The Sefton Coast enjoys over 22 miles of coast and foreshore areas with a range of facilities and nature reserves.
Sefton Council manages the beaches at Southport, Ainsdale and Crosby.
Access to beaches varies by location and in some areas it may be difficult for pushchairs and wheelchairs to gain access.
During the summer (1st April – 30 September), beach car parking is available at Ainsdale (PR8 2QB) and Southport (PR9 1RX). However, beach car parking can be affected by the tide, the weather or for other reasons, and parking charges apply.
Crosby beach is backed by a promenade, from where you can safely view the Another Place ‘Iron Men’. There are several pay and display car parks adjacent or close to the promenade.
Car parking for the beach at Formby is managed by the National Trust.
Only Formby, Ainsdale and Southport are designated bathing beaches. During the summer water samples are taken and there are RNLI Beach Lifeguards on duty. Crosby Beach is not a designated bathing water.
All the beaches in Sefton have good train connections. Merseyrail operates regular services along the Northern line between Liverpool and Southport.
There are two dog exclusion zones in place from 1 May to 30 September:
- Southport beach is free of dogs starting from the Pier south towards Pleasureland (for 555m) and to the tide line.
- Ainsdale Beach is free of dogs 200m either side of the main beach entrance and to the tide line.
Both the dog exclusion zones are well signed during the summer season.
Please some basic rules:
- Keep your dog under close control at all times. If you cannot control your dog, keep it on a lead.
- Never let your dog roam around the coast unattended. A dog out of sight might be out of control.
- You must clean up after your dog. Failure to clean up dog waste is an offence under the cleaner Neighbourhoods Act 2005. You could incur a £75 fixed penalty or be fined up to £1000 if prosecuted.
Yes you can park on the beach car parks at Southport and Ainsdale during the summer. However, they can be reduced or closed depending on tidal conditions or at other times for reasons such as severe weather or organised events.
You can buy a beach parking contract for the summer season. This is valid for parking at Ainsdale Beach Car Park and Southport Beach Car Park only.
This costs £45 for a car or £80 for a minibus or horse-wagon/trailer.
The quickest and easiest way to buy your beach parking contract ticket is to use the online beach parking form
You can also call into the Coast and Countryside office with cheque or cash payment at Ainsdale Discovery Centre, Promenade, Ainsdale PR8 2QB or email email@example.com. Alternatively, you can go to Southport Town Hall, Lord Street, Southport, PR8 1DA.
Horse riders must possess current and valid personal and third party liability insurance. Please observe these basic rules:
- Keep younger and less experienced riders and horses under close supervision
- Never ride your horse at full gallop
- Horses are excluded from all bathing areas
- Do not allow your horse to go too far out into the sea
- Avoid riding on the beaches for 2 hours either side of high tide and never ride through flocks of wading birds.
- Horses are not permitted in the dunes
- Local Nature Reserve Byelaws and Sandhill Bylaws apply
- To avoid congestion, do not park your box or trailer at the main entrance to Ainsdale Beach
- Please clear up all your horse related debris and remove it from the beach, do not leave behind any dung or straw
- Be considerate to all other beach users
- To avoid disturbing flocks of wading birds
Ainsdale and Southport have RNLI Lifeguard cover between Easter and September.
Lifeguards work at Formby (Lifeboat Road) between May and September. This year the Lifeguard service at Formby, Ainsdale and Southport ends on 4 September.
Our top tips are:
- Read the beach information notice boards for news and safety information
- Take your litter home
- Where lifeguards operate you are required to follow their instructions and advice
- Respect the beaches, coastline and other people using the area
- Do not allow your dog or horse to foul the beaches
- Care should be taken at all times when swimming in the sea
- Check the tide times and the weather forecast before your visit and be aware of the beach access points
During the summer the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) lifeguard service is in operation at Formby, Ainsdale and Southport and they promote a 'swim between the flags' service, which means they will patrol a designated area of the beach.
At Crosby, RNLI Lifeguards are present all year, but please note Crosby beach is not a bathing beach and does not have a patrolled bathing area.
On occasions it may be necessary to restrict activities and even close a beach and access to the water. Where this occurs we follow the procedures identified on the RNLI water safety advice website.
Tide times vary everyday throughout the year. Please check the tides website before you make your journey especially if you want to see the Antony Gormley statues.
Ainsdale has twice won the international Blue Flag and in 2010 Southport achieved excellent water quality under the current European standards. Formby has always had consistently good bathing water quality.
However, in 2015 the new standards will classify a bathing beach based on the previous four years testing and will have the additional requirement to provide improved information for the beach user.
Warnings in the form of signage of short-term pollution events will be posted at the beach and are more likely to appear following heavy rain. If visiting a beach to swim or take part in another activity in the water and it has rained recently we advise that you check the notice boards at the beach.
More information on the revised bathing water standards is available on the Environment Agency and Defra websites.
In the North West, a Turning Tides partnership has been established to strive to further improve our bathing waters and between 1994 and 2015 £1 billion will have been spent in the North West.