What we wish we knew before driving to the beach. Don't let this happen to you. Use these 4 tips for the perfect beach day.
When we first moved to Florida 5 years ago, almost every day was filled with excitement about going to the beach. The only problem was we lived 20 miles away from the Florida coast, so it was a major excursion that required planning. Did we plan? No! We just took off for our beach day with a few towels, sunscreen and water. Woo hoo!
Well, that didn't always work out for us all the time. These things happened:
What Do You Need For A Perfect Beach Day?
As you can imagine, we were not too smart and sometimes unhappy. We don't want this to happen to you: our fellow enthusiastic Florida beach lovers! That's why we recommend you check these valuable online resources BEFORE you drive to the beach. Ask these 4 easy questions: it only takes a few minutes. This beach day checklist may save you a big headache and some dollars at the gas pump.
Beach Water Quality: is the beach swimmable?
Red tide, blue-green algae, sargassum and other bacteria-related conditions appear on Florida beaches from time to time. The State of Florida monitors the water and publishes results online with their Florida Healthy Beaches Program. Just click on the county and city of your desired Florida beach destination. Then the beaches button will show any advisory. If it says "poor" don't go! It's that easy to save yourself wasted time and fuel. The next day the water can be fine but check again. We wish we'd known. We drove out to our favorite Gulf beach only to end up disappointed. Don't let this happen to you. Click here: https://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/beach-water-quality/index.html
Florida Beach Traffic: how busy are the roads?
Checking the road is probably second nature for some travelers. Google Maps will help. Certainly it will tell you how busy the beach is at any time of the day. However, there is a Florida traffic resource that gives you even more. The FL511 system is Florida’s official travel source. It provides information on congestion, crashes, construction and maintenance activities; and travel times on all interstates and toll facilities as well as other major Florida routes. Drivers like us can make better choices about travel plans. There is a mobile app, a website in English and Spanish, Twitter messages, Facebook, Instagram, text alerts and more. This app is so much fun you might forget about going to the beach! Click here: https://fl511.com/
Coastal Storms: is there a storm coming or going?
The FL511 system will also provide you with weather alerts, road weather alerts and forecasts. It will show you radar too. In the summer, storms frequently happen in the afternoon but can occur at any time. Rain may cause localized flooding and make driving difficult, on both coasts of Florida (yes, even in a pickup truck).
However, when planning a Florida vacation or beach road trip, you will need to keep an eye on hurricane forecasts. Hurricane season starts June 1 and ends November 30. That doesn't mean there will be a storm, but visitors to Florida need to be aware of the possibility. That's where The National Hurricane Center (NOAA) comes in. It will tell you if there is a storm in the Atlantic or forming in the Caribbean, or even the Gulf of Mexico; they can pop up suddenly. Check the NOAA site regularly or on social media when making your plans.
Tide Times: is the tide level safe for swimming?
A 2021 report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) showed coastal communities across the USA saw record-setting high-tide flooding. St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Miami and Cape Canaveral were cited as having a potential increase for flooding days. The yearly King Tide is the well-known on the Atlantic coast of Florida for causing the most problems. Tidal heights in the Gulf of Mexico are usually smaller than the Florida east coast beaches. However, normal tidal fluctuations can affect your beach day visit. We recommend you check tide times before you go for maximum enjoyment and safety. You can check tide times here: Tides4Fishing (east coast) and NOAA Tide Predictions.
How To Have The Perfect Beach Day
Now you are ready for your Florida beach trip! It's time to hit the road and have a perfect beach day with your friends and family. Don't forget to wear a hat and sunscreen in the strong Florida sun (even in the winter). One final warning: when you arrive at the beach take note of the Beach Flag status at the Lifeguard station. It will tell you if there are strong currents, jellyfish or stingrays present that day. You can also look it up here or find it at the beach city or county online before you go. Have fun!
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Susan and Bruno are travel bloggers. We write about Florida beaches on every coast. Our opinions only.