Whale Watching is one of the many things I love about living in New Brunswick. When asked what I love about living in this province, booking a day off to play with the whales is top of the list.
It may seem silly to some, but I think it’s so freaking cool that just hours from all major New Brunswick cities, you can hop on a boat and be surrounded by humpback whales, minkes—and if you’re extra lucky—the endangered Northern Atlantic right whale.
This is why every summer I make sure to take a few vacation days, change my out-of-office to “Hanging with Whales 🐳” and head to our favourite New Brunswick destinations for ALL the whale watching adventures. And yes, I have been known to book multiple tours because if you take anything away from this post, it should be this: no two whale watching tours will ever be the same.
This summer, many New Brunswickers (and Atlantic Bubblers) will be making 2020 the year they finally go whale watching. We put together this handy little guide to our THREE favourite whale watching destinations (and tour companies) to help make your planning easy!
ST. ANDREWS, NEW BRUNSWICK
Let’s start with the easiest and most accessible option. This one is great for families or anyone who wants to do a day trip to go whale watching.
St. Andrews is about 2hr30 minutes from Moncton, 1hr from Saint John and 1hr40 minutes from Fredericton—meaning if you want to, you can easily leave any of these New Brunswick cities in the morning, book an afternoon whale tour and have the kids home and in bed by 8:00 pm.
Want to stay the night? St. Andrews has some of the most beautiful bed and breakfasts, motels, and campgrounds. This includes my favourite: the iconic Algonquin Resort & Hotel.
So if you’re not in a hurry to get home, I recommend staying a night or two and having the whole St. Andrews experience. After all, there is so much to discover in this resort town by the sea from the Huntsman Marine Aquarium to Ministers Island.
While St. Andrews is home multiple whale watching tours, since this is the East Coast Mermaid guide to whale watching—I’ll share my two favourites.
QUODDY LINK MARINE
Quoddy Link Marine is our go to whale watching tour company out of St. Andrews. Last summer, we actually booked an evening whale cruise AND a morning cruise the next day.
Because once again for the people in the back—no two whale watching tours will ever be the same!
If you’re staying in St. Andrews and it’s in the #NBStaycation budget, why not consider booking more than one cruise? I promise you won’t regret it!
Quoddy Link’s catamaran offers three spacious decks and indoor/outdoor options for whale watching. It’s also incredibly safe and cozy for families with small children. This is why it’s my #1 recommendation when people ask what cruise to bring their kiddos on.
The boat is incredibly stable, so if you’re prone to seasickness, it’s a safer option than other tours. It’s also St. Andrews ONLY wheelchair accessible vessel! Another reason to love them!
Due to COVID-19, masks will be required for all passengers and must be worn when not able to social distance. And please, don’t let this deter you. The last thing you’ll be thinking about when a humpback is breaching right before your eyes is your mask.
The average cruise times are 2.5 to 3 hours in length. Plan to budget from $180 for a couple to up to $300 for a family of four during peak season. Reservations fill up fast so make sure to book in advance!
FUNDY TIDE RUNNERS WHALE WATCHING
Fundy Tide Runners is my other recommended whale tour out of St. Andrews and a MUST if you’re seeking a whale watching adventure of a lifetime.
Your tour takes place on a zodiac boat. This means when a whale is spotted in the distance, hold on tight—because this boat can FLY through the water. For that reason, all passengers over 90 lbs. must wear a Canadian approved full-length flotation suit. And you look totally badass in one, trust me!
For kiddos under 90 lbs., they will be provided with a Personal Flotation Device (PFD). Children under five years of age are not permitted on the vessel. When you experience it for yourself, you’ll totally understand why. It’s QUITE the ride!
Cruise times are 2 hours in length and you should plan to budget from $180 for a couple to up to $330 for a family of four. And again, avoid disappointment by making reservations in advance.
GRAND MANAN ISLAND, NEW BRUNSWICK
Another great destination for whale watching is Grand Manan Island. In fact, it’s where I went on my first Bay of Fundy whale watching tour back in high school!
