Beaches - Frequently Asked Questions

Swimming safety

Water sports are a big part of the South Australian way of life. Please read the information below before swimming.

Stamford Grand Adelaide, Glenelg, South Australia

Some beaches display red and yellow flags, which mark the safest part of the beach to swim. They also mark the area constantly under surveillance by lifesavers/lifeguards. Learn more about patrolled beaches at Surf Lifesaving SA.

Q: What are the swimming conditions like?

South Australian beaches vary from calm waters to rough surf. For your safety, swim at a beach patrolled by surf lifesavers. If you have a question when at a patrolled beach, do not hesitate to ask the lifesaver. They are trained to help you.

Read safety signs before entering the water. Signs will alert you to hazards, such as strong currents, shallow water and submerged rocks. Never go into the water alone.

Always take a friend. Pay special attention to young children and don’t let them enter the water without an adult.

Q: What is a rip?

A rip is a current of water that flows strongly out to sea. After waves have broken and run to the shore, the accumulated water then moves away from the shore through a pathway of least resistance, usually the deepest point. This moving pathway is called a rip.

Q: Where do rips occur?

Rips occur along almost all stretches of beach, in and around rocks, breakwalls or any permanent fixture in the ocean. The larger the waves, the stronger and larger the rips. Most seaward-running rips normally end not far beyond the level of the breaking waves.

Q: What do I do if I get caught in a rip?

Side currents can cause people to be washed off safe swimming areas where waves break on sandbars. Staying calm is essential. Do not swim directly against the rip. Only strong swimmers should attempt to swim at an angle across the rip.

At patrolled beaches, it is best to request assistance by raising a straight arm and calling out for help. Floating and conserving energy is important until help arrives. Struggling against a rip is a quick way to exhaustion and a step closer to panic and tragedy.

On shore safety

Do not jump from jetties. You could risk serious injury by landing in shallow water or onto rocks beneath the surface.

Don’t enter the water after eating or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A 0.05 alcohol limit applies to all boat operators in South Australian waters.


South Australia has some of the best scuba diving sites in the country. If you plan on diving, you will need to be certified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). If you go cave diving, you will need certification from the Cave Divers Association of Australia.

Be aware

Shark attacks are rare but have occurred in South Australia. Lifesavers will sound a warning if a shark is sighted. Come ashore immediately. Avoid swimming and surfing at beaches that are known for sharks. Don’t swim in murky water, at river mouths or along drop-offs to deep water. Don’t swim with pets, near seals or people fishing.

Above all, stay safe and enjoy your holiday in South Australia.

Things to do

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