A sailor? Explore the list of places with the highest tides in the world

A sailor? Explore the list of places with the highest tides in the world


If you are a yachtsman, and especially one who travels long distances, it is important to know the places with the highest tides in the world. The reasons for this are clear.

To help you navigate the sea, we took a list of 50 such locations compiled by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It's not very hard to read, but it takes some time to understand the patterns, which can be critically lacking during a challenging yacht crossing.

In this article, we share these high tide places and some of the conclusions we have drawn from our study of NOAA's data.

1. The Bay of Fundy in Canada is the place with the highest tides in the world.

The Bay of Fundy is a long (151 km / 94 mi) and wide (52 km / 32 mi) bay in the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and partly in the state of Maine, USA, which looks like a huge naturally occurring funnel that makes the tides so strong. The maximum tidal range of the bay is 16 m (52 ft), and the average or mean is 11.7 m (38.4 ft).

Weather forecast for Bay of Fundy

2. But it is possible to go aground in the Bay of Fundy in more than one location.

The numbers above refer only to the Burntcoat Head Site, Minas Basin, one of the parts of the bay, which has many other smaller bays, straits, channels and locations. So there are eight other places with the high mean tidal range in the Bay of Fundy in the top 10 in the NOAA’s list. These are:

  • Horton Bluff, Avon River, Minas Basin — 11.6 m (38.1 ft)
  • Amherst Point, Cumberland Basin — 10.8 m (35.6 ft)
  • Parrsboro (Partridge Island), Minas Basin — 10.4 m (34.4 ft)
  • Hopewell Cape, Petitcodiac River — 10.1 m (33.2 ft)
  • Joggins — 10.1 m (33.2 ft)
  • Grindstone Island, Petitcodiac River — 9.4 m (31.1 ft)
  • Spencer Island — 9.2 m (30.5 ft)

The top 50 spots also include six more in the same bay: Herring Cove; Ile Haute; Spicer Cove, Chignecto Bay; Port George; Quaco Bay. The total number is 14.

Highest tides in the world. Valerya Milovanova / Windy.app

3. High tides are generally characteristic of Canada, including the state of Alaska in the US.

Large tidal waves are also found in two other bays in Canada in the neighboring province of Quebec, namely Ungava Bay and the much larger Hudson Bay. In both bays, NOAA is identifying two sites with a high mean tidal range: Leaf Lake and Leaf Bay in the first, and Koksoak River Entrance and Hopes Advance Bay in the second.

In the U.S. state of Alaska (geographically related to Canada), the largest tides are recorded in Cook Inlet. It is also an elongated bay similar to the Bay of Fundy, which takes you from the Gulf of Alaska in the North Pacific Ocean to the port of Anchorage, Alaska’s capital city. This bay also has not one, but a series of high tide locations: Sunrise, Turnagain Arm; Anchorage, Knik Arm; and Fire Island.

4. In the Sea of Okhotsk, west of Alaska in Russia, you can also easily run aground.

The exact name of the spot is Cape Astronomicheski (Astronomical) in the Penzhina Bay in the Shelikhov Gulf of the Sea of Okhotsk. It is a cape in one of the inland bays of the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia. With 7.3 m (24.1 ft), it is also one of the top 50 places with the largest mean tidal range in the world.

5. The highest tides in Europe are observed in France and England, or rather, between them.

The two countries are separated by the English Channel, the southern tip of the North Sea of the Atlantic Ocean. The French call it La Manche. More precisely, the strait separates the South West England and South East England regions of Britain from the northern shore of France with the regions of Brittany and Normandy.

The English Channel is a large and wide strait with a maximum length of 560 km (350 mi) and a width of 240 km (150 mi) and 34 km (21 mi) at the widest and narrowest parts. The latter is also known as the Strait of Dover. The average water depth of the English Channel is 63 m (206 ft).

