10 unwritten rules of beach etiquette

Aerial view of people sunbaking in front of beach boxes at Brighton Beach in Victoria

Tianna Nadalin

Posted February 16, 2023

From blocking a fellow beachgoer’s sun with your cabana, to spraying sand everywhere when you shake off your towel, things can get pretty heated at the beach if you commit these sandy sins.

Picture this: you’re lying on the sand, eyes closed, soaking up some vitamin ‘sea’ and enjoying a summer serenade of seagulls singing while waves gently lap against the shore. Ah, the serenity. 

That is, until someone rushes inconsiderately by your beach towel, kicking sand all over you and bringing your state of seaside relaxation to an abrupt – and infuriating – end.

With more hot weather on its way, many Victorians will seek solace from the sun by flocking seaside. If you’re planning on going coastal, observing the unwritten rules of beach etiquette will help everyone keep their cool this summer.

From flinging sand to blasting your music, here's a refresher on the unwritten rules of good beach behaviour.  

10 rules of beach etiquette

Don't set up your tent too close to the shore

If you’ve spent any time at the beach this summer, you’ve probably found yourself wading through a sea of neon umbrellas and colourful cabanas to find a square metre of sand on which to roll out your beach towel. While we applaud beachgoers for being sun-safe and seeking shade, we’d appreciate it if you could raise your tents further back and leave some prime sandy real estate upfront for the rest of us. 

Be mindful of where you shake your towel

While shaking out your towel is an unavoidable part of the whole beach experience, be aware of where you’re shaking it out and in what direction the wind is blowing so that you’re not just tossing sand all over the person relaxing next to you. 

Don't kick sand all over people

As well as being careful about where you shake off your towel, in your fervent excitement to run to the water, it’s also courteous to mind your step lest you accidentally kick sand all over someone.

This also applies to games of beach cricket, volleyball, footy or other sand-raising activities. Try to maintain a safe sand-spraying distance to avoid accidentally showering someone as you dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge. 


Golden retreiver lying on sand at beach

Check if and when dogs are permitted at your local beach. Picture: Getty.

Keep an eye on your kids

Forget sunbaking and reading a book. If you’re braving the beach with kids in tow, relaxing on the sand is pretty much the last thing you’ll be doing. Pay attention to your kids at all times to make sure they’re not only playing it safe around the water, but also not going around terrorising fellow beachgoers, kicking sand in other people's lunches and or setting sandy booby traps. 

Don't bring four-legged friends during prohibited hours 

It’s hot out so you thought it might be nice to let your dog cool off at the beach. Victoria has its fair share of off-leash dog beaches at which they are free to roam year-round. But at many of the more popular sandy spots, dogs are prohibited during peak season. Before packing your pooch into the car, check that they are permitted to roam free at the beach you’re planning to visit. If they are allowed, happy days; just be sure to pick up after them.  

Don't blast your music 

We’re not saying you can't listen to music but, if you’re going to, keep the volume low and make sure the tunes are appropriate for young listeners. We can guarantee that the family with young kids trying to have a nice time next to you will not appreciate you pumping up the death metal jams. 


Cigarette on the sand at the beach

Butts belong in the bin, not on the beach. Picture: Getty.

Don't smoke on the beach

Smoking (and vaping) are now banned during patrolled times at all of Victoria's patrolled beaches. Some councils have also introduced local laws prohibiting smoking on the beach. But just because it’s not a blanket ban at all beaches, it doesn’t give you carte blanche to just light up. If the foreshore is heaving with people, find a quiet spot somewhere away from the crowds to light up so you can spare people from having to breathe in your second-hand smoke. And don't just butt out, put your butts in the bin.

Fill in any holes dug in the sand 

Is it even technically a castle if you haven’t dug out the moat? Playing in the sand is a rite of passage at the beach but, when you’re ready to leave, fill in any holes you’ve dug out so that you’re not creating a maze of trip hazards for people arriving after you. 

Keep PDAs to a minimum

Is there anything more romantic than long walks on the beach, frolicking in the water or sunbaking on the sand? While there’s nothing wrong with being affectionate, this is the public beach, so keep it PG. 

Take your rubbish

Australians are lucky to have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. And we’d like to keep them that way. If the bins are full, take your rubbish with you. Don’t just plonk your oily fish and chips parcels or empty soft drink cans on top of already overflowing bins where, with the slightest breeze, they’re going to end up strewn all over the sand or, worse, in the ocean. 


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