Sunrise and Sunset over Water

I posted an article on east coast sunsets over water nearly a lifetime ago in Internet time, way back in November 2008. I described peculiar instances where observers could experience sunsets totally over water on the eastern coast of the United States.

Think about it. People on the eastern side of any landmass don’t have many opportunities to view sunsets over water. Sure, they’re offered opportunities to observe sunrises over water just about anywhere but sunsets are another matter entirely. Those places do exist in a few lucky spots under optimal geographic conditions, and we had lots of fun exploring them vicariously.

Next we flipped the concept over to its opposite side and searched for west coast sunrises totally over water. We proved that it sometimes happens in the United States. However it occurs much less frequently than their eastern counterparts due to coastal mountains interfering with the line of sight and other factors. Once again we had a great time in the process.

Port Angeles Eastern Horizon
Theoretical west coast sunrise over water at Port Angeles, Washington, created in Google Earth

This has entertained me ever since. I’ve searched maps for variations on these phenomena, not obsessively but from occasionally as the notion struck me. I’ve been trying to discover spots – anywhere, not just the United States – where it should be possible to observe both a sunrise and a sunset totally over water from the same position each day.

This requires an alignment of somewhat unusual and specific conditions. The landform needs to be extremely narrow, maybe a needle-like peninsula, a razor-thin isthmus, the sandspit of a tombolo or something of that nature. This geographic feature needs to be aligned roughly North-South and with consideration to axial tilt. Finally any other landform either east or west needs to be at least several kilometres away to remain beyond the sight horizon.

Under these ideal conditions, hypothetically, I should be able to observe the rising sun float from the waters each morning as I sipped my coffee and follow the setting sun as it dipped back into the sea in the evening while I enjoyed a cocktail, all from the lovely deck of my fictional beach home that I’d construct specifically for this purpose. This will take place after I win the lotto of course.

I’ve found many places where this phenomenon might exist, at least theoretically. Squiggly shorelines with lots of peninsulas are a good bet. I’ve compiled a few promising spots.

My most promising candidate, however, is Point Pelee in Ontario, Canada. Does that place sound familiar? Why yes, of course, it’s the southernmost point on mainland Canada. It also represents a rare double geo-anomaly, which means that I really need to add this feature to my travel wish list.

Let’s bounce Point Pelee against the criteria: Needle-like peninsula; north-south configuration; and distant landforms well beyond the horizon both east and west. Point Pelee matches these perfectly, almost like someone designed it for this purpose. It’s an amazingly triangular landform jutting directly into Lake Erie due south from mainland Ontario with nothing else close enough nearby to obscure the daily path of the sun at any time of the year.

Let’s double check with an image. Street View doesn’t enter the park currently but it does go right up to the entrance. I see nothing but water due west. The eastern shore of Lake Erie is even further away.

Ample evidence also exists on the various photo sharing websites. Here’s a recent example from the tip of the point looking north on Flickr. Set a house right at the base of the treeline and it will be perfectly situated to experience daily sunrises and sunsets over water.

Perfect. I’ve found no other place on the planet better situated geographically to take advantage of a sunrise and sunset over water from the same spot. There’s only one problem: it’s a National Park. I don’t think they’ll let me build my beach house here. Also biting flies live here. Lots of them. I take heed when the second item on the Park’s Frequently Asked Questions page says, "What are those biting flies?"

They are called stable flies and they look a lot like a housefly in size and colour. In order for the females to lay eggs, they feed on the blood of animals and humans. Since insect repellent is not effective against stable flies because they hunt by sight versus by smell like mosquitoes, to protect yourself and still have an enjoyable experience at the park, wear loose light-coloured clothing, long pants and closed toed shoes.

Lovely. That plus the mosquitoes would definitely put a damper on cocktail hour.

Post a comment with lat/long coordinates or a Google Map link if you know of a similarly-situated spot. You might even see it turned into an article on the Twelve Mile Circle!

Meanwhile, the search continues.

16 Replies to “Sunrise and Sunset over Water”

  1. I don’t know; I guess it depends on your experiences and where you’re used to. Maybe it just living on a “small” island with a rugged coastline I can think of a few places this is true (Scotland / UK).

    Further afield the southern tip of India (Kanyakumari / Cape Comorin) is another well known example. Actually, you can see the sunset and the moonrise at the same time on some occasions. And it’s where the Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean meet – visibly too.


    1. I did watch both sunrise and sunset at the same spot. It was in beach in Rockport in Massachusetts! I don’t know the coordinates.

    2. I live in Margate, Kent, UK and if you stand on the corner by the police station in Margate you can see the sun rise over the north sea (where it joins the English channel) and set over the Thames estery

  2. Well on the east coast of mainland Scotland the various firths give you a east-west coastline, with a number of points protruding to allow both sunset and sunrise views. The Orkneys and Shetland Islands in the north you can pretty much pick a point… On the west coast and the Hebrides likewise very rugged. I’ve put a few place marks on a Google map; although an OS map is probably the best way to appreciate these points (Bing maps has an OS overlay).


    1. Oh Wow! Thanks for putting together the great Google Map, and also for flagging the tombolo. I have an odd fascination with tombolos — not sure why but I do. I hope everyone gets a chance to check out this map. I also enjoyed your Flickr site. I’m the world’s worst photographer so I enjoy seeing the work of someone who actually knows what they’re doing. I liked your GPS logging image by the way, but you probably already guessed that. 🙂

  3. I’m glad that someone else finds the topic of sunrise and sunset occurring over the same body of water fascinating.
    I first noticed this phenomena when Iwas visiting a friend in Capitola, Ca.
    Thanks for doing the extensive research on this wonder full subject.

  4. I believe you can see the sunset over water on the U.S. East Coast at First Encounter Beach in Eastham, MA, near the Cape Cod National Seashore.

  5. I’m surprised you didn’t mention Cape May, NJ. Sunset Beach, just outside Cape May, allows you to see the sun set over the Delaware Bay.

  6. We camp at Lake Erie in PA, at Virginia’s Beach Campground. We get to see the sunrise and sunset over the water every summer, This is the only body of water I have ever been able to see this and I wanted to know why?
    I did not look at your google map yet to know if the Point Pelee is across from us or not, am curious though.
    Glad to see others interested in this since your the only website that google even found referring to this phenomenon.

  7. I’m on Lake Huron/Saginaw Bay in Caseville, Michigan. This area is also known as the Thumb. I am fortunate to experience the sunrise and sunset!

  8. check Ancona-> where you can see the sunset and the sunrise on the sea…from the same city….

  9. On the Beach of Cape May New Jersey from mid November till The Beginning of Feb. South facing beach and some wonderful sunrises and sunsets over from the water.

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