The tides of Mont St. Michel

The tides of Mont St. Michel are legendary. Upon climbing to the ramparts of Mont St. Michel, you will be treated to beautiful views of the tidal flats surrounding the Mont.

The shadow of Mont St. Michel
The shadow of Mont St. Michel

This island has the highest tides in continental Europe with up to a 15 meters difference between low and high water. During the top of the spring tides, the sea goes out 15 km from the coast and comes in again very quickly…. VERY QUICKLY as I learned myself.

Mont St. Michel
Mont St. Michel

After exploring the Mont, I saw two people out on the flats taking pictures and thought (mistakenly) … they must know something I don’t know. So I quickly took the route down and out the main gate and found a small set of stairs to the tidal flats. The causeway is under construction so there were a lot of signs up about the construction, but I did not see any signs warning of the tidal flats and I clearly had not done my research before going.

Mont St. Michel view from the Causeway
Mont St. Michel view from the Causeway

As I stepped out on the flats, the sand was really slippery. I was wearing a pair of water tennis shoes, so was not too worried about my feet getting muddy though I did not really want to take a slide with my camera… but I proceeded on.

The views back up to the Mont are really breathtaking and you can see the architecture with the spirals at the top of the abbey looming. And what and incredible feat to actually built on this island with a tide to worry about.

The Mont view from the tidal basin
The Mont view from the tidal basin
Mont St. Michel view from the tidal basin
Mont St. Michel view from the tidal basin

Right about after I took this shot, the couple who I had seen previously on the beach were storming from around the corner and back up the beach toward the causeway. The girl was covered in sand up to her waist and yelling what sounded like “not so nice” French words to the boy who was scrambling after her.

At this point, I heard yelling from the ramparts and the wall of about 10 people started yelling “RUN” and were pointing out to the see. As I turned to look, you could see the tide was coming in and fast. I am used to California tides that creep in taking a few inches more with each wave. But there were no waves here… the tide just comes in and will eventually surround the Mont leaving only the entrance via the causeway above water.

So I started scrambling after the girl and boy. The sands were really slippery which is a weird feeling. Again I am used to California sand where you sink in but this sand was more like mud.  It was quite a humorous site with the ramparts cheering us on as we ran toward the steps to the causeway and a huge cheer as we climbed out of the basin.

The tidal basin of Mont St. Michel - Quicksand and Mud
The tidal basin of Mont St. Michel – Quicksand and Mud

The view from the Causeway did not disappoint either, but let’s just say after reading about the tides further… I was glad to have avoided the quicksand and to be on hard concrete to watch the last of the sunset.

Mont St. Michel
Mont St. Michel at Sunset

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Tips:

  • Website: Click here
  • Tides: The highest tides take place 36 to 48 hours after the full and new moons.
  • Tide Schedule: Click here
    • Be Careful !!!: Attempting to reach Mont Saint-Michel by any other route than the causeway can be dangerous. Upon returning to my hotel that night, I did more Google research (Yes a rookie mistake of after I visited) and learned that there is also quicksand. Some sites detailed that it is only in the marshes, but it is recommended that you only go out on the sands with a guide and make sure to know the tidal schedule.  People have been cut off and have drowned in these tides and shifting sand.