High and Low Tide Explained –  by Ian Lockyer

Although we have given out a lot of advice about how to check for tide times, we still get a lot of enquiries about the fundamental issue of ‘what is a High and Low tide’.  Here we try to explain this a simply as possible. 

tides respectthewater thanet RNLICommunitysafety Bewateraware drowningprevention tides

Essentially, tides are the rise and fall of the levels of the ocean. Tides change as the Moon rotates around the Earth and as the position of the Sun changes. Throughout the day, the sea level is continuously rising or falling. This cycle can happen once or twice a day, depending on the location of the area to the Moon. 

tides watersafety respectthewater RNLIRespectthwater Thanet RNLI Lifeboats tidalcutoff

When the sea level is rising or falling, water is flowing to or from the ocean creating the following tides: 

  • High tide is the point in the tidal cycle where the sea level is at its highest.
  • Low tide is the point in the tidal cycle where the sea level is at its lowest.

stormyweather respectthewater RNLIcommunitysafety thanet broadstairs beweatheraware metoffice bewaterawareThere are other tides called Spring and Neap tides. A Spring Tide occurs when the Sun and the Moon are aligned to combine for the largest tidal range of the highest high tide and the lowest Low Tide. A Neap tide is when the tidal range is at its smallest. This occurs during the first and third quarters of the Moon.

tidetimes coastguard lifeboat communitysafety seasafety coastalsafety

It is important to know the difference of these tides when planning your activities around the coast.  You could become stranded if you misjudged the tides when walking or running around the coast.

coastalwalkng respectthewater RNLI ROSPA RLSS

An excellent follow-up article should you wish to plan your activities around the coast is ‘Do you know how to check the tide time?


Andy Mills

Thanet RNLI Community Safety Officer Striving to reduce accidental drownings by 50% by 2024 by spreading key safety messages to Thanet communities and its visitors.