Seaside Safety – Cornwall

Beach and seaside safety.


With so many people heading to Cornwall for their holidays every year, I thought I would do a beach and seaside safety post to help let those who don’t usually spend time at the seaside know a few tips for staying safe when they do.


Seaside safety is essential in Cornwall, and yet every year I see people feeding seagulls, standing on cliff edges, swimming in the wrong places, and letting their children play on inflatables out of their reach and sight, just to mention a few.


I am sure mostly it’s that they just don’t realise how dangerous the things they do can be, but hopefully my list will help some of you to be safer.


Seaside safety - children on a beach

  • Digging huge holes. I know that everyone enjoys digging in the sand on holiday, but there have been instances where these big holes have caved in on children, and although the sand seems light when you have a little sprinkled on your legs, it becomes a lot heavier if you are trapped underneath it.


Not only that, but a lot of different people enjoy using the beach, and could easily break an ankle or worse slipping in to your hole. So be sensible, sure dig a hole, but don’t make it so deep that it’s dangerous, and even better before you then leave the beach, be lovely and fill it back in!


  • Sun cream. I will try not to patronise you with this one, as we all know the importance of protecting our skin, but people often underestimate the power of Cornish sun. It might not seem that warm because the wind is blowing at you, but you will still get burnt, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and use the cream, especially on children.


  • Big Waves. Fascinating to watch and to feel in awe of their power, but this is exactly the danger – their power. Big waves have the power to drag you back to sea with them, or to knock you over and injure you. Sure watch the storm if you want (we enjoy this ourselves), but do it from a safe distance.


  • Tides. When going to the beach, especially one you haven’t been to before you need to be aware of the tide. Some beaches do get cut off, or pretty much disappear completely when the tide comes in, and you really don’t want to get stranded or disappear with them!


The sea can move inwards at a very fast rate, don’t presume you can out run it, so use caution.


  • Inflatables. Lovely and fun yes? Well they are and can be if used sensibly, but sadly they often aren’t and the RNLI have to go out to rescue people who have drifted too far from shore and can’t get back again on their own. Personally I would never allow my children to use an inflatable of any kind in the sea unless I had some sort of cord that I could hold on to as an anchor, so that I could control how far out to sea they went.


Also bear in mind there are other people trying to use the sea who don’t need nor want to be hit in the head by your children in an uncontrolled dinghy.


  • Surfing. Do not presume that you can surf. Yes it’s amazing to be able to go home and say that you surfed in Cornwall (especially Newquay for a lot of surf fans), but unless you have actually been surfing before, do not think that you will be fine first time to go it alone. There are loads of places in Cornwall that offer cheap surfing lessons, and it’s a really good idea.


If you don’t know how to surf, then renting or buying a board and trying it alone can put you and others in danger. A surfboard can easily knock you or someone else out, or cause other injuries, if you don’t know what you are doing. It can happen to experienced surfers, but much more likely with novice ones!


  • Seagulls. For some reason a lot of holiday makers to Cornwall seem to find the sea gulls amusing and fun, but to most Cornish people they are a pain in the bum and a complete pest. Seagulls when they are out doing what they should be and finding their own food out at sea are fine, however most seagulls I see are either ripping my bin bags open, scavenging from floors or trying to steal people’s food.


PLEASE never feed them, it encourages them to be less scared of humans, and to think that they can take food from people’s hands. This leads to them dive bombing people and stealing food.

I don’t know any Cornish person who hasn’t seen them steal food out of someone’s hand, and they can cause injuries in the process. Also be aware if you do feed them, you are quite likely to have an irate Cornish person tell you off for it!


TIP: If you are eating outside around seagulls, try and position yourself against a wall. Seagulls tend to want to swoop in and straight out again, it’s safer for them and easier. If you are against a wall and they can’t easily make their escape, the chances are they will instead target the person stood in the open not paying attention instead. They are opportunists, don’t give them the chance.


  • Cliffs. I see so many people on the edge of cliffs for ‘daring’ photos, and often cliffs that I know are especially crumbly. Is a cool photo really worth risking your life for? If you are not local to the area, then you don’t know which cliffs are the most dangerous, although all carry a risk if you go too near the edge!


The bottom of cliffs can be dangerous too, personally I never sunbathe under a cliff. You just never know if that day will be the one where there will be a rockfall and if there is one, you certainly don’t want to be right underneath it. It’s just common sense really, but a lot of people seem to leave that at home before they arrive at the beach!


  • Swimming. Most harbours as working ones, so although the water may look nice it’s rarely a good idea to swim in one, as the likelihood of being run in to by a boat is much higher than anywhere else in the sea, but I have still seen the odd person attempt this.


When swimming from a beach, be aware that not all Cornish beaches have lifeguards. You can pop along to Visit Cornwall to see a list of beaches that are lifeguarded, and personally with my children I always prefer to stick to these beaches unless they are just wave jumping and I am right there. You are 500 times less likely to drown at a lifeguarded beach.


Pay attention to the flags on beaches as well, they are there to help keep you safe for instance, you should swim, use inflatables and bodyboard between the red and yellow flags,


Red and yellow flag


never swim in an area with this flag,


Black and white flag



the black and white checked flag means it is an area for surfing, paddleboards and other non motorised craft, so really not a safe place to swim and you should never go into the sea at all if the red flag is flying.  It will be there for good reason and should never be ignored!


Red flag beach


For more about beach and seaside safety you can visit the following sites: for a list of the beaches that have lifeguards in the tourist season. for a wealth of seaside safety hints and help whatever activity you are taking part in.


Stevie x



  • Annabel

    An excellent post and super important :)
    I volunteer for the RNLI and it’s amazing how many people are just unaware of the dangers of the shore, not just the sea!

    Bring on the summer!

    Abel x

  • acornishmum

    Thanks lovely, and it’s fantastic you volunteer – well done you! I’ve just been reading your blog, and to have recovered like you have and be giving back as well is amazing! I’m hoping we’ll have a nice sunny spring, as it’s my favourite time of year before everywhere gets busy and flowers are popping up everywhere. Really is no better place than Cornwall to experience all the seasons in!

    Stevie xx

  • Anna

    Great post Stevie! Being brought up in Cornwall meant we had the RNLI come into our schools and teach us about these things, but I have been amazing that some of my friends from other parts of the country (even as close as Bristol!) didn’t know what the flags meant when we went to the beach!

  • Donna

    I think it’s because we are only ever on the beach once in a blue moon but there is so much about the seaside that scares me. The sea can be unpredictable and can hide all manner of things x

  • acornishmum

    I know what you mean lovely, and it can be dangerous, but if you’re careful and respect it’s power you can really enjoy it! My boys don’t really swim in the sea yet, they mostly wave jump and try to half drown each other! The bigger they get the rougher their play fighting gets, but they find it hilarious! I secretly prefer going to the beach on my own when they are at school though, it’s bliss actually being able to lie their sunbathing with a book with just the sound of the sea if I’m lucky :)

    Stevie xx

  • Liv

    Thank you for doing this post! It bugs me so much when people come to Cornwall and don’t know the rules or just disregard them and end up getting in to trouble. It must do the lifeguard’s heads in!
    Liv |

  • acornishmum

    Thanks Liv, I know what you mean, but if they aren’t lucky enough to live by the sea like us, then it’s probably a bit confusing for some! I definitely feel very lucky to have live here :)

    Stevie x

  • shannan

    Brilliant read and some brilliant advice given here, thank you! We plan to visit the seaside a bit this year and hope to move near the sea to so something we will take into consideration. I’ll share it on my Facebook blog page too x

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