Nude Beach Behavior: Good Manners in Your Birthday Suit

bikini, hat and flip flops on a beach.

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The rules of nude beach etiquette may be unwritten but if you don't observe them you could find yourself breaking the written laws about being naked in a public place.

Public nudity isn't actually illegal in Britain, neither, surprisingly is open air sex. Until you offend someone. And then it is.

So obviously, your objective (if you want to enjoy naked sunbathing and swimming in peace) should be to cause as little offense as possible. It's just common sense really. Should you cover up on a nude beach? How close is too close? Is it wrong to glance at other nude beach-goers around you?

Code of Manners

Nude beaches, especially unofficial ones, are tolerated because of a code of good manners as to what is acceptable behavior on a nude beach. Follow these guidelines for a tranquil day out:

  • At unofficial areas, don’t strip until you reach the tolerated nudist area. As a rule of thumb, it will be as far as you can go from the entrance and still be on the beach.
  • Keep your distance. Choose a spot that respects the privacy of other beach users.
  • Don't stare at others. Don't approach strangers. Men, in particular, should be aware that women will probably not want to be approached, gawked at, or openly ogled. Even in the friendly environment of a family oriented naturist beach, it's a good idea to cover up when interacting with others on the beach. 
  • Watch yourself when taking pictures. Let people know you'll be taking pictures near them so they can move, or cover up if they want to. It's very unlikely that you will have to include strangers in your pictures but if you must, ask their permission. (And by the way, wrap yourself in a towel while you are asking). Nude beaches in the UK are almost never crowded so it's easy, and far more considerate to simply find a different place to take your pictures.
  • Whatever you do, don't photograph children without their parents' permission. Be very clear about what you intend to do with the pictures. What you may think of as completely innocent behavior can quickly be classed a crime in the eyes of others on the beach. In today's climate, even photographing your own children nude might raise some eyebrows.
  • If you are a bird watcher, watch the birds of the avian variety. Don't point your binoculars at other beach users.
  • Keep clothing or a cover-up handy. If you are asked to cover-up (by anyone) on an unofficial nude beach in the UK, you must do so.
  • Avoid sexual activity unless you are sure you are alone and likely to stay that way. The Sexual Offences Act (2003) does not prohibit al fresco sex in isolated places so long as you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, you could be prosecuted for a public order offense if others are present. In 2013, after being briefly banned, nude bathing was restored at the beautiful and popular Holkham Sands. The reason the landowners - the Earl of Leicester and the Crown Estates - had banned it in the first place was an increase in "anti-social behavior", in other words, offensive open sex on the beach that was impossible to ignore. Do keep in mind that nudists - called naturists in the UK - often include their whole families in what they think of as a wholesome activity. So just remember that children will probably be around. 
  • Be prepared with towels, sunscreen, water, drinks, and food. You are unlikely to find them on remote nude beaches.
  • Leave the beach clean. Take away what you have brought to the beach - and more if you can.

Are You Tempted?

Europeans are much more relaxed about nude bathing and sunbathing than North Americans. Even in England, with its reputation for reserved behavior, it's pretty common in suitable settings. And in Greece, where local people can be rather prim, stripping for the sunshine isn't that uncommon.

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