Long Island and Brier Island, along with several much smaller uninhabited islands, form the archipelago that lies right at the tip of Digby Neck, a peninsula that juts into the Bay of Fundy. With a population hovering around 300 residents, Westport, Brier Island’s only village, cannot help but be relaxing. Consequently I recommend the village of Westport as one of the most relaxing three-day summer holiday destinations in Nova Scotia. There is only one access route to Brier Island: drive west on Highway 217 from Digby for about an hour, and two small ferry crossings.
There are countless photo opportunities, including rare flora, numerous shore and seabird species (Brier Island is located on the Atlantic Flyway, and autumn is the best season for bird-watching) and spectacular seascape opportunities wherever you choose to “drop” your tripod. Brier Island juts into the lower Bay of Fundy, and the waters surrounding it are the summer home of the nearly extinct Atlantic Right Whale. Endangered humpback whales are also regularly seen in these waters, as are finback and Minke whales and the Atlantic white-sided dolphin.
One of my favourite locations on Brier Island is a stretch of basalt columnar formations along the east and south-east shorelines. Simply park your car at the lot at the end of the road and walk south toward the small monument that profiles the seafaring heroics of Joshua Slocum, the first sailor to circumnavigate the world solo. Really good hiking books are essential here as you will be scampering along a fairly rugged shoreline. Be careful of the slippery seaweed and the tide: you will have great difficulty out-running the rising water if you’re caught where you shouldn’t be.
One of the quirkiest sights in all of Nova Scotia is the “Balancing Rock.” Near the village of Tiverton on Long Island, this precariously perched piece of basalt stands nearly seven metres high and looks as a good wind would blow it off its precarious perch. Not so. It’s easy to find, just look for the roadside sign several kilometres west of the Tiverton or ask any local resident.
I first discovered the Balancing Rock in 1991 when working on an editorial assignment and immediately saw its photographic potential. Getting close to it then was quite a chore, but I am pleased to report that a boardwalk now makes crossing the bogs and fens much easier and a really convenient stairway with an observation deck has replaced the knotted hawser once tangling over the cliff edge. It is about a 30-minute trek from Highway 217 and is most definitely a sunrise location.
Precariously perched on a ledge above St. Mary’s Bay, local folklore indicates three lobster boats once tried to pull over this rock in unison – unsuccessfully, apparently. The Balancing Rock can now only be photographed from a viewing platform, so it is highly unlikely you will find any fairies testing their strength.
Welcome to this great little archipelago jutting like a finger into the Bay of Fundy and be prepared for many great days of therapeutic relaxing while gulls screech in this working harbour and the smell of salt wafts through the air. Your watch won’t be wound quite so tight when you leave – I guarantee it.
**Editor’s note: the original images in this article have been replaced at the author’s request.