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Safe ways to enjoy beaches this summer in Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador have plenty of beaches waiting to be explored — like Lumsden on the Kittiwake coast. - Photo Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism
Newfoundland and Labrador have plenty of beaches waiting to be explored — like Lumsden on the Kittiwake coast. - Photo Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

After a long winter — and an even longer spring stuck in quarantine — Atlantic Canadians are more eager than ever to walk in the warm sand and frothy salt water.

“There are tons of stunning beaches around the island and we have the added bonus of a variety of types. There are wonderful rocky beaches which are great for beach-combing and boil-ups,” says Gillian Marx with Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism. “There are also beautiful sandy beaches you can visit on day trips from St. John’s. Salmon Cove Beach is perfect and they have a plan for safe usage.”

The beach won’t be exactly the same this year, but with a bit of extra planning, you can still spend the day soaking up the sun and listening to the soothing sound of the waves ...

Do your beach-y homework.

Research the beach first, if possible, to see if there are specific rules you’ll need to follow. On some beaches, face masks are required (now we’re all wondering how those tan lines will look) so have a mask for every family member in your bag, just in case.

“First and foremost, ‘know before you go,’” says Marx. “It’s important to be prepared and check in advance before you leave home.”

Plan your activities.

Most beaches are still not allowing any kind of sports, so if you’d normally spend the day bopping around a volleyball or using a beach-side basketball court, be sure to bring along other activities this summer.

Plastic pails and shovels are always a hit with children — even older ones who initially claim to be too old. Inflatable floats are fun, and stand-up paddle boards (“SUPs” if you’re cool) are one of the trendiest water toys right now. Snorkels and masks are neat for exploring below the water’s surface, providing you’re at a beach where you’re fairly confident there won’t be any nasty surprises under there.

Pack thoughtfully.

Sure, it’s a pain lugging a bunch of gear from your vehicle all the way down to the sand, but this summer isn’t the time for skimping. Disinfecting wipes won’t be useful for much more than wiping the sand off your hot little hands, but alcohol-based hand sanitizer is always a good idea no matter where you’re going these days.

Pack your beach basics like sunglasses, sunscreen, towels, and maybe something to read. But also bring all of the snacks and drinks you’ll need, as most beach canteens won’t be opening this summer and you don’t want to find yourself parched and out of options.

Avoid crowds.

Social distancing is still important, even outdoors. Crowds are not cool right now, even if it’s a crowd of people who look great in bathing suits. If you arrive at the beach to find it jammed with people, keep driving — there’s bound to be a quieter section of oceanfront nearby. And really, aren’t the quieter, lesser-known beaches the best ones, anyway?

Set up your zone.

Around the world, some beaches are making it easier for you to gauge your own two-metre “safe zone” by cordoning off areas with rope or netting — like individual beach properties in the sand — and even requiring reservations to claim these little squares. While we’re all familiar with staying six feet away from other people, the rule for towels and beach blankets is a bit different. Your beach “home” must be set up at least 12 feet away from another person’s set-up, to allow for safe passing.

Make a pee plan.

The washrooms might not be open, and it goes without saying that no one wants to be swimming in someone else’s pee, especially right now, but ... always, ew. If you do need to use a public washroom, touch as little as possible and scrub your hands thoroughly when you’re finished.

If all that’s available is an outhouse (the stuff of nightmares), do your best to clean your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer and wash them with soap and water as soon as possible. Just like any other time, be mindful of not touching your face and be sure to sanitize your hands regularly.

Watch kids carefully.

Keep an especially close eye on young swimmers. Social distancing might mean beach-goers are spread out across a much larger stretch of beach, putting some people further away from a lifeguard’s field of vision — and for some beaches, lifeguards are not yet back to work at all. Most lifejacket-loaning programs are on hold this summer, so make sure to bring your own if your child requires one.

Be sun-safe.

Make sure you’re thorough when applying your sunscreen. It’s recommended we wear a broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher for day outdoors, reapplied every two hours. If you spent most of the quarantine on your couch in a Netflix stupor, your pale indoorsy skin might be even more prone to a painful red sunburn.

Soak it all in.

This summer is going to be a rare opportunity to experience the province’s beautiful beaches without the usual crowds, which means your next beach day could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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