Updated 7th December, 2023.
There is possibly no finer feeling in Australia than visiting a beach with no other people and driving your four-wheel-drive vehicle. Aside from you, there’s nothing except blue sky, a salty breeze, and clear water. Driving on the beach might be fun, but things can go tragically wrong if you’re not mindful of what you’re doing.
In this blog, I’ve covered the 15 most crucial things to know when driving on an Australian beach and provided my top recommendations for 4WD mods based on my years of experience.
- Research and Regulations: Research beach driving permissions and conditions, adhering to all standard road and beach driving rules.
- Vehicle Choice and Preparation: Prefer 4WD vehicles with adequate clearance and modifications, ensuring they are well-prepared for beach conditions.
- Tyre Pressure and Steering: Adjust tyre pressure between 8 and 20 psi for better sand traction and steer gently to avoid tyre or vehicle damage.
- Driving Technique: Maintain moderate speed to prevent sinking in sand, and be mindful of your surroundings, including tides, to navigate safely.
- Load Management: Lighten your vehicle’s load to reduce the risk of sinking and consider using a roof rack for extra storage of gear.
- Recovery Preparedness: Always have essential recovery gear like a shovel, winch, bull bars, rear bars, and know how to use them effectively for vehicle recovery.
- Environmental and Social Responsibility: Be considerate of other beachgoers, avoid littering, and respect the environment.
My Top 15 Beach Driving Tips
Before embarking on your adventure, make sure you thoroughly research it. This is crucial to find out which beaches you can drive to and what to expect. Utilise local government websites and famous 4WD magazines. If driving is permitted on a beach, there is normally a well-marked access path with suitable signage. Use established access routes; they are not only safer for your car but also help reduce unnecessary damage to your vehicle.
2. Road Regulations
Although the road you travel on may have developed, road rules will remain. Rules are there to assist you. As a result, it’s critical to follow guidelines and adhere to beach driving road rules. For example, make sure all passengers in your vehicle are strapped up, stick to speed limits, and don’t drink and drive.
3. Four-Wheel-Drive Vehicles
Don’t take an AWD to a beach driving trip, especially if the weather is dry and the sands are more likely to engulf your car. The areas you can take an AWD are limited because most have little clearance and no low range. However, it is possible to traverse the beach in an AWD after some rain. At this time, the ground is firm, but you must stay on the main tracks. A 4WD is always the best choice, and can traverse sand with ease using the right modifications.
4. Tyre Pressure
I always recommend a tyre pressure of between 8 and 20 psi when driving on the beach. You must reduce the tyre pressure to spread the tyre out and increase the sand contact area as you drive on the beach. Start with a pressure of 20 psi. This will increase the tyre tread by lowering the tyres. It should, however, not fall below 8 psi at an absolute minimum. On slick roads, this enhances traction. Lower tyre pressure can cause steering and braking difficulties, among other things. As a result, when driving, keep these modifications in mind. Before going back to the tarmac, remember to restore the tyre pressure.
5. Drive Slowly
The default speed limit in Western Australia is 20km/h unless otherwise signposted. Having enough velocity to keep the tyres on the sand is critical when driving on sand. The tyres will dig into the sand and sink even deeper if you drive at high speeds. When approaching loose, soft sand stretches, maintain or slightly increase your speed. The slower the vehicle travels, the longer it will take to sink into the sand and dig ruts. Momentum is the key to maximising your fuel economy and reducing your chances of getting stuck.
6. Be Aware of Tides
It is critical to know the tidal schedule before heading to the beach. It’s also preferable to stay on the beach for no more than two hours on either side of low tide. Ensure you’re not driving during the tide’s peaks and troughs, as tides are a powerful force for beachgoers. Before you depart, make sure you’ve packed everything you’ll need and checked the tide schedules for the location you’ll be visiting. When the tide is low, begin your expedition. The sand will harden, giving you ample time to reach your destination before the next tide comes in.
7. Drive Near the Water
Always get off near the water when driving on the beach. This is where the ground is the roughest. However, driving a car with water is not a good idea. If you get caught in a swell, keep your wheels straight and don’t stop until you solve the problem.
8. Lighten Your Load
When packing a car for a beach driving trip, it’s easy to get hooked, even for short getaways. It swiftly becomes a complex Tetris game that packs everything, including bags, bikes, coolers, and their last-minute “just in case” elements. The vehicle’s weight affects its ability to sink to the beach. Excessive vehicle weight might put extra pressure on the vehicle’s narrow tyres, causing the car to sink in the sand. You should remove any heavy items from the car and, if possible, minimize the number of passengers.
