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Top Tips for Staying Safe on Cornwall’s Coast

Our beautiful beaches are great fun and are there to be enjoyed, and part of that enjoyment is knowing how to stay safe. If you know how you can stay as safe as possible, by reading a few simple tips, then you and your family can live life to the max on holiday in Cornwall!

Towan Beach near Hendra Holiday Park

Photo by Matt Jessop

Pick a lifeguarded beach

Lifeguarded beaches mean that you can rest-assured that somebody is watching out for you in the sea and can help with any injuries on the beach. You can find out which beaches are lifeguarded on the RNLI website, and we have many local beaches listed in our Welcome Book (given to you on arrival) which has information about if the beach is lifeguarded or not.

Know what the flags mean Red and yellow flag on the beach

The common lifeguard flags you will see at Cornwall beaches include the red and yellow flag, which show the area of the beach that is being patrolled by lifeguards. This area is safe for swimming, bodyboarding and use of inflatables.

The black and white chequered flag means that this is the surfing area. You should not swim in this area.

The red flag means that you must not go into the sea, as there is a real danger of drowning.

The orange windsock means there are offshore winds, which means it can be dangerous to use inflatables as they can be blown out to sea.

Family holidays in NewquayKeep your cool     

In this country when we get a heatwave, we can all get a bit too excited, and spend too long in the sun, forget the sun cream and get sunburnt, spending the rest of the holiday applying after sun and wearing long sleeves!

Remember to stay hydrated, with soft drinks, apply sun cream regularly and do not stay in the sun all day especially between the times of 11am and 3pm, when the sun is at it’s hottest.

Invest in a small beach tent, so you can have a break from the sun. This is especially useful for babies and young children who are more sensitive to the sun. A parasol or sunshade is a must for a pram or pushchair too.

Older adults and little ones are particularly vulnerable to sunstroke which can be avoided if you keep cool. If somebody is displaying signs of heatstroke, such as being very thirsty, dizziness and confusion, a headache, loss of appetite and feeling sick, excessive sweating, pale and clammy skin, cramps in the arms, legs and stomach, fast breathing or pulse, or/and a high temperature of 38C or above then consult the NHS page on heatstroke for advice.

Read any beach signage

Signs at the entrance of the beach can provide very useful information on certain currents on that beach, as well as areas that are best avoided because of falling rocks. Be sure to look out for them.

Practice safe storm watching Towan beach, Newquay

Stormy weather is not ideal holiday weather, that’s true, but it is great to see another side to Cornwall and embrace its wild ways! Stormy seas remind us of the sea’s power and how magnificent it is. It is great to watch but it must be done safely. The sea can crash over cliffs and over walls. It is very important to stay at a safe distance from the sea and avoid high cliffs too where winds are strong.

Keep to the marked coast paths

Make sure you keep to the coast paths and do not climb over bits that are fenced off, as they will be fenced off for a reason. Coast paths are there to make sure you stay on a safe course of the headland and avoid dangerous areas where you may fall. Be careful in places which are unfenced too, especially with children and dogs.

Know you tide times

You can check tide times online or you can buy a tide times booklet. Walking across Newquay’s beaches at low-tide, is possible from Porth (it has to be very low at Porth for this) to Towan but check tide-times first. Getting cut off on any beach can be dangerous, so make sure that you are clued up if you intend to go exploring when the tide is out.

Fabulous beaches in NewquayBe aware of rip currents

Rip currents are the cause of many sea rescues in Cornwall and being aware of them before you take a dip, can be potentially lifesaving. The best way to avoid rips is to follow the above advice about going to a lifeguarded beach and staying between the red and yellow flags.

Rips are strong currents that run out to sea which can quickly drag people out from the shallow water to the deeper water.

Rip currents can be difficult to spot, but are sometimes identified by a channel of churning, choppy water on the sea’s surface. Even experienced swimmers can be caught by rip currents.

If you do find yourself caught in a rip, don’t try to swim against it or you’ll get exhausted, if you can stand, wade don’t swim, if you can, swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore, always raise your hand and shout for help. When swimming do not go alone, go where there are other people, or with a friend, so that you can get help if needed.

If you see someone in difficulty, tell somebody, preferably a lifeguard if there is one nearby, or go to the nearest telephone, dial 999 or 112, ask for the coastguard.

Follow the RNLI on social media and visit the website to keep up with all the latest safety advice.

Have fun and stay safe!