Many travelers dream of visiting a fashionable destination and these fifteen spots are about as exclusive as it gets. You can only visit them twice a day, at most! That’s because they’re dependent on the tides for accessibility. Most are connected to the mainland via a road, causeway, or footpath that’s only passable during low tide, while others require you to use shuttles, suspension bridges, or even sea tractors to make your journey.
What they all have in common, however, is a warning and a promise to visitors. You’re in for one incredible experience — and you better pay attention to the departure times lest you feel the power of the sea.
1. Mont-Saint-Michel, France
Located off the coast of Normandy, Mont-Saint-Michel is a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site. 29-year-round residents host the estimated three million people who visit each year, many eager to see the island’s abbey, its charming streets, and famed restaurants (including La Mère Poulard, renowned for its omelets.)
Visitors can make their way to Mont-Saint-Michel on their own, using a combination of trains and a few short buses. Guided coach tours from Paris are an easy and popular option, but travelers should prepare themselves for a long day. You’ll be spending about 5 hours on the bus (each way!) and will only have about 2 hours at the site itself. For the greatest flexibility, explore on your own and consider spending the night at one of the Mont’s many inns for a quiet, cozy experience.
2. Passage Du Gois, France
It’s not very often that a sandbar is more exciting than the island it’s attached to, but that’s exactly the case with the Passage du Gois. This paved-over sandbar functions as a 2.6-mile causeway connecting Beauvoir-sur-Mer and the island of Noirmoutier. Sports fans will love it because the causeway has twice been part of the Tour de France and is home to an annual footrace, Foulées du Gois. The race begins as the water starts to cover the causeway. If you’re too slow, you swim to the finish!
Travelers visiting the area can take heart that their own visit won’t rely on the tides (and no sprinting is needed). The Noirmoutier Bridge serves as a permanent link to the mainland so you’re never stranded. You can learn more about the island and the unique position of the Passage du Gois during a 90-minute tour.
3. St Michael’s Mount, England
Home to a chapel, remnants of World War II fortifications, and unique examples of Cornish geography, St Michael’s Mount is also home to tremendous folklore. This is where the legend of Jack The Giant Killer originated — and his enemy, the 18-foot giant Cormoran, who lived in a cave on St Michael in the 6th century.
While everyone is invited to enjoy this pretty, memorable walk, you do have to do some advanced planning. A ticket is needed to secure your walking time (something done both for your safety and to keep tourism sustainable). Tickets are only available when the tides are low, taking out the guesswork of when you can cross on a particular day. And from April 1 to October 31, a boat service is also available as an alternative to walking, giving visitors maximum flexibility.
4. ‘The Island,’ England
If you’ve ever dreamed of owning your own island, you can get a small taste of the experience by reserving “The Island” rental cottage. Located by Newquay in Cornwall, this small island and its namesake home is cut off from the mainland by the tides, but a 24-hour solution has been implemented. You can cross via a tiny suspension bridge! The rental home comes complete with gorgeous views, a tiny wet bar, and the option to raise a pirate flag, but if you’re just looking around, wait till low tide and stroll over the sand to examine things from ground level.
5. Lindisfarne, England
Also known as the Holy Island, Lindisfarne is home to 160 residents who host about 650,000 visitors every year. A priory was established on Lindisfarne after the Norman conquest of England, followed by a castle in 1550. Visitors can tour the remains of both and enjoy nature reserves, beaches, and the charms of several pubs.
The island runs a comprehensive website that contains information on crossing times, conditions, safety protocols, and other local amenities (like where to charge an electric vehicle). In particular, they note that while a car can normally cross the causeway in 15 minutes, it can take up to an hour in peak tourism season. Normally, walkers, bikers, and drivers share this route, but for those who are making a spiritual visit to Lindisfarne, there is another choice. The “Pilgrim’s Way” is an option for making the crossing on foot, along the exposed seabed. This can be a memorable experience, but there are serious safety protocols in place. Those considering it are urged to hire a local guide for their own well-being.
6. Burgh Island, England
Mystery lovers will adore Burgh Island in Devon. The island was the inspiration for several Agatha Christie plots (including “Soldier Island” in And Then There Were None). A fabulous Art Deco-style hotel, hiking trails, and archeological sites round out the attractions. Just a short 250-meter walk separates the island from the mainland and visitors can cross the sandy beach at low tide but there’s another option that’s equally popular. Since 1969, a “sea tractor” has provided transportation at high tide. No tickets are needed for the sea tractor, but visitors who want to enjoy afternoon tea or Sunday lunch at the hotel will need to make advanced reservations.
7. Eilean Tioram, Scotland
Eilean Tioram is home to the ghostly remains of Castle Tioram, and the stone walls you see date to the 1200s. However, it hasn’t been inhabited for hundreds of years, and at present, visitors aren’t allowed to explore the interior of the ruins due to concerns about their stability. They’re plenty impressive even when viewed from the outside.
