Nova Scotia is a peninsula surrounded by the Atlantic ocean and is famous for its seafood and sea life. From lobsters to grey seals, porpoises, sharks, star fish, clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, countless kinds of fish, kelp and so MUCH more. Nova Scotia is also an excellent location to see beautiful whales of all kinds. You can go whale watching in Nova Scotia at various locations around the province from Cape Breton to Digby and everywhere in between. You never know what you might see!
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When is the best time to see Whales in Nova Scotia?
You can see whales in Nova Scotia year round. However the best time to see them is in the summer to fall months when they are more active. Whales are most often seen in Nova Scotia from June to October but they say the very best month to see them is in August. Many of the whales that visit Nova Scotia are migratory and follow the ocean currents. The strong currents of the Bay of Fundy create lots of plankton activity which brings in lots of fish and then the whales follow. Specifically humpback whales travel to the Bay of Fundy every summer not only to feed on huge amounts of fish but to also nurse their new babies. The Bay of Fundy is literally a nursery for humpback whales.
If you are visiting outside of the summer season and have a chance to see a whale it will most likely be a minke whale. On the west coast of Canada minke whales can be quite elusive, however on the east coast of Canada they seem to be quite more common. The summertime is also when all of the whale watching tours around Nova Scotia are open. You won’t find any whale watching tours operating in the winter time. However there is over 13,000kms of coastline in Nova Scotia so you never know when you might see a whale or two from land. You can even go whale watching in Halifax. Minke whales have even been known to visit the Halifax harbour so jump on the ferry from Halifax to Dartmouth and keep your eyes peeled!
What Kinds of Whales can you see in Nova Scotia?
There are at least 13 different kinds of whales that you can see in Nova Scotia. The list includes humpback whales, fin whales, minke whales, rare north Atlantic right whales, pilot whales and even blue whales. In very rare occurrences you might also see orca whales or belugas in more northern areas like Cape Breton.
Each day is different when whale watching in Nova Scotia and you never know what you might see. Solo whales, a pod of whales, a mother whale with aa calf, or even no whales at all. Remember they are wild animals and unpredictable, so you need to have patience!
Where can you see whales in Nova Scotia?
You can see whales all over Nova Scotia. However the number one spot for whale watching in Nova Scotia is in the Digby and Brier Island area where there are multiple whale watching tour companies. There are whale watching tour operators in other parts of the province as well including the Halifax Harbour and Lunenburg. Cape Breton is also a very popular spot for whale watching. You can find whale watching tour operators in Cheticamp, Bay Saint Lawrence, Dingwall, Ingonish, and Pleasant Bay. Also in Pleasant Bay you will find the Whale Interpretive Centre a great spot to learn all about whales.
If you are wanting to see Puffins in Nova Scotia you can also check out Bird Islands Tours in Big Bras d’Or and Donelda’s Bird Island Puffin Tours in nearby Englishtown, Cape Breton. They often see seals on tour and once in a blue moon they see whales on tour as well.
Where is the best place to see whales in Nova Scotia?
The best place to go whale watching in all of Nova Scotia is on the Bay of Fundy. In particular going whale watching from the Brier Island area in Digby County, Nova Scotia. Between the town of Digby and Brier Island there are at least four different whale watching tour operators. All of the local tour companies share information with each other when they see whales so no matter which tour you take you will hopefully see them. Also each tour company has a different kind of boat so if you want to put on a survival suit and jump on a zodiac for a faster ride and closer experience then choose Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises. Or if you want a nice place to sit, where you can wear what you want and you can easily move around the boat then chose Freeport Whale and Seabird Tours.
To get to some of those tour operators you have to take one or two ferries which are free and run by the province. The ferries depart quite frequently but be sure to give yourself enough time to get to your tour incase it happens to be a busy day. New in 2023 there is a whale watching company called Adventure Bay Whale Watch Co. based in Tiverton right before the ferry ramp so you can take a tour with them and avoid needing to take the ferries at all.
Brier Island Whale Watching Tour Operators
There are two popular whale watching tour companies located in Westport on Brier Island in Digby County, Nova Scotia. Mariner Cruises Whale and Seabird Tours and Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises. Mariner has been operating since 1994 and is a family run business. Their tours operate on a 50 foot long Cape Islander style vessel. Mariner operates from July to October with 3 tours a day ranging from 2.5 to 4 hours in length with adult tickets starting at $50.
Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises is now celebrating its 38th year operating whale watching tours on Brier island in 2023. They have three boats that they do whale watching tours from. The Mega Nova is a 50 foot Cape Islander style boat with a capacity of 50 passengers starting at $50 for adults. They also have two large zodiac style boats that carry up to 12 passengers each starting at $70 per adult. The zodiac boats are much faster than the Cape Islanders meaning you might be able to find whales faster. However you also might get wet and passengers are required to wear survival suits provided by the operators.
Digby Whale Watching Tour Operators
There is one whale watching tour operator on Long Island in Digby county just before Brier Island. Freeport Whale and Seabird Tours is also a family owned and operated business started in 1994. Their tours are operated on a 45 foot Cape Islander boat that used to be used for lobster fishing and is wheel chair accessible. They offer 3 tours daily that last 3-4hours and operate from July to mid-September with adult tickets starting at $47.
