Safety Advice

Stay Safe

Know how to stay safe when on the shore or in the water.

While coastal areas and beaches may seem safe places for a day out, there are many potential hazards you may encounter. The information in these sections will help you to stay safe.

When visiting the coast, you should always:

  • Plan your trip in advance by checking weather forecasts, tide times, and area safety information.
  • Let someone know where you are going, and what time you will be back.
  • Charge your mobile phone and take it with you.

In an emergency, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.


Area Safety Map

Map Key

  • Local Beach
  • Safe Swimming Area*
  • Speed Restriction Zone
  • Caution: Hazardous Area
  • Danger: Do Not Enter
  • Lifeguard Station
  • Lifebuoy
  • Other Organisation

*Safe swimming area only when red & yellow flags are flying.

Unmarked areas should not be assumed safe. Use caution at all times.

The above map of Folkestone’s coast shows local beaches, safe swimming areas, and hazardous or dangerous areas which should not be entered. Lifeguard stations and lifebuoys are marked with coloured dots. Coloured areas and dots will give you more information when clicked.

On Shore

Safety on Shore

While on shore, you should always apply sunscreen (if it is sunny), wear footwear, and avoid areas which are dangerous or off-limits.

Contents:


Weather

Before travelling to the coast, check the weather forecast. You can find the weather forecast on this site; more weather information can be found at the Met Office.


Sunny Weather

When the weather is sunny, you are at risk from sunburn if you are in direct sunlight. Sunburn is red, hot and sore skin.

Sunscreen should be applied before spending time in the sun.

  • It is possible to get sunburn when the sun is out, even if there is a breeze and it does not feel very warm.
  • Severe sunburn can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be very serious.
  • Sunscreen should have a high Sun Protection Factor (SPF).
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, and immediately after exiting the water.
  • Staying in the shade, covering up with loose clothing, and wearing a hat will also help protect against sunburn.

If you or a member of your family has suffered sunburn:

  • Get out of the sun as soon as possible.
  • Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
  • Cool your skin down with cool water or a damp towel.
  • Cover the burn from sunlight until it has fully healed.
  • Taking painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen will help with the pain.
  • If your skin is blistered, or if you start to feel unwell, call NHS 111.
  • If you have a baby or young child with sunburn, call NHS 111.
  • For more information, visit the NHS website.

Stormy Weather

When the weather is stormy, you may be at risk from high winds and large waves.

Stay a safe distance away from rough sea and waves in stormy weather.

  • Powerful waves can crash against the shoreline, harbour walls, and promenade without warning.
  • Strong winds may knock you off harbour walls and into water.

Coastal Environment

Folkestone’s coast has a number of hazards and hazardous activities you should avoid.


Tombstoning

“Tombstoning” is the practice of jumping into the sea from a cliff or structure. What may seem like a fun activity often results in serious injury, and sometimes loss of life. There are specific laws prohibiting it at Folkestone Harbour.

There are no safe locations in Folkestone for tombstoning.

It is against the law to jump from Folkestone Harbour Arm and other Harbour structures.

  • You could be prosecuted and fined up to £2500 for tombstoning at Folkestone Harbour and surrounding areas.

Don’t jump into the unknown. Think about the dangers before you take the plunge:

  • Rocks and other objects may be submerged and hidden beneath water.
  • Strong undercurrents beneath structures may pull you under the water.
  • The depth of water may be deceptive; tides can fall very quickly.
  • Jumping whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs greatly increases the risk.
  • It may be impossible to safely get back out of the water after you’ve jumped.
  • In recent years, tombstoning has caused over 70 injuries and 20 deaths across the UK.
  • 3 people were injured while tombstoning at Folkestone in 2019.

You should also consider the risk to others:

  • If you get into trouble, others may put their lives at risk trying to save you.
  • People watching you may attempt to copy your actions, especially children.

Tides

Every day, there are usually two high tides and two low tides. The tide times are different every day. A coastal area which may have been accessible earlier in the day could be quickly cut off and submerged by the tide.

Always check the tide times before visiting the coast.

  • Make sure you have returned to a safe area well before high tide.
  • Carry a fully charged mobile phone so that you can call for help in case you are cut off.
  • Do not venture past any railings or warning signs, and keep to marked paths.

If you have been cut off by tide and cannot get to safety:

  • Call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.
  • Give as much information about your location as possible.

