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Beach driving tips: taking vehicles on the sea’s sandy shore


Living on a chain of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, New Zealanders have a particularly close relationship with the sea and the seashore.

Our beaches are also regarded as public roads, and many can be driven on. This is a great route to a memorable day’s outing – provided you bear in mind a few simple precautions.

Sometimes, the best way to get to prime fishing spots, or get access to other, more remote areas, requires beach driving. Other times, all of the extra gear you can bring can make for a particularly comfortable day of fun in the sun.

When driving on the beach, pay particular attention to your surroundings – look after your vehicle, and for others:

  • If you are unsure, check for any rules the local council may impose on the particular beach to which you are going. A quick look online or a phone call could save you a lot of unnecessary trouble – or may even suggest an even better spot you would never have found.
  • Stick to the hard sand nearer the water (but not too close).
  • Be aware of how fast you are going. Beaches are public roads, with set speed limits – and the same road rules apply.
  • Look out for others using the beach, too: people fishing, walking or sunbathing. Also: birds, seals and other animals.
  • Avoid driving through puddles – you don’t know how deep they go (as a number of motorists have discovered on Ninety Mile Beach, in the north of the North Island, over the years).
  • Make sure you know when the tide is coming back in. This can make it tough (or impossible) to get back.
  • After you get home, hose down your vehicle – the salt and sand can speed corrosion, especially to its undersides.

Conditions – and the driving surface in particular – can change very quickly. Every year, we see photographs in local newspapers (and the national ones, on a slow news day) of people getting caught out and forced to abandon their vehicles to the sea. Don’t be that person; as with any other time you are behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, be aware of your surroundings.

For tips on driving on unsealed roads, click here.