Brier Island is a great destination for mountain bikers. Just 6 by 2km wide (4 by 1 1/2 miles), it's the right scale for spending a slow afternoon poking around the dirt roads that lead to two of the island's red-and-white lighthouses. Brier Island maps are available free at island stores and lodges. If you park your car on the Long Island side and take your bike over on the ferry, you'll save money; there's no charge for bikes or pedestrians.
You can rent a bike cheaply at the local youth hostel, the Digby Backpackers Inn (tel. 902/245-4573) at 168 Queen St..
On Long Island, two short but rewarding woodland hikes bring you to open vistas of St. Mary's Bay and the Bay of Fundy. The trailhead for the first, the 800m (half-mile) hike to Balancing Rock, is about 4km (2 1/2 miles) south of the Tiverton ferry on Route 217; look for a well-marked parking area on the left. The trail crosses through swamp, bog, and forest and is straight and flat -- until the last 91m (300 ft.), when it plummets nearly straight down a sheer bluff to the ocean's edge via some 169 steps. At the base, a series of boardwalks leads you over the surging ocean to get a dead-on view of the tall column of basalt balancing improbably atop another column.
For the second short hike, return to the parking lot and drive 5km (3 miles) south to the picnic area on the right. From the parking lot atop the hill, a hike of about 1km (a half-mile) descends gradually through a forest of moss, ferns, and roots to the Fundy shore. Note that the coastline here looks almost lunar, its dark rock marbled with thin streaks of quartz. You're likely to have this coast all to yourself, since few travelers ever venture here.
Farther along, Brier Island is also laced with hiking trails offering fantastic opportunities for seaside exploration. Pick up one of the maps offered free around the island. One good place to take a walk is at the Grand Passage Lighthouse (turn right after disembarking the ferry and continue until you can't go any farther). Park near the light and walk through the stunted pines to the open meadows on the western shore, where you can pick up a coastal trail.
Here in the Bay of Fundy, ocean currents mingle and the vigorous tides cause upwelling, which brings a rich assortment of plankton up to the surface from the briny depths. That means a free, all-you-can-eat buffet for whales, which feed on these minuscule creatures. So your chances of seeing whales are good in these parts. As the fishing industry has declined, the number of fishermen offering whale-watching tours has boomed. Most of these are down-home operations on converted lobster boats -- don't expect gleaming ships with comfy seats and full-service cafeterias like you might find in bigger cities or along the New England coast.
The decline of local fish stocks means that the boats need to head farther out into the bay to find whales than used to be, but you'll still almost always see fin, minke, or humpback whales. (Right, sperm, blue, and pilot whales, along with the seldom-seen orca, have also occasionally been spotted over the years.) Plan on spending around C$50 per adult for a 3- to 4-hour cruise, less per child.
There are plenty of choices, depending only on which port you want to sail out of. Local resident Penny Graham operates Mariner Cruises (tel. 800/239-2189 or 902/839-2346) in Westport on Brier Island, using the Chad and Sisters Two, which is equipped with a heated cabin. Both whale- and bird-watching tours are offered.
Pirate's Cove Whale & Seabird Cruises (tel. 888/480-0004 or 902/839-2242), located in Tiverton, has been operating offshore cruises since 1990; several tours are offered daily aboard the Fundy Cruiser and Fundy Voyager.
Petite Passage Whale Watch (tel. 902/834-2226) sails the Passage Provider 04, which has a partially covered deck, out of East Ferry. It runs two to three cruises daily from June through October for C$49 per person or C$28 per child age 2 to 12.
For a saltier adventure, Ocean Explorations (tel. 877/654-2341 or 902/839-2417) offers tours on rigid-hulled inflatable Zodiacs. The largest boat holds up to a dozen passengers and moves with tremendous speed and dampness through the fast currents and frequent chop around the islands and the open bay; guests are provided with survival suits for warmth and safety. The 2- to 3-hour trips cost C$60 per adult, less for children, seniors, students, and group members.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.