« Good Practice Guide
Dorset’s beautiful coastline is studded with hidden places to enjoy wild swimming, snorkel and sunbathe, and its waters are cleaner and more accessible than ever before.
Whenever possible, and especially if you aren’t an experienced swimmer, swim at beaches where there are lifeguards. Red and yellow flags indicate safe places for you to swim. Click here for information on beach safety.
When is the best time to do it?
Swimming can be done all year round but this depends on the weather conditions and the swimmers’ personal experience and limits. Water temperature is important, although the more experienced have special wetsuits to suit these conditions. Check the weather, tides and currents on iCoast map so you can stay informed and prepared. Conditions can change rapidly in the sea.
There are many sea swimming clubs in Dorset where you can meet fellow swimmers. Clubs have training and competitions where good swimming technique and raise overall physical fitness can be developed.
Watch out for wildlife
The Dorset coast has many areas that are important for wildlife and birds. These areas have restrictions at certain times of the year to help to protect the wildlife. On iCoast please turn on the restricted areas icon to show these areas when planning your activity.
- Don’t linger for too long when you are close to wildlife – By all means look, but then move on.
- Avoid damaging plants and habitats.
- Report live strandings of cetaceans, and injured/entangled marine mammals to British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) on 01825 765546 (24 hours). Report all other live injured or entangled animals to RSPCA 0300 1234 999.
- Watch out for other users
- Look out for other recreational users and share the water- jet skiers, divers, windsurfers, snorkellers etc. all use the water too so you should be observant, careful and respectful when out swimming.
Whether there is a lifeguard available or not you should make sure you are familiar with the risks you are exposed to when swimming off the coast. These include tides, waves, rip currents, tombstoning, boats and other water users.
- Here is the RNLI guide to beach safety. This contains potentially life-saving details on the list above.
- Make sure you are protected from the sun; waterproof sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF) is a must for swimmers. Check the weather forecasts on the iCoast website so you can stay informed and prepared.
- If you go out on your own make sure you tell someone where you will be and when you’ll be back so they can raise an alarm if an unfavourable situation arises.
- Look after our beaches – take any rubbish with you and try to leave the beach in the same state you found it in.
- Know your limits – swimming too far out or for long periods of time, or both, can be exhausting and dangerous.
Help, I’ve been stung!
- Weever-fish – If you feel a sharp scratch on your foot while in the water that becomes more painful you may have stood on a weever-fish. Don’t panic but find a lifeguard for treatment. If there’s no lifeguard, place the affected area in water as hot as is comfortable. Test the water first so you don’t cause scalding.
- Jellyfish – Do not rub a jellyfish sting, as this will cause the pain to intensify. Lightly spray the area with seawater and apply a cold compress if available.
Explore the Dorset coast with iCoast