I’ve travelled to a lot of different countries around the world, but like a lot of other Aussies, I haven’t explored anywhere near enough of my own home country as I’d like.
I dream of one day doing a lap around Australia and the only way to see all the nooks and crannies of this incredible land is by heading off-road and beach driving.
With a coastline that stretches 6,973km, Queensland truly is the perfect training ground to learn how to beach drive for a future around-Australia adventure. And after a one-day course with Brisbane Hinterland 4WD Training at Bribie Island National Park, here are 9 must-dos for first-time beach drivers.
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.
It’s possible to tackle some beach tracks in an AWD if they’re firm (for example after lots of rain), but most AWDs have low clearance and no low-range, which limits the places you can take them.
Tip: A 4WD is definitely preferable for beach driving!
When you’re driving on sand, the first thing you need to do is let the air out of your tyres. Lowering your tyre pressure lengthens the footprint of the tyre, giving you more surface area for the car to sit on top of the sand. 18 PSI was the sweet spot for our vehicle (a Toyota Prado), but 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.
Tip: Once you come off the beach at the end of your driving adventure and head to the nearest petrol station to re-inflate your tyres, keep your speed down (go no faster than 40km/hr), especially as you head around roundabouts.
It’s super important you know when low and high tide is before driving onto any beach. 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.
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 (the sand builds up in front of your tyres making it more likely you’ll get bogged), instead keep your turns wide gentle arches.
When you’re 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.
The sweet spot when beach driving is on the hard sand, avoiding the water.
Tip: As soon as you’ve finished driving on the sand, wash the undercarriage of your vehicle to prevent rust.
Eventually, you’re going to get bogged while beach driving. The most important thing is 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 (I like the MAXTRAX brand with their bright orange ribbon attached making them easier to spot in the sand), 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.
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.
Tip: Use your car’s indicators to signal which direction and/or side of the beach you plan to move your vehicle towards.
Before heading 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 online using the Queensland National Parks Booking Service.
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