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Mt St Michel at low or high tide?

We'll be in Bayeux in about a week and a half for several days. We've set aside one day to go to Mt. St. Michel, and we'll go either first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.
At first I was thinking we'd go at low tide because I'd seen a video where people were walking around outside the wall, which seemed cool, but then I was reading RS book on France (or maybe a video?) and he recommends going at high tide. Any suggestions and/or opinions, pros and cons?
Thanks!

Posted by
7373 posts

But are you going this year or next year? The time of year and season makes a difference.

Posted by
22 posts

This year. We'll be arriving in Bayeux in about a week and a half so the day that we'll be at Mont St. Michel will be about the middle of October. I have a tide chart and I can tell that the tides won't be extremely high or low that day; I'm just wondering what the pros and cons are for going at either high or low tide.

Posted by
805 posts

We spent a night on the island in May 2 years ago.......we were waiting for the high tide that never came in......we had so hoped to be surrounded by the water as we had seen in pictures but realized that sometimes it just does not happen for you on the night that you are there......still did not affect the charm and fun of being on the island to spend the night.......majestic!

Posted by
21 posts

We went in July and stayed off island overnight. Even though I made a note of the tides and to see the differences, we never saw a high tide. While I was a little disappointed at not seeing it surrounded by water, we were glad to be there at low tide because we were able to walk all the way around the island (an hour or two before sunset). I wondered if the dam changes how the tides come in.

So I recommend low tide if you want to walk outside the wall. We got some nice crowd free views (at the end of the day and again early the next morning).

Posted by
6177 posts

Thank you for allowing us to see that you live on Puget Sound. Surely you have seen salt mud flats in your life before? Why disrupt a busy vacation schedule to see more of them? I'm inclined to say that most islands look better with water around them, but it's a matter of taste. I can see mud flats in the [New] Jersey Meadows any day of the week.

I would say that driving and parking ease, crowding at the site, and mealtimes and plans for the day are more important. But if it were easy to aim for high tide, I would. Mud flats often have an off-odor, too.

Many visitors to MSM hope to have the experience of barefoot pilgrims approaching a holy site, in medieval times. Sorry to say that the approach is entirely "ready for prime time." Not to mention the Alligator Farm and such in Pontorson. That's due to mass tourism. Try to focus on the views from just across the water, and the climb to the abbey itself. We were glad we went up the walls, because the main street is so much like a stage set for Game of Thrones, but with all the viewers there at once.

Posted by
1791 posts

Several years ago I walked outside the wall to the Saint Aubert chapel at the backside of Le Mont-Saint-Michel outside high tide, have not the idea you can walk that far during high tide. Wearing normal shoes I couldn’t go further, but even with boots it won’t be easy as the rocky surface can be very slippery and the mud at some places too soft. Think you will need somebody who can guide you around there.

You can walk from the main land to the island during low tide but you can’t do that without a (local) guide, otherwise it's too dangerous.

Posted by
6177 posts

Wil, the island is so close to the mainland, why is a guide required? I think I might even have done it, maybe in 2014. How can they stop [foolish????] tourists from doing it? I sort of remember going in an archway that led directly to the ticket booths and the stairs to the "Wall walk". I mean, people who haven't been there talk about "the causeway" as if the island were almost out of sight of land. That's not so.

Posted by
1791 posts

Tim – Thanks for noticing, now I see my remark is a bit incomplete. You can walk (or take the shuttle like most do) from the mainland over the "causeway/bridge" to the island but with needing a guide I mean in case you want to walk over the mud flats during low tide and is popular among (think most) locals. With the latter you cover depends where you start on the mainland larger distances and is not always without risk as there are depending the tide level “hidden” streams, pits and quicksand which can easily be overlooked and also it’s possible to get enclosed by the water during rising tide. In the Netherlands we are familiar with tidal muds and for mud walking as we call it a guide is necessary, without is dangerous.

Posted by
3 posts

We were just there with private guide 2 weeks ago. At low tide you can walk out, but I don’t know why you’d want to do that. View from the top priceless. Our guide also told us unescorted guests have gotten “stuck” in the “quicksand”, as she called it. There are busses to transport from the parking lot to a drop off spot to easily walk to entry point. She said at full moon tides, even the dry areas get flooded, but the road has been elevated not to effect bus route. Just a magnificent place. Enjoy Normandy! Beautiful and moving!

Posted by
151 posts

It is possible to walk on the bay at low tide, close to the walls. But if you want to walk further or even cross the bay from the neighbouring towns, you cannot do it on your own, because of the quick sands and the tides. You need to join a group with a licensed guide (they have a special diploma in relation to the risks with the bay).
The beauty of the landscape at high or low tide depends much on your personal taste (and on the weather too).