Little is known about the water safety beliefs, swimming skills, and behaviors that might be associated with beachgoers’ perception of drowning risk. New Zealand adult beachgoers (N = 3,371) were surveyed to assess beach swimming frequency, swimming skill, swimming behaviors and perception of the risk of drowning in five pre-validated scenarios. Thirty-two percent of beachgoers estimated that they could currently swim less than 25 m; 55% reported that they had swum outside lifeguard-patrolled areas, and 26% had swum after consuming alcohol. Young adults and men were more likely to self-report strong swimming skill, more frequent at-risk swimming behavior, and low perception of drowning risk. High swimming frequency, better self-reported swimming skill, and previous at-risk swimming behaviors were all associated with a lower perception of risk of the case scenarios Addressing tendencies to overestimate swimming skill and underestimate drowning risk should be focal points of drowning-prevention interventions, especially among young male adults.