when the weather is dangerous. Refunds and vouchers are available for canceled tours. If possible leave room in your schedule in case the weather turns foggy or rainy.
- Avoid getting seasick. Bring seasickness medicine (for it to be effective, take it at least 30 minutes before your tour departs).
- Be prepared for the cold. It’s much colder out on the water than it is on land. Take a warm (winter) jacket, hat, and gloves. If you’re on a Zodiac tour you’ll be given a bright orange survival suit that is toasty warm, but a hat and gloves are still recommended.
- Think about food. Boat tours are several hours long, so be sure to eat a good meal before you go. Take a snack or lunch on the long-duration tours so you don’t get hungry.
- Remember sun protection. It will feel cold, but you can still get sunburned. Put on sunblock before you go watching on Brier Island, and bring sunglasses so you’re not squinting during your tour.
- Bring your camera. If you’re worried about water damage, bring a protective case or plastic bag to protect your camera (or phone) from sea spray. Take as many photos as you like; they’ll always be a reminder of your experience.
Whale Watching Companies on Brier Island
Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises
Brier Island is the proud home of southwest Nova Scotia’s first whale watching tour company: Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises. Since 1984 the company has been researching whales. And since 1986 they have been taking visitors on boat tours, teaching them about the whales and seabirds that make the waters around Brier Island their home. You can find Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises next to the Ice House Gift Shop.
The Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruise fleet has two boats: the “Mega Nova” (a Cape Island style boat) and the “Cetacean Adventure” (a Zodiac raft).
Accommodation packages are available, in partnership with Hooking by the Sea and the Dock & Doze Motel.
tel 902-839-2995 or toll-free 1-800-656-3660
Welcome Aboard Whale Watching Tours
Welcome Aboard Whale Watching Tours is no longer in operation as of 2015.
Located at the Brier Island Lodge, Welcome Aboard Whale Watching Tours has offered guided whale watching on Brier Island since 2010. Their boat, “Island Link”, was specifically designed for comfortable whale watching, with an enclosed heated cabin and on-board washroom.
Welcome Aboard Whale Watching Tours offers packages that include a stay at the Brier Island Lodge, and meals at the lodge’s restaurant. You can even arrange for a boxed lunch to take with you on your whale watching tour (be sure to order it the night before).
Morning and afternoon tours are offered, as well as a “Sunset Whale Watch”. Brier Island is the westernmost part of Nova Scotia, and the last place the sun sets over the province.
Mariner Cruises Whale and Seabird Tours
Mariner Cruises was established in 1994 by the Graham family, long-time residents of Brier Island.
Tours are guided by a naturalist, on the Mariner Cruises boat “Chad and Sisters Two”, captained by Chris Titus. This boat is a Cape Island style vessel, with a heated cabin, washroom, and a sun/rain awning to protect passengers from the elements.
The Mariner Cruises office is in a colourful standalone building near the ferry wharf. Look for plenty of flags and a happy whale outside!
Packages with accommodation are offered in partnership with the Bay of Fundy Inn and Guesthouse, and the Dock & Doze Motel.
Tours run four times per day, including a sunset cruise which gives you a chance to see the sun as it sets over the westernmost part of Nova Scotia: Brier Island!
tel 902-839-2346 or toll-free 1-800-239-2189