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Sand Bridge at Low Tide

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An apparently inaccessible island has a secret access — a bridge formed by a high sand bar that is revealed only at low tide — and sometimes only at night as well.

Not only does this allow an island to be a little accessed secret, but also provides the opportunity for people to be trapped on an island while plot happens at them.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • An instance of this trope is represented by the card “Stretch of Beach” in the Greed Island arc of Hunter × Hunter.
  • Love Hina:
    • In the Festival Episode, Sarah and Su strand themselves on an island, where they are soon joined by a "shipwrecked" Kitsune. After a night of worrying how to get themselves rescued, help comes to them across a bridge of sand revealed by the tide.
    • The same happened in the Beach Episode, but to Naru, Keitaro, and Sarah. They spend the day on the island, until nightfall, when the tide lowers and they're able to walk across and make their way home.
  • In Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, Marie discovers a sand bridge that forms at least once a day between the beach of the deserted island the children find themselves on, and the piece of the wrecked ship which is caught upon a rock just offshore.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • Pokémon: The Original Series: In the episode called "The Crystal Onix", Ash and the gang find that the way to the mythical cave is a sandbar that only appears at certain times of the day.
    • Pokémon the Series: Black & White: In "The Island of Illusions", Grand Spectrala Islet is a Pokémon sanctuary that could only be accessed via a land bridge from Grand Spectrala Island when the tide is low, as the other bridge was destroyed long ago.
    • Pokémon the Series: XY: The bridge that connects Shalour City to the Tower of Mastery only shows up when the tide is low.
  • After all the trouble Wataru goes through to get off of Promised Island in Sister Princess, he discovers that he could have walked away on the one night a month when the dry land path connecting it to the Japanese shore appears.
  • In Umi no Misaki, a small island is connected to Okitsu by one of these for a few days a year. Naturally, there's a story and cape maiden ritual associated with it.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Gil Jourdan comic "La Voiture Immergée" (The Submerged Car) there is an 8-km stone bridge at low tide. The baddie killed his victim, and attempted to kill the hero, by siphoning their fuel tank so they'll run out of fuel right in the middle and be swept away by the tide. Gil and co. set their car on fire to draw attention from the coast and get rescued.
  • Northlanders: In the two issue "The Shield Maidens" arc, three Viking women fight off an army of Saxons from inside an Ancient Roman fortress that is only reachable at low tide via a sand bridge.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Exodus: Gods and Kings has the Red Sea parting do in the wizard with this. Instead of Moses parting the Red Sea with divine magic, he is given cryptic foreknowledge of a well-timed tsunami that draws back the tide abnormally low for his Exodus to cross over the resulting bare sea floor, and then Ramses's pursuers get slammed by the subsequent Giant Wall of Watery Doom shortly afterwards.
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel ends up on one (Mont Saint-Michel, below in Real Life), partly in an effort to create a Closed Circle where Sir Percy can confront Chauvelin without his men as backup.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Bassie & Adriaan: In the France episode of "De Geheimzinnige Opdracht", the real life example of Mont Saint-Michel is the hiding place of the package, with the riddle to find the package describing it as "a castle you can walk to if you're on time", which in this case means during low tide.

  • Abel's Island: Not quite, but after a few weeks of no rain, the water gets lower and the current slow enough that Abel imagines he might now be able to swim across. He makes it.
  • Plays a critical part in the famous Old English poem The Battle of Maldon, a commemoration of real-life events: In 991 AD, an army of vikings had landed on an island in the Blackwater estuary in Essex which was connected to the mainland by a causeway only accessible at low tide. Englishmen and Vikings fighting over the causeway makes up the first part of the poem.
  • The Belgariad: The local Mordor can be reached by a chain of islands where a path emerges at low tide. The heroes use this path to sneak in for the final confrontation of the main pentalogy. Subverted when the protagonists first discover it in the prequels; they anticipate it being guarded and inconspicuously cross the frozen northern sea instead.
  • The title story from The Bloody Chamber takes place in a Mont Saint-Michel-inspired castle (see the Real Life section below), complete with a climactic crossing of such a bridge.
  • In Michael McDowell's The Elementals, the family Gulf Coast vacation spot Beldame becomes utterly cut off at medium-to-high tide ... the better for its spooky goings-on to terrorize the characters.
  • The Famous Five:
    • In Five Go to Demon's Rocks, the lighthouse is built out to sea, and can be reached on foot at low tide; otherwise, a boat is necessary. Some nearby underground caves are also flooded at high tide. When the Five are locked in the lighthouse, Julian and Dick try to escape through the foundation shaft of the lighthouse, but are thwarted by their enemies; and as they try to escape, the tide starts rising, threatening to drown them.
      Dick: I think this must be a bad dream. The tide's coming in.
    • In Five Go to Smuggler's Top, tides are not mentioned, but the island of Castaway (very similar to the Mont St Michel in France) was once an island until sea levels dropped. The island can only be reached by one road, with dangerous misty marshes on both sides.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire had a number of them, such as the monastery at the Trident delta and the castle that Bran hides in, although as the latter is nowhere near the ocean, tides as such are not involved.
  • In Meredith Ann Pierce's The Woman Who Loved Reindeer, one of these allows a migrating tribe to continue on their way. (Capricious spirit-beings are involved.)