New for 2023 is Adventure Bay Whale Watching Co. located on Long Island on the Tiverton side on Boars head road. Their tours operate on a 50 foot Cape Islander that is still a working lobster boat in the off season from whale watching. They offer two whale watching tours a day which are 3-4 hours in length and hold up to 46 passengers. Adult prices for whale watching tours start at $75. They also offer Sunset Cruises on the Bay of Fundy and private whale watching charters for special occasions.
Located in East Ferry, NS still on part of the mainland there is one more whale watching tour operator in the Digby County area. Petit Passage Whale Watch. They offer two whale watching tours a day that last 3-4 hours, with adult tickets starting at $75. Also operating with a 50 foot Cape Islander boat they also have a cafe on site and it is a great spot to grab a bite or snacks before or after your tour.
Lunenburg Whale Watching Tour Operators
There is only one whale watching tour operator on the South Shore of Nova Scotia and they are located in Lunenburg. Lunenburg Whale Watching tours operate from the Lunenburg waterfront from May to October with prices starting at $75 per adult. Lunenburg isn’t as popular of a whale watching destination as Digby county but whales can still be spotted here with Minke and Pilot whales being the most common, and there are always chances to see Humpbacks and others as well. Also there are often seals and many seabirds in the area. Aside from whales and birds you also get a unique view of Lunenburg from the water and might have a chance to visit the near by Ovens sea caves as well.
Whale Watching in Cape Breton
If you want to go whale watching in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia there are many different operators to choose from. Some offer tours on Cape Islander boats and others offer tours on Zodiac boats. A couple of the operators even offer guaranteed whale sightings or your money back. You can find whale watching tours along the west coast in Inverness, Cheticamp and Pleasant Bay. On the north east coast there are also whale watching operators in Ingonish. Further down in the Englishtown and Big Bras D’or Lake area you will also find puffin and seabird tour operators. They visit the Bird Islands and mostly see Gannets and Puffins but often also see seals and a whale or too as well.
Western, Cape Breton Whale Watching
Eagle Eye Outfitters in Inverness, Cape Breton offer seal and whale watching tours on the western side of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. They have 3 tours a day lasting around 2 hours and can hold up to 12 people at a time. Ticket prices for adults start at $55 each. Eagle Eye Outfitters most commonly see pilot whales but but also find Minke, Fin and Humpback whales and are located near a large seal colony. They also offer lobster boil experiences on board and tuna fishing charters.
Whale watching in Cheticamp is a popular activity with two whale watching operators available. Cheticamp Adventure Co. and Captain Zodiac. Captain Zodiac Whale Cruise that has a 100% guarantee on seeing whales. If no whales are found you get a 100% refund and they are the only one of two operators in Nova Scotia offering that. Their zodiacs carry up to 12 people and tickets for adults start at $69 each.
In the Pleasant Bay area you will find Captain Mark’s Whale and Seal Cruise. Their small zodiacs also hold 12 passengers with prices starting at $75 per adult. Right next to them you will also find Cabot Trail Guaranteed Whale Adventure tours the only large boat whale watching tour operator on the western side of Cape Breton. Their boat holds up to 35 people and prices start at $60 per adult. Pleasant Bay Whale watching
Eastern Cape Breton Whale Watching
On the north eastern side of Cape Breton there are several more whale watching tour companies. Oshan Whale watch at the very north, Dixon’s Zodiac Seafari in Dingwall, Nova Scotia Keltic Express Zodiac Adventures (KEZA), and Ingonish Whale Watching and Scenic Tours, both in Ingonish. The majority of the companies are all family owned and operated and offer various zodiac and larger boat experiences. It really depends on where along the Cabot Trail you are and if they have availability. No matter which whale watching tour operator you choose to go with in Nova Scotia you are sure to have a great time!
What Should You Take Whale Watching
What should you take with you when you go whale watching in Nova Scotia? The number one thing is layered clothing. The weather changes constantly in Nova Scotia. Also it might be sunny and warm on land but then on the water it could be chilly and foggy. If you are going whale watching it is best to be prepared by wearing layers. Wear a t-shirt base layer, sweater and windbreaker then you can add or remove clothes as needed. You may also consider bringing a hat, sunglasses and binoculars. Also you can still get a sunburn through fog so no matter the weather be sure to lather up with sunscreen. Also don’t forget your camera!
If you tend to get seasick be sure to bring gravol and ginger chews. Having a bottle of water and small snack is always a good idea too. The most important thing that you should bring with you however when going whale watching in Nova Scotia is patience. Your boat captain and tour guides will do their very best to find whales for you but it isn’t always the easiest. Sometimes you could find whales right away and other times it could take an hour or more. Also remember whale sightings aren’t guaranteed but it can still be a great experience. You might see seals, or unique seabirds, you can see the gorgeous coastline and more.
No matter where you go whale watching in Nova Scotia you are sure to have a great time. Fingers crossed you get to see whales!
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