Beach safety

Our beautiful beaches are a major draw for people far and wide. While we’re of the opinion that nobody can ever spend too much time at the beach, there’s a few things you should keep in mind when you’re in the water and on the sand. Here’s how to stay safe, respect the marine life and other water users at all times… and still have a great summer on the beach! 


Slip, Slop, Slap! Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat. The sun is strong, especially in the summer. Stay off the beach between 11am and 3pm, or just don’t spend too long at the beach in the heat of the day. High factor sunscreen should be used and reapplied regularly. 


No beach is entirely safe, but when it comes to a beach you don’t know, the dangers are even greater. Swim between the flags, which mark the safest swimming areas and are patrolled year round by lifeguards. Be sure to read the safety signs, and have a chat to a lifeguard if you’re unsure. If you require lifeguard assistance to get back to shore, stay calm and wave your arm in the air from side to side. 


Rip currents are strong currents of water that flow away from shore through the surf zone. They are the number one hazard on Australian beaches. Spotting one is not always easy. Look for deeper, darker water; fewer breaking waves; a rippled surface surrounded by smooth waters; and anything floating out to sea or foamy, sandy water.

If you find yourself in a rip, stay calm and move with the current to conserve energy. If you are near others, wave one arm to signal and call for help. 

Try to swim parallel to shore, or use the breaking waves to help you to shore. •

ones to look out for


Signs on the beach will usually alert swimmers when bluebottles are in the water. Their stinging tentacles often make contact with swimmers and surfers before they spot the main part of the bluebottle in the water. They can cause a sharp sting that develops into an ache that can last for anything from minutes to hours. The best treatment is to remove all tentacles from the skin with tweezers or a gloved hand, and have a hot shower. If hot water is not available, apply ice packs wrapped in a towel. If there is a major sting to the face or neck, treat immediately. Seek medical assistance, from council or lifesavers, for cases with children, asthmatics and people with allergies. 


Many visitors fear shark attacks. The last fatal shark attack on the Northern Beaches was in 1936… fear not! Statistically you’re more likely to die from tripping over, falling coconuts and hot tap water, than being attacked by a shark.