Beaches

Sefton’s coastline stretches for 22 miles and is a nature haven that offers something for everyone – and is much loved by both residents and visitors alike. It is the reason many people chose to live and work, as well as spending their leisure time, in the Borough.

Sefton Council's Green Sefton Service manages the beaches at Southport, Ainsdale and Crosby alongside partners and dedicated local volunteers, and at Formby the beach and woodlands are managed by the National Trust.

The sunset at Crosby beach with an Anthony Gormley Iron Man statue at the front of the image

Visiting Sefton’s beaches

Balancing the need to provide great visitor facilities and opportunities at the coast, with the unique environmental sensitivities, means that Sefton Council has to delicately manage its popular coastal locations.

With summer 2021 set to be a busy year at the coast, we are joining forces with our coastal partners once again to ensure local communities, and visitors from across the North West, can enjoy Sefton’s coastlines safely as coronavirus restrictions ease further.

The joint action also aims to encourage people to take personal responsibility at the coast. Asking them to plan how they are going to get to the beach, to take all litter home with them and to show respect and kindness to staff, the environment and fellow visitors. Find out more by watching the video below:

Have a look through our FAQs to ensure that you can plan ahead for your visit to the beach, leaving nothing behind but your footprints.


Much of the Sefton coast is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with a series of nature reserves and protected areas running from Crossens in the north to Waterloo in the south.

Dog owners are encouraged to exercise their pets here but you must clean up any fouling, do not leave dog poo bags in the landscape and ensure your dog is kept under control.

There are two beach dog exclusion zones in place from 1st May to 30th 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.

Rare species including Natterjack Toads and Great Crested Newts use the many pools in the dunes – dogs MUST be kept out of these areas of water so these protected species can survive.

Dogs should also be kept away from birds on the beach, especially large flocks of roosting waders, terns and gulls, all of which use this coastline as an essential stop off or breeding site along the East Atlantic Flyway. It is a criminal offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to allow your dog to disturb these birds.

Pets should also be controlled so they do not disturb ground-nesting birds in the dunes. Nesting species are also protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Threatened species including Skylarks are vulnerable and can be found throughout the Sefton dune system.

Dogs should also be kept under close control and way from all livestock (sheep, cows etc.) on the coast.

Some basic rules when bringing your dog to the coast: 

  • Keep your dog under close control at all times. If you cannot control your dog, keep it on a lead. 
  • Keep your dog out of pools of water or slacks (the dips where water gathers) on the dunes as there are a variety of rare flora and fauna that shouldn't be disturbed. 
  • Never let your dog roam around the coast unattended. A dog out of sight might be out of control or at risk of harm from a high tide or unexpected danger.
  • 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. 

Picnics are allowed along Sefton's beaches, provided visitors make sure they take away all their rubbish when they leave the beach.

We frequently empty our coastal bins. Green Sefton Rangers can empty them up to 10 times a day when it’s busy and it can take around four days to fully clean up after a busy weekend at the Sefton coast. Help us out and take your litter home with you and recycle where possible.

During the busy spring and summer months, more bins and skips are made available at the coast to help keep our beaches clean – please use them or better still bin your rubbish at home.

We actively encourage visitors to our beautiful coastline to enjoy it safely and to treat the surrounding natural habitats and fellow visitors with respect.

We have an excellent rail service along the Sefton coast. The Merseyrail northern line runs regularly in both directions between Liverpool and Southport with most coastal locations only a short walk away. Plan your visit on the Merseyrail journey planner.

Sefton is also served by several bus service providers, from Merseytravel, Arriva and Stagecoach, so why not give the bus a try.

There are plenty of different cycle routes and bike hire available at both the Eco Visitor Centre and Southport Train Station. Plus, you can take you bike for free, and without the need to pre-book, on the Merseyrail network.

Travelling by other ways, like walking and cycling, to the coast helps to reduce your carbon footprint too.

Don’t forget hands, face and space – protect yourself and others from the spread of COVID-19 when using public transport.

Access to beaches varies by location and in some areas it may be difficult for pushchairs and wheelchairs to gain access.

Yes you can park on the beach car parks at Southport and Ainsdale during the spring and summer months (1st April to 30th September). However, they can be reduced in size or closed depending on tidal conditions or at other times for reasons such as severe weather or organised events.

The all-day charge for parking on Ainsdale beach is £10. A new cashless payment system is to be introduced for the 2021 season.
 
For regular visitors, Sefton Council offers a money-saving £30 annual season ticket (non-refundable) for parking on Ainsdale Beach, also available for those who drive a hybrid or electric car.

This funding provides essential support to contribute to the costs to provide our services and preserve the natural beauty of our coastline for generations to come. 

The quickest and easiest way to buy your beach parking contract ticket is to buy online using the e-form.  

You can call 0151 934 2961 or email greensefton@sefton.gov.uk for further enquiries.

Other parking

A new off-beach car park for Ainsdale is in the planning process and is expected to be ready to open from Easter 2022.

There are many other pay and display car parks in the Southport area just a short walk away from the beach.

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, who have lots of helpful tips you should read when planning your visit there. Have a look at their planning your visit page. 