You can only access the island by foot during low tide. There are no bridges or sea tractors here! However, in this remote part of Scotland, there are a number of wildlife and nature tours, and some may include the option of visiting Eilean Tioram for those who want to enjoy a guided experience.
8. Cramond Island, Scotland
Located not far from Edinburgh, Cramond Island is filled with history, including evidence of prehistoric settlements. There’s been plenty of activity ever since, including evidence of Roman occupation, medieval besiegements, hundreds of years of sheep and oyster farming, and even World War II fortifications. In fact, the very causeway you’ll use to reach the island at low tide is the remains of a WWII anti-tank barricade.
Tide pools situated next to the causeway are hugely popular with little kids who love to spot fish and other marine life. As such, the walk can be quite busy with local families during summer weekends. But if you opt for a mid-week visit during the shoulder season, you’ll likely have the island entirely to yourself.
9. Barra Airport, Scotland
It’s one thing to have a destination only accessible during low tide, but an entire airport? That’s another thing altogether! Barra has the only beach runway in the world and flights are scheduled by the tides. Their website has a wonderful video showcasing the beauty of the area and what it’s like to work at such a unique site. Flying in is really the chance to visit two islands in one, as Barra is connected to Vatersay by a causeway. Together, the islands offer exceptional nature experiences, archeological ruins, and historic sites.
The beach isn’t just used for regularly scheduled flights and the odd emergency. Cockle pickers love these shores and are reminded to keep an eye out for the airport windsocks. When they’re hanging, that means the airport is in business.
10. East Quoddy Light, Canada
Built in 1829, the East Quoddy Light is the second oldest lighthouse in New Brunswick, Canada. While still in operation, the lighthouse is now automated and is no longer home to a keeper. However, seasonal interpreters are on hand to share the history of the structure and the island.
Getting to the East Quoddy Light is a bit of an adventure long before you cross the seafloor at low tide. First, you must take a ferry from mainland New Brunswick to Deer Island. Then you must cross Deer Island and take another ferry to Campobello Island, before waiting for low tide and safe crossing conditions. American visitors, take note. While you’re just a short distance from Maine, you’ll still need your passport as you’re on Canadian islands.
11. Ministers Island, Canada
Located not far from the town of Saint Andrews By-The-Sea, New Brunswick, Ministers Island gained fame as the summer home of Sir William Van Horne, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Today, visitors can explore his legacy, including a sandstone mansion, extensive gardens, and farmland.
When visiting any tidal island, it’s important to note the power of high tides and this is especially true of Ministers Island. High tide here can top 14 feet, and it comes in swiftly. Banish any thoughts of being about to squeak in a last-minute trip and follow the government’s tide chart.
12. Billingsgate Island, United States
Billingsgate Island is unique among low tide experiences because it’s not a connecting causeway that’s revealed at low tide — it’s the entire island! In its heyday, Billingsgate Island, near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, boasted 30 homes, a schoolhouse, and a lighthouse. However, erosion and brutal storms battered the island, destroying the lighthouse, and by 1920, all residents had left. In 1928, the island was declared a bird sanctuary, and by 1942, it was submerged by the ocean — except at low tide, when it’s accessible for exploring and shellfishing. You can only visit the site by private boat or by paddling.
13. Jindo Miracle Sea Road, South Korea
All of the destinations on this list are dependent on the tides, and most are only accessible twice daily. The Jindo Miracle Sea Road is unique in that it’s only available two or so times a year when the tides cooperate. When conditions are right, a 1.8-mile road of sand appears to connect the islands of Jindo and Modo, an event so special that there’s even a springtime festival to commemorate the occasion.
You can visit independently, and there are also a number of tours that depart from Seoul and provide transportation, rubber boots, and offer cultural context.
14. Haji Ali Dargah, India
The Haji Ali Dargah is a mosque and dargah in Mumbai which dates to 1431. A spectacular example of the Indo-Islamic style of architecture, the island is a site of significant religious importance and is especially busy on Thursdays and Fridays with visiting pilgrims. As it’s only located about 12 miles from the Mumbai airport, it’s an easy site to visit by taxi, provided the timing aligns with the tides. Visitors should note that the building’s west hall is reserved for women’s prayers while the east hall is reserved for men. A dress code dictates that everyone must be covered from shoulders to knees and women must additionally cover their heads with a scarf.
15. Koh Nang Yuan, Thailand
Even if you haven’t heard of Koh Nang Yuan, chances are you’ve seen it. This strip of three tiny islands connected by white sand (which disappears at high tide) is synonymous with a beach paradise and has become one of the most popular images of Thailand. Travelers love it for its superb snorkeling, diving, hiking, and swimming.
Koh Nang Yuan is just a short boat ride from Koh Tao. The two destinations look so close that you might be tempted to just swim over, but strong currents keep this from being a safe option. If you hire a long-tail boat to get there, make arrangements with the owner for when you will return. Alternatively, kayak outfitters are available for those who are keen to visit under their own steam.
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