Red tide is a big problem in Florida, in more ways than one. If you visit the Gulf Coast, it can affect your day at the beach. We've been to the beaches during red tide and have experienced the effects. Should you visit the beach during red tide?
What is Red Tide?
Red tide is a type of algae growth that can happen in the Gulf of Mexico, especially when the weather heats up. It can start to grow really fast when the temperature, saltiness, or amount of nutrients in the water changes. The water can change color to look brown or red, instead of its normal blue-green. The algae can release toxins into the environment, which can cause dead fish.
In the past few years, Red Tide started in summer or early fall and lasted several weeks. The thing that most people don't know is that red tide can change from day to day. A lot depends on ocean currents and even the wind. In 2023, it arrived early!
Causes of Red Tide: Do They Know?
The causes of red tide are not fully understood (although they keep studying it). However, the buzz is that the blooms can be caused by a number of things. The hurricanes certainly don't help the situation because they churn up the lakes and ocean. Causes include:
Our Experience at Florida Beaches
For two years we lived near Bradenton and visited Anna Maria Island, Sarasota and Venice regularly. Unfortunately, these Gulf beaches are often some of the first to be hit by Red Tide. We were able to switch to Clearwater and St. Pete Beach when Siesta Key was most affected. Believe it or not, it can be severe at the beach one day and beautiful the next! Unfortunately, at it's worst, here's what we experienced during Red Tide:
Can You Still Vacation in Florida During Red Tide?
Red Tide is unpleasant but you can still enjoy a trip to Florida. The most important thing you can do is book a quality hotel or accommodation that offers you a variety of vacation amenities. Make sure it has:
Can I Get a Map of Red Tide Conditions?
Yes! We suggest everyone do this before their Florida vacation. You monitor the Red Tide situation with the following links:
The bottom line is Red Tide is a big problem that affects everyone: residents, Gulf beach visitors and businesses. However, you can still have a fun Florida vacation! Even if there are a few days you cannot go to the beach, you can still find tons to do in your local beach town. Orlando, Tampa, and Sarasota have tons of attractions, parks and events for you and your family.
Hotels, restaurants, and local beach businesses are really impacted by Red Tide. When beaches are closed or affected, businesses that rely on tourism can suffer. Most coastal Florida businesses rely on tourism! If you plan your vacation at at time when Red Tide may occur, you can still have a good time and give the economy a boost.
What beaches are most affected by Red Tide?
Unfortunately, red tide occurs almost every year. While it can affect beaches all along the Gulf Coast, some areas are more severely affected than others. Unfortunately, these are our favorite Florida beaches and they are probably yours too. Here are some of the beaches that are most affected by Red Tide in Florida:
Beaches on the east coast of Florida rarely experience Red Tide. Although Vero Beach had it in 2018. Otherwise, the Atlantic Ocean water is warm near the Gulf Stream. Places like Juno Beach and Peanut Island offer the clear emerald water everyone loves. There just might be more waves.
However, the Atlantic Ocean beaches have their own occasional issues too. Seaweed blobs, know as Sargassum, can wash up on the beach. This is also a smelly, natural mess! Hotels do their best to clean it up, some do it daily in Miami Beach, but it can be unpleasant. Again check the area and call your hotel ahead of time. Check out this resource: https://sargassummonitoring.com/
Can You Swim at a Beach with Red Tide?
Take our word for it, you will not want to swim! It is not safe to swim with red tide. Many people will experience irritation of the lungs and eyes. Swimming near dead fish is unpleasant. Coughing, sneezing and asthma attacks can happen if you try to swim. At times, we were not even be able to walk on the beach and had to cover our faces. Dogs and children my be affected too.
Remember, Red Tide Conditions Change Fast
We don't want you to give up or be anxious about visiting Florida if you see a Red Tide Report. Many times we left a beach affected by Red Tide only to have it clear up the next day! Checking the daily sample map online is a great idea. We also recommend contacting your hotel or accommodation to get the real scoop on how the beach is in your vacation area. Regardless of the Gulf beach conditions, Florida still offers sunshine, warmth and lots to do! See you soon.
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Susan and Bruno are travel bloggers. We write about Florida beaches on every coast. Our opinions only.