While for many holidaymakers, surfies and everyday beach-lovers, nothing makes them happier than the feeling of sand between their toes, when it comes to avid 4WD enthusiasts, it’s actually the soft crunch of sand under their tyres that’s really worth writing home about!
Plus, in Australia where we’re blessed with more than 10,000 amazing beaches that deliver on everything from dramatic wide-open sandy expanses to secret, hidden coves and inlets – the world really is a beach! Knowing the ins and outs of driving on the sand, plus where you can and can’t go with your wheels – really helps to make the most of what they have to offer as well as whether your vehicle and tyres are up to the task.
To get you started on a sand-riding journey of your own, we’ve collected up a “top pick” selection of some of the most inspiring, secluded and plain awesome beaches across the country where you can take your 4×4 and tyres for a bit of a spin.
Straddie…Think Queensland, beaches and 4×4’ing and you can’t go past North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah)! The perfect place to give your tyres a beach run, driving is permitted on the island’s Main and Flinders Beaches. You’ll need a valid permit (bought on the island or online ahead of time) that’s affixed to the bottom left side of your windscreen.
Fraser Island… Fraser Island’s 75 Mile Beach, is a sandy ‘super highway’ that offers miles and miles of adventure — another favourite destination for 4×4 beach driving, while making sure you follow the rules of the road. Your vehicle (and you!) will need to catch the ferry to the island, with 4×4 accessibility to the beach ruled by the times and tides.
Also, in Queensland…Other beaches where your tyres can make tracks include Moreton Island, the Cape Melville National Park, Poverty Point Road and The Bloomfield Track.
Stockton Beach and Worimi Conservation Lands.…Offering 32km kilometres of pristine beach and 350 hectares of dune-driving for 4×4 adventurers, this is one of NSW’s best and most expansive coastal dune areas, just waiting to be explored. As with other beaches where 4x4ing is allowed, permits are required.
Nine Mile Beach… Incorporating Lake Macquarie’s Redhead Beach in the north and Blacksmiths Beach in the south, Nine Mile Beach’s soft sand is another popular 4×4 driver’s beach driving and camping paradise.
Other beaches to make tracks on in NSW…Pebbly Beach (Yuraygir National Park), Mungo Beach (Myall Lakes National Park) and Evans Head Beach (beach access via a constructed access point at Terrace Street, Evans Head).
Emu Bay, Kangaroo Island… It’s the only beach you can drive on, on this beautiful island. Emu Bay is also one of the rare beaches where a 4×4 is not required to enjoy the experience (as long as you keep your tyres on the hard-packed sand).
Fleurieu Peninsula… So close to Adelaide, yet so far away from the bustle of city life, Aldinga, Moana, Sellicks and Silver Sands beaches all allow vehicle access between the hours of 5.30am and midnight. Permits are required.
Long Beach, Limestone Coast… Stretching out for 12km, as its name aptly suggests, this lengthy “Long” beach is the perfect place to put your rig (and tyres) through their paces in the sand with 10km of sand available to drivers.
North Beach (Wallaroo) Yorke Peninsula…2km long and just waiting for your tyres to make tracks!
Wild and wonderful Ocean Beach, near Strahan on the west coast of Tasmania, is Tassie’s longest beach (situated in The Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area) – with 15km accessible to 4WD vehicles.
Finally, in Western Australia when it comes to putting your tyres (and your 4×4 skills) to the test on the sand, you’ll be spoilt for choice.The wide range of beaches available to vehicles (with varying difficulty levels depending on your experience and expertise) include Belvidere, along with Binningup, Peppermint, Myalup, Tim’s Thicket, Ledge Point and Broome’s famous Cable Beach – just to name a few. There may be some restrictions on exactly where you can access each beach and how far you can ride, so it’s important to check out the details and make sure you have any necessary permits before setting off.
Driving on sand – some ground rules
Driving on sand is different to driving on asphalt and other surfaces, and you’ll need to reduce your tyre pressure (please speak to your local tyre dealer to seek their recommendation for accurate pressure levels), remembering to inflate them again prior to returning to a normal road surface. It goes without saying that having the right tyres for the task (such as award-winning Maxxis MT772 muddies or AT811 All-Terrains), will not only ensure you enjoy your 4×4 driving experience on sand, but will also deliver a safe ride. Check your owner’s manual for manufacturer’s recommendations for your vehicle and load and carry the necessary emergency/recovery gear in case you get stuck, bogged or encounter something else unexpected! Australian road rules and speed limits apply on most beaches as for other roads – so make sure you drive according to the regulations for the particular beach and state, wear a seat belt and (of course) don’t drink and drive.
Also, very importantly, ensure you are well informed on the tides, winds and other information regarding weather for the particular sandy stretch your tyres are on (eg. some areas regulate that you can’t drive on the beach for up to one or two hours both before and after a high tide). Respect any wildlife you encounter in its natural habitat as well as other drivers and beach users. National Parks offices and visitors centres will be able to assist with a wide variety of information about the local area (as well as helping you stay safe and ensure you have the necessary permits), while the Bureau of Meteorology website (along with a range of other Apps) should be regularly checked for up-to-the-minute weather conditions.