Hey campers. For many of us, our favourite pastime – whether it be camping or fishing – leads us to want to set ourselves up along the dunes for some seaside fun. And although many of these sites can be accessed via a good old bitumen road, there are others that can only be accessed by a drive along the beach. And whilst this is generally not too difficult and in fact, a lot of fun, there are some things to be aware of as well.
I have spent a lot of time driving along the beach to go camping and fishing in my time so based on my experience, and a little research, I have come up with my 6 tips for driving on the beach to get you from A to B in the safest and most enjoyable way possible.
Let’s check them out below…
1. Prepare your vehicle
Funnily enough, in my travels this is the one thing that I have seen let a lot of drivers down as they hit the sand. It should go without saying but you will need a vehicle with Four Wheeled Drive (4WD) capabilities and of course you should make sure it is serviced and everything is working well. From there you will also need to:
- Reduce tyre pressure – Once you get to the beach let a little air out of the tyres. Reduced tyre pressure will provide more traction and make it easier to safely maneuver across sand – especially if it is soft. Check manufacture recommendations of course but in general aim to get the pressure between 15 and 20 PSI in each tyre.
- Be prepared for emergencies – If you have driven on the sand for any length of time you will know that you can manage to get yourself bogged without warning. To this end, make sure you have a full tank of gas, water and some recovery gear such as a snatch strap, shovel or recovery tracks to help you get out.
- Put in big mats – This is one I learned along the way as as you could probably imagine, if you are diving on the beach then you are going to get sand in the car. I highly recommend getting yourself some old carpet and cutting out mats larger than normal. Place them in the car before you leave and most of your sand problems will go away I promise.
And of course if you can, have some sort of rust proofing installed prior to your first trip onto the beach as well!
2. Check the tides
The ocean is a powerful force and can quickly sweep a car away, especially if the driver has managed to get it bogged. There are exceptions to this rule however on many beaches, the sand is hardest and easiest to drive on when the tide is low and the sand nearer the watermark is hard. Some beaches also impassible at high tide especially around headlands or rocks so make sure you know when high tide is so you can avoid driving near or on the water.
Many areas also deem it illegal to drive on the dunes so if high tide hits, you can also be fined if you head up that way to avoid the water too.
3. Learn about the beach
As a follow on from above, unless you are well versed on the beach that you will be driving on, it will pay well to do your research before entering it in a vehicle. Areas to check include:
- Is it legal? – Not all beaches can be driven on so check local rules and regulations first. Also, if you see a sign that says something like “No Vehicles Beyond This Point” then obey it. These signs are not always just to mark a legal boundary, but also to highlight dangers such as washouts or drop offs etc.
- Know the speed limit – Driving across many beaches is very similar to driving across city streets or country roads with legally binding speed limits set. And at the end of the day, speeding in sand is just dangerous.
- Where is best to drive? – I mentioned above that on most beaches (well here where I drive on them anyway) driving is easiest on low tide on the hard sand. However, in some areas the sand near the water is soft regardless of the tide. At the end of the day, if you are going to get bogged, you don’t want to do it below the high tide mark.
- Are there any hazards? – Beaches can contain many unseen hazards such as washouts, rocks, dips, inlets and even shipwrecks – yep we have all of them. Know if they are there and where they are and you will can not only be safe, but enjoy them as well.
- Where are the best places to site? – Even though driving on the beach is fun, there does come a time when you want to do whatever it is that you have gone there for. So your final research should revolve around finding good gutters for fishing, or simply a place to sit your camp chair and watch the world go by…
4. Stay straight
Ok, our next tip here is to do with actually driving on the beach. I will start this section by outlining that this is a very rough guide only and certainly not to be used as any sort of tuition or step by step instructions. However, in general, I was taught that when it comes to driving on the sand, you will go a lot further if you stay as straight as you can.
Look for ruts and tracks used by other vehicles as the sand below them is usually a little harder and usually avoids any of the hazards mentioned above. However if you must turn – which if course you will – keep in mind that if you are in soft sand, then the vehicle will not move as simply as it does on the road.
Turn the wheel to where you want to go and give the pedal a little extra – especially if you are trying to take the vehicle out of a rut. This will aid momentum and let you steer where you need to. And with that, keep in mind also driving on the sand is as much about momentum as it is power so if you can maintain a steady pace then as you turn then you should be able to get through most areas.
And finally, you will remember that we mentioned reducing your tyre pressure above. This will give you greater traction for the sand however if you turn to quickly, especially if the terrain is hard, then you can actually roll the tyre off the rim so refrain from jerking the wheel round or turning too quickly.
5. Watch out for pedestrians
Even though many beaches that allow for driving are designated as gazetted roads, this does not mean that there will not be pedestrian activity there as well. People and cars do not mix – which is why speed limits are in place on many beaches so as you drive along, pay particular attention to other walking, children playing or dogs running.
And keep in mind that to a child, a beach is a place to run on so they rarely watch for cars at the best of times…
6. Clean up afterwards
My final tip here is actually for once you get back from the beach where there are two things to consider:
- Your tyres are under inflated.
- Your vehicle has been exposed to salt air and water.
So, the first thing to do is make sure you re-inflate your tyres as soon as you can – and don’t hit any sharp corners at speed until you do. Local gas or service stations generally provide air pumps alternatively you can purchase options that run off of your car battery as well.
Then next thing is to give your car a good wash. This includes the undercarriage where most of the sand and salt will be deposited. Some use a high pressure cleaner for this option whilst others like to place their vehicle over a garden sprinkler and let it all soak. Wash the outside with a good car cleaning detergent and vacuum out the inside (which of course won’t be that hard as you have installed your big mats hey!)
And there they are – my 6 tips for driving on the beach. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please let me know of your experiences or any other tips you may have.
Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections or would like me to check anything else out for you.
Until next time