As with much of rural Nova Scotia, the primary industry in Parrsboro is tourism. The community is known for its seasonal theatre productions, fossil and rock hounding attractions, museums, high tides and heritage buildings. The cliffs along the Minas Basin to the east and west of Parrsboro contain fossils of prehistoric animals and plants. Many fossils are on display in local museums.
Before the arrival of European settlers, Parrsboro was a portage point for Mikmaq travellers along the Minas Basin and Cumberland County river systems. The native inhabitants called the region "Awokum," meaning a 'short-cut' or 'passing-over point.'
The first European settlers were the Acadians in 1670 at the western mouth of the Parrsboro Harbour, near Partridge Island. After they were expelled in 1755, they were replaced by New England Planters. The centre of settlement gradually shifted from Partridge Island to the sheltered estuary of the Parrsboro River where a harbour and surrounding mills grew. The settlement, at first named Mill Village, was renamed Parrsboro in honour of Nova Scotia Governor John Parr in 1784.
Parrsboro thrived in the mid 19th century as the hub of a string of shipbuilding communities from Economy to Advocate collectively known as the "Parrsboro Shore". The town became a port of registry in 1850 for over 115 locally built schooners and giant square riggers, culminating in the largest, the ship, Glooscap, in 1891. In its peak years of the 1890s, over 1646 ships arrived and departed annually.
The Springhill and Parrsboro Railway began service to the town from the coal mining town of Springhill on July 1, 1877; Parrsboro became a coal shipping port for the Springhill mines, primarily serving Saint John, New Brunswick. Railway service to Parrsboro was abandoned in 1958, following several years of declining shipments, several months before the 1958 mining disaster.
In 1984, Parrsboro resident Eldon George found the world's smallest dinosaur footprints at Wasson Bluff, a series of cliffs to the east of Parrsboro Harbour. The prints are now on display at the Parrsboro Rock and Mineral Shop and Museum, owned by George.
- From the east (Halifax, Truro), take Highway 2 to Main Street
- From the north (Amherst), take Highway 2 to Main Street
- From the west, take Highway 209 to Main Street
- Main Street runs the length of town, most attractions are right off this road.
- Age of Sail Heritage Centre, 8334 Highway 209, Port Greville, ☏ . Mid-May to mid-Oct: 10AM-6PM. A museum in an 1854 church includes a local blacksmith shop from the Wagstaff and Hatfield shipyard, the Port Greville Lighthouse (circa 1908), a café and a boathouse. The museum describes the history of shipbuilding and lumbering and community lives with pictures, videos, story telling, models, artefacts and hands-on exhibits.
- Joy Laking Gallery, 6730 Hwy #2, ☏ , fax: .
- Ottawa House by the Sea Museum, 1155 Whitehall Road (along the western coast of Parrsboro Harbour, near Partridge Island), ☏ . Late May- to mid-Sep: daily 10AM-6PM. It was built 1775 but contains evidence of Acadian construction and several additions. It occupies the original town site and is near the legendary landing site of Henry Sinclair, 1397, and the factual site of Samuel de Champlain, 1607. It was the summer home of Father of Confederation Sir Charles Tupper, 1860s, and was named in honour of Canada's capital. A major focus is Parrsboro's shipbuilding history and the museum has many artifacts that date from the Age of Sail. By donation.
- Parrsboro Rock & Mineral Shop and Museum, 349 Whitehall Road, ☏ . This delightful shop features a gallery of rare fossils of prehistoric dinosaurs, reptiles, and amphibians. See the world's smallest dinosaur footprint, rocks and minerals; agate, amethyst, stone gifts, hand-made jewellery, paintings. Prospector supplies, books and maps are available. Tours by appointment only.
- Tysons' Fine Minerals Inc., PO Box 634, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Fundy Geological Museum, 162 Two Islands Roa (along the eastern shore of Parrsboro Harbour), ☏ . Mid-Oct to late Apr: M-F 10AM-4PM; early to mid-May: M-Sa 10AM-4PM; mid-May to mid-Oct: daily 10AM-5PM. Information on the history of the region's landscape. display of mineral treasures and learn about the unique geology of the area, where the world’s highest tides constantly reveal new evidence of an ancient past. Visit a working fossil lab where scientists reconstruct the past—one bone fragment at a time. Discover fossils and footprints, rocky red cliffs and sea stacks, tranquil beaches and prehistoric landscapes. Adults $6, child $4, preschool free, senior $4, university $4.
