The village lies on the railway line to West Cumbria, which passes over the River Kent via the Arnside viaduct. Up to the 19th century, the village had been used as a local port, but the building of the viaduct caused the estuary to silt up.
The oldest building in the parish is Arnside Tower, a Peel tower built in the 14th/15th century as a refuge against raids from Scots and the Border Reivers. The town is overlooked by Arnside Knott, a hill that rises out of the estuary.
With each high tide Arnside is subjected to a very fast rising tide. Because of the potential danger warning notices are posted at the pier, and an audible warning is sounded before every high tide (in daylight).
The cause of this fast tide is a combination of the large area of Morecambe Bay, narrowing rapidly at Arnside, plus the second highest tidal range (at Barrow, which can be as much as 32 feet on a spring tide nearest the Spring and Autumn equinox - these typically give rise to a tidal bore, which may be as high as 12 inches, and is often used by canoeists.