Top beach safety tips for visiting the UK coast this summer

Beaches, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Ruth on 5th July 2023

Beach safety

There’s never been a better time for a staycation, and one of the most popular destinations for a holiday this year is the Great British coast.

Whether you’re looking for a traditional bucket-and-spade break, all donkey rides and sticks of rock, or are searching for some solitude on a secluded stretch of sand, we’re spoilt for choice with so many beautiful beaches to choose from, with something to fulfil every holiday wish.  

As the temperature increases, so does the allure of the sea – it’s one of the best places for cooling off on a summer’s day, whether by paddling, trying out new water sports or enjoying a quiet swim. 

And while no trip to the seaside is complete without a dip, any body of open water can be unpredictable and fast-changing, so it’s important to know how to stay safe in the sea. Read on for our top beach safety tips, or click below to browse our range of coastal cottages where you can get your fill of vitamin sea. 

Coastal cottages


How to stay safe in the sea

The best way to stay safe in the sea is to visit a lifeguarded beach and follow the beach safety flags. The lifeguards are trained professionals and will use their expert knowledge to help keep you safe in the water, as well as marking out the best places to swim, bodyboard and surf with their flags.

You can also help yourself by paying attention to the conditions and learning to understand the sea. For example, you can look for what the tide is doing – whether it’s going in or out – and whether there are any rip currents, large waves or submerged hazards. That will give you a good indication of whether it’s safe to get in the sea or not – remember, swimming in the sea is very different to swimming in a pool.

The RNLI has some great info to help you increase your awareness of the sea. And, you can use our handy Beach Index to search for beaches near you that are lifeguarded, as well as filter by water quality and beach facilities, to find the perfect destination for your day at the seaside.  

Beach Index

Rip current

Places you should never swim

As you can see from the beach safety poster above, you should never swim on a red-flagged beach, between the black and white flags, or where there is a red and white prohibition sign.

As well as that, you should avoid rip currents, which you can spot as a channel of flat, calmer water surrounded by choppier sea. These channels can take you out to sea very quickly and can catch out even the most experienced of beachgoers. You can read more about rip currents at the RNLI website.

You can also check the water quality before heading into the sea; look for the Blue Flag which indicates a high water quality, or check Surfers Against Sewage’s Safer Seas Service which aims to protect all water users from pollution with its interactive map.

If you’re heading away from the coast this summer, you should never swim in a reservoir due to the extreme depth of the water, the likelihood of hidden machinery, the potential strong currents and the very cold water temperature.

Water safety

Summer water safety tips

There’s nothing better than a refreshing dip on a hot day. If you’re wondering how to stay safe in the sea this summer, here are 10 top tips to ensure you have a splashing good time:

  1. Always swim and bodyboard on a lifeguarded beach, in between the red and yellow flags, or surf in between the black and white flags
  2. Make sure you take a friend with you in case you need some help
  3. Swim parallel to the shore rather than out to sea
  4. Be aware of how cold the sea is; wear a wetsuit if you plan on being in for a longer time
  5. Look out for riptides, big waves and other hazards
  6. Don’t use inflatables in the sea; save them for swimming pools instead
  7. Don’t jump into the sea from a height; there could be submerged objects that are not visible
  8. Keep hydrated and wear sunscreen, remembering to reapply it after you’ve been in the water
  9. Remember to wave and shout for help if you get into trouble
  10. Call 999 for the Coastguard in an emergency

Beach flags

Beach safety poster: what different beach warning flags mean

If you’re wondering what the lifeguard flags mean on the beach, and how they can help you assess the beach risks so you can stay safe by the sea, then take a look at our beach safety poster.

Learn the difference between the red and yellow flag, the black and white flag, and other beach flags seen around the UK, so you can have fun and stay safe at the coast.

RNLI flags

Coastal cottage

Stay on the Great British coast

There’s nothing quite like a visit to the coast, whether you choose to build sandcastles, comb the shore or swim in the sea. Find inspiration for your next UK getaway with our guide to the best British beaches – from the white-sand shores of Scotland to the crashing surf of Cornwall, where will you choose to stay?

No matter which location is top of your beach bucket list, immerse yourself in lazy seaside living with a stay in one of our coastal cottages; wake up and head straight to the beach, dine on fresh seafood for lunch and let the sound of the lapping waves lull you to sleep. Click below for our full range of coastal cottages and find your perfect base for an unforgettable seaside holiday.

Coastal cottages

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.