The key to safe beach driving is preparation. Even the most experienced drivers can be caught out, so follow these safety tips before heading off-road.
Check if you need a vehicle access permit (VAC)
Before making tracks on the beach ensure you have the correct vehicle access permit
(VAC) and avoid areas where 4WDing is prohibited. In Queensland, permits are distributed via a car sticker which is best placed on the left-hand side of your windscreen out of the way of the driver’s vision.
Know the tide times
The easiest way to avoid getting bogged is to drive on low tide near the shoreline where the sand is hard. It’s recommended to drive two hours either side of low tide. You can check the Queensland tide tables
online to better plan your trip. Note: Every year king tides occur in Queensland around Easter and Christmas.
Ensure your vehicle is 4WD capable and lower your tyre pressure
Before driving onto the sand engage 4WD and lower your tyres to between 18 and 20 PSI or to the specifications of your vehicle. This will stop your vehicle from sinking into the sand.
By keeping momentum your vehicle will float across the sand and not get bogged. Stick to the hard sand if you can, keep to the right, indicate when passing oncoming vehicles and when overtaking and keep to the speed limits. If you are driving on soft sand, try to keep in the ruts to avoid getting stuck.
Look out for obstacles
Driving along the beach can be unpredictable. There can be debris washed up onto the beach, wildlife, gutters and water crossings. Avoid driving through water, slow down when passing people or wildlife on the beach and use spotlights when driving at night.
Pack recovery gear
Every 4WD should carry recovery gear, especially for driving off-road. Recovery essentials for driving on the beach include a shovel, set of Maxtrax or Treds recovery boards, snatch strap, winch dampener, tow hitch with shackle, car jack, jack base and a spare tyre.
Reinflate your tyres once off the beach
Once off the beach, reinflate your tyres to the specifications of your vehicle before driving on the road. Also remember to properly clean under your vehicle to remove the sand and saltwater from the vehicle’s underbody to avoid rust or corrosion.