Let’s get the main question out of the way: What is a tidal island? Quite simply, it’s an island connected to the mainland by a low-lying land bridge that is crossable during low tide and submerged during high tide. The phenomenon occurs all over the world, but particularly in the United Kingdom. Take a look at some of the more interesting tidal islands we’ve come across in our travels.
1. Mont Saint-Michel, France
The king of all tidal islands, Mont Saint-Michel is a legendary rocky outcrop off the coast of Normandy. The 100-acre island sits just over half a mile away from the beach, and 44 people permanently reside there. A fortified site that has been occupied since antiquity, Mont Saint-Michele is home to its eponymous monastery, which was founded in the eighth century.
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2. St. Michael’s Mount, U.K.
Interestingly, there’s a visually similar (and identically named, in a different language) tidal island in the U.K. Sitting atop the island are a castle and monastic buildings, the oldest of which were built in the 12th century. But artifacts have been found on the island that suggest its earliest inhabitants might have arrived in Neolithic period. The island still has residents today—35, to be exact, as of the last census.
3. Penguin Island, Australia
On the other side of the world is a tidal island with a very different population. As you can probably guess by its name, Penguin Island is inhabited by a colony of 2,000 little penguins (often called fairy penguins). Visitors can take a ferry to the island from Rockingham in Western Australia. A sandbar linking Penguin Island to the mainland appears during low tide, but beware—tides can change rapidly, making crossing dangerous.
4. Lindisfarne, U.K.
Also known as the Holy Island, Lindisfarne is home to 180 people, a 16th-century castle, and a 10th-century monastery. It is believed that the highly regarded Lindisfarne Gospels, an eighth-century illustrated manuscript, were crafted here.
5. Haji Ali Dargah, India
There’s a walkable causeway that links this Indian tidal island to the mainland, but it, too, succumbs to high tides, which make it impassable. Some 80,000 people per week visit the island’s 15th-century mosque, one of the most visited sites in Mumbai.
6. Koh Nang Yuan, Thailand
This tidal island—actually, it’s three islands—is one of the best snorkeling spots in Thailand. The sandbar is often above sea level, but its size differs drastically depending on the tides. While Koh Nang Yuan could be a perfect day trip from Ko Samui, visitors can stay overnight at the Nangyuan Diving Resort. Need a break from the sea? Try the world’s only zipline between two islands!
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