Tombolo Gallery: Gorgeous Golden Sand Island Roads

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Mudjin Harbor Tombolo, Middle Caicos

Mudjin Harbor Tombolo
Matt Anderson Photography / Getty Images

A tombolo is a special kind of sandbar that forms in the shelter of an offshore rock, connecting it to the mainland. It is a depositional landfill, a term derived from the Italian language.

There is something tantalizing about a tombolo. It is a road of golden sand leading to an island that is revealed only at low tide. In addition to a single tombolo, there are also double tombolos.  A double tombolo can enclose a lagoon that then fills with sediment, as is the case off the coast of Italy.

Mostly, tombolos come about by wave refraction and diffraction. Waves slow down due to the shallow water around the island when they come close. The wave pattern creates a convergence of a longshore drift on the island's opposite side. Essentially, the waves push sediment together from both sides; then when enough has built up, it will connect with an island. 

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Saguenay Fjord, Petit-Saguenay area, Québec, Canada

Shore of the Saguenay Fjord
Louis-Michel DESERT / Getty Images

Tombolos are built as waves from two opposite directions. The water is what pushes the sand together.

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Tombolo at Castle Tioram, Scotland

Castle Tioram, Lochaber, Highlands, Scotland
Heartland-Arts / Getty Images

Castle Tioram sits on a rock in Loch Moidart's south channel on the west coast of Scotland.

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Tombolo at Goat Rock, California

Bodega Bay, California / Goat Rock Beach


This tombolo has been fortified to serve as a parking lot for Goat Rock State Park, at the mouth of the Russian River.

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Tombolo at St. Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England

Marazion, Cornwall,England
TravelPics / Getty Images

For centuries, this island that connected to the mainland by a tombolo was a holy site dedicated to Saint Michael.

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Tombolo at Mont St. Michel, Normandy, France

Castle on hill, Mont-Saint-Michel, France
Maria Gorbatova / Getty Images

Across the English Channel from St. Michael's Mount is the exactly analogous Mont St. Michel, sitting at the end of its own (now fortified) tombolo.

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Oronsay Island in Loch Bracadale, as seen from Ullinish Point, Scotland

Oronsay Island in Loch Bracadale, as seen from Ullinish Point

 Spike [CC BY-SA 4.0]

Oronsay is a common place name in Scotland that means "ebb island," or tombolo.

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Tombolo at Elafonissos, Greece

Aerial drone photo of iconic beach of Simos with turquoise waters, Elafonisos island, South Peloponnese, Greece
fabdrone / Getty Images

Cape Elena, in the foreground, is connected to the island of Elafonissos in the Peleponnese near Crete, by this lovely tombolo dividing Sarakiniko Bay and Fragos Bay.

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Tombolo at St. Catherine's Island, Wales

View of St Catherine's Island

 Aeronian at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0]

St. Catherine's Island is an island only at high tide. Castle Tenby sits on it just outside the harbor at Tenby, on the Bristol Channel. The nearby Dinosaur Park adds to the geologic attractions here.

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Your Citation
Alden, Andrew. "Tombolo Gallery: Gorgeous Golden Sand Island Roads." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Alden, Andrew. (2021, February 16). Tombolo Gallery: Gorgeous Golden Sand Island Roads. Retrieved from Alden, Andrew. "Tombolo Gallery: Gorgeous Golden Sand Island Roads." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 31, 2023).