Rocky Areas & Breakwaters

Rocky areas and breakwater structures can be found along Folkestone’s coast.

Do not attempt to climb breakwater rocks.

  • Gaps between breakwater rocks can trap feet, legs or arms.
  • Breakwater structures can become cut off by the tide.
  • Breakwater structures can become extremely dangerous at high tide or in bad weather.
  • Rocky areas can often be wet and slippery. Caution should be used when walking in these areas.

Mud & Sand

At low tide, the bed of Folkestone Harbour (and a wide area of Sunny Sands beach) is often exposed. Although it is possible to walk across Folkestone Harbour at low tide, the sand and mud is frequently waterlogged and acts like quicksand.

Avoid areas containing waterlogged mud and sand.

Do not attempt to drive vehicles into the Harbour or beach at low tide.

  • These areas can trap your feet and legs, putting you in danger of drowning due to the incoming tide.
  • Vehicles entering these areas are likely to become stuck, putting them at risk from the incoming tide.
  • Check the tide times before walking in the harbour or beach to ensure you will not be at risk from the incoming tide.

If you become stuck in mud or sand while walking:

  • Spread your weight evenly across the surface.
  • Remain calm and do not move.
  • Discourage anyone else from trying to help you (they could also become stuck).
  • Call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

Broken Glass

Broken glass is a danger you may encounter at any beach. Glass may be hidden in sand or among rocks.

Footwear should always be worn at the beach to protect your feet.

  • Do not bring glass containers to the beach. Use plastic bottles and containers instead.

If you have been injured by broken glass:

  • Seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
  • If there is glass in the wound, do not attempt to remove it yourself.
  • If you are unable to walk or reach safety, call 999 and ask for an ambulance giving as much information as possible about your location.

Coastal Cliffs

Folkestone’s Sunny Sands Beach is surrounded by steep and unstable cliff faces.

Do not attempt to climb coastal cliffs.

Avoid walking below cliff faces, as rocks may fall from above.

Do not throw anything from the top of a cliff.

  • Folkestone’s cliffs are unstable; landslides and rockfalls occur frequently.
  • Objects thrown from cliffs may injure people below.
  • Only use the designated paths to go up and down the East Cliff; there are steps at the end of the Coronation Parade.
  • Alternatively, North Street leads up to the top of the East Cliff.

Wildlife on Shore

Occasionally, you may encounter creatures on shore that would normally be found in the sea. These can still be hazardous and some are protected by law.


Jellyfish

Sometimes you may come across jellyfish that have been washed up on shore. Some jellyfish can inflict a painful sting, leaving a red mark on the skin.

Never touch or handle marine creatures.

  • Jellyfish found on the beach can still sting you if they are touched or handled.

If you have been stung by a jellyfish:

  • Remain calm and keep still.
  • Remove any tentacles from your skin with tweezers whilst wearing gloves.
  • Taking painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen will help to lessen any pain or swelling.
  • Do not apply any substances such as vinegar or urine to the affected area; these do not work and may make the injury worse.
  • If you have difficulty breathing after being stung, you should seek medical attention immediately by calling 999.

Seals

Grey Seal pup on beach.
Grey Seal Pup © Alastair Rae. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Occasionally, seals need come out of the sea to rest on the beach. This is perfectly normal, and they are unlikely to need your help.

These animals are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Do not approach or disturb a seal if you see one on the beach.

If you see a seal nearby, keep children close to you and keep dogs on leads.

  • Do not try to help a seal back into the sea; it is probably just resting and does not need your assistance.
  • Disturbing a resting seal will cause it to become stressed, possibly causing it harm.
  • You may be prosecuted if you cause harm to a seal.
  • Seals may look cute and docile, but they are wild animals and can be unpredictable.
  • Seals may act in self-defence if they are approached and feel threatened.
  • Seals can move quickly and can inflict a nasty and infectious bite.
  • If you are concerned about a seal, call British Divers Marine Life Rescue on 01825 765546.

Children

Young children can become separated from their families at the beach, particularly when it is busy.

Arrange a meeting point with your child when you arrive.

