Around 2,000 people call the tiny, unassuming town of Digby in Nova Scotia, Canada home.
Chances are you probably don’t know where it is. But just as likely, you have eaten seafood that comes from this unassuming coastal town. I’m talking about a delectable delicacy - the scallop.
Scallops have been ingrained in Digby’s local culture for over a century. One of the world’s longest running festivals celebrating scallops is held here every year. We found scallops in almost every restaurant – it was as common as chicken in other parts of North America… but cheaper! Traditionally the domain of high-end expensive restaurant dishes, we found scallops piled into burgers, soups and every other imaginable edible concoction. I couldn’t believe how cheap and fresh they were!
One thing is for certain, if you love scallops, this is the place to indulge your food fetish.
But while you’re here, here’s 5 things you should experience in Digby, Nova Scotia:
5. The Ferry Crossing
The crossing time is about 3 hours on a fairly modern ferry. Manoeuvring our car onto the MV Fundy Rose was rather easy, and then we walked upstairs and settled in. The ferry features a restaurant, café, small toddler playground, business centre and giant windows to watch the incredible sea views. Oh, and did I mention free Wi-Fi?
Travellers on their way to Nova Scotia’s capital, Halifax, often make the mistake of driving right past Digby as they get off the ferry, but we’re so glad we stuck around for a few days.
Ever wondered what was hiding beneath the seaweed that covers the rocky seashores? This tour is incredible. It taught each member of our family something new as we scoured Point Prim (map) in search for predators, plankton and periwinkles (tiny snails!).
Our guide, Greg Turner from Gael Tours, a retired science teacher was so patient and relatable that even our kids were completely spellbound. He brought along everything needed from special magnify glasses to rubber gloves, so that we could get “hands on” along the Bay of Fundy coast.
We explored tide pools, observed plankton, sampled seaweed (yes, Josh ate a piece!) and searched for anemone and sea slugs. One of our favourite highlights from our visit to Digby! Watch full video.
The Bay of Fundy is home to majestic whales like the Finback, Humpback and Right Whales as well as dolphins, porpoises, and more.
Brier Island (map) which offers some of the best whale watching opportunities in North America is about an hour drive from Digby, requiring two car ferry crossings. Return journeys on each ferry cost around CA$7 per car (cash only). You must time it impeccably with no stops on the first island (Long Island) as you cross, to catch the 2nd ferry (to Brier Island) on time. If you do want to stop and admire the scenery, I recommend doing it on the return trip when you have more time.
Unfortunately for us, it was too early in the season to see whales so our group were all given complimentary tickets to come back another time. Not entirely helpful for someone who is only there on vacation for just a few days, but a nice gesture nonetheless. The boat was a speedy zodiac and we saw a few sea lions, but not much else. I suggest visiting in July/August for better results.
And remember if you get seasick easily, take an anti-nausea medication 30 minutes before departure. It’s no fun for the other guests when you sit in the corner barfing into a plastic bag begging the captain to return to shore. In fact, it’s enough to make me gag.
2. The Scallop Capital of the World
That’s Digby’s nickname. To most discerning diners, scallops are an expensive dish reserved for a fine dining locale. Not in Digby. Here they serve it on burgers!
And it just wouldn’t be right to visit Digby and not enjoy the town’s mouth-watering abundance of scallops, harvested right off its very own shores. While you’re at it, try other iconic fresh Nova Scotian seafood options like lobster, clams and haddock.
Josh’s favourite place to eat fresh scallops was The Crow’s Nest Dining Room within Shore Thing Seafood (map). Don’t be fooled by Google, a new location recently opened up right in the centre of town. It’s super friendly, super fresh and super yummy.
Our invitation to visit Digby came from Digby Pines (map). The resort has played an important role in Digby’s tourism industry since opening in 1905. Over the last century it has changed hands a few hands times and is now owned by the Government of Nova Scotia.
Digby Pines is a secluded seasonal resort just a minute drive north of the town centre. While it has developed a strong reputation for it’s 18-hole golf course, we found it to be very family friendly.
The hotel has 85 air-conditioned guest rooms and 31 cottages featuring cosy fireplaces and spacious private verandas. We stayed in a 2-bedroom cottage with a lounge separating the two bedrooms. Plenty of space for the whole family.
Our kids were constantly entertained. Right outside our cottage was a large playground that the kids could escape to regularly. And when they had enough sliding and swinging, a giant chess game and full-sized shuffleboard situated on the main lawn kept them laughing.
The heated outdoor swimming pool was enjoyable even when the weather was sour. And Josh tried out the indoor sauna and gym. Although I wish I had enough time to make use of the on-site spa.
We ate regularly at the on-site Churchill Restaurant. The Chef was very particular about his food and eager to make sure meals were perfect. Nova Scotia’s maritime environment inspires the cuisine, with a strong emphasis on locally produced ingredients. And of course, there’s no shortage of scallops, lobster, salmon, shrimp, oysters and mussels. Even if you’re not seafood-inclined, other options include burgers, steaks, ribs and lamb cutlets, and even a few vegetarian dishes. But to me, the baby spinach salad with cardamom poached pears, spiced pecans and Camembert was the best dish on the menu, hands down.
Once we filled up, the perfect way to end a meal had to be a relaxing walk along the property’s scenic wooded hiking trails.
We discovered there’s a very good reason that travellers come from far and wide to experience Digby Pines’ hospitality. It really is the #1 draw card in the scallop capital of the world.
See all our stops on our 2 week Nova Scotia road trip!