What Does the Purple Flag Mean at the Beach?

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What does the purple flag mean at the beach? This flag goes up when people have spotted dangerous marine life, such as sea snakes, jellyfish, and stingrays. 

Why Should I Watch Out for the Purple Flag at the Beach?

Yellow and purple beach flags

Watch for the purple beach flag to know the current ocean conditions and whether certain dangerous marine creatures are around. Exercising caution regardless of the flag color is always suggested.

Be vigilant of other beach safety flags. The green flag, yellow flag, and other colors indicate surf conditions and whether there is a high or low hazard.

What Do the Other Flag Colors Mean?

Red flag at the beach

If you see any of the beach warning flags, learn their meanings. These are the usual designations for a red flag, a green flag, and the others. Make sure to check your particular beach warning flag program, as every system is different.  

Red Flag

A red flag means high currents that are hazardous for swimming and surfing. Someone also may have spotted a shark if you see a red flag at the beach. 

Double Red Flag

A double red flag means that beach waters are currently closed to the public. Entering the waters can be life-threatening. This beach warning flag is another sign that someone saw a shark. 

Yellow Flag

A yellow flag means that there are hazards that can affect surf conditions. There are strong currents and riptides, so exercise caution. Seeing a yellow flag means that weak swimmers should not go in the water at this time. 

Green Flag

A green flag means that there may be a low hazard nearby. The currents are calm, but you should still exercise caution when in the water. 

Black Flag

A black flag means that you should not enter the water because of life-threatening hazards. Ask your lifeguard about the nature of these hazards for more information. 

White Flag

A white flag means that a rescue service is on-premises. You may want to relocate to another beach if you see a white flag. 

No Flag

If there is no flag, there is no immediate danger. The tides are normal with no other hazards. However, continue to exercise caution.

Can I Go in the Water When a Purple Beach Flag Is Up? 

Kids holding hands running into the water

The purple flag means to swim at your own risk, as marine life harmful to humans could be swimming nearby.

Watch your surroundings as you enjoy the water. Return to the beach immediately and report your findings to the lifeguard if you see a creature in the water.

What Dangerous Wildlife Falls Under the Purple Beach Flag?

See through jellyfish on the beach

A purple beach flag means that someone saw stinging marine wildlife. Watch out for jellyfish, sea snakes, and stingrays. 


Jellyfish may wash up on the beach because of incoming currents. Dead or not, a jellyfish can still sting you. The nematocysts on jellyfish tentacles can cling to a human body part and sting you. 

Sea Snakes

If you are at a beach connected to the Pacific or the Indian Ocean, you may encounter one of 57 species of sea snakes. Some sea snakes have bites that feel like a pin-prick on your skin. Sea snakes’ bites vary in severity and side effects. 


Stingrays usually only sting humans if accidentally stepped on or handled incorrectly. The spines on their tail are sharp and cause the sting. Your skin may open from a stingray attack. 

Does the Purple Flag Mean Sharks Are Around?

Giant shark swimming under the ocean's surface

Yes, seeing this colored flag may mean there could be sharks around. Swim in the waters with extreme caution. Be on the lookout for the other stinging wildlife. 

Someone may have found a shark right before you visited the beach. In this case, there will be a double red flag to show beachgoers not to go in the water until one or more sharks have cleared the area. 

If you have to stay out of the water, you can go coastal foraging as a backup activity. You can find different sea creatures such as lobsters, shrimp, and crabs as the tide goes outward.  

Beach Safety Tips 

Person running on the beach

Does a beach flag hoist mean that you have to cancel your fun day planned at the beach? Nope! You can still have fun while exercising certain precautions to avoid other marine life. 

If you have children, keep an extra good eye on them so that they do not step on any stingrays or jellyfish. Have your little ones stick by you closely so you can be their second pair of eyes when navigating the beach. Reassure they are wearing life jackets at all times.

Especially if you are going to the beach at night, practice safe navigation measures when visibility is lower. 

Wear shoes at all times when navigating the beach. Watch where you step to avoid dead marine life. 

While you may not have to go to the hospital because of a jellyfish sting, you may experience itching, pain, red areas at the sting site, and tingling. Carry some baking soda to mix with seawater to treat a jellyfish sting

Besides reassuring your family that you will be safe from dangerous wildlife, double-check that you have everything packed for your beach adventure before you leave home. You would not want to get to the beach and realize that you forgot sunscreen or a beach towel. 

Watch the Orange Windsock

You may see an orange windsock. It may be white and orange striped or a solid color. Watch how it blows in the wind to note its speed and direction. Deciphering where the wind is going will let you know the current tide strength. 

Final Thoughts on the Purple Beach Flag

So, what does the purple flag mean at the beach? Seeing a purple flag at the beach means there is stinging wildlife nearby that can hurt you if you are not careful. Watch your step for washed-up critters like stingrays and jellyfish that can still sting you even if they are dead. 

Enjoy the moment and stay vigilant. A yellow flag hoisted means strong ocean currents. Seeing a double red or black flag means you will have to find another nearby beach or reschedule your adventure. Keep this in mind, and enjoy your time at the beach safely.

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