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Beach Safety

The wild and rugged coast of Cornwall with its shining surf and golden beaches, holds both immense natural beauty and hidden dangers for visitors to the area. Beach safety is essentially an exercise in common sense, and if you and your family take note of the advice that follows then you will enjoy a happy and safe holiday in Cornwall.

Where there is no lifeguard, please seek local advice and always read warning notices before entering the water. Lifeguard patrolled beaches employ the tried and tested flag system, which is easy to understand and very hard not to notice. The simple rules are that you should always bathe between the red and yellow striped flags and must, on no account, enter the water when the red flag is flying. A major hazard of bathing in the ocean is the rip current. This is the seaward movement of water caused by natural drainage of water brought in towards the beach by the tide. These currents test all but the strongest swimmers and are invisible to an inexperienced eye. The best advice is always to bathe only on patrolled beaches. These currents, along with offshore winds also dictate that inflatables should never be taken into the sea. It is all too easy to loose control and be swept out.
There is a large rise and fall of tides in north Cornwall and the times of high and low water, as laid out on this page, should always be checked before you set off on long walks on the foreshore. The incoming tide rises rapidly and consequently it is very easy to find yourself cut off. We want you to enjoy your holiday, so please do not take any unnecessary risks. If in doubt, seek expert advice - remember, it is not only your life but the lives of the emergency services that can be put at risk by you not taking the time to think!
Noel Harradine, Beach Safety Officer, North Cornwall District Council.

Safety on the Cornwall Coast


Be alert to people who may be in distress. You could save a life. If you see a red flare, orange smoke or a craft or person in difficulty, find a phone quickly, dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.


1. Spot the dangers:

The RED and YELLOW flags indicate a designated bathing area supervised by Lifegaurds, it is safe to swim between these flags.

The BLACK and WHITE flags indicate an area that has been designated for use by water craft, such as canoes and windsurfers. It is not safe to swim between these flags.

The RED flags indicate that the sea conditions are dangerous, do not enter the sea when the red flag is flying.


2. Know the difference:

You may be used to a nice warm indoor pool, but its not so easy in cold outdoor water.

3. Check new places:

New places, may have dangers that you do not know about. Ask the lifeguards, the locals, somebody who knows.

4. Take Safety Advice:

Special flags and notices warn you. Know what they mean, do what they tell you.

5. Do not go alone: Children should always go with a grown up, even at lifeguard patrolled beaches, lifeguards are not babysitters.

6. Learn how to help:

You may be able to help yourself and others if you know what to do in an emergency, "so" join a lifesaving club at most swimming pools or at a beach surf lifesaving club near to you. For details contact the Beach Safety Officer on 01208 893410

7. Strange Objects:

Don't touch strange objects. Dangerous items such as flares or canisters of chemicals may sometimes be washed ashore. Tell the Coastguard or the Police.


Don't sit on or walk close over rocks about to be washed by the sea. You could be swept off.