ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Local beaches saw big crowds once again on Labor Day, which marks the unofficial end of summer.
On Monday, people were enjoying the holiday at Mickler’s Landing.
“You kind of pinch yourself and say, ‘Wow, is this vacation or is this real life?’” said George Rodriguez.
George and Viviana Rodriguez were soaking in some sun before their cookout later in the day.
“Very surprised — I don’t know what it’s going to look like tomorrow, but this is kind of packed,” Viviana Rodriguez said. “We’ve been here a couple of times or so, and we’ve never seen it so quickly packed this morning.”
Joe Brunson was soaking in some sun with his wife. He said he wasn’t surprised about how busy it was at the beach.
“Actually, we thought there might be a few more people here,” he said.
Crowds started pouring in around 5:30 a.m. — nearly three hours before the beach opened to the public. At Mickler’s Landing, the beach didn’t even open until 8 a.m. because of sea turtle nests. The county is asking people to keep an eye out on Monday.
Maddison Fehagins arrived bright and early to celebrate the holiday with a special beach photo shoot for her baby boy, Asher.
“We are here to take his 4-month pictures,” she said. “He just turned 4 months on Thursday, and I thought that the sunrise would be a great opportunity to take some photos.”
Leslie Prater was at the beach with her mother, Mary, who’s visiting from Knoxville, Tennessee.
“Oh, I love the beach,” Mary Prater said.
Leslie Prater said she had to use a special process to find beach parking.
“You had to time it just perfectly. So you try to come here with the lunch crowd, when the early people come out and try to get lunch, and you just kind of zip right in,” she said. “It’s a little bit of luck, a little bit of planning.”
Monday is also the last day that marine rescue at lifeguard towers in St. Johns County will patrol the beaches.
What else St. Johns County beachgoers need to know
St. Johns County officials want you to know there are a few other changes this year to make it easier for beachgoers.
To limit traffic, there are also free shuttle rides to the beaches available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The shuttle goes to St. Johns County Ocean and Fishing Pier, Mickler’s Landing Beachfront Park and St. Augustine Beach City Hall.
Here are the rules if you plan to drive:
- All vehicles need a beach pass.
- You can buy passes with cash at any beach access ramp.
- Don’t drive over 10 mph.
- All vehicles must stop at all beach ramps and yield to pedestrians.
- Vehicles may not enter the beach at the Fort Matanzas Ramp.
- If there’s soft sand, only 4x4 vehicles will be allowed on some beaches.
- Lifeguards will be on duty from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Warning flags are also in place along the beach to keep visitors aware of current water and surf conditions.
Here’s a breakdown of what each flag means:
- Yellow flags: medium hazard level that could include strong currents and surf
- Red flags: high hazard with stronger currents and more dangerous surf conditions
- Purple flags: dangerous marine life in the area
Even if there isn’t a flag up that does not mean there is no danger.