THE RNLI'S Barry Island Visitor Centre, the first in the country dedicated to keeping children safer at the beach, has been officially opened.

Invited guests, which included Barry mayor Cllr Charlotte Williams and RNLI trustee Sonia Modray, had the chance to try out the range of interactive displays and activities aimed at keeping the public safe in and around water.

From Saturday, the centre will be open to the public, with the RNLI hoping around 20,000 to 30,000 people will visit during the summer.

Located in the former tourist information centre in Paget Street, it is one of only two visitor centres not housed at a lifeboat station and is the first prevention-led centre specifically aimed to reduce drowning and incidents.

Inside, children can climb aboard a D class inshore lifeboat whilst hearing inspirational rescue stories. There are also bilingual games and displays warning about the specific dangers of the waters around Barry Island and a chance to quickly kit-up a lifeboat crew member to make a rescue launch.

Julie Sanby, RNLI visitor experience manager, said: "This is a hugely exciting day for the RNLI as this is the charity’s first visitor centre anywhere in the UK specifically dedicated to drowning prevention and keeping people safe in and around the waters of the local area.

"The RNLI’s vision is to end preventable loss of life at sea and we hope the centre will build upon the safety education and drowning prevention work already being done in the area by Barry Dock Lifeboat station volunteers and our lifeguard teams.

"Many of the families who visit Whitmore Bay don’t have a lot of coastal experience. We hope families who visit the centre will learn key safety tips and be better equipped to enjoy the area’s beautiful coastline safely and know what to do if they do get into trouble."

The centre will be open throughout summer, from noon to 4pm with free entry. The building also has a meeting room for use by the community.

RNLI lifeguards will be on duty at Whitmore Bay on Barry Island over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, then every weekend from April 29 until May 27.