Only accessible by a 1.5-hour ferry ride, you may want to plan an overnight stay if you choose to go whale watching off Grand Manan. The cruises are longer and you don’t want to have to worry about catching your ferry or the drive home after a day at sea.
You can catch the ferry in Blacks Harbour, which is about 40 minutes from Saint John. In addition to the cost of your whale tour, you will want to budget about $60 to $70 for a couple to a family of four for the ferry ride.
Interested in planning a trip of your own? Check out our 2020 Guide to Planning your Grand Manan Staycation.
SEA WATCH TOURS
Sea Watch Tours, owned and operated by Captain Peter Wilcox was my first whale cruise—almost twenty years ago!—and it has a special place in my heart.
You may also recognize Sea Watch Tours as the ONLY Canadian approved tour operator and vessel allowed to visit the world-famous Machias Island to see the puffins every year during June and July. (An experience I HIGHLY recommend at least once in a lifetime.)
You can read about our puffin experience here and rumour around these waters has it that there are still SOME spots open for the Machias Island experience this July!
The vessel you’ll sail on is the M.V. “Day’s Catch”. This lobster fishing boat has lots of seating for guests at the back of the boat and some canopy protection from the sun.
As you’re out in the heart of the Bay of Fundy, dressing warm is recommended and Sea Watch Tours provides blankets if you need a little something extra.
Whale tours are about 4 – 5 1/2 hours in length and you should plan to budget from $160 for a couple to $260 for a family of four. Again, reservations are highly recommend!
CAMPOBELLO ISLAND, NEW BRUNSWICK
Last but certainly not least, if you’re looking for a whale experience off the beaten path—with a few ferry rides included—you must plan an adventure to Campobello Island.
To get to Campobello, you will first have to take a FREE 20-minute ferry ride from L’Étete to Deer Island and then a PAID 30-minute ferry ride from Deer Island to Campobello Island. (For planning purposes, the Deer Island Ferry landing is about one hour from Saint John.)
In addition to your whale cruise, plan to budget $54-65 for your ferry rides to and from the island.
There are also many beautiful cottage rentals and Airbnbs to choose from as well. Due to COVID-19, there are limited dining options on the island but you can find a delicious meal at Herring Cove Restaurant or Vay’s Take-Away! And make sure to stop by the Scoop Shack for ice cream and Campobello Island Gift House.
To learn more about planning you tip to Campobello Island, check out our guide here.
ISLAND CRUISES WHALE WATCHING
Note: At the time of publishing, Island Cruises Whale Watching has not officially announced a 2020 season start date but are hoping for mid-July. Please make sure to Like and Follow their Facebook Page for real time updates.
Island Cruises Whale Watching is owned and operated by Captain Mackie Greene and is a MUST experience when on Campobello Island.
A natural whale whisperer (and rescuer as a Founding Member of the Campobello Whale Rescue Team) your experience with Captain Mac and the whales will be one to remember for a lifetime.
In fact, our whale tour last summer is still one of the best date nights Dan and I ever had!
You will set sail on a fishing boat with ample seating and great views of the whales. (Especially when they’re coasting right alongside you!)
You will also be treated to stunning views of Head Harbour Lighthouse, only accessible on land at low tide! I highly recommend the evening cruise to enjoy the sunset too!
Cruises are approximately 2.5 hours and you should budget $135 for a couple and up to $220 for a family of four. Reservations are highly recommend.
TIPS FOR ANY WHALE WATCHING CRUISE
Regardless of where you choose to set sail on your whale watching adventure this summer, here are a few things to remember.
If you’ve never gone whale watching before here in New Brunswick, there’s no time like this summer! With capacity limited on most vessels, you will have a much more intimate experience with plenty of space and fresh salty air to enjoy the Bay of Fundy. And, of course, get up-close and personal with some of the most beautiful creatures you will ever see.
And you get to support some incredible local businesses, destinations, and New Brunswickers while you’re at it ;)
Have fun planning your adventure and if you have any questions, DM me on my shell phone 🐚