Ahhh, the beautiful beaches of Destin! The sand shimmers as you and your family walk down to the jewel-toned waters of the gulf. Generations have stayed and played in our great vacation rentals here for over three decades now. Though the years we’ve gathered a few tried and tested tips that make beaching-it with the kiddos easy, safe & fun!
Walking along the shore, sand in your toes and fresh sea air in your nose, it’s easy to see why the best beach memories start when you’re a kid. As responsible parents (and grandparents) here are a few things to remember:
1. Know the Beach Flag System.
Most days are sunny here and the gorgeous gulf waters are placid, serene and vividly clear. Sometimes though the weather can be less than perfect, creating rip currents, especially during or after heavy wave action caused by storms. Our Beach Safety Flag system was developed help you know what kind of conditions to expect out in the water. The colored flags displayed at each beach access point include Green for Good, Yellow for Caution, Red for Extreme Caution and Double Red for No Swimming allowed. Be sure to share these with your whole family, from one to 92:
GREEN FLAG: Calm Conditions, OK for average swimmers.
YELLOW FLAG: Light Surf & Currents, Exercise Mild Caution.
RED FLAG: Rough Conditions & Surf. Use Extreme Caution.
DOUBLE RED FLAGS: Very Dangerous Conditions. Stay out.
PURPLE FLAG: Marine Life Danger. (Usually Jelly fish.)
When double red flags are flying, conditions are deemed as unsafe and swimming is strictly prohibited.
2. Watch out for Rip Tides.
Rip Tides occur unexpectedly, which means you need to always be on the look out for them. They are caused by the erosion of a shallow sandbar pulled away from the shore by wave action. Sandbars run parallel to the beach like walls between the open gulf and the shore. Wave action can cause a break in a submerged sandbar barrier, causing water accumulated in a deep pool of water near the shore to rapidly pour out into the open gulf like a river. It does not flow far and short lived because the mass of water in the gulf quickly absorbs the relatively small amount of water released near the shore. It pushes you in a fairly narrow channel about fifty yards from the shore. To get out of a rip current swim parallel to the shore. Usually the width is less than 100 feet. Once you reach the side and are out of the flow you are safe and can easily swim back to the beach.
3. Young folks should wear floats.
Small children and others who are not strong swimmers should wear life preservers. Some children may resist putting on arm floats but if they are unable to swim it’s best to have wear them. Even kids who are fine in a swimming pool or lake may be overwhelmed by the waves. It’s not quite the same. Get buy-in on wearing life preservers by making it a “special” ocean outfit. Let them pick out their own bright colored or patterned flotation device and keep it fun.
4. Adult supervision required.
Your eyes should be on your children at all times when you’re at the beach. Always accompany little ones in or even near the water. It is always best to use a beach where a lifeguard is on duty nearby, just to be on the safe side.
5. Bring that extra sun screen.
Our Tropic Sun is a lot hotter than most parts of the country. Adults should use screen with a Sun Protection Factor of at least 15. An SPF rating of 30, 50 or 60 should be used by anyone with fair skin or if you plan to be out on the beach for more than an hour. Reapply right after a swim or if you’re in the sun for a couple of hours. UV rays go right through clouds but many beachgoers can get sunburned on a cloudy day because it doesn't feel that hot and they don't use protection. Little ones with baby soft skin should avoid all sun exposure so bring a shaded pop up, beach umbrella or a mini tent to protect them.
6. Early bird gets a nap.
If your kids require an afternoon nap it is best to arrive at the beach early in the morning. Then they’ll have several hours of fun and easily be able to go down for their naps later. There are three benefits to such a plan: 1. You avoid the beach crowds that arrive later in the day; 2. You leave the beach in early afternoon before the sun’s heat maxes out; And 3. you won’t have tired cranky kids to worry about later.
7. What to bring to the beach.
The best thing to bring to the beach is organization. You may stock your cooler with frozen edible goodies like fruit pops, grapes and even water bottles to save on the weight of ice. Individual lunch container items like veggies, fruit, cheese, nuts and cookies are easy to pack for convenient dispersal. Keep your sun block someplace where it is ready to use and you don’t have to dig for it. Make sure your wallet, phone and keys are in a protected place where you can easily find them, perhaps in a zip lock bag for water and sand protection. Have a extra towels both at the beach and back in the car to clean off later. Bring light weight beach chairs and/or a light duvet cover or old quilt for the kids to sit on to save their clean towels.
8. Plan for fun.
Besides making sandcastles, looking for shells, swimming, walks along the shore and spotting dolphin or pelicans your kids may need more entertainment. Be sure to bring a beach pail, some shovels, sand molds and maybe even some brightly colored toys that you can bury nearby and have them do a treasure hunt.
We hope these tips help you have a safe, hassle-free time here along The Emerald Coast. Ocean Reef Resorts has a bunch of great family friendly vacation rentals to choose from right on the beautiful beach or just steps away. Remember to take lots pictures, make better beach memories and most important have fun!