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The bay of Mont-Saint-Michel

Europe's highest and lowest tides

Discover the majestic bay of Mont-Saint-Michel which extends from Cancale to Granville over nearly 500 square kilometres. This huge marine natural area, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located 15 kilometres east of Saint-Malo.

A natural place, between the land and the sea

The bay offers a unique landscape, nether quite land nor sea, composed of sand, polders and marshes. The luminous sky that surrounds it gives it an almost magical atmosphere recalling the world of fairy tales, especially in wintertime if there's a good snowfall.

Here, the tidal range is one of the largest in Europe, reaching more than fifteen meters at spring tides, when coefficients are higher than 100. You can enjoy excellent cockle fishing, although always keeping an eye on the tide, which can rise faster than a galloping horse!

The area is particularly conducive to growing shellfish. This activity mainly concentrated west of the bay, where oyster beds are to be found alongside the famous bouchot mussels.

Three streams flow into the bay, favouring the formation of a tidal bore, during the great equinox tides. This wave, fifty centimetres high, can travel several kilometres inland. Kayakers and surfers abound when the phenomenon appears.

Protected species in the bay

The bay of Mont-Saint-Michel is completely uncovered at low tide, over tens of thousands of hectares. This vast ecosystem consists of channels, mud flats and sandbanks, and is of international importance, regularly playing host to more than twenty thousand waterbirds of one hundred and thirty different species. In winter, you can admire the flight of barnacle geese over the foreshore.

Marine mammals are regular visitors to the bay. There is a resident population of sea-calf seals and a coastal population of bottlenose dolphins. We also often see whales transiting off the coast of the English Channel.

The Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel is also home to flocks of sheep. Growing in these ancient marine pastures, covered for a few days a year during very high tides, are grasses and plants impregnated with salt. Samphire and halimione give their salty taste to local lamb, so popular with gourmets.

Mont-Saint-Michel

The bay of Mont-Saint-Michel (St Michael's Mount) is home to two granite islands. By far the most famous is the Mont-Saint-Michel itself, located in the east of the bay, 25 kilometres from Cancale. The second, less well-known is Tombelaine, a few kilometres north of its sister. This is a true ornithological reserve. The large tidal range of the bay allows you to reach it with dry feet when the sea is in retreat.

Pilgrimages to the abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel began in the Middle Ages, crossing the mudflats on foot. Pilgrims and visitors today use the dyke, built to make the site more accessible. More recently a bridge on piles was built, which allows the water to pass beneath, allowing the island of Mont-Saint-Michel to be reached at any time of the day.

Today, crossing the mudflats on foot has become fashionable again. Contact a guide to take you to the Mount and discover the bay from a different angle. This unusual experience is becoming more and more popular with nature lovers wishing to get to the mount off the beaten track.