  • Tell your child that, if they get lost, they should go to an easily identifiable location where you can find them.
  • The best meeting location at Sunny Sands is the lifeguard station (in the shipping container at the top of the slipway); when it is open, the red & yellow flag will be flying there.
  • Tell your child that, if the red & yellow flag is flying, they should ask the lifeguards in red & yellow uniforms for help.
  • Make sure your child can remember your name and address.

If your child is missing and you cannot find them after searching for them:

  • Speak to the lifeguards immediately, who will be able to help.
  • If no lifeguards are on duty, you should call 999 and ask for the police.

Our crew takes the welfare of children extremely seriously, and we have strict guidelines in place for their safety & protection.


Dogs

Dogs are banned from Sunny Sands and Mermaid beaches from 1st May to 30th September. Other areas also require dogs to be on leads between these dates.

It is against the law to bring a dog onto a beach where a dog restriction applies.

It is against the law to have your dog off the lead alongside a beach where a dog restriction applies.

On Water

Safety on Water

When swimming or using watercraft, you should always take safety precautions, use the correct equipment, and obey the law.

Contents:


Swimming

Swimming in the sea is more hazardous than swimming at the local pool. Read this information to be aware of the dangers and swim safely.


Swim Safely

The safest swimming location on Folkestone’s coast is at Sunny Sands beach. You should only swim during daylight hours.

It is only safe to swim between the red & yellow flags.

  • When the red and yellow flags are flying, lifeguards and lifeboats are on duty.
  • Check the information boards at Folkestone Rescue’s lifeguard station to make sure you are aware of tide times, weather, and any dangers.
  • If you are not a strong swimmer, or have never swum before, consider practising at your local swimming pool before trying to swim in the sea.
  • Swimming is not permitted in Folkestone Harbour due to the many dangers in that area.

Always stay close to shore when swimming.

  • If you swim away from shore and get into difficulty, you may not be able to swim back.
  • The further away from shore you are, the longer it will take for rescuers to reach you.

Do not swim while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

  • Alcohol and drugs will impair your judgement and swimming ability.
  • People under the influence of alcohol or drugs are far more likely to get into difficulty and drown while swimming.

Rip Currents & Rip Tides

Rip currents and rip tides are strong fast-flowing currents of water in the sea. It is possible to become caught in a rip current when swimming in the sea.

People caught in rip currents will be quickly pulled away from shore.

  • Rip currents can flow very fast and can be too strong for anyone to swim against.
  • Rip currents can occur without warning.

If you are caught in a rip current:

  • Do not swim towards the shore; you will quickly become exhausted.
  • Swim parallel (alongside) the shoreline until you are free of the current.
  • Once you have left the current, you will then be able to swim to shore.

Inflatables

Small inflatables, such as airbeds, rings, and other novelty shapes, should only be used in swimming pools.

Do not use inflatables at the beach.

  • If you use an inflatable at the beach, you are at risk of being taken out to sea by the wind or tide.
  • Even a gentle breeze can quickly move inflatables away from the beach.
  • Children using inflatables in the water are especially at risk from this.

Watercraft

There are many different types of watercraft, including kayaks, paddle boards, personal watercraft, dinghies, and powerboats.


Using Watercraft

When using any type of watercraft, there are some general safety precautions you should take, and regulations you may have to follow.

Before taking any craft on to water, register with SafeTrx.

Available on Apple, Android & website, the SafeTrx system:

  • Alerts the Coastguard if you fail to return to shore.
  • Immediately connects you with the Coastguard in an emergency.
  • Enables the Coastguard to locate you quickly.

Always wear a life jacket or buoyancy aid when using watercraft.

  • Life jackets / buoyancy aids should be worn by every person on the craft, and correctly fastened before the craft sets off.
  • These will help to keep you afloat in the event of an accident.
  • If you are not already wearing a life jacket or buoyancy aid when on the water, you may not have time to put one on when it is needed.

It is against the law to break International Safety Regulations when taking a boat to sea.

  • You could be prosecuted if you’re involved in a boating accident and you haven’t followed the regulations.
  • You can read more about the law and how it applies to boat owners at https://www.gov.uk/owning-a-boat.

Motorised Watercraft

Motorised pleasure craft, such as power boats or personal watercraft (also known as “Jet Skis”), can be good fun to use. For more information on using personal watercraft in Kent, download the Kent Coastal Network’s guide:

There are some specific laws and safety restrictions that apply when using motorised watercraft at Folkestone:

It is against the law to drive a motorised watercraft dangerously or inconsiderately.

