Australia’s Best Beach Drives and What You Need
There’s no better feeling than cruising along a wide empty stretch of beach with the ocean on one side, windows down, cool sea breeze filling the cab and nothing but a sandy highway in front of you. Beach driving is an Aussie 4WDing icon and I’m yet to meet a soul that doesn't enjoy it. It screams freedom. Over the last decade or two I’ve had the privilege of driving on more beaches than I’ve had hot pies (that’s a heck of a lot of beaches by the way), and whilst every sandy experience puts a grin on my mug, there’s been a few that stand out above the rest.
Let’s start close to my home with one of my all-time favourite beach destinations; that being the Yeagerup Dunes down onto Yeagerup Beach in WA. There’s really no words I can use to describe this drive as it’s something you really have to experience yourself. The Yeagerup Dune system is incredible and utterly huge. Winding your way through this otherworldly landscape before arriving the wild southern beach is something you absolutely have to put way up high on your bucket list.
Speaking of bucket lists, who doesn't have Fraser Island on theirs? If you don’t, you're missing out. From the moment you gently roll off the barge and begin the long drive north, you know you’re somewhere very special. If it’s hour upon hour of beach driving you're chasing, Fraser is the place. From the barge to the very tip of Sandy Cape is a several hour epic trip, with everything from road hard sand to some of the softest you’ll find anywhere. Fraser is perhaps Australia’s ultimate beach driving experience.
Let’s pop just south of Fraser now for something slightly different and much more achievable; the run from Rainbow Beach to Double Island Point. This is only a short run across hard packed sand (at low tide) which takes you passed massive colourful dunes to spit you out at a lagoon the likes of which postcards are made. I’ve done this run too many times to count and it still makes me grin.
I have a tradition whenever I find myself lucky enough to be driving into Broome once again and that is, to head directly for the famed Cable Beach. Weave your way through the large rocks at the beach entrance, slowly roll past the camel trains and hordes of tourists, then continue north as the crowds fade and Cable Beach opens up before you. I like to put in a solid drive, leaving everyone well to the south before hanging a sharp left hander and hitting the brakes. With bonnet facing the western ocean and a Kimberley sunset on its way; well, I think you get the picture.
We’ve all seen the pictures of the crystal clear, stunningly blue ocean and whiter than white sands of the Cape Le Grand beaches; it’s truly some of the most incredible beach driving you can do in the world. However, that’s where the problem lies; the world knows about it and these days it can get pretty crowded with people getting that pic “for the Gram”. Here’s my hot tip, head just a fraction further east to a little known spot called Menbinup. The bays and beaches here rival the big names but with virtually zero crowd. Trust me on this one….
Lastly but by no means least, let’s head north. Cape York is the bread and butter of the Australian 4WD destination scene but beaches really don't factor into the equation for most who have this on their agenda. Well, on your way north, spare some time for the beach run up towards Cape Flattery. Brilliant camping, painted cliffs, crystal clear ocean, hard packed sand and epic fishing. This is a side of Cape York that so many people scream past on their way to the tip. Slow it down and give this incredible bit of real estate a crack.
Now, with a few locations as inspiration, what’s actually needed to tackle an Aussie beach in your 4WD? Well firstly, it goes without saying that quality tyres are a must, and a Bridgestone Dueler A/T 697 quality all terrain tyre is the tyre I’d choose for the job. Just as important is the amount of air you are running in them. As a starting point, drop your pressures to 18PSI all round and go lower as needed. What goes down must go back up (for on-road driving) so an air compressor is essential.
With the right tyre pressure and a bit of technique, you should be able to avoid getting bogged, but it does happen. If it does, and reversing out and taking another crack doesn’t work, let more air out of your tyres and jump on the shovel. If this fails it’s very handy to have some form of recover aid such as MaxTrax to get you back in the game. If you are travelling with another 4WD, a snatch strap makes short work of sand recoveries but please make sure both vehicles are fitted with rated recover points front and rear and you know how to use them safely. Snatch strap recoveries are an extremely useful technique in sand but they must be carried out by experienced people using rated recovery points and gear.
Lastly, make sure your vehicle’s cooling system is up to scratch as soft sand will give your rig one heck of a work out and overheating is a common issue on long runs.
Beach driving is perhaps the most fun you can have in a 4WD and when it’s combined with all the other lifestyle activities we love so much, it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular destination for just about every 4WD owner.