You’ll eventually find yourself caught driving on the beach. Packing the correct recreational equipment is the greatest method to drive on the beach. Don’t try to accelerate if you get stuck. Instead, try reversing.
10. Have A Shovel
As stated above, you’ll get stuck in the sand sooner or later. This happens to everyone. The first step is to give up on attempting to get out of it. This delves deeper into the sand. Second, you can try to get out backward. Your tyres effectively created a ramp in the hole you were trapped in, and you can usually back it up right away. If that is infective, take out your shovel. The idea is to dig a ramp out of your hole. This usually works most of the time.
11. Follow Other Tracks
Don’t be afraid to keep an eye on and track the vehicles in front of you. You’ll be able to access your projected route this way. By doing this, the chances of being struck by a spectacular fall into sand or water are slim.
12. Be Considerate
Most beachgoers are there for fun, so it is essential to maintain a positive atmosphere and avoid roadside drama. Making room for others, avoiding rear-end crashes, parking away from the main beach road, and being prepared to assist those in need can go a long way. Most beach driving destinations in Australia that allow driving have some pedestrian activity. So, you keep an eye out for people, animals, and gear.
Ensure you steer gently as you drive on the beach. The tyre pressure will drop if you move the wheel too quickly, and the rubber bead may slide off the rim. The vehicle may become stuck in the sand as a result of this. A brief push on the throttle during a turn helps the car move in the desired direction.
If you’ve never taken your car to the beach before, get out the tape measure and measure the distance between the vehicle’s underside and the ground. Even the tiniest uneven distribution in the sand can cause the car to hit the ground if it is less than 180mm. This eventually leads to a loss in momentum, and your vehicle becomes more prone to bogging.
15. Avoid Littering
Littering is something you shouldn’t do on the beach. The last things we want to see in the natural surroundings are plastic bags sliding across the sand and filthy Styrofoam. Please bring two trash bags with you. The recycling trash bag is separate from the one for the regular garbage. Organic matter, such as leftover food, should not be left on the beach. Things like wild dogs and foxes are attracted to leftovers and prey on native species.
My Top Beach Driving Mods
It’s easy to accidentally dig your wheels into the sand and get yourself stuck. We’ve all been there.
Luckily with the right mods, it’s also easy to get un-stuck. Here are my top three 4WD accessories to consider before you go driving on the beach:
1. Bull Bars & Rear Bars
If you find yourself stuck in the sand, you’ll be grateful to know there’s a safe way to retrieve your 4×4. Bull bars and rear bars make excellent recovery options because they’re rated recovery points. That means that they’re designed to handle the intensity of being pulled by a towing vehicle. You don’t want to find yourself without sturdy recovery points, or you could do more harm than good when you attempt to move the vehicle.
Always make sure the recovery points you’re using have been properly installed by a qualified technician.
2. Roof Rack
When you take your 4×4 on the beach you’ll need a few accessories. Shovels, lift jacks, recovery boards, and other emergency equipment can take up a lot of room. You don’t want all that crammed in your backseat, so consider a roof rack for storage.
Roof racks are fairly light, and allow you to keep a whole host of items on top of your car. In addition to rescue gear, you can also secure a bicycle, canoe, kayak, cooler, or camping equipment. It’s a great way to ensure you always have space for exactly what you need.
3. Winch & Recovery Gear
If you’re heading out to explore an abandoned beach on your own you can’t count on having another vehicle available to pull you out if you get stuck. You could easily find yourself in a sticky situation with no cell service and it’s important to be well prepared. Having the right kind of winch will let you get yourself out of trouble.
A winch can be fixed to a sturdy object, like a large tree or boulder, and allow you to slowly pull your 4×4 forward. Even if you’re not on your own, a winch lets you recover your 4×4 on the beach without risking getting another vehicle stuck. Take some time to practice using a winch before you head out and make sure you’ve chosen a winch that’s appropriate for your vehicle.
Now that you know what to do before taking your 4×4 on the beach, let’s move on to inland exploring.
In summary, for a safe and enjoyable beach driving experience in Australia, it’s essential to research permissible beaches, adhere to road rules, choose the right 4WD vehicle, adjust tyre pressures, maintain a slow speed, plan around tides, be cautious near water, lighten your vehicle’s load, and be prepared for and know how to handle bogging.
Additionally, it’s important to follow existing tracks, be considerate of others, steer gently, check vehicle clearance, and avoid littering to protect the environment.