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Driving on sand

Queensland's magnificent beaches of unspoilt beauty and attractive climate are great places to fish, swim, camp, explore, view the scenery, or simply 'get away from it all'. For essential safety tips for driving on sand print off and read the Driving on sand safety guide (PDF, 217K).

Sand driving can be difficult and dangerous. Take care and remember ALL road rules apply.

Driving guide

Contact local councils or QPWS offices to find out about restrictions and permits needed before you drive on beaches.

If beach driving is allowed, please follow these tips.

Where can you drive?

Drive on the harder sand between the waterline and the high tide mark for the firmest surface.

Remember that other people use the beach, so stay alert, follow the normal road rules and drive carefully! Use only designated access points to the beach and keep off the sand dunes.

Make sure you know any local rules about using vehicles on beaches. Do the right thing and other drivers will follow your good example.

Where can't you drive?

Keep off sand dunes except at designated crossing points for access to and from the beach. Don't 'bust dunes'; protect them.

Nor should vehicles be driven on sandy areas along the debris or drift lines as these are potential sites for the formation of new dunes. Plants growing on or near these lines trap windblown sand to form new dunes.

Rules for beach driving

Be considerate to others. Some people may object to vehicles on beaches, beacuse of noise disturbance to wildlife, and danger to other beach users.

By following these tips you will help protect our beaches and have a safe and enjoyable visit.

  • Observe all the laws and regulations relating to the use of vehicles on beaches.
  • Drive on the harder sand between the waterline and the high tide mark for the firmest surface.
  • Keep off sand dunes except at designated crossing points for access to and from the beach.
  • Vegetated sand dunes are easily damaged. Strictly avoid these areas.
  • Recognise the right of others to use the beach. Be alert and drive slowly and carefully.
  • Do not drive when you are tired.
  • Do not drink and drive.
  • Respect the wildlife—animals are easily disturbed. Disturbance can affect their survival.
  • Carry your rubbish home. If others have left a mess, consider cleaning it up.
  • Ensure that your vehicle is mechanically sound before your visit.
  • Reduce your tyre pressure when driving on soft sand but keep within the manufacturer's specifications.
  • Ensure your vehicle is in 4WD when on sand.
  • Always carry a tyre gauge, air pump, shovel, traction aids, first-aid kit, adequate water, food, fuel and spares on all trips.
  • Ensure you have a valid vehicle permit for those areas where a permit is required.
  • In remote beach areas travel with at least one other vehicle to reduce the risk in case of trouble. And let a responsible person know where you are going and when you expect to return.

Helpful hints

  • Travel at low tide, or within two hours either side.
  • You may choose to reduce tyre pressure to maintain traction, but if you do, do not forget to re-inflate your tyres to resume speed on harder sand or surfaces.
  • Always carry a pressure gauge and pump to re-inflate your tyres before travelling on normal roads, and keep within the manufacturers specifications.
  • Don't forget to consider the load your vehicle is carrying, pack light and stow gear low inside your vehicle. Top heavy vehicles topple more easily.
  • Reduced tyre pressure will affect your vehicle's performance. Remember to avoid sharp turns, sudden braking, high-speeds and driving over rough surfaces. Tyres have been known to come off their rims. Serious accidents have occurred.
  • Be prepared and carry a shovel, or traction aids in case you get bogged—and know how to use them. Tow ropes and snatch straps should only be used by trained operators using appropriately safety-rated equipment.
  • QPWS rangers can not assist with towing or snatch strap recovery, due to the significant safety risks involved. They may render some assistance or be able to suggest local towing services, but if safe, try getting your vehicle free using traction aids rather than tow ropes or snatch straps

Safety guide (printable)

Driving on sand (PDF, 217K)

Safety video clips

Why protect dunes?

Most beaches in Queensland are backed by vegetated sand dunes. These dunes are very effective coastal protection features. They absorb the erosive energy of waves generated by cyclones and storms and are reservoirs of sand to nourish the beach during periods of wave erosion. Vegetation on the dunes traps and holds sand blown from the beach aiding dune build-up and stopping sand from being blown inland and lost from the active beach and dune system.

Dunes with their covering of grasses and other plants are so fragile that even footsteps can damage or kill the plants and weaken the dunes. Driving vehicles on dunes has a worse effect and greatly increases the chance of dune destruction. Vehicle tyres destroy dune vegetation exposing the sand to wind erosion which lowers the dunes and reduces their effectiveness as coastal protection features. Beach erosion increases because of the lower volume of sand in the dune directly behind the beach.

† Requires an appropriate media player

Last updated
5 November 2018