North Bull Island: when to visit, what to see, and things to know

From when to visit and what to do while you’re there, this is all you need to know about North Bull Island in Dublin.

Sitting mere moments from the mainland and easily accessed by car, bike, or on foot, North Bull Island in Dublin is the perfect place for a picturesque bike ride or swim on a sunny day in the capital.

For those keen to jazz up their weekly roster of scenic stroll destinations, look no further than this dreamy little island off the coast of North Dublin.

Overview – a small island close to Dublin’s coast

North Bull Island is a small island near Dublin.

North Bull Island (also commonly referred to as Bull Island or Dollymount Strand) is a small island sitting parallel to the coast along Clontarf, Raheny, Kilbarrack, and Sutton in North County Dublin.

The island is 5 km (3.1 mi) long and 0.8 km (0.5 mi) wide. It can be accessed at two points from the mainland: a causeway bridge at Raheny and a wooden bridge at Clontarf. The latter suffers more significant congestion due to a one-way traffic light system in place.

Home to a wealth of native flora and fauna, the island is popular with tourists and locals who come to experience its wild, natural charm.

When to visit – according to crowds and weather

When to visit North Bull Island.
Credit: Instagram / @kaptured_on_kamera

Summertime and sunny days are the busiest times to visit North Bull Island. Weekends also attract the largest crowds.

Spring or autumn, as well as weekdays, offer less footfall and an easier parking pursuit.

What to see – incredible views over Howth and Dublin harbour

What to see on North Bull Island.

Aside from the impressive natural landscape and the rolling dunes, make sure to enjoy views over Howth and Dublin Harbour.

On weekends when the wind is high, Dollymount Strand is popular with kitesurfers, and their impressive performances can be enough to entertain visitors for an entire afternoon.

Directions – how to get there

Take the Dublin 31 or 32 bus to get there.
Credit: Flickr / Wanderer 30

North Bull Island is a short ten-minute drive from Dublin city along the Howth Road.

Alternatively, you can get the 31 or 32 Dublin Bus from the city. Hop off at stop 541, and it’s just a short walk over to North Bull Island.

Where to park – free parking on the island

Where to park on North Bull Island.
Credit: / Jonathan Wilkins

Parking is free on North Bull Island. On arriving, you’ll spot parking spaces and designated areas for cars. If you enter from the Raheny bridge, you’ll be able to park on Dollymount Strand beach itself.

There are tonnes of parking spaces, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a spot; just make sure to arrive early on sunny summer days as North Bull Island is a popular spot for locals from all over Dublin.

Things to know – useful information

Things to know about North Bull Island.
Credit: Flickr / William Murphy

The island has a lot going for it. In fact, it has more designations than any other place in Ireland.

It is a biosphere reserve, a National Nature Reserve, a National Bird Sanctuary, and a Special Amenity Area Order. The island is also a Special Protection Area under the EU Birds Directive and a Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive.

With all this in mind – keep an eye out for wildlife. North Bull Island’s Dollymount Strand beach is the breeding ground for common seals and grey seals, which can be seen idly lazing at low tide.

You may also spot pygmy shrews, red foxes, field mouses, hedgehogs, and European rabbits while exploring its dreamy sand dunes.

The island is home to a wealth of birds and butterflies, and if you’re lucky, you could spot a harbour porpoise (which bears similarity to a dolphin) along the shore.

What’s nearby – what else to see

Howth Village is nearby.

Howth Village is one of Dublin’s best day destinations for local culture and good food. It is a short ten-minute drive from North Bull Island.

St. Anne’s Park is another magical destination, and it is located just opposite the island (at the Raheny bridge entrance) and makes for a great pre-or-post-island adventure.

Where to eat – delicious food

Happy Out serves delicious food.
Credit: Facebook / @happyoutcafe

Happy Out is a local coffee shop located on Bull Island. The easiest way to find it is by entering the island from the wooden bridge in Clontarf. If you head down toward the beach, you’re sure to pass it.

With freshly brewed artisan coffee, sandwiches, and sweet treats, this is a great pit-stop for a snack. There is no indoor seating, but a handful of picnic tables are on offer.

Where to stay – comfortable accommodation

Clontarf Castle is a top spot to stay.
Credit: Facebook / @ClontarfCastleHotel

The nearby four-star Clontarf Castle hotel is steeped in history and offers a traditional setting with a touch of luxury. For those on a budget, check out the no-frills three-star Marine Hotel on the sand in Sutton.

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