I didn’t hear about “Blue Flag Beaches” until my first trip to Spain, but there are currently “Blue Flag” beaches and marinas in 39 countries including England, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Spain, and Turkey.

Blue Flag Beaches are beaches that meet specific criteria that cover environmental education and management, water quality, safety, and services. The Blue Flag title is an annual title, so each beach is reevaluated each year and granted the status based on those standards. Titles are withdrawn if beaches fail to meet the guidelines set.

The Upside? These beaches are generally nice, clean, and, if you are traveling with small children, can be nice in that they not only provide some educational opportunities, but also have lifeguards, first aid available, and ensure clean beach water and a good supply of drinking water as well. These beaches do have rules posted and are patrolled. The website has a complete list of guidelines.

The downside? These will not be secluded, private, “untouched” beaches. They may not be crowded depending on the season, but given the number of amenities that are required for blue flag status, you will not find a beach that is without evidence of humans.

Seasonal? Yes. The website has a description of each beach and what amenities it provides. Some beaches only provide lifeguards and first aid supplies on a seasonal basis – usually the months of July and August.

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