Hit the sand: beach driving tips to know before you go
There’s probably no sweeter Australian feeling than finding a beach without another soul on it. Unless you’re pulling up to said beach spot in your 4WD.
Windows down, salty breeze, and nothing but blue sky and clear water ahead.
With a coastline that stretches 6,973km, Queensland truly is the perfect training ground to learn how to beach drive. Plus, the only way to see all the nooks and crannies of this incredible land (and access some of the best beach camping) is by heading off-road for a beach drive.
Want to swap the open road for endless beach? Here are some beach driving tips for first-timers.
Ensure your vehicle is 4WD off-road capable
Let’s get one thing clear: all-wheel-drives (AWDs) aren’t four-wheel-drives (4WDs).
Don’t take an AWD onto the beach, especially in Queensland’s hot, dry conditions where your car is more likely to sink into the soft sand.
Most AWDs have low clearance and no low-range, which limits the places you can take them. A 4WD is definitely preferable for beach driving!
Lower your tyre pressure
One of the most important beach driving tips: when driving on sand, the first thing you need to do is let the air out of your tyres.
Why? Lowering your tyre pressure lengthens the footprint of the tyre, which provides more surface area for the car to sit on top of the sand.
Find out what PSI is best for beach driving your vehicle, because every car is different. Pick up a pressure gauge from any good automotive store and keep it in your glove-box ready for beach driving.
It’s best to lower your tyre pressure before you hit the sand. Most beach tracks have a turn out close to the entry where you can pull off the road to do so.
Once you come off the beach at the end of your driving adventure, head to the nearest petrol station to re-inflate your tyres. Remember to keep your speed down (go no faster than 40km/hr), especially as you head around roundabouts. Better yet, if you’re planning to do plenty of beach driving adventures you should get your own portable air compressor to re-inflate your own tyres. No servo required.
Be aware of the tides
It’s super important you know when low and high tide is before driving onto any beach. And it’s best to be on the beach for only two hours either side of the low tide.
You’ll be surprised how quickly the tide creeps up the beach (and how stressful it becomes for a first-time beach driver as the water inches closer to your car!).
Tip: Willy Weather app is an excellent free app for tide information, as well as weather radar and UV levels.
Avoid the water
The sweet spot when beach driving is on the hard sand, avoiding the water. If you follow the tide advice above, you’ll be set.
Be prepared to get bogged
Eventually, you’re going to get bogged while beach driving. The most important beach driving tips are simply to have packed the right recovery gear.
When you do get stuck, don’t try to accelerate out as you’ll just spin your wheels and dig yourself further into the hole.
Instead, try reversing out first.
If you are bogged and unable to get out, some of the gear you’ll need to help recovery include a shovel, traction aids, and a Snatch Strap kit with gloves and bow shackles.
Tip: Consider carrying a bucket with you also… it’s great for filling with water from the beach to make soft-sand more firm. It also acts as a stool to sit on.
Drive in the ruts
Aim to drive your car in the tracks (or ruts) other vehicles that have gone before you have made. Don’t fight your steering wheel as you’re cruising in a rut, just try to gently guide it.
Tip: Avoid doing tight turns on the beach, as the sand builds up in front of your tyres making it more likely to get bogged. Instead, keep your turns wide gentle arches.
Keep your momentum up
When driving on sand, the key is to have just enough momentum to keep the tyres cruising on top of the sand. If you brake hard, your tyres will dig into the sand and you’ll sink further down into the beach.
Tip: If you come to a big dip in the beach, ease slowly into the dip and then accelerate out of it.
Obey the road rules
Treat the beach just like a road and follow all normal road rules. It’s important to stick to the posted speed limits, keep to the left, and always wear your seatbelt.
Keep your eyes out for children playing on the beach too. It’s important to follow all signage and warnings to ensure safety – not only of yourself, but of other people and wildlife. Seasonal rules may be in place, for example so as not to disturb or destroy turtle nests.
Tip: Use your car’s indicators to signal which direction and/or side of the beach you plan to move your vehicle towards.
To the car wash
Finished your beach drive? Don’t relax just yet – make sure you wash the undercarriage of your vehicle to prevent rust.
Take a course
If you’d rather an expert show you the ropes, enrol in a beach driving course. You can take a one-day course with Brisbane Hinterland 4WD Training at Bribie Island National Park, where you’ll learn how to drive and recover in sand.
Do your research
Before you head out to drive on a Queensland beach, check that 4WDs are permitted at your chosen location and ensure you have the required permits. You can book permits online using the Queensland National Parks Booking Service.
Ready to explore? Some of Queensland’s best beach drives are found at:
- Moreton Island
- North Stradbroke Island
- Fraser Island
- Bribie Island
- Great Beach Drive
- Rainbow Beach
- Cape York Peninsular