Mont Saint-Michel and tides. Tides and Mont Saint-Michel. No matter which way you slice it, they’re a fabulous and unforgettable combination. A natural phenomenon and a Benedictine abbey from the eighth century perched on an island. A UNESCO World Heritage site and some of the highest tides around.
Mont Saint Michel: A Destination That Will Take Your Breath Away
Found in Normandy, France, Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most popular tourist sites in France. It’s no wonder. This medieval town on a small island topped with an abbey that was constructed on a pinnacle of rock is a sight that takes your breath away. Mont Saint-Michel should be on every must-do list for travel in France. And, one should try to see it at both high tide and low tide.
Interesting Facts About Mont Saint-Michel
It was 708 A.D. and Bishop Aubert from the nearby town of Avranches had a vision from Archangel Michael of building a church on a pinnacle of rock. Bishop Aubert ignored the first vision but when Archangel Michael allegedly poked him in the skull, he initiated the building of a church on Mont Saint-Michel.
In the Middle Ages, Mont Saint Michel was an important stop on the pilgrimage trail, drawing people from far and wide to make the difficult journey to get there. One’s commitment to God was unshakeable if you made it to Mont Saint-Michel.
During the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) between France and England, Mont Saint-Michel was under attack but never taken. It stands today as a symbol of French resistance.
The spire of Mont Saint-Michel, at 550 feet, above the bay, soars towards the heavens. Crane your neck skyward to see the golden statue of Saint Michael on top.
Mont Saint-Michel has extreme tides and when the tide comes racing in, it is said to come at the speed of a galloping horse.
The Spring Tide Phenomenon At Mont Saint-Michel
Let’s talk about tides. Who doesn’t love the ocean and its tides, tide pools, sea stars, and sand bars?
The earth’s tides are affected by the moon and its gravitational pull on our oceans. Most people know this, but did you know that the moon, the sun, and their positional relationship to the earth are key to the strength of the tides?
Is the spring tide phenomenon just a seasonal springtime highlight? Well, the name “spring tide” comes from the fact that the tide springs forward. It has nothing to do with the season and everything to do with the moon. During a full or new moon when the sun and moon are aligned with the earth, maximum tidal ranges, the difference in water height between high and low tide, are created. The highest tidal range in the world is in the Bay of Fundy, Canada, where the tides can range over 53 feet in just over six hours. At Mont Saint-Michel, which has the highest tidal range in Europe, the tidal range can reach 49 feet.
Watch the cycle of the moon and follow the tide charts to ensure your opportunity to see Mot Saint-Michel completely surrounded by water.
Where To See The Spring Tide Phenomenon At Mont Saint-Michel
Although Mont Saint-Michel is an island, there are many sandbanks surrounding it, and only at the highest tides does it appear completely and magically surrounded by the sea. At the very highest tides, Mont-Saint-Michel is not accessible for about 1.5 hours.
There are many places to watch the spring tide phenomenon. Position yourself on the ramparts of Mont Saint-Michel or on the causeway bridge that connects Mont Saint-Michel to the mainland.
Again, check the tide charts to see when the spring tides are highest and plan your visit accordingly.
Low Tides At Mont Saint-Michel
Another unique experience at Mont Saint-Michel is walking the seabed. It is a marvel to see the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel from a different angle and to walk the tidal flat in the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel, which is itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is essential to be particularly prudent. Every year accidents happen when people are taken by surprise by the tides. Only venture out with a guided tour. The guides know how to avoid the quicksand and waterholes and will time the visit to return before the tide comes in like a galloping horse.
Pro Tip: The tour companies offer rubber boots for guided walking tours.
More Mont Saint-Michel Pro Tips
Mont Saint-Michel gets about three million visitors a year. It is always crowded in the summer. Plan your visit for the shoulder season. Or, stay nearby and enjoy Mont Saint-Michel during the late afternoon and evening after the bus tours have left.
There are lots of stairs to climb on Mont Saint-Michel as you make your way up through the town to the abbey.
Sheep graze on the salt marsh vegetation by Mont Saint-Michel and are said to be delicious with a unique flavor. Look for it on local menus.
For additional inspiration, here are our 9 Tips for Visiting Mont Saint-Michel. Note that Mont Saint-Michel is right on the border with Brittany, France, and is a brilliant stop on an itinerary through Brittany.