Touring the Tusket Islands, the remote Nova Scotian fishing village on the Acadian Shore

by W. Andrew Powell

Fishing has been part of Nova Scotia’s heritage for a very long time, and the Tusket Islands is one of the rare places where you can still see part of that remarkable lifestyle today.

Near Wedgeport, Nova Scotia, a short drive from Yarmouth and along the Acadian Shores, the Tusket Islands are a remote fishing village that is still used for fishing. The times have changed, and people don’t live on the islands the way that they used to, year round, but the area is still dotted with fishing shanties.

On board the John Herald with Tusket Island Tours
On board the John Herald with Tusket Island Tours

Tusket Island Tours, operating out of Wedgeport, offers tours of the unique fishing village, and it is such charming and refreshing experience.

Operated by the LeBlanc brothers, the two will take you out on their lobster boat, the John Herald, show you the nearby waters and teach you some of the history of the area, and then take you to Big Tusket Island for some of the best seafood chowder that I’ve ever had.

On the boat ride out, Simon LeBlanc shares stories about navigating the waters, and how his family has been fishing in the area for generations.

“People used to live here full time,” Simon said.

“When my grandfather used to fish in the fifties and sixties, it made sense for him to live in a shanty on an island instead of rowing back every day when he was done his fishing. So a lot of those shanties built in those days were very poorly built, and most of them don’t even exist any more.”

Close to Big Tusket Island, Simon showed us nearby islands and shared some of the history that includes possible World War II espionage, and stories of shipwrecks, and local legends.

Along the way, the brothers also demonstrate how they haul in a lobster trap, and on our trip they had a humongous lobster to show us, too.

What makes the whole experience so unique is that it’s not just a tour about the area, it’s also a very personal trip, and Simon shares a lot from his family, his Acadian heritage, and how fishing has evolved over the decades.

Big Tusket Island
Big Tusket Island

Arriving at Big Tusket Island, we walked around to explore the dock and the paths through the little village, and then he sat down and sang Acadian songs while we enjoyed some of their homemade seafood chowder.

The village is a slice of coastal heaven. It’s serene and when I visited in June, it was quiet, and it felt like a real escape from the everyday. The docks were piled high with hundreds of lobster traps, and we sat out on the LeBlanc’s deck eating the chowder as he sang.

While Big Tusket Island is certainly larger than a lot of the other, nearby islands, it’s still a fairly small area, and from the deck you can still feel the wind blowing off the ocean.

Some of the other docks around the island look worn and weathered, and they tell a story about the history of this place that’s a little disconnected from the rest of the world. The whole experience is a wonderful step away from your average tour.

Everywhere you look, there are workshops and well-made, modern shanties that show a lot of care and love. The fishing families that work and sometimes live here may not spend as much time on the island as their parents or grandparents, but they obviously still admire and respect the Tusket Islands and what they represent.

Climbing back aboard the John Herald, the trip back to Wedgeport took about 30 minutes, and along the way Simon sang a few songs.

Over the years I have had quite a few tours, but this was one of the most personal, enjoyable, and interesting tours that I’ve ever experienced. The brothers are fantastic hosts, they know so much about the history and culture, and it was the perfect length of time on the boat, and on the island.

The tour is a great day trip from Yarmouth, giving you enough time to enjoy all the details, and then fit in a few other activities and dinner back in Yarmouth.

Visit The GATE’s Nova Scotia travel section for more trip ideas, and watch for more stories on Yarmouth and the area. Watch the video above for highlights from this fantastic experience, and read on for tips about the tour.

Tusket Island Tours travel tips

Holding a giant lobster on Tusket Island Tours
Holding a giant lobster on Tusket Island Tours

Tours are offered when weather permits, so be sure to call ahead as they do avoid taking people out when it’s too windy or rainy. You can generally take the tour between mid-June and late-September, but check their website for more details and for current information.

Tours are $104 for adults, and $55 for youth under 18.

On the day of your trip, plan to bring a bottle of water, sunscreen, sunglasses, and an extra layer you can put on or take off, as it’s generally cooler on the water, and the weather can change quickly. If you’re prone to motion sickness, the boat is very stable, but you may want to consider taking non-drowsy anti-naseau medication.

Tusket Island Tours also offers sea fishing charters and private tours.

Tusket Island Tours
142 Jacquard Road, Wedgeport, B0W 2B0
Phone: 902-740-3590

All photos by W. Andrew Powell / The GATE.

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