- Main & Station. A secondhand bookshop, an art gallery, a café, workshops, seminars, community events, artist residencies, art exhibits, and poetry readings. Its three-storey clock tower is a prominent feature of Parrsboro's Main St. The tower is part of this big, red-brick government building that was completed in 1914. The building housed an armoury that conducted military training during both World Wars, a post office, a customs house and a weather station.
- Bay of Fundy. Home of the world's highest tides, the Bay of Fundy is a unique ecosystem that attracts millions of migratory birds, whales and abundant marine life. It is one of the great natural places left on earth. Twice daily the bay empties exposing broad sweeping tidal flats, gem stones and fossils
- Parrsboro Golf Club, Two Island Road, ☏ . A 9-hole, 2,343-yard, par 33 course on the shores of the Minas Basin with a spectacular view of the Bay of Fundy. The course borders a 100-foot cliff to the beach below number #2 fairway and #3 tee. 6.5 km (4 miles) from Parrsboro.
- Ships Company Theatre, toll-free: . A professional theatre company for the production and development of Canadian and Atlantic theatre. Its season begins in July and consists of two Mainstage plays, a Second Stage show, a Kid's stage production, a Concert Series, Youth Theatre Camps. The theatre is built around a ship - the historic MV Kipawo ferry boat.
- 1 The Hall, 44 King Street, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- Co-Op, 228 Main Street, ☏ . Shop for groceries and treats
- Sweet Brier Boutique, 29 Main St., ☏ . Shop for trinkets and souvenirs
- Harbour View Restaurant, 145 Pier Rd, ☏ . Late Apr to Oct:. Seafood, etc. Beautiful view of the Minas Basin and Parrsboro Light House. Wheelchair accessible.
- BlackRock Bistro, 151 Main Street, ☏ . Daily 7AM-8PM. Bistro featuring fresh Nova Scotia seafood and locally grown organic produce, Nova Scotia and international wines, craft beers, both on tap or bottles, premium liquors and a selection of cocktails in a casual atmosphere. Outdoor seating available.
- Lightkeeper's Kitchen, 1 Cape Dor Rd, Advocate Harbour (about 40 minutes outside of town), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. They locally source as much as they can from the surrounding area including their garden, local fishers and farmers. Reservations required. Call or email.
- Nonesuch Cafe, 168 Main Street. A small coffeehouse and eatery. The café is on the ground floor of Main & Station along with a secondhand bookshop and myriad kickshaws, and art objects. They specialize in mushrooms, sea vegetables, and an international vegetarian cuisine. The hours are random in the off-season. In summer, W Th noon-6PM, Sa 1-6PM.
- Gillespie House Inn and Guest House, 358 Main Street, ☏ , toll-free: . 11 guest rooms, each with private bath. Antique furniture, hardwood floors, cozy duvets and comfortable beds. Five fireplaces, and a comfortable library. A hearty breakfast. From $119.
- The Parrsboro Mansion Inn, 3916 Eastern Avenue, toll-free: . Outdoor heated swimming pool. Breakfast included. From $129.
- 1 The Maple Inn, 2358 Western Avenue, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 10:30AM. $99-169.
- Fox River School House, 385 Hatfield Road (about 20 minutes outside of town in Fox River), ☏ . Overlooking Cape Split and the Bay of Fundy. A finely restored and spacious Georgian style house with gorgeous ocean views. A former school house, it has been restored to a rental home that sleeps 10. 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, 2 decks. Fully equipped modern kitchen. Walk to beach. No pets, no smoking. Weekly $1800.
- The Beach House on Hatfield Road, 144 Hatfield Rd (about 20 minutes outside of town in Fox River), ☏ . A gorgeous point of land directly on 2 beaches – the Bay of Fundy and a salt water marsh that empties and fills with the world’s highest tides. Spa bath, rain shower, fireplace, airtight stove, radiant heat in the floors, dishwasher, washer & dryer, outdoor clothes line, large dining room for groups or for working on projects, 2 balconies, and a main floor deck. The Beach House is private and secluded, but an easy 5-minute drive to a local store and a 15 minute drive to Parrsboro.