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Beach Driving Guide

Updated: Apr 24

In this blog, we'll tell you everything you need to know about driving on the sand when you hire a 4WD and hopefully help you relax and enjoy what is an amazing 4x4 experience.

We have all seen the videos on social media of the 4x4 stuck in the sand and even worse, those that get damaged or destroyed by incoming tides.

Well we are here to tell you that by following some simple rules and with some common sense, you can enjoy the fun and excitement of driving on some of Australia's amazing and pristine beaches completely stress free! In fact 70% of our hirers have never driven on the beach before picking a car from us and apart from the odd vehicle getting bogged (stuck in the sand), almost all have little or no trouble at all.

Firstly, our 4wd hire vehicles are top of the range models and come with everything you need for a fun, safe adventure holiday. Four-wheel drive is used as a description of vehicles that are more inclined to be used for actual off-roading. Four-wheel drive, also called 4×4 or 4WD, refers to a two-axled vehicle drivetrain capable of providing torque to all of its wheels simultaneously.

So what are the rules and what is the best advice?

Rule 1 - Tyre pressures!

In our view, this is the single most important rule to driving on the beach. Match this with the other rules and you'll have a hassle free beach driving trip every time.

So why lower the tyre pressures? Lowering your tyre pressure lengthens the footprint of the tyre, which provides more surface area for the car to sit on top of the sand. In short, with wider tyres, it's much harder to sink into the sand when it gets soft.

Our cars run standard 32 - 40 PSI on the tarmac (depending on the model) however when it comes to driving on the sand, we lower the tyre pressures in all four tyres to 18psi to begin with.

After testing we found that 18psi is perfect in almost all easy to moderate beach driving conditions however if the sand does get really soft, we'll sometimes go as low as 12psi, but more on that later. For now the magic number is 18psi. We'll run you through deflating or inflating tyres on pick up and once we've shown you, all you need to remember is to let your tyres down before you hit the sand!

Rule 2 - Engage 4WD!

OK we know this sounds a little cheeky to suggest however you'll be surprised how many drivers forget to engage 4WD before hitting the sand and end up getting bogged in the sand right off the ferry! We don't want you to be

that driver.

Don't stress about how to engage 4WD because we'll also run you through this on pick-up. Just remember it's important.

Rule 3 - Know your tides!

We can't stress how important it is to be aware of the tide times in the area you are operating. Beach driving at high tides is at least damaging to the vehicle and at worse can be fatal. Especially when combined with bad weather or full moon cycles.

4x4 Rollover Fraser Island
The danger of driving at High Tide

When you hire a 4x4 from Overlander Adventures our rule is no beach driving:

- 3 hours before high tide; and

- until 2 hours after high tide.

This rule is pretty common with experienced 4WD beach drivers and serves to keep our valued customers safe and sound. When you pick-up a vehicle from us, we'll supply you with a tide table relevant for the beach you are heading to.

Rule 4 - Slow and Steady wins the race

Tracks and beaches can be rough so go slowly and allow plenty of time to get to your destination. Driving too fast on uneven, rutted tracks or open beaches is dangerous and has lead to serious accidents.

Maximum speed - 80km/h on any beach or unsealed road

Maximum speed - 30km/h on any inland/island track

Rule 5 - If you have to drive on the soft sand for any distance, you shouldn't be on the beach

This is an indication of the tide level. As a rule, you should not be driving on the beach if the only sand you have to drive on is soft and dry.

The picture below illustrates the correct conditions for beach driving.

The vehicles' pictured below have entered the beach, briefly crossing through the soft sand, and are driving an the hard, compact sand. As they drive, they are avoiding driving in salt water.

Even when the tide level is OK to drive on the beach, sometimes you may have to drive in soft. dry sand for short distances or where the beach narrow. If this is the case, only drive on soft sand when absolutely necessary, drive slow and steady and maintain a consistent level of engine revs, without over revving the engine or speeding up. Let the 4x4 system do its work.

If you get stuck, stop immediately. Continuing to try and drive will only bog the vehicle down further in the sand

Rule 6 - Do not drive in salt water

The image above shows vehicles driving on a beach and keeping a safe distance from the salt water.

Salt water and vehicles are obviously never a good mix and serious damage will occur if a vehicle is driven in salt water. For this reason, under the terms of your hire agreement, you must not drive in, on or through salt water for any reason whatsoever.

A $5,000 fee for deep cleaning and salt water prevention treatment applies for deliberately or recklessly driving in on or through salt water.



Drive in salt water

Always avoid salt water


Maximum 80kph on any beach

Swerve or make quick movements

Look ahead and slow down

Drive at high tide or on sand dunes

Drive at low tide

Drive at night

Plan your trip

What to do if you get stuck

  1. Don't continue to spin the wheels

  2. Turn your engine off

  3. Put the vehicle into park and apply the handbrake

  4. Dig the mounded sand from behind your wheels

  5. Place your Maxtrax behind the rear wheels

  6. Keep bystanders away, engage low-range and slowly reverse onto the trax

Using recovery tracks on sand

If another vehicle offers to 'snatch' (tow) you out, make sure you attached the tow strap to a load rated point on your vehicle. Often regular tow points are not designed for this type of recovery and using them to 'snatch' out of can result in major damage and/or injury.

Driving on or over rocks

We do not recommend driving on or over rocks on the beach.

The risk of getting caught on a rock on

an incoming tide is high and can result in total loss of the vehicle, which would not be covered by our insurance. There is also a high chance of underbody damage that is also not covered by insurance.


As mentioned at the beginning of this article, beach driving can be a lot of fun but it can also be dangerous. By following a few simple and using common sense you won't have any issues and get to enjoy one of the best experiences that four wheel driving in Australia has to offer.

Download the QLD Government Beach Driving Guide

Download PDF • 2.45MB

Information for Overlander 4WD Hire Rental Vehicles

Using our vehicles on any beach is subject to:

  • You reasonably believing that the condition of the beach will not cause damage to the vehicle;

  • You do not drive in salt water;

  • Your speed is reasonable and will not exceed 80kph;

  • Driving on the beach is allowed by local/government authorities;

  • You will not park below the high tide mark;

  • You will not drive through salt water;

  • You will not drive 3 hours before on until 2 hours after high tide;

  • Immediately upon leaving the beach, you will wash the underbody of the vehicle at the nearest commercial car wash.

Note that insurance does not cover you for :

  • Damage caused by or during a breach of the rental agreement;

  • Damage to to the underbody of the Vehicle

  • Damage to the overhead of the Vehicle

  • Damage as a result of partial or total immersion in water

  • Vehicle rollover on a beach;

  • Damage as a result of your lack of care or negligence when driving off road;

Please read our full Rental Terms and Conditions.

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