Visitors should not park in residential areas and should expect a fine for anti-social, irresponsible and illegal car parking. It is a key priority for our Enforcement Officers, working alongside Merseyside Police, to tackle parking issues near the coast and resources will be increased in areas where they persist. 

Reduced beach car parking and tidal closures 2021

Beach car parks at Southport and Ainsdale are generally open every day between 1st April and 30th September each summer. However, they do need to close or be reduced in size depending on tidal and weather conditions, sometimes for organised events (such as the Southport Air Show) and at other times as determined by the Council (e.g. pollution incidents).

We also need to take close note of the weather conditions, especially wind direction and strength – certain conditions may require further closures than just those listed below.

April 2021 

Southport – 1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 (all dates closed)

Ainsdale – 1 (closed), 26 (reduced), 27 & 28 & 29 (closed), 30 (reduced)

May 2021

Southport – 1, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 (all dates closed)

Ainsdale – 1 (reduced), 25 (reduced), 26 & 27 (closed), 28 (reduced)

June 2021

Southport – 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 (all dates closed)

Ainsdale - 24, 25, 26 (all dates reduced)

July 2021

Southport – 24, 25, 26 (all dates closed)

Ainsdale – 25 (reduced)

August 2021

Southport – 11, 12, 22, 23, 24, 25 (all dates closed)

September 2021

Southport – 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 20, 21, 23, 24 (all dates closed)

There are public toilet facilities at all Sefton coastal sites and extra temporary loos will be made available at Ainsdale and Crosby beach in spring/summer 2021, in a way that is safe for users and the staff required to keep facilities clean and sterilised.

Please use the facilities provided and do not use the beaches, dunes or the sea to go to the toilet. 

Make sure you wash your hands after using public toilets or use the hand sanitiser provided at the portable loos. Keep regularly using hand sanitiser when visiting the coast, to help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

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

During the summer the 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. 

Southport Lifeboat have their own safety advice about tides, and how to avoid becoming cut off. Be aware of your surroundings and keeping checking behind you that the tide isn't coming in around you. Find out more in this MySefton news item.

The key summer safety advice is:

  • Visit a lifeguarded beach & swim between the red and yellow flags
  • If you get into trouble Float to Live – lie on your back and relax, resisting the urge to thrash about
  • Call 999 or 112 in an emergency and ask for the Coastguard

Find out more about the ways that the RNLI work alongside HM Coastguard to keep our beaches safe for everyone, by reading this RNLI webpage.

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 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. 

Southport Lifeboat have their own safety advice about tides, and how to avoid becoming cut off. Be aware of your surroundings and keeping checking behind you that the tide isn't coming in around you. Find out more in this MySefton news item.

The key summer safety advice is:

  • Visit a lifeguarded beach & swim between the red and yellow flags
  • If you get into trouble Float to Live – lie on your back and relax, resisting the urge to thrash about
  • Call 999 or 112 in an emergency and ask for the Coastguard

Find out more about the ways that the RNLI work alongside HM Coastguard to keep our beaches safe for everyone, by reading this RNLI webpage.

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.

Professional filming outlets seeking permission to fly drones and quadcopters must obtain approval from both Sefton's Coast and Countryside team as well as Natural England.

Read Sefton's drone policy. 

Recreational drone usage is unlikely to be approved as much of Sefton's coastline is classed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The flying of drones and/or quadcopters without prior consent or approval is strictly prohibited.

For a full list of rules and regulations regarding activities on SSSI, please read through this gov.uk webpage

 

 

Environmentally sensitive

From stunning beaches to woodlands and dune systems brimming with wildlife, this unique landscape is rarer than rain forest. Sefton Council and its communities are custodians of this special place that has evolved over thousands of years, and continues to change before our eyes to this day. It is home to an incredible array of flora and fauna – from the infamous red squirrels, to the rare Natterjack Toads and sand lizards.

It is for this reason that the coast enjoys a number of high level formal protections – it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Area of Conservation, a Special Protection Area and a RAMSAR and Natura 2000/ National Site Network site because of the range of dune habitats and rare species that can be found here. Two areas are also designated as Marine Conservation Zones.

The coastline also enjoys Site of Special Scientific Interest status because of the large number of migrating birds that use it in spring and autumn, stopping off as they head north or south – roosting birds and the need not to disturb them plays a factor in organising any events along the shoreline, as will the usual tidal and weather issues synonymous with working on any coastline.

Managing visitors along the coast

When the Coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020, an even larger number of visitors than usual descended on the coast and so a Coast Visitor Action Plan was developed.

This plan was overseen by a Cabinet Member Reference Group who allocated funding to improve facilities and services to cater for the excess visitors seen at this time. This was welcomed and seen as successful, and much of these efforts have been resourced for 2021 as well.

Find out more about the Action Plan on our dedicated webpage.

The plan goes hand-in-hand with the already established work of the Sefton Coast Landscape Partnership - a long standing group of all significant land owners and partner agencies with a key interest in our coast.

Working together the group ensure that visits to the Sefton coast are safe and fun, but that any impact on coastal communities is minimised, as well as any impact of its special environment.


Last Updated on Tuesday, July 27, 2021

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