Luscious white-sanded shores. Crystal-blue water. Smokin’ hot beach babes… Yup, there’s a reason the shores of Australia are a popular destination for college students over the summer break (especially with America’s winter fast approaching). But while these beaches can be super fun, if you’re not careful, they also have the potential to rate pretty freakin’ high on the danger-o-meter. Fear not – we’ve got you covered! Check out our comprehensive guide on how to stay safe on Australian beaches this summer.
The threat of ultraviolet (UV) radiation might seem like an overused cliché you can just shrug off, but be warned – not in Australia! There, UV rays are a huge threat to beachgoers thanks to the hole in the ozone layer sitting above the country. Like, directly above it. It’s no wonder people who clock up a lot of sun exposure without the proper protection can do some serious damage to their skin!
How to stay safe: There’s an old Australian proverb, which states: “Slip, slop and slap.” So do as the locals do and slip on a long-sleeved shirt, slop on some 40+ SPF sunscreen and slap on a wide-brimmed hat. It will keep those UV rays from doing too much damage to your skin while also ensuring you have a great day at the beach (score!). For added protection, avoid going to the beach between 10am to 3pm – this is when the UV rays are at their most harmful.
When worst comes to worst: You were lulled asleep by the sound of the ocean, but now you’ve awoken to find your skin is so red you’ve started to resemble a lobster. The best thing for you to do now is to go back to your hotel room and soothe the burn with an ice-cold shower or bath. Then, cover the sunburnt areas with some aloe vera cream to reduce inflammation and put back some much needed moisture into your skin. Make sure to rinse and repeat on a regular basis and to keep your fluids up with plenty of water.
Rip currents (or rips as they’re called in Oz) are underwater channels of water which flow towards the open ocean. They’re great for surfers who don’t want to tire themselves out paddling to catch a few waves, but for every other beachgoer they’re a downright nightmare. Rips can pull swimmers in from a hefty distance and dump them out past the surf break, at speeds of up to eight feet per second (gulp!).
How to stay safe: Make sure you swim between the red-and-yellow flags, as these mark the safest area of the beach to swim in – there are no rips there! Flagged areas are also patrolled by trained lifeguards, so you’ve got the added protection of a qualified professional if the current changes during the day. Plus, they might be cute.
When worst comes too worst: If you get caught in a rip, ensure you don’t work yourself into a panic. Panicking will only cause you to get fatigued faster, which is a huge no-no when you’re swimming. The rip won’t pull you under – it will just pull you out past the surf break, which often sits a few dozen meters from the shore. To escape a rip, swim parallel to the beach for a few meters or until you find yourself out of its drag. If you find the current’s too strong, however, then signal the lifeguards on shore with a closed fist in the air and remain floating until help arrives. If there are no lifeguards around, float on the current until you pass the surf break. There, the waves will help nudge you back to shore.
It comes as no surprise that Australia is teeming with a whole heap of hazardous marine creatures. From the big to the small, these often odd-looking amigos present a danger that, while uncommon, must still be warned against.
How to stay safe: Be sure to read the signs up on the beach before you go for a swim. If there are no signs, give the area a quick onceover on Google to ensure the beach is safe. Even if Google gives it the all clear, don’t swim too far out to sea and make sure you swim with a buddie. For added safety, watch your step when near rocks, reefs or wreckages (where those lethal little critters like to hide) and avoid swimming at night (when all those big bad fish come out to hunt).
When worst comes too worst: If you get injured, the first thing to do is to remove yourself from danger. Move or swim away from the creature which has caused you harm and call for help if needed. Walk or swim to the shore and seek a lifeguard for medical assistance. If you can’t find a lifeguard or are just in serious need of emergency help, then call the Australian emergency services on triple-zero (000).
Thieves and pickpockets often target beaches during summer months (November – February) in Australia because that’s when the crowds roll in. So, if you’re headed out to Australia this summer break, then ensure you’re on the lookout!
How to stay safe: If you can, hire out a locker. At a dollar per hour (USD), these babies are a cheap and effective way of ensuring that your valuables are safe while you’re out catching those waves. If you’re short of change, or there are no lockers around, fold your more valuable items into a shirt or stuff them into an enclosed shoe. This little trick stops items from being out in the open (where they could be nicked) and being in an obvious place (like bags, which are often stolen cause their contents are assumed to be valuable). Of course, this will only go so far. The best protection for theft is having someone to watch your stuff. So, when you’re scouting the beach for that prime sun-baking spot, why not park your towel next to a group or a lifeguard, and ask them (politely, of course!) to keep an eye on your goods? This almost always works a charm!
When worst comes to worst: Uh-oh. You’ve come back from a glorious half-hour of swimming to find that – *gasp* – your wallet is missing from its little hidey-hole under your sunhat! First up, report the theft with the local lifeguards. The thief might still be hanging around the beach, so alerting the lifeguards reduces the chance someone else might end up with their wallet missing. Next, call your credit card companies and let them know your cards have been compromised so that the thief can’t withdraw cash from your accounts. Then call the police to file a report on the theft.