Top 5 Tips for Driving Safely on the Beach
Beach driving is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable experiences you can have in your 4x4. By following some basic rules and etiquette, you can have a fun and enjoyable day out. We've put together our top 5 tips for driving safely on the beach.
#1. Use your indicators
Most people like to drive down close to the waters edge where where the sand’s firmer and more compact. This can often provide the most comfortable drive for you and your passengers.
But if you have a vehicle approaching the other way, you can have that awkward dance where you don't know whether one person's gonna go high or whether one person's going to go low, and that's where using your indicators works well.
So for example, if you’re driving on the left with the surf to your left, you need to throw your left indicator on which will indicate to the oncoming driver that you’re staying low, or closest to the water. Generally the rules of the road apply, and you should stay left where practical. If you are taking the high side (where there is lots of beach), ensure you leave plenty of room for the car on the low side to pass.
#2. Assume people on the beach can’t see or hear you.
When you're driving along the beach, you're likely to encounter kids, families, fishermen and even wildlife.
When you're out on the beach with the wind, and the the surf in the background, it can be very hard to hear a vehicle coming.
So if you see some people or a car parked on the beach, you just want to slow down to go nice and slow past them in case they haven't heard you coming. You'd hate to see them run out in front of you while you're driving along. You also need to be mindful of wildlife on the beach - in particular birds, that will often be resting on the beach. You want to try to give them a wide berth and try to minimise any disturbance.
#3. Stay away from sand dunes
Another thing to be careful of is staying away from the sand dunes. These sand dunes have taken decades to form and they're what keep these beaches the way they are so that we can enjoy them.
If we start driving over those sand dunes, it firstly weakens and kills the vegetation that helps to hold the sand dune together. When the vegetation weakens, the sand loosens and is likely to be blown away, and ultimately wash away. Over time, the beach will lose its dune structures, and then more and more beach. It also reduces the dunes ability to withstand natural events like cylones or periods of heavy swell, hich can lead to further erosion.
All beach permits have strict rules and regulations about driving on sand dunes. In fact, they often advise to park at least 2 metres away from the dune to ensure you do not damage any surrounding vegetation.
Our best advice is to always be aware of the stage of the tide, the condition of the beach and aim to be only driving on the beach 2 hours eitherside of low tide.
#4. Follow the speed and all road rules
While driving on the beach, all your local speed limits and road rules do apply. This includes making sure you've got your seatbelt on, staying to the left hand side at all times and making sure you're following any local speed limits that may be on the beach.
Some of your more popular beaches will actually have speed signs on the beach, especially through the camping areas, envirnmentally sensative areas, and the more popular areas with swimmers. Also take note of any no drive zones on the beach - often these can be hard to see as they can't exactly place a speed limit sign in the middle of the beach. Usually these signs will be located in the first line of sand dunes.
#5. Park your 4WD properly
Another beach etiquette tip when it does come time to park up on the beach is to always park up close to the sand dunes with a vehicle facing down towards the surf.
There are a couple of reasons for this -- it makes it easier for oncoming traffic to see that you are parked up, and by facing downhill, it makes it nice and easy when it's time to leave. Plus, who wouldn’t just love just sitting there and enjoying that ocean view !
Make sure you've packed your beach recovery gear. We don't leave home without at least treds / maxtrax, and a basic recovery kit. We also reduce our tyres to at least 18-20 PSI (lower if it is really soft).
There are often times when someone else may be stuck and blocking the only access track to the beach. You can sit back and wait, but in our experience, the stuck car normally has little idea how to recover themselves, or even how to use their recovery gear. Plus carrying gear and knowing how to use it gives you that extra piece of mind should you find yourself stuck.
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