With only 4 days exploring New Brunswick, going whale watching was something I had to squeeze in!
Along with whale watching, Saint Andrews offers quite a bit when it comes to the different things to do in the quaint little resort town as well as nearby.
Depending on where you’re staying you can spend the day hiking, checking out different museums, heading out onto a fishing excursion, sampling a selection of seafood, visiting various galleries and small shops, or just relaxing by the beach if the weather permits.
However, for a memorable marine wildlife experience you’re going to want to hop into a boat and head out on the water for the chance to run into some whales, porpoises, seals, birds of prey, and maybe even a shark if you’re lucky!
Saint Andrews and Passamaquoddy Bay
Saint Andrews sits in a picturesque spot right on the shores of Passamaquoddy Bay. It happens to be one of the first resort towns in all of Canada and the town provides a unique insight into maritime life in New Brunswick.
Regardless of the time of year that you visit there’s always something to do in Saint Andrews, both indoors and outdoors, though it’s the summer months that bring the lush green landscape, warmer water for swimming, and the high activity levels of the wildlife in the area both on land and out in the bay.
What helps to make Saint Andrews and Charlotte County such a unique destination in the Maritimes is its out-of-the-way rural setting, abundance of marine wildlife, and its location on a small bay just off of the world-renowned Bay of Fundy.
In less than 15-minutes by boat you can leave the protective waters of the Passamaquoddy Bay and head out into the Bay of Fundy where you have a really great chance of spotting whales and other marine wildlife with ease.
This area of the Eastern Canadian coast is about the upper limit of where many of these larger marine mammals come to feed and the water of both bays, filled with nutrients, small fish, and a surprising lack of natural predators, makes it the ideal location for whales, porpoises, large birds,
Thanks to these marine features there are plenty of opportunities for spotting whales and this has lead to a surprising number of whale watching providers opening up in Saint Andrews and throughout most of the Bay of Fundy.
The Tour: Whale Watching in Saint Andrews with Fundy Tide Runners
Fundy Tide Runners has been providing some of the best whale watching in Saint Andrews excursions since 1995. The owner has more than 20 years of experience in this industry so you know you’re going to have a great time.
There are quite a few other operators in town but most of them take you out onto a much larger vessel, so you don’t get as close and personal of an experience as you get when you’re out on the water in the Fundy Tide Runner zodiac.
While the bigger boats will give you a better look at the whale itself, from above, they’re much slower on the water so you’ll spend a lot of time getting to and from the different whale watching spots rather than zipping over the waves and looking for the whales on your own as they breach the surface just meters away from you.
The excursion itself was about 2-hours in length out on the water and you have to show up 30-minutes beforehand for a quick primer and to put on your life-jackets.
After checking in with the lady at the desk on the second floor of the main building we met the captain who introduced himself and told us everything we needed to know about our upcoming adventure.
He quickly briefed us on the conditions out in the bay, gave us some details on how far out we’d be going, and told us that it would be very likely that we’d see a whale and other marine life though he couldn’t make any promises.
Having the high-speed Zodiac turned out to be very beneficial when we finally boarded and headed out onto the water.
From the moment the engines roared to life we were zipping across the waves and out into the Bay of Fundy, leaving all of the larger whale watching boats behind.
The Zodiac also meant that we could quickly make it over to the spots where the whales came to the surface and essentially chase them across the bay to the next spot where we thought they might come up again.
The thing with whales is that they don’t spend too much time at the surface. They’re mostly underwater looking for or chasing food and they dive to astonishing depths when they’re trying to fill up for the day.
Depending on the type of whale they can spend anywhere from 8 to 12 minutes underwater before coming back up for oxygen and a quick rest. This means that if you spot one in the distance you could be waiting up to 12 minutes to see it again and they move pretty quickly once they submerge.
Out on the water we saw quite a few different whales come to the surface and exhale that typical spray of water high up into the air. We also saw them breach a few times before diving but unfortunately we weren’t able to catch any tails or jumps on our trip.
Along with the few different whales we saw we also saw quite a few porpoises jumping through the waves off the distance. The Zodiac was also able to maneuver through the shallow Passamaquoddy Bay into a rocky area where we watched a curious group of seals hanging out by the rocks.
A Learning Experience
On the excursion with Fundy Tide Runners we ended up seeing a few humpback whales, a Finback whale, a few Minke whales, porpoises and of course some seals.
We were also lucky enough to spot some sea birds including the famous Bald Eagle, some Razorbill Auks, and some Cormorants off the distance.
Along the way the captain pointed out some local salmon farms and herring weirs that are still used to this day for local fish harvesting.
In the two hours I spent on board I learned a great deal about marine wildlife in the Bay of Fundy as well as the impact that fish harvesting and whale watching itself has on the local economy in Saint Andrews and other nearby coastal communities.
Overall, I had an amazing whale watching trip with Fundy Tide Runners and it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Saint Andrews that I would recommend if you’re visiting New Brunswick.
The 2.5 hour whale watching experience with Fundy Tide Runners costs $60 (not including HST) for adults and $45 for children older than 5-years old.
All of the tours leave from the main dock in Saint Andrews and it’s a short 5-minute walk from the tour building to the Zodiac.
There is plenty of parking available out front of the main building as well as throughout the nearby streets.
When to Go
I recommend going on the earliest tour of the day because it’s likely going to be cooler weather and you’ll get the captain at his best!
The Bay is also usually calmer in the morning and the lighting is great for photos.
What About the Other Companies?
There are plenty of other tour operators to choose from with similar pricing and excursion times.
I recommend Fundy Tide Runners because the Zodiac gives you a much more personal experience where you get the chance to get right up next to the whales rather than looking at them from above and further away.
Even getting to and from the whale spotting area is a much more memorable experience as you zip across the waves at high speeds rather than just sitting in a rocking boat.
Is it Worth It?
While you shouldn’t expect to see whales jumping over the boat you’re still likely going to have an amazing time out on the water!
I found it to be a very memorable experience and with the 95% chance of spotting some whales you’re bound to leave impressed with the trip.