Here, the places with the highest mean tidal range are “scattered” all over the coast of France. They are Granville, Cancale, Iles Chausey, Paimpol, Erquy, Binic, Le Legue Entrance, Cayeux-sur-Mer, Lezardrieux, Carteret and Ile de Brehat — 11 in total.

On a separate note is St. Malo

  • It’s a small port town in the Ille-et-Vilaine department of Brittany, which is known as the main port of France, from where French sailors (and pirates) went to the world’s oceans in search of adventure and returned with discoveries. Now, when there are no more pirates, the famous transatlantic single-handed yacht race, Route du Rhum, starts in St. Malo every four years with the goal to reach Point-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe, South America.
  • The town is also known thanks to the Mont-Saint-Michel, a small commune and the abbey of the same name, Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey, located to the east of St. Malo. Both the commune and its surrounding bay were inscribed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1979.
  • The tides in St. Malo (and other French places from the list above) vary greatly — roughly 14 m (46 ft) between highest and lowest water marks with the mean tidal range at 7.9 m (26 ft). At low tide, in particular, you can cross on foot to the two tidal islands next to St. Malo: the Grand Bé and Petit Bé. It’s not hard to guess that tidal islands are those that are connected (or cut off) from the mainland during the tides in a natural way.

Also, at a distance from the Brittany shore, there is the small island state of the Channel Islands. One of its islands, Jersey, is also on the NOAA's list of the 50 places with the largest mean tidal range in the world, including two locations: Les Minquiers and St Helier. So be careful if you go around this island.

Finally, finishing with Europe, on the British side, the big tides are in the Bristol Channel, an inland bay, named after the port city. The easiest places in the channel to run aground are Newport, Weston-super-Mare, Cardiff, Barry, Watchet, and, in fact, the Port of Bristol (Avonmouth).

Jamie Davies / Unsplash

6. If passing the Strait of Magellan in Chile, be aware of high/low water. As well as in Argentina.

The 570 km (350 mi) long strait divides the mainland of South America and Tierra del Fuego Archipelago (Land of Fire) to the south of it. It is one of the two major places in South America that is different from the others for the same reasons — high tides. Its average tidal range is from 8.5 m (28 ft) to 7.2 m (23.8 ft), depending on the specific location. There are also not one but a few of them: Banco Dirección, Bahia Posesion and Dungeness. In addition, it is just a very narrow strait with a minimum width of 2 km (1.2 mi).

The second place in South America with high tides is the southern tip of Argentina. Here it is worth highlighting the following specific places with a large mean tidal range: Ria Coig, Punta Loyola, and Cabo Virgenes.

7. The lower mean tidal range in the NOAA's list of top 50 places is in the same Bay of Fundy.

It is Quaco Bay with a 7 m (23.1 ft) range. It is a small bay on the west shore of Fundy near the town of St. Martins. It is known for St. Martins Sea Caves, sandstone caves, which can be reached by trails over the ocean floor during low tide.

Nearby you will also find two other famous natural areas where you can learn more about the Bay of Fundy, if you happen to be here and go ashore: Quaco Head — UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve and Fundy National Park Of Canada to the east of the Quaco Bay.

Remember that even though the Quaco Bay concludes the NOAA's list, the tidal range in the bay is still very high compared with the average range in the open ocean, which is between 0.6 and 1 m (2 and 3.3 ft). But it is higher near shore, as we learned from the study.

For example, according to the Marine Institute of Ireland "in the open Atlantic tidal waves are generally small but they increase as they move eastwards across the shelf and are further enhanced by the funnelling effect of bays and estuaries. Thus, for example, halfway up the Shannon Estuary on Ireland's West Coast the average tide is 4.5 m but at the head of the estuary it is almost 1 m higher."

The most common tidal datums. Valerya Milovanova / Windy.app


Text: Ivan Kuznetsov, an outdoor journalist, editor and writer from the Dolomites, Italy, and Karelia, Finland, with 10 years of professional experience. His favorite sports are hiking, cycling and sauna. Read his other articles

Cover photo: Iuliu Illes / Unsplash

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