When you’re looking for things to do in St. Augustine, it isn’t unusual to have our beaches at the forefront of your mind. Florida’s Historic Coast is home to a total of seven sandy shores which offer a degree of privacy that simply cannot be matched by other Florida beaches, making St. Augustine beaches among the most unique in the world. But, even on the sunniest beach days, vacationers and residents should have beach safety on their mind.
1. The Sun
Long periods of time exposed to the sun is dangerous and can cause sunburn, aging skin, wrinkles, cataracts, a weakened immune system, and skin cancer in severe cases. In fact, according to the CDC, skin damage can occur in as little as 15 minutes from unprotected exposure to the sun.
There are several ways to protect yourself from the sun. The most common method is applying sunscreen liberally and often. Other methods include wearing a hat, sunglasses, and extra clothing, minimizing the time you spend under direct sunlight and avoiding the highest levels of UV exposure, occurring between the hours of 10:00 am and 3:00 pm.
In 2012 St. Johns County was awarded the 2012 Beach Patrol of the Year by Florida Beach Patrol Chiefs Association – the highest award given. With the help of four year-round Fire and Rescue personnel, 20 firefighters who are trained in Marine Rescue, and 80 seasonal lifeguards, St. Johns County has established nearly flawless life-saving standards.
Lifeguards are stationed along various stretches of beaches throughout St. Johns County from the beginning of May until the end of September. However, the 2018 schedule of lifeguards on duty is not yet available.
3. Beach Warning Flags
Red Flag: In the case of a red flag, St. Johns County recommends that beachgoers stay out of the water, but it is not mandatory to do so. A red flag can mean a number of things including a very high surf and dangerous currents.
Two Red Flags: Swimming is prohibited.
Yellow: A yellow flag means that the ocean waves are rougher than normal. Swimming is allowed but beachgoers should be on alert for undertows, potentially high surf, and dangerous currents. If you must go into the ocean, it is best to do so in the presence of a lifeguard.
Yellow with Black Dot: Surfing is prohibited.
Green: A green flag represents safe water conditions, but swimmers should be on alert even on the sunniest and calmest beach days.
Blue/ Purple: When sharks, dolphins, jellyfish, and other marine life are spotted nearby the shore, officials will raise a blue or purple flag. You may swim while these flags are up, but, they may be combined with other flags to prohibit swimming.
4. Marine Life
At times, sharing the ocean with marine life is dangerous. St. Augustine beaches are home to an array of beautiful sea animals: sea turtles, jellyfishes, stingrays, sea urchins, saltwater catfish, algae blooms, barnacles, sharks, dolphins, manatees, and lizards. It is important that you do not touch any marine life you encounter because they may bite, sting, or carry bacteria like Salmonella.
Marine Life Laws
Manatees: Touching a manatee is a misdemeanor, penalized with up to 60 days in jail and a $500.00 fine. This law is taken very seriously because they are an endangered species.
Sea Turtles: Touching a sea turtle is illegal, penalized with up to one year in jail with fines up to $25,000.00. This law is taken very seriously because they are an endangered species.
Note: If you notice an animal in distress while you are in Florida, you are encouraged to report it. Report findings to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-3922. Be prepared to answer the following questions:
- What is the exact location of the animal?
- Is it alive or dead?
- What is the approximate size of the animal?
- Is it marked with spray paint or other markings?
5. Sea Turtle Season
In St. Johns County, Sea Turtle Season is from May 1st to October 31st. Beachgoers must pay special attention to sea turtles, hatchlings, and nests. The following restrictions are in place during Sea Turtle Season: Driving and parking on the beach are prohibited before 8:00 am and after 7:30 pm, drivers are required to turn their lights off or dim their lights if its dark, beachfront properties are required to dim their exterior lights, flashlights and lanterns are prohibited.