  • Driving a motorised watercraft dangerously or inconsiderately could put lives at risk.
  • You could be prosecuted and fined up to £1000 for doing this.

It is against the law to exceed 8 knots in the speed restriction zones.

  • Speed restriction zones stretch along Folkestone’s coast from Sunny Sands to Mermaid Beach.
  • The zones extend 200 meters from the shore out to sea, and around Folkestone Harbour Arm.
  • The speed restriction applies from 1st May to 30th September.
  • You could be prosecuted and fined up to £1000 for exceeding the speed limit.

Motorised watercraft should be kept at least 200 meters away from Sunny Sands beach at all times.

  • It is dangerous to bring a motorised craft close to swimmers.
  • You could be prosecuted and fined up to £1000 for doing this.
  • Personal watercraft should not be launched from Sunny Sands beach.

Always use a kill cord when driving a motorised watercraft.

  • A kill cord will stop your craft’s engine if you fall off or are knocked off.
  • Failing to wear a kill cord could put lives at risk.

Personal watercraft are not permitted in Folkestone Harbour.

  • You should not bring personal watercraft into the harbour.

Water Wildlife

The waters around Folkestone contain many different creatures. Some of these are hazardous while others are protected by law.


Jellyfish

There are many jellyfish around Folkestone’s coast. Some types can inflict a painful sting, leaving a red mark on the skin.

A moon jellyfish in the sea.
A Moon Jellyfish in the sea. Photo © Alexander Vasenin

Wearing a wetsuit or rash vest will help protect you from being stung.

Never touch or handle marine creatures.

If you have been stung by a jellyfish:

  • Leave the water and keep still.
  • Removing any remaining tentacles with tweezers whilst wearing gloves.
  • Taking painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen will help to lessen any pain or swelling.
  • Do not apply any substances such as vinegar or urine to the affected area; these do not work and may make the injury worse.
  • If you have difficulty breathing after being stung, you should seek medical attention immediately by calling 999.

Weever Fish

Weevers are small brown fish common around Folkestone’s coast. The Weever fish buries itself in the sand, and has venomous spines which can inflict a very painful sting.

Weever Fish (Echiichthys Vipera)
Weever Fish (Echiichthys Vipera). Photo © Hans Hillewaert.

Always wear footwear such as pool shoes, sandals, or wetsuit boots to protect your feet when entering the water.

Never touch or handle marine creatures.

If you have been stung by a Weever fish:

  • You may feel as if you have been scratched at first, and the pain will gradually increase over the next few minutes.
  • The sting is more painful than a wasp or bee sting.
  • You may also experience other symptoms, such as swelling of the area, redness, nausea, headaches, or dizziness.
  • After being stung, you should seek medical attention by calling NHS 111.
  • Submerging the affected area in hot water for 30 to 90 minutes will help to control and reduce the pain, but be careful not to burn yourself.
  • Taking painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen will help to lessen any pain or swelling.
  • If you have difficulty breathing after being stung, you should seek medical attention immediately by calling 999.

The Sea Scorpion is a small brown fish which can often be found in rock pools after the tide has gone out. This fish also has spines which can puncture skin if handled, but are not venomous.


Dolphins and Seals

Dolphins and seals can sometimes be seen close to Folkestone’s coast. Occasionally, seals may be seen resting on local beaches.

These animals are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

  • We recommend you do not approach these animals if you see them while you are swimming.

Flags

Understanding Beach Flags

You may see flags flying from the slipway and the lookout at Sunny Sands beach. These flags are an important safety indicator, telling you whether lifeguards are on duty, and whether it is safe to swim. You can see the current flag status at Sunny Sands on the right hand side of this website.


Red & Yellow Flag = Lifeguards on Duty

If red and yellow flags are flying, Lifeguards are on duty and it is safe to swim between these flags.


Red Flag = Danger

If a red flag is flying, it is dangerous to swim, and you should not enter the water.


Yellow Flag = Caution

If a yellow flag is flying, caution should be used. Seek advice from lifeguards on whether it is safe to swim.


No Flag

No Flag = Lifeguards not on Duty

If there are no flags, lifeguards are not on duty. Caution should be used, and you will be entering the water at your own risk. In the event of an emergency, you should contact the Coastguard by phoning 999.