​Beach Safety

NSW beaches are among the most beautiful in the world. However, the surf can be unpredictable. That's why lifeguards and volunteer lifesavers put up the red and yellow flags to show you the supervised area.

Staying safe and making the most of the coast requires knowledge and skills. 

Swim between the flags

The red and yellow flags indicate the safest place to swim when lifeguards and lifesavers are on patrol.

This is a photo of lifesavers putting out the flags on abeach at sunrise with a group of surfers walking passed
Image: Courtesy of Surf Life Saving NSW

Beaches are patrolled at various times and locations. The red and yellow flags, such as the ones above, tell you that these beaches are open for swimming between the flags.

  • Always swim between the red and yellow patrol flags at your nearest patrolled beach.
  • Read and obey the safety signs
  • Ask a lifesaver or lifeguard for safety information
  • Never swim, surf or fish alone and always supervise children around water 
  • Never swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • If you need help in the water, stay calm and attract attention by raising your arm
  • In an emergency, dial 000 for the Police.

Beachsafe app

The Beachsafe app allows you to find your nearest patrolled beach in seconds. You can access detailed information about Australia's 12,000 beaches including weather and forecasts, tide, swell and hazard information. 

The app responds to your location to give you accurate, up-to-date information on beach conditions and services. Useful beach safety information is at your fingertips and available in a variety of languages.

Rip currents

Rips are complex, can quickly change shape and location and at times are difficult to see. 

How to Spot a Rip Current

The things to look for are:

  • deeper, dark-coloured water; 
  • fewer breaking waves; 
  • a rippled surface surrounded by smooth waters; and 
  • anything floating out to sea or foamy, discoloured, sandy, water flowing out beyond the waves. 
  • Rips don’t always show all of these signs at once. Learn how to spot a rip.

How to Survive a Rip Current

Things you should do:

  • stay calm and consider your options;
  • raise an arm to seek help
  • try floating with the current, it may bring you back to shore; 
  • swim parallel to the shore or towards breaking waves and use them to help you in;
  • reassess your situation. If what you’re doing isn’t working, try one of the other options until you’re rescued or return to shore.

Other languages

There are a range of multilingual videos that give you Surf Life Saving's top five tips for visiting an Australian beach.


SharkSmart is a statewide Department of Primary Industries information campaign to help swimmers, surfers and other water users in NSW be aware of how they can minimise the risk of being in waters where sharks may be present.