    Tabletop Games 
  • Legend of the Five Rings includes a location in Crab Clan lands called the "Tidal Landbridge" which... is what you'd expect. Inevitably, it is best known for an incident in which a Crab Clan army and reinforcements from their Crane Clan rivals fought a group of Shadowlands invaders until the tide came back in with inevitable results.

    Video Games 
  • The Battle For Wesnoth: Though technically a safe ford across a raging river, the effect is much the same. Scenario 6 in the flagship campaign Heir to the Throne, features the Thieves' Guild of the besieged city letting your army know of a hidden ford that will allow them to sneak into the city and flank the Orc invaders. In mechanical terms, meeting with the guild turns several water tiles into traversable land tiles.
  • Done backwards in Breath of Fire IV; our heroes walk onto Saldine island, then find themselves stranded at high tide.
  • Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball has a sandbar as a place to play volleyball.
  • Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade has this as the gimmick of Chapter 17 on the Ilia route. One of these will appear if you wait for a few turns, providing a shortcut straight to the enemy base and letting you skip much of the map.
  • Lost in Blue: While not a whole island, there's a sequestered area of the beach only accessible at low tide. The area contains resources that are otherwise hard to get, including a few mushroom types exclusive to the area and possibly early access to other things that usually wash up later. Getting trapped there isn't immediately fatal as one tide cycle isn't long either for a stranded Keith or neglected Skye to die on its own, but if it happens early on getting yourself out of the sudden resource dearth will be a primary goal for a while.
  • Mario Kart:
  • The Oni Stepping Stones in Aoi Shiro, only exposed during low tide at certain times of the year.

    Western Animation 
  • Being Ian: A sand bridge at low tide causes Ian to get stranded on a sand spit in "Bad Day at White Rock".
  • The New Scooby-Doo Movies: In "The Secret of Shark Island", it's a regular wooden bridge rather than a sand bridge, but the route to Shark Island and its hotel is only accessible for a couple of days a week when the tide is low. Naturally, the hotel guests only discover this once they want to leave.

    Real Life 
  • Mont Saint-Michel, a French islet on the coastline of Normandy, can be reached during the low tide by a bridge of sand (as long as you watch out for quicksand); eventually, an actual bridge was built. The tide is proverbially said to come back up at the speed of a galloping horse.
    • Also, Saint Michael's Mount, a similar Cornish islet that can be reached by an artificial causeway, only accessible at low tide.
    • In historical times, both were ordinary pieces of land — the change to part-time island happened rapidly in geological terms but over a number of human generations. And causeways allow water traffic without having to build a drawbridge — especially if the waterway is too wide for a drawbridge to be practical.
  • The bar that gives Bar Harbor, Maine its name stretches out to an island at low tide. The tidal changes are actually quite spectacular.
  • The wad/Watt/vade on the southern and south-eastern shores of the North Sea. People frequently trek out to the islands across the tidal flats during low tides as a family outing, though it is essential to pay attention to one's location and the tides, lest one find the way back to dry land cut off by the rising tide. For this reason, a local guide is strongly recommended (and on some routes, required).
    • The Waddenzee sits in between the mainland of the Netherlands and its tiny chain of islands.
    • The Ostfriesisches Wattenmeer in Germany lies between East Frisia proper and its islands.
    • The Nordfriesisches Wattenmeer (mostly German, but its northern end extends into Denmark) contains many islands, not just on its outer edges, but also ones right in the middle of the flats. Some of these islands, the Halligen, are in fact so low-lying that they get entirely flooded during storms, except for small artificial hills on which the farmsteads are located.
  • Lindisfarne in Northumberland, a popular tourist destination for its historic castle and monastery. There is now a tarmacked road to the island — although it's still inaccessible at high tide.
  • A rather dramatic example occurred when there was significantly more water in the form of ice than in the form of, well, water, which allowed ancient people to literally walk over what is now the Bering Strait and into North America.
  • Similarly, around the same time, the islands of Borneo, Sumatra, Java, and the Philippines were all connected to mainland Southeast Asia in a landmass known as Sundaland, allowing ancient peoples to simply walk into these lands.
  • Wrightsville Beach and Shell Island in North Carolina used to be connected by one of these until someone got the brilliant idea to add more sand to the sandbar, connecting the two permanently and giving them more land to build on to boot. So imagine what happened when Hurricane Fran came through and attempted to remake the original inlet...
  • This is how Sometimes Island (an island in one of Kodiak Island's bays) got its name.
  • Bribie Island just off Queensland, Australia used to have one of these but it disappeared when they dredged the channel for navigation purposes and the island is not connected to the mainland by a bridge.
  • Charles Island in Milford, Connecticut, although a bit unfortunate in that leaving too early after low tide has the probable consequence of you getting stranded. Despite people clearly being visible from the beach nearby, this has left people stuck out there for days.
  • Jindo and Modo Islands in South Korea are connected to each other by a causeway that opens up twice a year during low tides.
  • In 1798, Napoléon Bonaparte and a small force tried to cross the Gulf of Suez where the water had receded but were nearly drowned by the returning tide. Afterwards, he speculated that the "Parting of the Red Sea" (and subsequent drowning of the pursuing Pharaoh's army) might have been inspired by a similar event (the Gulf of Suez is at the northern end of the Red Sea).